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Best boutique hotels in The Cotswolds 2024: Where to stay for style and charm

From country houses to pubs with rooms, these are the most enchanting hotels for a countryside break

Harriet Obrien
Friday 25 August 2023 10:21 BST
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There are plenty of small, independent places to stay in The Cotswolds
There are plenty of small, independent places to stay in The Cotswolds (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

What is it that makes the Cotswolds quite so enchanting? Spanning five counties in the heart of England, the 800 square miles that make up this region of rolling hills and gentle valleys are heart-tugglingly lovely and have timeless appeal. But it’s the stone that makes the Cotswolds truly special; honey-coloured building material used for centuries in country mansions, taverns, churches, cottages, barns and more (some say the only thing you can’t do with Cotswold limestone is eat it, which might be a just a tad over the top).

The sheep trade made the area rich back in the Middle Ages and, in due course, the region’s wealth was expressed in some of the country’s finest stone buildings. Gracious honey-stone manor houses liberally grace the landscape and, today, many of these are top-notch hotels that exude leisured wellbeing. Meanwhile, a number of old stone coaching inns have evolved into luxury boltholes glorying in a patina of history. Our selection of these havens ranges from landmark Lygon Arms in the north of the region to gorgeous, foodie Whatley Manor in the south east – they all encapsulate style and intrinsic elements of Cotswold beauty.

Best hotel for romantics: Barnsley House

Location: Barnsley, Cirencester

This adults-only hotel has a spectacular garden (Barnsley House)

This mellow, 17th-century manor house is now an adults-only hotel. Complete with a spectacular garden, it is the ideal romantic retreat. There are quiet corners in which to hide away, both inside the property and in the wonderful grounds; there are old stone fireplaces to snuggle beside in winter and stylish terraces and outdoor recliners to enjoy in summer. The décor is immensely soothing and the facilities first class, from fine food to a flamboyant little cinema and a chic spa with views onto a meadow. The 18 gracious bedrooms include the sublime Secret Garden suite with a four-poster and a private courtyard.

Best hotel for walkers: Lygon Arms

Location: Broadway

Experience traditional comfort in this former coaching inn (Lygon Arms)

The Lygon Arms exudes a sense of history and luxury – it’s a landmark coaching inn complete with old stone fireplaces, ancient beams and stellar service. It sits centre-stage in beautiful Broadway, which makes an enchanting starting point for a number of glorious walks in the northern Cotswolds. Stroll out on a four-mile circular route to 18th-century Broadway Tower standing tall over the village, or meet more challenges on an 11-mile loop taking in handsome Chipping Campden and panoramic Dover’s Hill. Then enjoy afternoon tea or a well-earned cocktail in the picturesque courtyard terrace of the hotel.

Best hotel for party spirit: No.131 The Promenade

Location: Cheltenham

The bedrooms at No.131 The Promenade exude opulence and glamour (No.131 The Promenade)

Cheltenham’s most vibrant venue, No.131 is spread over three magnificent Regency mansions in the elegant centre of town. Inside, it offers a wonderful sense of flamboyance in its public areas, and cool stylishness in its 36 bedrooms. A maze of sassy bars extends over the lower ground floor and part of the terrace – at weekends, DJs add to the party mood here as crowds descend. On the ground floor there’s a kick-back marquee restaurant and a spectacular, gilded Japanese restaurant and red bar. Most of the bedrooms beyond offer the last word in opulence and glamour, some with gorgeous chinoiserie décor, some with appealing wood panelling, most with expansive bathrooms.

Best hotel for families: Calcot & Spa

Location: Calcot, Tetbury

Family suites have a huge amount of room for kids to sleep and play (Calcot & Spa)

It would be a tall call to find a hotel more adept at delivering luxury and family-friendly services. Four miles west of Tetbury, this deeply relaxing country house venue is set in rolling 220-acre grounds. From the staff to the spa (the indoor pool is open to children at limited times) there’s a deep commitment to kick-back, upscale comfort. The 34 bedrooms range from cosy boltholes to sumptuous family suites. Facilities for children are superb – outdoors, there are play areas, tennis courts, bikes to borrow, a mini football field and more; indoors there’s a wonderfully devised, Ofsted-registered creche and a sophisticated zone for over-eights. The Brasserie serves modern British cuisine with aplomb. Offering light meals and aperitives, the soothing Hive is a chill-out lounge with books and board games.

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Best hotel for rural bliss: Buckland Manor

Location: Buckland, Broadway

This idyllic manor house is backed by 10 acres of beautifully kept gardens (Buckland Manor)

To reach this idyllic manor house hotel, you pass through serene landscape west of Broadway. Tucked into a valley beneath the spectacular Cotswold escarpment, the village of Buckland lies at the end of a country lane that goes no further – this is the ultimate peaceful destination. Located next to a 15th-century church, Buckland Manor is a historic property backed by 10 acres of beautifully kept gardens. Step through the front door, and you’re in a quintessential country retreat with flagstone floors, old stone fireplaces and oil paintings on the wall. The food is excellent; the outlook wonderful; and the 15 bedrooms full of old-school charm.

Best hotel for foodies: Whatley Manor

Location: Easton Grey, Malmesbury

Inside this former farmhouse lies a luxurious spa and a private cinema (Whatley Manor)

Built as a farmhouse in the 18th century, Whatley Manor has evolved into one of the Cotswolds’ top country house hotels, complete with fabulous facilities. The spa (with thermal cabins, hydrotherapy pool and more) is first class; the 26 formal gardens are dreamy; and there’s even a private cinema. But upstaging these is the Michelin-starred dining. Head chef Ricki Weston offers guests a gourmet journey that starts with wondrous nibbles in the kitchen (where you watch the chefs at work) and proceeds to the restaurant, where seven exquisite courses are served – dishes might include delicate lamb tartare and scallops with trout roe.

Best hotel for views: Foxhill Manor

Location: Broadway

The Oak suite features two slipper baths, side by side (Foxhill Manor)

Glamorous and spectacularly luxurious, Foxhill Manor is a wonderfully secluded Arts and Crafts mansion in the rolling Farncombe Estate above Broadway. With just eight bedrooms (all fabulously stylish), immaculate concierge service and meals cooked to (your) order, it has raised the bar for boutique hotels. The setting is superb, too: from the sitting room, terraced garden and many of the bedrooms, there’s a jaw-dropping panoramic outlook over the beautiful Vale of Evesham. Book a stay in the Oak suite and you and your partner can take in this view from side-by-side, perfectly positioned slipper baths.

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Best hotel for spa experiences: Thyme

Location: Southrop, Lechlade

The English Rose bedroom is a beautiful place to lay your head (Rachael Smith)

In the picturesque village of Southrop, around 8 miles from Burford, this epicurean haven is spread over a cluster of honey-stone properties. It’s a sublime retreat for adults, comprising cottages, two ancient barns, the Swan pub, a 17th-century farmhouse and the village’s former (very handsome) rectory – all linked by paths through beautifully landscaped grounds. There are 31 gorgeous bedrooms and a spectacular restaurant, the Ox Barn, serving modern British dishes largely based on what’s growing in the veg garden. Perhaps best of all is the extensive spa with a natural spring water swimming pool, treatments based on sibling brand Bertioli and a separate, serene hideaway, the Botanical Bothy, offering herbal soaks and regenerative rituals.

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