If you’re looking for the perfect quintessential British escape amidst rolling green countryside and alongside a quietly babbling river, then look no further than the tranquil idyll that is: Water Meadow Cottage in the Cotswolds. It’s not too far from central London (just a mere 60 miles/90 minutes in the car and even less by train / 60 minutes from the M25 / 45 minutes from Heathrow) and yet this retreat feels just far away enough to be a real countryside escape. It’s hidden away from civilisation in the rich countryside within the grounds of Blenheim Palace and yet, if you need them, shops are just a moment down the road. This truly is pure, luxury living in a picture-postcard cottage retreat with beautiful riverside gardens.
Water Meadow Cottage
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, you can’t get much more detached than this – your mobile blissfully loses reception as you drive through the private gates marked ‘Blenheim Palace Estate Private Road’ (fear not though, there’s great free wifi in the cottage!) and your only neighbours are the friendly ducks and ducklings in the river, deer strolling by, squirrels in the trees and tiny rabbits that sunbathe on the pristine green lawn. Staying at Water Meadow Cottage is like a step-back-in-time as you’re living in a two hundred-year-old, beautifully restored Cotswold stone hunting lodge on the Blenheim Palace Estate. From the outside you wouldn’t think a day had passed since it was originally built, but inside you’re welcomed by a wealth of mod-cons and amenities to ensure you have a wonderfully indulgent stay.
As you enter through the front door, you’re met with an appropriately low, arched porch way complete with WMC umbrellas which leads you straight into the bijou yet grand living room with statement fireplace, stunning birdcage chandelier and rich furnishings. To your right you find the library/dining room complete with a deer mounted over the fireplace and a large table with plenty of seating – you can imagine many a good winters evening in here with a bottle of wine and a roaring fire. Leading on from the living room you find yourself in the petite but perfectly formed kitchen with everything you could need (oven, hob, fridge/freezer, dishwasher, microwave, coffee machine, kettle, all the crockery and cutlery you could need and even a great selection of cook books!). Beyond the kitchen and down a few steps lies the cloakroom and honesty larder with plenty of treats, mainly liquid and mainly alcoholic, although there is a great selection of local condiments as well as several beauty items for your to purchase and pamper yourself with during your stay. Upstairs lie the two bedrooms; the master has fabulous chandelier lights hanging down either side of the very comfy double bed, as well as a sofa, wardrobe, antique dressing table and window seats from which you can survey the wildlife outside. The second bedroom has a wall-mounted television above the fireplace, another comfy bed and large wardrobe. Finally, and by no means least, the bathroom with large leather textured stone tiles and underfloor heating is the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine in a decadently deep bubble bath in the roll-top, cast iron tub, or if you prefer there is a large walk in shower.
Step outside the back door and you find yourself amidst the Oxfordshire woodlands on the edge of the gentle River Evenlode with a wonderful summerhouse complete with pyramid-style roof and luxurious large sofa and armchairs from which you can gaze at the wonder of nature that surrounds you. Directly outside the backdoor is an outdoor table and chairs with wonderful patio heater above, perfect to sit out and enjoy the twinkling stars at night whilst being kept toasty warm.
I always appreciate the small details and intriguing quirks when I stay somewhere with history and this property doesn’t disappoint with touches like an actual Blenheim Palace ‘ring for service’ bell in the kitchen, and even bottled water straight from the Blenheim Palace Spring (do read the history on the label!) chilled and waiting for you in the fridge.
Although this is a self-catering experience, you don’t really need to lift a finger as you can order from the in-cottage dining menu (for a fee) before your stay, which offers a hearty selection of dishes including pies, casseroles, soups, pates and their famous WMC chocolate brownies – which I can highly recommend! On arrival you will also be met with a welcome basket including fresh milk, bread, butter, eggs, tea, coffee and more which is perfect to feast on in the morning.
Unsurprisingly as you are in its grounds, Blenheim Palace is just a short drive away and is truly a must-see (www.blenheimpalace.com). It’s the birthplace of Winston Churchill and offers acres and acres of perfectly manicured gardens and woodland to explore, this is somewhere you could visit for a week and still not discover half of it. For younger guests the Palace Railway is a must and the Pleasure Gardens feature the second biggest maze in the world as well as an adventure playground and more. Being in the country also means you can take advantage of all manner of country-pursuits like rowing, fishing and shooting or alternatively why not visit one of the many picturesque Cotswolds villages that surround you or one of the many country pubs (the WMC team will happily recommend their favourites). However, if you prefer to enjoy the comforts of your new home-away-from-home, then the cottage comes complete with television with BT Vision, complimentary wifi, plenty of board games, DVD’s, books and more to keep you and your guests entertained for hours.
I couldn’t finish without mentioning the incredible service you receive from the property’s management agents: Unlisted London. Not only did we receive detailed instructions on how to drive from our house directly to the cottage (surely above and beyond!), but they also provided a list of recommended pubs, restaurants, day-out activities and a selection of walks amongst other things. The team were also available throughout the stay to answer any queries we might have – in a word: ‘excellent’.
I’m not sure quintessential British country escapes get much better than this. If it’s peace and tranquillity you’re after mixed in with a slice of British history then Water Meadow Cottage will truly take some beating.
Rates start from £325 p/n off-peak to £525 in peak season.
Water Meadow Cottage features in our top 5 best guest houses in the Cotswolds.
Disclosure: Our property, service and product reviews are sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own and are in no way influenced by the sponsor.