The Double Red Duke
Hattie Lloyd 04/07/23
Frampton Mansell. Minster Lovell. Coln St. Aldwyns.
The Cotswolds is known for a) some of the country’s most breathtaking natural scenery, unparalleled in its beauty, and b) towns with old man names.
This rural patch to the west of London is famous for its honey-stone architecture; tumbledown inns and thatched cottages; rolling pastures and picturesque bridges arching over babbling brooks. It’s the stuff of storybooks. The natural landscapes are so stunning, it’s officially designated An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Basically, if you want a complete escape from the city in a sub-2 hour train journey, this is the place. And when there’s hours of cycling and romping around the hills to be done – not to mention strolling through chocolate box villages and stopping off at inns with god-tier pub grub – there’s a strong argument to make that day trip into a long weekend.
Here’s our pick of the best places to stay in the Cotswolds, from rustic village inns to elegant country mansions with 5* facilities…
Thyme | Southrop
In any conversation about Cotswolds hotels, one place comes up: Thyme, and Thyme again. What started out as a cookery school has snowballed slightly into a miniature hamlet devoted to rest and relaxation. A bundle of honey stone buildings offers luxurious accommodation in the form of suites, cottages and cosy attic rooms; the old ox barn has become an excellent restaurant; and The Baa (the bar) sits in the former lambing sheds. Explore the grounds and you’ll also find a heated spring water swimming pool and the Meadow Spa – and of course the cookery school’s still there, offering classes on everything from pasta to patisserie throughout your stay.
Nearby villages: There’s little reason to leave, but when you can finally tear yourself away, go for a walk along the River Leach, or explore the village of Southrop.
Where to eat: The on-site restaurant is headed up by the founder’s son Charlie, who used to be behind the stove at Quo Vadis, while across the road is Thyme’s relaxed take on the country pub, The Swan.
The Wild Rabbit | Kingham
The Wild Rabbit is actually extremely civilised. This luxe take on a country inn opened in 2013, and feels a bit Soho Farmhouse-lite, with two roaring log fires at the heart of the pub (set in the centuries-old part of the building), and a light-filled restaurant in the modern extension. The hotel’s run by the same couple who oversee the organic-focussed Daylesford Farm (and, in fact, own the entire village of Daylesford), and the two work in harmony, with fresh produce making its way into the dishes. Meanwhile, the rooms are an exercise in understated luxury, with linen sheets and handmade bed frames, dry stone walled bathtubs and exposed beams.
Nearby villages: Kingham itself is one of the most popular Cotswolds villages to visit, but you can also get along to Daylesford to see the farm, Stow-on-the-Wold and Chipping Norton.
Where to eat: In the pub – keep an eye out for the supperclubs here, which spotlight local game, meat and veg. It’s also worth popping over to one of the other lovely hotels on this list, The Kingham Plough.
No. 38 The Park | Cheltenham
If you’re yearning for a country break but know that realistically you’ll start losing the plot after looking at fields for three days, you could do worse than staying in Cheltenham. From here it’s easy enough to get out and explore the Cotswolds, but makes for a charming city break too, with civilised Regency-era architecture, culture, and open-air lidos. When staying here, you can’t do better than No 38. Part of a growing family of boutique townhouse hotels, it boasts a restaurant with an expansive courtyard, and individually designed rooms which make the most of their towering Georgian ceilings and tall windows. Depending on your budget, you can roll around in emperor sized beds or cosy up with hand-knitted water bottles, and every room comes with a generously stocked honesty bar.
Nearby villages: Cheltenham should keep you busy for a while, but you can also hike up Haresfield Beacon for spectacular views, head to Berkeley Castle (it promises both jousting and dinosaurs), or drive to chocolate box villages like Stanton, Snowshill and Broadway.
Where to eat: Two Michelin stars belong to Le Champignon Sauvage, while Purslane comes up trumps for seafood.
The Lamb Inn | Shipton-under-Wychwood
Where better to count sheep after a long day spent in the hills? The Lamb’s ten rooms have been recently zhuzhed up with effortless charm – antique sideboards and ticking stripe curtains mingle with crooked wooden beams and artful nudes. Come back here after a walk to indulge in giant showers and clawfoot bathtubs fitted with organic Austin Austin toiletries, then lounge around in fluffy robes until it’s time to pad downstairs for dinner: founders Pete & Tom are consummate pros in the kitchen, working with beef, deer and game birds reared on the slopes around the village.
Nearby villages: Shipton ticks all the Cotswolds village boxes, with ancient forest to explore nearby and the razzle dazzle of Kingham about a 1.5 hour walk away.
Where to eat: No need to move; The Lamb is good enough to bring the crowds to Shipton. But after a tramp round the woods, The Swan inn in nearby Ascott-under-Wychwood also offers top-quality grub on an atmospheric covered terrace lit by hurricane lanterns.
Barnsley House | Barnsley
Honeymooners, this one’s for you. This romantic country house previously belonged to the late Rosemary Verey, who was basically a modern-day Capability Brown. The gardens themselves are unbelievably beautiful, but they also hide away an intimate cinema (which you can book out for complimentary private screenings) and a luxurious spa (with an outdoor hydrotherapy pool). When you’re done with all that, you can retreat to your room: brighter and a bit more modern than most Cotswold village hotels offer, they still come with all the indulgent details of roll-top baths, king-size beds and your own pantry.
Nearby villages: Bibury, possibly one of the most famous villages in the Cotswolds, is an hour’s stomp away, or head into Cirencester, a traditional market town.
Where to eat: Across the road you’ll find…
The Boot | Barnsley
Luckily for the locals, the village’s only pub is a doozy. It was recently refurbished by an interiors studio, so it’s all very appealing: an eclectic mix of centuries-old period features with neutral modern furnishings, and the occasional antique (including a whole hippopotamus skull and a megalodon tooth). The six rooms upstairs are comfortable without being twee: you’ll find Nespresso machines, Roberts radios and flat-screen tellies to keep you company, while you can also hire electric bikes to explore the surrounding countryside. The food, too, is a huge draw: head chef John Jewell turns out elevated pub classics (including a superb Sunday roast), while breakfast up at Barnsley House is included.
Nearby villages: As with the house, Bibury, Burford and Cirencester are all in easy reach, and there’s dozens of good walks to be made from here.
The Fish | Farncombe
The Fish is a perfectly lovely hotel set in 500 acres of rolling pasture above the famously picturesque village of Broadway. But you don’t want to stay here. Because they also have three enormous treehouses you can stay in, tucked away in the woodland and boasting all the features of your childhood dreams: rope bridges, decks surrounded by greenery, and double outdoor baths (with intercoms for summoning room service). Plus booze. And underfloor heating.
Nearby villages: Broadway is literally called the ‘jewel of the Cotswolds’, which is like saying ‘the jewel on top of a giant crown made of other 3000 carat diamonds’. There’s also a vast lavender field, and plenty of good walking trails around Dover’s Hill and Seven Wells Hill.
The Bull Inn | Charlbury
Well, this is one to file under ‘hot off the press’. This longstanding local has been let out to the team behind The Pelican, whose trademark flair has been unleashed on a proper country pub: all roaring fires, rustic furnishings and dripping candles in wee willie winkie holders. And of course, that goes for the food, too: there’s a focus on open-flame cooking, with BBQs on the sunny, pergola-shaded terrace, and whole-animal roasts on Sundays. The doors have literally just reopened after the refurbishment, so room reservations will be opening soon, too – expect free-standing baths and king-sized beds.
Nearby villages: Charlbury offers quaint churches and wisteria-fringed country lanes, but also makes a good base for day trips to Blenheim Palace, Wychwood forest, and other towns and villages like Asthall and even Stow-on-the-Wold if you’ve got a car.
Where to eat: Er, here.
The Double Red Duke | Clanfield
The Double Red Duke is the hotel equivalent of that person who spent lockdown learning four languages, getting hench and making the rest of us look bad. During 2020, the place got a top-to-bottom refurb and emerged from its stony chrysalis looking five times as glamorous. Once a 17th century wool merchants’ house, the building’s ground floor is a cosy warren of rooms for drinking, dining and lounging, full of exposed beams and sumptuous seating. Outside is a terrace shaded by striped parasols and serviced by a shed bar. And upstairs are the rooms, luxuriously kitted out with Roberts radios, cafetieres, rainfall showers and enormous, comfy beds.
Nearby villages: It’s on the eastern edge of the Cotswolds, so you can head to Oxford to goggle at the dreaming spires, or make for Burford to soak up more quintessential Cotswolds charm. William Morris’ country pile, Kelmscott Manor, is close by too.
Where to eat: The restaurant here is excellent, but you can also head down the road to The Trout, which has tables on the banks of a little ol’ river called the Thames and an outdoor cinema in summer.
Cowley Manor Experimental | Cowley
There’s nothing experimental about this Cotswolds hotel: it just works. The name actually comes from the owners, Experimental Group – who also run the Henrietta Hotel in Covent Garden, and outposts in Ibiza, Paris and Venice – so it’ll come as no surprise to hear that this newly revamped mansion is outrageously stylish. Outside there are huge grounds to explore (with hammocks, tents and hireable picnics), a beautiful lake, grazing llamas and a fancy historic exterior, while inside is an ode to eclectic contemporary design, with bold colours and bespoke, bauhaus-style bathtubs. During the summer you can laze around by the outdoor pool or watch films and plays on the terrace, and year round Cowley Manor boasts one of the most stunning indoor pools, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out across the forest.
Nearby villages: Cheltenham isn’t far, and you’re well placed for the Cotswolds’ wildlife parks and Roman villas if that’s your thing.
Where to eat: The hotel’s smart restaurant is overseen by chef consultant Jackson Boxer of Brunswick House and Orasay. So yeah, you won’t be needing to leave.
Lucknam Park | Thickwood
Most of the hotels on this list are boutique in size, but Lucknam proves that you don’t have to be small to be special. It’s set in an 18th century Palladian mansion, where they intend to give you the ‘home from home’ experience. Naturally, that entails a long-standing Michelin star restaurant headed by chef Hywel Jones (where you’re encouraged to dress up and take cocktails in the library before sitting down); afternoon tea in the lush gardens; spa treatments and more. The rooms are exceptionally lavish – all four posters and heavy brocade – while the cottages give you some independence with fully fitted kitchens and spacious lounges. And there’s plenty to do while you’re here: activities include horse riding (with picnics), clay pigeon shooting, archery, falconry, and duck herding.
Nearby villages: You’re well placed to visit scenic Castle Combe, and when you fancy a bit of bustle, Bath is only 6 miles away.
Where to eat: The hotel also has a more relaxed brasserie if you’re not up to double Michelin-starred dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Slaughters Manor House | Lower Slaughter
Yes, booking into somewhere called ‘The Slaughters Manor House’ feels like that moment in a horror movie when the group of teenagers decide to go into the woods despite the dodgy torch battery. But the only danger you face here is a difficulty readjusting to normal life. The rooms at this 17th century manor house allow you to wallow in freestanding tubs with a glass of Champagne, finally rousing yourself to play croquet on the perfectly manicured lawns; sip a nightcap by a crackling fire; or practise your shots in the Billiards Room. Just beware anyone who comes in carrying a bit of lead piping.
Nearby villages: Upper and Lower Slaughter are typically picturesque, connected by the gentle River Eye whose banks are bordered by ancient mills and cottages. It’s also a great starting point for a walk to Bourton-on-the-Water.
Where to eat & drink: The hotel’s own restaurant is highly regarded, but to really push the boat out, the restaurant at the nearby Lords of the Manor hotel is Michelin-recommended.
The Old Bell | Malmesbury
The Old Bell isn’t just a quaint name dreamt up by the marketing department – this Malmesbury hotel claims to have been hosting weary travellers since 1220. Inside it’s had a bit of spit and polish since then; you’ll find some of the most opulent interiors in the Cotswolds, from the lavish bedrooms with fairytale wallpaper and ancient stone fireplaces, to the moody lounge with its stained glass windows. Rooms come with everything you could need – locally roasted coffee and Teapigs tea; Bramley toiletries in the bathrooms and sumptuous beds. And downstairs is Abbey Row, a highly regarded restaurant that’s open from breakfast through to nightcaps.
Nearby villages: You’re slap in the middle of Malmesbury, with plenty of colourful history – the museum introduces local characters like the monk who tried to fly off a tower in the 11th century. The hotel can also arrange trips to places like the Westonbirt arboretum (a planted forest that looks stunning in Autumn) and Lacock Village, an unspoilt 13th century village that’s been used in dozens of films.
Where to eat: As always, you’re already spoilt with the in-house restaurant, but a short drive takes you to Whatley Manor for a Green Michelin Star winning meal.
The Kingham Plough | Kingham
Set in the excessively pretty village of Kingham, The Plough offers a more affordable alternative to nearby Wild Rabbit. That’s not to say it’s a low-key affair: the pub downstairs is still everything you could hope a country pub to be. Food is predominantly British in style but with a little Mediterranean flair, and a comprehensive wine list is worth exploring by the crackling fire in colder months. Upstairs, everything is geared towards comfort, with mohair throws and duck down duvets, glossy magazines to flick through, and homemade treats for a midnight snack. They’ve also recently done up a small cottage in the village, perfect for a weekend getaway.
Nearby villages: Stow-on-the-Wold and Chipping Norton are just a couple of miles away either side.
Where to eat: In the pub (which is really more of a restaurant), or head up to The Wild Rabbit.
After more holiday inspiration? Check out our guide to day trips from London
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