B&B and beyond: Oak House No 1, Tetbury
The Kennedys travelled the world collecting art and anecdotes, now Laura Holt enjoys both – and in a stylish Georgian setting
Sunday 13 May 2012
In the quiet market town of Tetbury, home of the Highgrove Estate, the curtains must have twitched when Gary and Nicola Kennedy arrived in 2005. This bohemian, globe-trotting couple have previously lived in a 200-year-old chateau in Provence and a rainforest lodge in New South Wales. But after their son had attended nine schools in as many years, they decided to put down roots in the Cotswolds. With them, they brought Tibetan rugs, Murano glass and an enviable art collection. They crammed it all into a solid Georgian house on the corner of one of the town's prettiest squares, painted it in bold, daring colours, and opened their home as a B&B in 2009.
From outside, Oak House No 1 is a picture of understated elegance. Step inside, and your senses are tantalised by a riotous red dining room and a velvety, midnight-blue lounge.
Upstairs, the four bedrooms are similarly audacious. The Cavalier Room is the grandest, with a four-poster and tartan-and-leather armchairs, a shelf stacked with Honoré de Balzac books, a marble table, fresh roses, a silver tea tray and champagne glasses. No bottle, but The Oxford Wine Company (01666 500429; oxfordwine.co.uk) next door has plenty of options to fill your flute.
The Library Room is smaller, but is packed with tomes and vintage Viz comics. These two rooms share an exquisite bathroom, all plush white robes, Philippe Starck fittings, Molton Brown toiletries and a sunken bath with a built-in TV.
The Garden and Prince's suites each have en-suites. The former is elegant, light and airy, the latter basks in stately splendour with a four-poster and Indian art. Actor Martin Freeman, comedienne Miranda Hart and Stereophonics frontman Kelly Jones have all graced the pillows here.
Nicola cooks breakfast in the farmhouse-style kitchen, while Gary regales guests with his stories. On the table, there are five different jams, four juices, filter coffee, and piles of fruits and pastries. Cooked options include smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or the full English.
The only deference to Tetbury's royal connections is a pair of original Warhol prints from the "Reigning Queen" series, which stare down over the long communal dining table. "We bought them off Jeffrey," says Gary – Lord Archer, to you and me.
Gary studied fine art and now has a passion for collecting and interior design. Nicola is a warm, free-spirited Scot. Together, they have decorated every inch of the Oak House in their own eclectic style. They relish their role as entertainers, but will gladly retire if they sense you're after solitude. You can also withdraw to the handsome lounge to read the papers or to take Nicola's wonderful afternoon tea.
Tetbury is known for antique shops, but there are also tempting delicatessens such as the House of Cheese (01666 502865; houseofcheese.co.uk) and Quayles (01666 505151; quayles. co.uk), loaded with gourmet treats.
Just outside Tetbury is the Highgrove Estate – the country seat of Prince Charles. Here, you can take a two-hour garden tour for £19.50 or a four-hour trail with champagne tea for £70 (020-7766 7310; highgrovegardens.com; bookings advised).
Whether bursting with spring blossom, or ablaze with autumnal colour, the National Arboretum at Westonbirt is a delight (01666 880220; forestry. gov.uk/westonbirt; £8). You can happily spend an afternoon ambling through a maze of some 18,000 trees here, before recharging with a cream tea at the open-air café.
Start with a pint of Butcombe real ale (£3.30) at The Snooty Fox coaching inn (01666 502436; snooty-fox.co.uk), then head to The Chef's Table (01666 504466; thechefstable.co.uk), where main courses such as lobster thermidor average £17.
The bottom line
Oak House No 1 contrasts the best of modern, stand-out styling with old-fashioned elegance. It's got the country-house charm of nearby Cowley Manor (and the lofty prices to match), but blazes its own trail. The result is a five-star work of art.
Oak House No 1, The Chipping, Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8EU (01666 505741; oakhouseno1.com). B&B doubles from £165, with afternoon tea.
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