The comfort factor
Thirty rooms, reassuringly graded in lower-case letters: "best" (only one, modern four-poster, double bath, private terrace with views), "exceptional" (some are duplexes, some have a separate sitting room, some have a terrace), "great" (spacious), "better" (some are over three floors, but no outdoor space), and "good" (still, a nice bathroom). Snuggly Egyptian cotton on the bed and wonderful "organic" furniture - all made out of glass, stone, oak, leather, that sort of thing - so earthy. And the lounges are lovely with lots of mags and papers to read. Then there's a cool bar with papier-mâché animal heads - that's the nearest I care to get to any beast this weekend!
What? No shower? Of course there is. It's with the loo in that big red box in the middle of the room, just in front of the free-standing bath. Own-brand potions? We can do own-brand when they smell this gorgeous.
The food and drink
Eat comfort food in your comfortable clothes. And the staff wear T-shirts too. Yes, country-house splendour without the boring dress code (but don't kid yourself that the other guests aren't whispering about your wardrobe). What's on the menu? Cottage pie, bangers and mash... just like nanny used to make - but with a touch of class. And sophisticated stuff too: squid and crab linguine, seared Scottish scallops, halibut with grilled fennel... Yum.
People like us. And those house-hunting A-listers - though they'll be hiding from judgemental Joanna Trollope types (and their shepherds) in the private sitting room.
Oh God, no need to leave the grounds (four lakes, Victorian cascade - that's enough fresh air, though the mud on the boot-kick by the main door suggests some stray). Hole up in the ultra-modern C-side spa at the bottom of the garden - you can see enough of the great outdoors through the glass walls. It's got a gym, sauna, steam room, indoor and outdoor pool and heavenly treatments too. And if you forget your cossy, they keep a stock of them behind the counter to buy: so thoughtful.
Yes, you can bring the kids if you must. In fact, they do a special tea and you can hire babysitters. And there's a great playroom full of toys. What's more, it's discreetly tucked away where no one can hear their screams (of joy, of course).
City bonuses aren't what they once were, but this one's definitely worth splashing out on: £230 to £455 per night, including continental breakfast.
The countryside! All right, Cowley, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL53 9NL (01242 870900; www.cowleymanor.com).Reuse content