Set within a quiet corner of the Cotswolds – the village of Southrop to be precise – Thyme is just what you’d want from a country escape. Relaxation? Check. Bucolic surrounds? Check. Characterful rooms, great food and a pub within walking distance? Check, check and check.
The project has been 14 years in the making, and the effort put in by owner Caryn Hibbert is obvious from the moment you are arrive in the pebbled car park. Its converted barns and farmhouses opened to guests last September, with beautiful rooms bedecked with an eclectic collection of art, gardens bursting with flowers all year round, and gourmet food cooked by a MasterChef winner.
The converted farmhouse has eight spacious double and twin bedrooms upstairs, plus a comfy lounge and dining area downstairs. Some bedrooms have a free-standing bath and all have spacious en-suites with huge tubs.
The attention to detail that is a running theme throughout Thyme is most obvious in the bedroom, where a damson vodka nightcap greets you on your return from dinner, before a hot water bottle awaits you in bed. The wooden floors, creaking beams and views over the flat Cotswold landscape remind you that you are sleeping in an old farmhouse.
For larger groups who want to go self-catering, the luxurious Tallet cottage sleeps up to eight, with four double or twin bedrooms and a spacious kitchen and dining area.
The Dairy cottage next door is a sweet little venue for a couple.
Italian-style sausages and bacon – both from pigs reared on the estate – come with poached or scrambled eggs from the hens running around outside. Just make sure you eat before you say hello to the adoring piglets that are noisily destroying the latest field in the gardens – it will certainly make you choose the veggie, or at the very least pescatarian, option the next day. I tucked into the delicious Middle Eastern-style baked eggs and aubergine, yoghurt, dukkah cooked in harissa oil – a recipe designed by chef Marjorie Lang (winner of MasterChef 2000).
The servings might not stuff you to the brim but are complemented by homemade granola, locally-made yoghurt, rhubarb compote, croissants and sourdough bread from Thyme’s in-house baker. And if you’re still feeling hungry – or you just fancy a sweet treat to start your day – there’s also brioche pain perdu.
Caryn Hibbert and her husband left London for the country in 2001, and the couple still live in the farmhouse next to the main building.
Caryn’s vision of Thyme began with the cookery school – housed in a refurbished medieval barn, where she could see the wealth of organic produce from the garden being used to teach and inspire guests to love the land as much as she does. She has since added a village pub as well as the converted accommodation on site.
You don’t need to go far for activities or entertainment. Thyme’s cookery school has classes twice a week and can cater for all tastes, whether you’re into Indian spices, bouillabaisse or desserts. Among the favourites is the charcuterie course with Peter Crumby, a local curer who takes guests through the steps of making chorizo, salami, pancetta and bresaola, stopping for a delicious lunch of charcuterie, cheese, soup and rhubarb tart – along with a glass of wine.
Want to work off some of the excess? A walk, jog or short cycle ride up the winding lanes along the river Leach will take you to a charming village of Eastleach, famed locally for the Two Sisters – a pair of churches either side of the road, which according to legend were built by feuding sisters in the 13th century.
There is only one place to go for dinner in the village, The Swan, Caryn’s cosy country pub, complete with open fires. It’s a short walk down the road; ask for a lantern from reception to help guide you down the lane.
The terrine starter was even tastier with the knowledge it had been sourced and cooked within 200 yards of my plate. I followed it with roast guinea fowl breast and perlourde clams, accompanied by the leaks from the garden.
Pre- or post-dinner drinks are best enjoyed in the appropriately-named Baa – housed in the converted barn – where staff have designed herb-infused cocktails.
Southrop, Gloucestershire GL7 3NX (01367 850174; thyme.co.uk). B&B doubles from £260 midweek, from £375 at weekends. Cookery classes start at £145pp.