Whether you’re yearning to spend the night in an ancient manor house or a picture-perfect cutesy cottage, the Cotswolds is one of the prettiest settings to spend your perfect weekend in the English countryside.
Expect rolling hills, fudge-colored villages packed with thatch-roofed cottages, country walks, and lots of sheep! Most of the old country manor houses in the area have now been converted to glorious, luxury charismatic, and historic hotels, but don’t discount the fun that can be had by staying in a boutique, cottage-style hotel accommodation that is more conveniently located in the center of a village and walkable to the local pub. We have picked five of the best luxury hotels and B&Bs in the Cotswolds.
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1. Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa
Whatley Manor is the country house hotel in the heart of The Cotswolds countryside that is pictured above. This grand 19th-century farmhouse lies on the eastern fringes of the Cotswolds, situated in a beautifully relaxing location steeped in history, just a stone’s throw from the gorgeous market town of Malmesbury, packed with its pubs, coffee shops, and antique shops.
Whatley Manor feels a world apart from 21st-century pressures and just oozes character and style with gardens that seem to be straight out of a picture book. When you arrive, the long drive leads you to a manor house set amidst rolling fields. When you arrive, the long drive leads you to a manor house set amidst rolling fields with immaculate 12-acre grounds. The building is built out of honey-colored stone and adorned with winding wisteria and roses climbing up the walls.
Verdant greenery climbs the walls, and the garden is full of color, framing the quintessentially British house. Strolling around the magnificent gardens, which are laid out in 26 distinctly different areas, you really experience true peace and tranquillity as there is no noise from passing traffic, just the sound of nature.
The public areas have a generous feeling of space with a graciously wide main staircase and several comfortable rooms to sit in and relax. Everywhere you explore within the hotel feels historic, with the floors being a mix of flagstone and wood and each room sporting a majestic fireplace. There is a wooden-clad bar that feels like a small library leading into a spacious and charismatic lounge.
In fact, there are a variety of lounge areas throughout the hotel that give you the opportunity to sit and soak up the ambiance or even to sample an elegantly served Whatley Manor afternoon tea of traditional sandwiches, fluffy scones, and delectable cakes and sweet treats. The main lounges offer views across the gardens and doors, which open up enticing you outside; sitting overlooking the regal lawns, fountains, and flower beds bursting with color is truly idyllic.
Executive Chef Niall Keating gained a coveted Michelin Star within one year of taking on the role at Whatley Manor, and his passion and creativity have reinvigorated all of the dining experiences at Whatley Manor. Breakfast here is good and brought to the table rather than served as a buffet, with a menu of pastries, cereals, and plenty of cooked options such as eggs Benedict.
The accommodation upstairs is also full of character. All rooms are very quiet and spacious; even the smallest ‘classic rooms’ have ample space for a desk and comfortable chairs. Rooms have been refurbished to a very high standard with quality products and comfortable surroundings, giving a modern edge. There are only 23 rooms and suites that are completely unique in style and overlook the gardens and Cotswold countryside.
Hotel amenities also include full use of the award-winning Aquarias Spa throughout your stay to restore your mind and body, to reset and recharge. The beautiful honeystone building exudes a calming and relaxing environment that whispers “switch off” as you walk through the doors.
2. The Greenway Hotel and Spa
The Cotswold’s Greenway Hotel and Spa is hidden up a long driveway. My first impression of this old manor house was of a building that was wonderfully old, much loved and oozed character.
Set within a stunning landscape of rolling hills and enormous oak and horse-chestnut trees, the Greenway Hotel and Spa sits in perfectly tended grounds with hedges full of hidey holes. Relax on the lawns here or play croquet. The more adventurous traveler can walk beyond the boundaries of the hotel grounds and trek up the nearby hill for a stunning view.
In the evening, enjoy an alfresco Cotswolds lager overlooking the lawns and then retire into the cozy bar, with doors swung wide open. The crowd is sophisticated, well turned out, and well-spoken, mainly couples without kids, although children are treated with great kindness here.
A good meal makes a stay. It can be scary to entrust dining to a new and unknown hotel. You want to look forward to your evening’s highlight but are aware it could make or break your stay – let me reassure you, there is no need to worry here.
The restaurant has been built onto the outside of the original building. As a result, all the quaint arched doorways and brickwork are visible on the inside of the restaurant. The seasonal menu is tasty, beautifully presented, and varied. The ambiance is superb, the crowd young and lively.
Rooms are spacious with large king beds, large bathrooms with powerful showers, large baths, and often, a separate living area. The ceilings in the attic rooms are a mass of old oak beams (not so low that you bang your head), and the furnishings are wonderful, with antique drawer sets and desks that fit perfectly with the hotel’s ambiance.
3. Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa
Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa is a country house hotel near the beautiful city of Bath, on the edge of the Cotswolds set in acres of listed parkland.
You approach this impressive hotel up a long treelined driveway. In the Spring, carpets of yellow daffodils run down either side of the entire driveway – magic! Upon entering Lucknam Park Hotel through the double doors, you are met by a large elegant room with wooden-clad walls and a reception desk to the corner. To your left, you pass through a beautiful library to reach a pastel-pink cream tea room and bar. To your right is the Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant. Straight on leads through the courtyard and to the swimming pool.
Our room (a “Grand Suite” called Apricot) was one of 42 rooms on offer and was situated at the front of the building, with a vista that included the driveway and ran across the entire front of the property. These views are simply breathtaking, especially first thing in the morning when the dew is catching the sun. I peered into a few more rooms and found the ones to the back of the building to be much darker and less appealing, hence would recommend booking a “Grande Suite” and requesting a view of the driveway.
The room itself was finished in a very traditional style with a pastel carpet, a hotchpotch of old antique drawer sets, and old-fashioned antique furniture, all sympathetic to the style and feel of the property. The room also had a fireplace that the hotel staff would light for you on a cold evening (a nice touch), and a large well-appointed marble bathroom. Without the television placed between the windows, I would have felt like I’d stepped back in time.
In the evening, we chose to enjoy a few beers in the bar/lounge area, which doubled as the cream tea lounge during the day. This lounge was decorated in ornate pastel pinks with old-fashioned armchairs for seating. It again boasted beautiful views across the parkland and was very large and very quiet. For food, we tried the Bistro, which was connected to the spa and pool area with a wood-burning pizza oven and a large terrace for the summer months.
In the morning, we took breakfast in the main restaurant. After breakfast, we explored a tiny portion of 500 acres of grounds that are just gorgeous and seem mainly used for numerous equestrian activities on a beautiful array of horses. Most guests seem to be choosing to spend the day visiting the nearby National Trust properties or had headed straight over to the excellent pool area, a huge modern pool with an indoor-outdoor spa pool that overlooks the gardens. This pool is an absolute highlight of this country house hotel, light, modern, large, and immaculate, just a great place to swim and sunbathe. There is also a separate Spa house beyond the pool and to the back of the main house, which I didn’t try.
4. Old Swan & Minster Mill
As you drive up to the Old Swan & Minster Mill you can’t help but be delighted by its perfect Cotswolds village setting, complete with grey stone cottages fronted by grass verges and colorful flowers. The hotel, which was built circa 1445, spans numerous cottages and outbuildings.
Beyond these, the small village tails off to one end, and the River Windrush gurgles along the border at the other end. Take in the hotel’s beautiful surroundings with our video tour.
The reception is in one of two main buildings and sits beside an enormous open fire. I can’t imagine a more atmospheric check-in but watch out for the dark beams that hang dangerously low and the uneven stone floors that try to trip those of us who sport high heels.
The second main building is a gorgeous old and quirky village pub. Here you can take a seat above the well, which is set deep into the floor. Just a glass slab stops you from toppling in. Alternatively, you can cozy up to one of the many fireplaces.
Our room was the garden suite, a beam-filled converted outhouse (I am guessing it used to be a barn for horses or cows), with medieval-looking chandeliers hanging from the exposed beams. Small windows at the foot of the huge and deeply comfy bed look through hanging flowers in the courtyard beyond.
The adjacent sitting area is made up of two seats and an inviting leather sofa. The remaining furnishings were an eclectic mix of antique drawers, dark wood side tables, and a large copper coffee table, giving the room a snug cottagey feel.
The gardens are just beautiful at the Old Swan & Minster Mill and extend into all sorts of different areas. To the rear, there is a vegetable garden with an adventure playground, chickens, and a Pétanque pitch. Next to the bar/restaurant is an outdoor dining area in another garden, this time with ducks, a duck house, and a pond surrounded by pretty lawns.
Cross the road, and you are met by weeping willow trees drooping into the river with a seating area on the river’s edge. More gardens beyond rising up from the banks of the river, including a sweetly scented rose garden and lawns, then drop back down to the river with a croquet lawn. Usefully, throughout the gardens are huddles of deck chairs so that you could grab a book and disappear into your own corner for the entire day.
As I mentioned above, the pub is exactly how you imagine a Cotswold pub. Low beamed ceilings, old fireplaces, comfy chairs, and candles dotted everywhere, flickering into the night. Outside you can drink and eat in the garden, and the staff are friendly and smiley.
The bar is just what you want from a Cotswolds bar, and I noticed that many Londoners, who had come down for the weekend, were already quaffing champers in the sunshine late afternoon. This is one of the best spots in the Cotswolds to enjoy the quintessential English garden, paddle or fish in the stream, laze on a lounger or drink yourself merry in the sunshine.
5. Ellenborough Park
Arrival at Cheltenham’s Ellenborough Park is impressive. The hotel sits alone on the side of a hill, on acres of immaculate grounds with sweeping views down to one of the UK’s most famous racecourses.
The reception is both modern and stylish, with beautiful flower arrangements. Leading off reception is a maze of rooms and corridors, as well as a modern bar and bistro. The hotel’s oldest rooms and premium suites are also located in this main building, reached via character-filled stairways. The remainder of the rooms sits in pretty Cotswold stone outbuildings dotted around the lawns and pool.
Our room was a De Luxe Double in one of the outbuildings. I was expecting a room full of character and Cotswolds charm. The room was lovely but modern. I can’t fault the size or the spacious and immaculate bathroom bearing a passing resemblance to a Four Seasons bathroom; modern with a large roll-top bath and a shower and toilet in separate cubicles.
A few of these rooms, including our own (number 21), opened directly onto the pool with a mini patio and chairs. A paradise for kids and a pleasure for adults, as treks down corridors in damp and unsightly bathrobes after a swim can be avoided.
The pool was outdoors but was warm even on a grey English summer day. It’s cleverly designed in a natural dip, making it a sun trap and sheltering it from the wind. It’s a modern pool, well cared for, and with ample space around its edge for loungers. There’s also table service, meaning food and drinks can be ordered poolside.
The bar is surprisingly small, with just eight seats. We popped in and took up a 4-seat table (half the bar), but the pints were good, and the view of people going in and out of reception and the brasserie was colorful.
The Beaufort Dining Room is set in a historic room in the main building with an ornately carved fireplace. The ingredients are local and fresh, and the chef uses them to produce mouth-watering dishes.
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