Cream of the Cotswolds
The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds
The terrace at Cotswolds88 Hotel
ECCENTRIC FOODIE HAVEN: Cotswolds88 Hotel
This is as far from country chintz as you can get. It’s kind of crazy, but efficient: contemporary kitsch in the extreme. There’s a black-and-white-striped hallway decorated with a life-size mannequin in a trilby and lavishly festooned in pearls. And then there are the two enormous stuffed magpies perching on candelabras. Go with the flow and this place is a sparkling tonic. Plush bedrooms, decorated with dramatic wallpaper, offer total comfort; staff are on the ball. But it’s the food that most people come for. Chef Lee Scott serves the most delicious eight-course tasting menu, including a trio of foie gras, an incredible fillet of turbot with chorizo and crispy fried squid, and sumptuous slow-cooked lamb resting on pommes Lyonnaises. Truimphant.
Kemps Lane, Painswick (01452 813688; www.cotswolds88hotel.com ). Doubles from £110
JOIN THE PARTY: The Wheatsheaf Inn
A deeply stylish pub with rooms which has single-handedly put Northleach on the map, The Wheatsheaf has bags of character, faultless food, and staff who go out of their way to make sure you feel looked after. The bedrooms are just what you would want in your own house: lovely colours, wallow-in-me baths, a flash of interesting wallpaper, and proper solid furniture. Downstairs everybody is having fun, from local old duffers coming in for a pint to the hip crew feasting on a hog roast in the delphinium-filled garden. Walls are crowded with antlered heads and Victorian portraits of podgy, stately figures. There’s a treatment room for pampering, and a fabulous private dining room, more like a cosy banquet hall, with glittering chandeliers. Book it for a party. Revel in huge platters of serious chips and heavenly chilli squid. And for breakfast? Piping kippers and an old-school pharmacy jar full of hangover cures.
West End, Northleach (01451 860244; www.cotswoldswheatsheaf.com ). Doubles from £130
LOW-KEY LOCAL WITH POLISH: The Village Pub
This is an offshoot of its rather grander sister, Barnsley House (across the road), and you have to keep reminding yourself that it is just a little pub in a sleepy village, rather than a top-notch hotel (many big-name places don’t come close to the standards set here). Rooms are bright, clean and simply but beautifully decorated, with lots of creams and duck-egg blues, and modern bathrooms with massive showers. The cosy bar is a hub of activity and the food is worth driving for: delicious crispy-duck salad and steak-frites. Where better to spend a summer afternoon drinking rosé outside, surrounded by tubs overflowing with fresh flowers? And it’s exceptionally good value, too.
Barnsley, Cirencester (01285 740421; www.thevillagepub.co.uk ). Doubles from £125
URBAN SLICK B B: Thirty Two
You could almost walk past the door without noticing this place, which is a champion for small, chic, individually run B Bs. Ring the bell and one of the two owners, Jonathan and Jonathan (handy for those with memory issues), will come and let you in. The location in Imperial Square is perfect, close to the smartest boutiques in town but quiet enough for a deep sleep. No expense has been spared on the bedrooms: there are cloud-like beds, showers with power and baths that fill in seconds. Glamorous, arty touches abound, with lots of glossy coffee- table books, Buddha statues, bright-print wallpaper and scented candles. Think high-design modern Asia in the middle of Regency Cheltenham. In the breakfast room, with its flickering fire and pretty pots of jam, you can choose virtuous yogurt and fruit or go for the full English. Superbly stylish.
32 Imperial Square, Cheltenham (01242 771110; www.thirtytwoltd.com ). Doubles from £155
SECRET, QUIRKY TOWNHOUSE: Oak House No 1
This flamboyant four-bedroom gem is like nowhere else. A little bit rock’n’roll, a little bit country classic, it’s a full-on surprise in the prettiest market town in the area. Everywhere you look there is some eye-catching candy: original Andy Warhols on the walls, traditional English antiques, Philippe Starck taps, decorative treasures from Thailand and Australia, walls of lime green, velvet come-hither sofas. It’s a colourful, deeply original mix, put together with flair by owner Gary Kennedy and his wife Nikki, who make impeccable and fascinating hosts. Eat communally with them (this is their home; their son may be watching films in the downstairs bedroom) in the stunning dining room, feasting on local lamb with dauphinoise potatoes and the stickiest tarte tatin. Rest assured these people can cook, and the atmosphere they have created is like a boho Continental party of which Gertrude Stein would approve (guests have included Stereophonics and Sir Peter Blake, just not together). Chat into the small hours, knock back the endless booze (which rarely appears on the bill…shhh) and then retreat to the calmness of the bedrooms. Smart but outrageously fun.
The Chipping, Tetbury (01666 505741; www.oakhouseno1.com ). Doubles from £165
ZINGY NEW ARRIVAL: The Montpellier Chapter
Cheltenham takes a leap forward with the diminutive sibling of two of the coolest hotels to have opened in recent years: The Upper House in Hong Kong and The Opposite House in Beijing. In a handsome Regency villa you’ll find Swire Hotels’ same calm, Zen-like approach: specially commissioned art; paperless check-in (staff gather around a giant wooden, silky-smooth ‘nut’ topped by a portable computer); room information on an iPod touch; a huge downloadable film and music library; a complimentary minibar. A book-lined sitting room leads to a pretty Victorian conservatory, and a sweeping glass-walled atrium surrounds a courtyard which hides the 61 bedrooms. Best are the 16 new-build, open-plan Crescent rooms, all blond wood, pale stone and creamy curtains to divide bed from bath (though someone should be shot for bolting the shampoo to the wall: you would have to be a performing monkey to reach it). The airy restaurant is dead cool, too, with the wine list on an iPad and an excellent menu devised by Simon Hopkinson. Confident and comfortable.
Bayshill Road, Cheltenham (01242 527788; www.chapterhotels.com ). Doubles from £140