In 1984, Brian and Barbara Ball bought Calcot Manor, a 14th-century pile just outside the Gloucestershire town of Tetbury. With their son, Richard, they went about converting it into a handsome hotel, which 30 years later, remains one of the Cotswolds' most eminent retreats.
With the help of former guests, the Stones, they set their sights on the charming, golden-stone village of Barnsley, further east. It was here that they took over Barnsley House in 2009, with its gorgeous grounds designed by the revered horticulturalist, Rosemary Verey, and its adjacent Village Pub. Not content to stop there, they have recently leased a local house in the village and turned it into a luxury rental. If it all sounds a bit "Padstein", fear not. Only a discreet sign points the way to Home Farm Cottage.
The word "cottage" is something of an understatement. Downstairs, there's a huge country-style kitchen with views of the gardens, complete with a parasol-shaded table and swings for children. There are two ground-floor lounges. The first, a formal "adults' room", has a basket of books and grown-up armchairs. The second has an enormous flat-screen television, stacks of board games, piles of magazines, a PlayStation 2 and a selection of DVDs.
To the back, is a dining room that seats eight where you can arrange for the chefs at Calcot Manor to come and rustle you up a special meal (from £55pp). Upstairs, there are three bedrooms, with Aromatherapy Associates products, fluffy white robes and a claw-foot tub in the master suite.
The interiors were overseen by Nicky Farquhar, design director for Calcot Hotels. She has kept the muted Cotswold palette intact, while lifting the space with botanical prints, that nod to Barnsley House's green-fingered roots, plus contemporary canvases by artist Ben Lowe.
OUT AND ABOUT
One of the perks of staying at Home Farm Cottage, is that you get to use the facilities at Barnsley House, too. That includes free-of-charge tennis courts; complimentary use of the pool, sauna and steam room at the Garden Spa (treatments from £40); and gratis access to the 30-seat cinema, which hosts regular screenings. There's also the chance to book lunch, afternoon tea or dinner at the Potager Restaurant and grab a table at the snug Village Pub (01285 740421; thevillagepub.co.uk).
You're also spoilt for choice with nearby villages to explore. Drive through Lower and Upper Slaughter, with their creamy Cotswold-stone houses, then cross the A429 to the larger and livelier Bourton-on-the-Water, where you'll find riverside tea rooms, antiques shops and a decent fish-and-chip restaurant in The Wind-rush Cafe (01451 820894; windrushgardencafe.co.uk).
Further afield, Burford beckons with its quaint hillside high street. The town's beautiful St John the Baptist church was bursting with blossom two weeks ago, but Burford's traditional Sweet Shop (01993 824 344) and Huffkins Bakery (01993 822126; huffkins.com) provide diversions whatever the season. At the bottom of the hill, drop into Mrs Bumbles (01993 822209; mrsbumbles.co.uk), a grocer's and delicatessen that has recently come under new ownership. The husband-and-wife team includes Sally, a trained cordon bleu chef, who makes cakes and other delicacies from the back-room kitchen.
FOOD AND DRINK
When you arrive at Home Farm Cottage, there's a wicker hamper waiting, loaded with homemade croissants, pains au chocolat, waffles, muffins and bread. There's also eggs, ham and cheese in the fridge, plus yogurt, melon and fresh orange juice.
Generous though it is, it would be a shame to spend all your time eating indoors. Outside, delicious gastropubs and converted coaching inns abound. Highly recommended is the recently opened Five Alls in Filkins (01367 860875; thefiveallsfilkins.co.uk) which serves open ravioli (£7) and duck confit (£17.95) beside crackling fires, or The Wheatsheaf in Northleach (01451 860 244; cotswoldswheatsheaf.com), where the orange blossom Martini (£9.50) and crab linguini (£16) went down a treat.
For a lively Sunday lunch, aim for The Wild Rabbit in Kingham (01608 658 389; thewildrabbit.co.uk), which serves the likes of pan-fried brill with scallops (£26) down the road from Lady Bamford's extensive Daylesford Organic Farm (01608 731 700; daylesford.com). The estate's cafe, shop, spa and boutique are open year round, but the working farm is only accessible on specific dates. This weekend, they are doing lambing for Easter – the next open day is 17 May.
After that, crash out back at the cottage, which by now, will feel like, Home.
Home Farm Cottage, Barnsley, Gloucestershire, GL7 5EE (01285 740000; bit.ly/HomeFarm). Three-night breaks from £1,350. Sleeps six.Reuse content