From designer lakehouses to eco-sanctuaries, here are five of our favourite countryside hotels for loved-up weekends away.
Spring is almost here. So it’s time to wave goodbye to gloomy mornings and peel away those woolly layers. It’s also the first opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature’s beauty with your significant other. And we can’t think of anywhere more romantic for a mini-break than the Cotswolds.
It’s a true haven, with its rolling hills and honey-stone villages. It’s also home to some of England’s best hotels and country pubs – we’re talking ultra-luxurious, where the A-listers go.
So let’s take a look at them.
Set in one of the prettiest parts of the Cotswolds, family-run and eco-friendly Thyme is a quintessentially British bolthole with all the friendliness of a B&B. This restored private hamlet hosts 13 refined yet rustic bedrooms and cottages, filled with all the luxuries you need for a restful break.
What makes it special?
The five-star service and attention to detail when it comes to their guests. It’s one of the friendliest and most accommodating hotels we’ve had the pleasure of staying at. Just moments through the door and the receptionist had two steaming hot drinks on order for us and suggested putting our feet up in the lounge. We arrived before check-in yet our room ready not long after and upon hinting on a walk, maps were printed and placed in front of us. On returning at night, we found a couple of hot water bottles tucked into our bed, along with a nightcap of homemade blood orange vodka. And if you desperately need something during the night, Thyme’s duty manager is just a call away – she sleeps with the phone by her bed.
Sustainable living is at the heart of Thyme. As much as possible, what you eat and drink is grown or famed on-site in the two-acre herb garden. Eggs come from their hens, honey from their bees and waste is thrown onto the compost. There’s even a wood-pellet-fuelled boiler keeping the place heated.
Ideas for ‘us’ time
Slide on your wellies (or borrow some from reception) and take a romantic stroll to the neighbouring village of Eastleach. It’s a lovely loop with winding rivers, open meadows and an abundance of farm life. There’s a traditional country pub en route, where an easy-going landlady will serve you a local beer with a side of warm conversation. Back at Thyme, celebrity gardener Bunny Guinness’s Olive Garden is just the spot for some quiet time.
For foodies, the cookery school offers a chance for you both to embrace your creative skills. It’s held in the high-tech kitchen with floor-to-ceiling windows, and covers a regularly changing range of cuisines and topics.
You’ll definitely want to save time to explore the list of botanical cocktails at The Baa. Cocktails are created using herbs from the garden by the Thyme’s skilled mixologist. Having worked in some of the world’s finest ski resorts, he sure knows his stuff. The Baa is a trendy lounge area, featuring novelty sheep that you can actually buy (if you’re kooky enough).
The dinner for two
Thyme owns The Swan at Southrop – a 17th-century village pub just across the road. It’s loved by locals and sees its fair share of A-listers. Plus, it won Best Pub Restaurant at the Cotswold Life Food and Drink Awards in 2016. It’s all about handpicked, homemade produce here so most ingredients are grown in Thyme’s garden or sourced from local producers. The Swan advocates refined British comfort food, although you may spot the odd Italian or French twist. We enjoyed a succulent rack of lamb with Jerusalem artichokes harvested from the garden that morning. Top tip: grab a spot next to the roaring fire, aside from the main dining room, for a truly intimate meal.
Thyme’s breakfast is worth leaping out of bed for. It’s served in a magnificent medieval barn, with low-slung beams, antique vases and crystal candelabras. Taking your seat at the chef’s table with give you a strong sense of self-righteousness. The artisanal buffet sees you in food heaven, with homemade compotes (peach, plum and berry), chewy granola, freshly squeezed juices and dainty pastries – all homemade or locally sourced. Our favourites from the hot menu we’re the smoked salmon from nearby Coln Valley (with fluffy scrambled eggs), and the sourdough French toast with runny honey from the hotel’s bees.
During our stay, the staff chatted excitedly about their plans for The Lodge which is set to open this summer. As well as more rooms, it’ll feature a spa and a fitness centre. There has been rumours for some time now of an on-site restaurant. Having experienced the quality of food on offer at breakfast, we’re keeping our fingers crossed for this one.
Thyme, Southrop Manor Estate, Gloucestershire GL7 3NX
T: 01367 850174
Read our full review of Thyme