Chocolate box villages, thatched cottages rolling hills… and celebs in residence aplenty. What’s not to love? Team Stella round up the cream of the Cotswolds crop.
The Fish Hotel, Broadway, Worcestershire
Best for… A back-to-nature hideaway
It’s the stuff of childhood dreams: the chance to spend a night in a treehouse, but with all the mod-cons. These two-bedroom treehouses, part of the 400-acre Farncombe Estate, are nestled in a woodland area, wrapped around huge oak trees with their own private rope bridges (dogs are allowed in one of the cabins). It’s a magical and unique experience; from the craftsmanship of the cabins (there’s underfloor heating, a minibar and coffee machine) to the magical twinkling fairy lights that come to life around the outdoor decking at dusk. The whole vibe is cosy and relaxed and manages to keep everyone happy – our three-year-old daughter regularly asks if we’re going back to the treehouse.
Stella loves: The outdoor wooden baths – it’s bliss to sit in the steaming water while looking up through the trees –before a mad dash back indoors in the fabulous cosy dressing gowns.
Out and about: A 30-minute walk away is Broadway Tower – the highest point in the Cotswolds and worth a visit, especially on a clear day. And, having ventured all this way, it would be rude not to visit Bicester Village or Daylesford Farm shop on your way home.
Treehouse from £370 a night, b&b (sleeps up to four); thefishhotel.co.uk
Read the full review: The Fish Hotel
Ivy Cottage, Long Compton, Warwickshire
Best for… a traditional home-from-home
Nestled on a long, winding road in the pretty village of Long Compton, this postcard-perfect two-bedroom cottage is a cosy home-from-home. It mixes old Cotswolds charm – there’s local honey-coloured brickwork, a wood burner fireplace and powder blue front door – with luxurious touches, including a huge two-person shower. Four-legged friends are welcome (for a fee) and will love the open fields a short walk from the cottage and the jar of doggie biscuits that await them. Guests are greeted with a chilled bottle of cremant and the well stocked kitchen also includes a welcome pack of fresh local bread and eggs. There’s also a barbecue in the pretty, cottage-style garden.
Stella loves: The deep copper bath in the corner of the master bedroom. Perfect for sinking into after a long dog walk.
Out and about: The Red Lion Inn is a cosy, dog-friendly pub half a mile up the road from the cottage (all open fires and exposed Cotswolds stone walls) and serves delicious food. It also has a huge pub garden. Just up the road is Chipping Norton: for a romantic dinner in, try Wild Thyme restaurant – it is still closed post-lockdown but it offers very special take-home dinners (£30 for three courses). If you have young children, head to Cotswolds Wildlife Park & Gardens, home to giraffes, camels and lions; it has reopened but with limited ticket sales so book ahead.
From £190 a night (sleeps four, three-night stay minimum); call 0208 740 3097 or visit sandandstoneescapes.com
Minster Mill, Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire
Best for… a riverside bolthole
This recently refurbished hotel, built with traditional honey-coloured Cotswold stone, is set in 65 acres of idyllic grounds. It’s worth visiting for the gardens alone, especially the lush wildflower meadows. Inside, there are 38 rooms decorated in contemporary Scandi-style with mid-century-modern furnishings, bare-filament bulbs, Grohe waterfall taps and L’Occitane bathroom products. Every detail has been thought of, down to the fresh milk and Nespresso milk frother in the minibar, for that early-morning cappuccino. Wake early for a game of tennis on the hotel courts to work up an appetite for breakfast – or table tennis if you’re feeling less energetic – then explore the surrounding countryside by bike (hire one from the hotel) or make the most of the hotel’s mile of private fishing banks.
Stella loves: The turn-down service, which includes putting a late-night mix on the radio, to make your room is a haven of tranquility.
Out and about: The hotel is a five-minute walk from the picturesque 15th-century ruins of manor house, Minster Lovell Hall. Oxford is 15 miles away: explore the university’s dreaming spires or visit the collection at the Ashmolean when it reopens. Or, if you want to indulge in a Downton Abbey fantasy, Highclere Castle is worth the hour’s drive – the castle tour has been adapted to allow suitable distancing and the tearoom is open for takeaways.
Rooms from £180 a night, b&b; call 01993 774441 or visit minstermill.co.uk
Read the full review: Minster Mill
The Swan Inn, Ascott-under-Wychwood, nr Chipping Norton
Best for… A cosy inn
How many pubs-with-rooms also come with a sommelier? Not many, but then everything takes a surprising turn in this attractive former coaching inn. Beyond the warren of low-beamed, log fire-heated snugs that make up the pub, things open up into a charming dining room, with bright wallpaper and punk-ish oil paintings. The menu is a fish-lover’s paradise – whole Cornish plaice with marsh samphire and buttered shrimps, smoked haddock Monte Carlo – but Sunday lunch is a local institution, too: not least the garlic-studded lamb, thyme-roast pots and a dripping Yorkie. The pub is also open for drinks too but with table service only, not bar service, when this issue went to press (check the website for the latest Covid-19 updates). Upstairs the eight rooms are snazzy quirkiness a-go-go, with 70s wicker lampshades and upcycled furniture. Ask for room five, which has a deep-sink king-size bed and inviting bathtub with full-sized 100 Acres products.
Stella loves: The incredible drinks offering at breakfast – from healthy chilled juices in vintage bottles to divine Bloody Marys.
Out and about: We barely left the pretty chocolate box village – there’s a green and a lovely village shop that sells preserves and has its own bakery. While you’re in the area, stop off at Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s birthplace, which has seasonally decorated State Rooms, magnificently manicured gardens and is only a 20-minute taxi ride away – it has reopened since lockdown but be sure to book in advance.
Rooms from £100 a night; countrycreatures.com
Read the full review: The Swan Inn
Edited by: Laura Powell. Reviews by: Caroline Barrett, Maria Lally, Philip Wilson, Paul Clements