Where to stay in the Cotswolds? Wander the streets of its quaint villages and the B&B signs at every second step should answer your question. Yet, in Bourton-on-the-Water there is, apparently, room for more. This quintessential huddle of mellow yellow limestone buildings, the River Windrush coursing through its heart, is the location of Halford House, a sturdy 19th-century mansion bounded by walled gardens, which opened its doors to guests last July, offering well-located lodgings in one of the area's prettiest and most popular villages. And if you find the B&B experience a little too intimate, you'll prefer the hotel-style atmosphere of this managed bed and breakfast.
The rambling house offers six double bedrooms (two large enough to take an extra bed) and a pair of two-bedroom suites – an interesting notion for a guesthouse – all with modern private bathrooms. The property has been brought up to date with bold colours, extravagant splashes of gold and silver, and florid wallpapers on feature walls, yet keeps its character intact, retaining gorgeous features such as the Victorian tiles in the hall and the beautifully carved balustrade of the central staircase. Flat-screen TVs, CD players, and access to free Wi-Fi, as well as tea- and coffee-making facilities and complimentary Natur toiletries come as standard. Dogs are welcome, at an extra charge of £10 per night.
Mandy Shah, the manager of Halford House, has deconstructed a Full English into a list of ingredients so that guests can style a plate of whatever they fancy along with their tea or coffee. There's a generous buffet of croissants, cereals, yoghurt and fresh juices, too. Enjoy it in the pleasant dining room, with views of the garden (this is also the venue for afternoon tea, which can be specially arranged).
Elaine and Martyn Booth have turned what was formerly a family home into a superior B&B. Elaine formerly worked in the communications department at BAA; Martyn continues to work in the aviation industry. They first ventured into the hotel business in 2007, when they took over the Royal Adelaide Hotel in Windsor. This was followed in 2008 by the acquisition of The Dial House Hotel and Restaurant, two minutes' walk from Halford House. Dial House is a sophisticated property that admits children only if they are aged 10 or over. The couple's decision to create a B&B in the same town was driven by a desire to offer a more relaxed, family friendly alternative. You're unlikely to meet the Booths because Mandy runs things at Halford House. She was plucked from the Royal Adelaide for her impeccable skills as an obliging host.
Bourton-on-the-Water is filled with quirky amusements you never knew you'd have time for, such as The Model Village (01451 820467; theoldnewinn.co.uk), Birdland (01451 820480; birdland.co.uk), and Cotswold Motoring Museum (01451 821255; cotswold-motor-museum.com). In summer, though, you may be more preoccupied with finding a handkerchief of space among the picnickers on the grassy banks of the Windrush.
You're also within easy reach of the other delightful Cotswolds villages with their pretty limestone architecture. These include Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden and Broadway, beneath the Worcestershire hills. Don't forget your walking boots to stride out across the gentle countryside to the nearby charming hamlets of the Slaughters and the Rissingtons.
Beetroot, parsnip and ginger soup or poached egg with English asparagus and hollandaise sauce is typical of the freshly made fare served in a large airy dining room at The Cotswold Food Store & Café (01451 830469; cotswoldfoodstore.co.uk). This lunch stop is just a few miles down the road near Moreton-in-Marsh. A two-course meal during the week costs £10.95, or £14.95 at weekends.
Make a dinner reservation at The Dial House, where head chef Paul Nicholson and his team have won two AA rosettes for their artful plates of deliciously different flavours, such as assiette of rabbit with gingerbread and rhubarb, and truffle butter-poached fillet of Cornish brill with oxtail, cep, salsify and sea aster.
À la carte, tasting and set menus mean you can sample their work to suit your wallet. Even better, the current special offer, Tuesday Night Two for £20 – two main meals and a bottle of wine – is a real bargain.
Halford House Bed and Breakfast, Station Road, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire GL54 2AA (01451 822244; dialhousehotel.com/halford-house). Doubles are available from £75 if you book by phone, otherwise they start at £99 weekdays, or £140 at weekends (minimum two-night stays), all including breakfast.
Kate Simon travelled around the Cotswolds courtesy of Carrentals.co.uk, which offers weekend car hire from Gloucester starting at £40