The Feathers is a small reef of 18th-century buildings in one of Woodstock's historic main streets.
Different parts of this architectural agglomeration have variously been a sanatorium, literary institute, private home and a public library. In the 1960s, all five buildings were merged into one hotel, which was called The Dorchester. After Gordon Campbell Gray bought it and put his collection of stuffed birds on display, however, the place started to be known locally as The Feathers.
For the past 12 months, the hotel, now under different ownership, has been undergoing a major refurbishment by Trevillion Interiors of London. They've had their work cut out because this romantic, eccentric weekend getaway space was decorated until now with more than a passing nod to Wallace and Gromit land. Transformed by Trevillion, the new-look Feathers is a riot of fuchsia, lime, turquoise and purple, with comfy sofas and white, white sheets.
With its new Gin Bar, a "Master Suite" bedroom large enough to have its own six-seater table, and a new dining room nearing completion, The Feathers is now colourful and fun. It will still take you several days to work out where all the corridors and staircases go, but any hotel that provides guests with a jar full of jelly beans on arrival is certainly putting the customer first.
There are 16 bedrooms and five suites. No two are the same. They're tucked in under beams and down dark spot-lit corridors. Funky with boutique twists was the designer's brief. Fabrics are lush, hunting prints and antiques contrast with black wall-mounted flat-screen TVs and bathrooms have free-standing stone basins. Toiletries are by Molton Brown and decanters of jelly beans come courtesy of Luc Morel, the manager. Touches of Churchill memorabilia crop up, too. Here a Toby jug, there a cigar-chomping brass. Winston Spencer is the local boy made good.
The food and drink
The bar stocks seven kinds of tonic and more than 60 gins. (More are being added all the time.) The most expensive G&T is made with Blackwood's Vintage Gin and costs £16.75. The restaurant has been created by combining three old shopfronts. Head chef Marc Hardiman offers two courses for £38.50 and three for £44.95. The five-course tasting menu is good value at £55 without wine (£99 with wines). You can also eat in the bar which, funnily enough, has also been created out of several rooms knocked together. Exposed Oxford stone and a huge fireplace make this a cosy space in winter. Bar snacks – such as omelette Arnold Bennett or terrine of ham hock – are also served in a courtyard garden beyond the bar, weather permitting.
Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel. The Feathers will provide two-person hampers (£35) if you're tempted to go off for a picnic in the grounds of nearby Blenheim Palace, Churchill's birthplace. The bottled water comes directly from the Blenheim estate.
Children and small dogs welcome. There's no lift and steep narrow stairs, so wheelchair access is impossible.
B&B in a double from £115 per night.
The Feathers, 16-20 Market Street , Woodstock OX20 1SX (01993 812291; feathers.co.uk).
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