Monday, 26 February 2018

Your Hotel in Cotswolds Stone

Your Hotel in Cotswolds StoneThe Cotswolds are made of limestone, to be specific oolitic limiestone. To geologists it’s calcium carbonate pressed together tightly like fish roe. The ancient greek words that make up ‘oolite’ are for ‘egg’ and ‘stone’. So much for geology, for most visitors the real appeal of limestone is in the colour of a hotel in Cotswolds stone or a row of cottages, as well as the curve of the landscape.

You’ll see quarries all over the Cotswolds and it’s a still a requirement that buildings use local limestone for repairs and additions. The local limestone is usually thought of as yellow or gold but, when newly quarried, it varies from an orange-hued blond to a pale cream.

Your hotel in the Cotswolds is likley to evoke the gentle colours and gentle landscapes of the area, They are, after all, linked. Limestone is pretty soft and the gentle contours of the wolds have been formed by the action of the elements. No mountains, harsh contours or angularities here. The stone also dictates the landscape in other ways, beech woods are part of the landscape, rare and beautiful lime-loving wild flowers and grasses. In the slopes that are too steep to plough and by the side of the road more common flowers grow.

For centuries the Cotswolds was dominated by open sheep-friendly terrain. To some extent these have been replaced by arable fields and, in the right season, fields sway with green, bronze or the acid yellow of rapeseed. Barley is king, it thrives on drained, shallow soil. A few years ago it occurred to someone that no-one was distilling some of this barley and The Cotswolds Distillery was created in pursuit of excellent whisky. Perhaps a something try at the end of a long day back at your hotel in the Cotswolds.

Hotel Building in Cotswolds Stone

Hotels in the CotswoldsCotswold stone, as well as shaping the natural landscape so directly has also dictated the character and form of local buildings. Some oolites form a fine-grained stone which is easy to cut - in fact it can literally be sawn into blocks. This is when it is newly quarried, later it hardens on exposure to the air.

This material forms the basic building material for your hotel and Cotswolds houses and other structures. Even the rooftiles are made of a specific type of surface Cotswold stone, which splits when left over winter into a usable thickness. Flooring, too, is made of local stone. The saying is that you can do anything with Cotswold stone except eat it.
Hotel buildings in the Cotswolds are often former manor houses and, indeed, The Cotswolds area is famous for its cute cottages and manor houses, but also for stone walls. This is a reminder that stone was once easier to come by here than wood.

Visit ancient sites such as Belas Knapp, a long barrow near Winchcombe and you’ll see ancient slated walls, supplemented by modern ones - the skill hasn’t changed much in 4000 years. Stone walling needs to be made of the right stone quarried at the right time of year - if not it will crumble due to frost damage after a few winters, something that sometimes people discover when they pay too little for new drystone walls. Hotel, Cotswolds, landscape - all together as one perfect rural escape.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Oxfordshire Hotels in the Cotswolds

Exploring Cotswolds during winterWinter is an interesting time to visit the Cotswolds. The most popular seasons are Spring and Autumn, but Cotswold Hotels have their own special charm in the colder season. Most are monuments to comfort - think of open log fires, excellent food and drink and village locations that make them perfect for a quick exploration of nearby woodland and scenic spots.

The Cotswolds has become year-round popular in recent times and more and more local attractions are opening up right through the year - helping to ensure that Cotswold hotels have an ever improving list of options. That said, hoteliers smile a little when guests get so comfortable that they never leave the hotel - often the temptation of a good book is enough for guests seeking perfect relaxation. We’ve noticed how hotels are dropping the books-by-the-yard approach to their bookshelves and are actually creating proper libraries. A trend we like. You’ll also find hot tubs and spas in many hotels and we’ve noticed how many Cotswold hotels happen to be within perfect walking distance of the local pub. Barnsley House hotel have thoughtfully arranged things so that they also own the Village Pub over the road. New member, Artist Residence in Oxfordshire has gone one better by having a very fine pub downstairs (Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms) Very cosy and hygge, we reckon.

Speaking of hygge, the Scandinavian approach to cosy living in colder weather, we’ve also notes how many of our hotels are adopting ‘Scandi-cool’ interiors. Almost as if they are made for Winter visits. Cotswolds Finest is very proud to welcome two new properties to its collection of Cotswolds Hotels for 2018.

Artist Residence is a terrific smaller property (with just five bedrooms) in the Oxfordshire village of South Leigh. That puts it within easy range of both Oxford and the Cotswolds, perfect for guests from London and the South East looking for Cotswolds hotels. Bedrooms have a fresh and cool design (Instagram fans will be pretty happy here) and this is a pretty chic new option for visitors to the area.

The accommodation is located over and around an Inn, Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms. Design values are high here too, with Mr Hanbury's Dining Room. It’s basically one of the most atmospheric of dining rooms amongst Cotswolds hotels, with House of Hackney wallpapers and Connor Brothers contemporary art dotted around. Look out for the Andy Doig neons too. When modern design meets historic pub the results can be inspirational and that’s the case here - full of surprises and a welcome addition to our cast of special Cotswolds hotels.

Dining is heavily centred on the Cotswolds location, especially as the chef is a huge fan of foraging.

Local attractions include Burford, the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Blenheim Palace. Or you can keep sightseeing local too with a trip to the local church to see the medieval ‘doom’ paintings. Every year, The Cotswolds runs through a calendar of events both natural and human. The ‘Cotswolds’ season is well established now and any visitor to the area is well-advised to check to see what is happening during their visit. Events are not always on a large scale, but can add a lot to a short break.

Things begin to get interesting in February, with the arrival of snowdrops. Local attractions such as Painswick Rococo and Colesbourne open up for snowdrop viewing, an excuse to get out and about and do a bit of people watching too, ideally over tea and cake. Every Hotel in the Cotswolds will offer St Valentine’s breaks, which are ever-popular and, a little later in March, Cheltenham Festival is another signal that the visitor year has properly begun. The Festival comprises four days of jump racing with the Cheltenham Gold Cup as its climax.

There are festivals dotted around the Cotswolds. We like Chipping Norton Literary Festival, which takes over this small North Cotswold town in late April (26-29th in 2018). It punches above its weight in terms of the names it attracts and is a warm, chatty, friendly event.

In May there are some of the more eccentric events for which the Cotswolds is famous. It’s a good tip to add an extra day at your hotel in the Cotswolds in the last Bank Holiday Monday in May, for example. It’s when you can see both Woolsack Racing in Tetbury (a tribute to the importance of the wool industry in the Cotswolds) and Cheese Rolling, near Gloucester. Both involve steep slopes! The Woolsack races are run up the steep Gumstool Hill in Tetbury, carrying a woolsack. A crowd of 5000 or so pack the town and it’s a entertaining day out. Over at Coopers Hill, near Gloucester, Cheese Rolling is all about catching a Gloucester cheese which is rolled down a hill. It’s a dangerous and hilarious event - unlike anything anywhere else. Hotel breaks in the Cotswolds can really be unique. Most of the Cotswolds are in Gloucestershire and it’s that County that gets most of the attention when the area is considered for hotels in the Cotswolds. Having said that, other counties are important too - especially Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire has the second greatest Cotswold ‘footprint’ - and some of its biggest attractions. Blenheim Palace is a World Heritage Site, the Cotswold Wildlife Park is a crowd pleaser and some of the villages such as Burford and Lechlade are amongst the most worth-visiting. Plus it’s always good to have Oxford within easy reach.

Oxfordshire hotels in the Cotswolds include the Feathers at Woodstock, which has a kitchen run by Dominic Chapman (of Great British Menu fame) and a remarkable collection of gins, over 450 in fact. The bar was first into the Guinness Book of Records for stocking the greatest variety of gins on the planet and the hotel is a popular one, occupying one side of the market place in the historic town. The gates of Blenheim Palace are a short walk away.

Head out for the day to explore Chipping Norton, great for antique shops, and the nearby Rollright Stones an ancient site with its Kings Men stone circle, King Stone and ‘Whispering Knights’.

Oxfordshire: More Hotels in the Cotswolds

Lift your spirit at Cotswolds hotelsArtist Residence is a new hotel in the Cotswolds - based on an old Inn (Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms) with just five bedrooms, done to chic design standard.

It’s great, with a particularly cosy dining room. The walls are embellished with modern art and floral House of Hackney wallpapers. The Inn is in South Leigh, a quiet Oxfordshire village. You can walk up to the ancient church to see the Medieval ‘Doom’ paintings, all very Gothic. This newest of hotels in the Cotswolds is recommended if you’re looking for a bolthole to escape to from London - you leave after work and be here for dinner, easily.

Nearby, you can explore picturesque Burford with it’s single main street leading downhill towards the river. The nearby Barringtons (Great and Little Barrington) are two Cotswold villages that really feel as if they belong in the 1950s - every cottage is a free flower show. Explore Kingham too, with a couple of good pubs and the nearby Daylesford Farm Shop. Daylesford is good for people watching, perhaps a wry smile at the prices and to immerse yourself in the cheese room. The cafe is buzzy and colourful and, again, if you can smile at the prices, an enjoyable place to be. They sell clothes and gardening knick-knackerie on site too. It’s perfect for your inner Marie Antoinette.

Visitors looking for a Cotswolds hotel shouldn’t overlook Oxfordshire.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Cotswold Hotels in the Winter

Lift your spirit at Cotswolds hotelsWinter is an interesting time to visit the Cotswolds. The most popular seasons are Spring and Autumn, but Cotswold Hotels have their own special charm in the colder season. Most are monuments to comfort - think of open log fires, excellent food and drink and village locations that make them perfect for a quick exploration of nearby woodland and scenic spots.

The Cotswolds has become year-round popular in recent times and more and more local attractions are opening up right through the year - helping to ensure that Cotswold hotels have an ever improving list of options. That said, hoteliers smile a little when guests get so comfortable that they never leave the hotel - often the temptation of a good book is enough for guests seeking perfect relaxation. We’ve noticed how hotels are dropping the books-by-the-yard approach to their bookshelves and are actually creating proper libraries. A trend we like. You’ll also find hot tubs and spas in many hotels and we’ve noticed how many Cotswold hotels happen to be within perfect walking distance of the local pub. Barnsley House hotel have thoughtfully arranged things so that they also own the Village Pub over the road. New member, Artist Residence in Oxfordshire has gone one better by having a very fine pub downstairs (Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms). Very cosy and hygge, we reckon.

Speaking of hygge, the Scandinavian approach to cosy living in colder weather, we’ve also notes how many of our hotels are adopting ‘Scandi-cool’ interiors. Almost as if they are made for Winter visits.

Excursions from Cotswold Hotels this winter

Exploring Cotswolds hotels during winterFor many years Westonbirt Arboretum led the way in the winter, with an illuminated woodland trail named Enchanted Christmas. The combination of tree shapes and creative lighting is, indeed enchanting. Crowds are huge and it’s a highly recommended event.

Sudeley Castle has recently picked up on the idea and their ‘Spectacle of Light’ adds illuminated castle buildings and trees to the excitement of exploring the grounds at this Tudor castle. Guests at Cotswold hotels love the experience and are also very enthusiastic about a new venture at Blenheim Palace, whose ‘Christmas at Blenheim' event (which runs until January 1st) runs on an even grander scale. The Palace’s formal gardens are lit up to create a marvellous after dark spectacle. Their tunnel of light is sensational, as you pass under thousands of twinkling lights. Bright illuminated boats bob on the lake and there’s a giant water fountain too.

For many visitors the opportunity to base themselves at one of our Cotswold hotels is also a chance to shop in the nearby villages for truly individual gifts - or to visit Daylesford Organic for a bit of celeb spotting. For other guests at Cotswold hotels, a stay is a chance to forget the shops in favour of a walk on the Cotswold Way or a visit to walk around a local National Trust property such as Upton House.

Another option is to explore local theatre, which includes the Royal Shakespeare theatre in Stratford, well within range of the North Cotswolds.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Exploring local drinks from Cotswolds hotels

Exploring local drinks from Cotswolds hotelsWhat is the Cotswold drink? Believe the celeb loving national press and it's Champagne. To be fair, a lot of Champagne is drunk at Cotswolds hotels, not least during Cheltenham Festival's Gold Cup week.

In reality, beer is the daily drink and the experience of a pint on the terrace or in the garden of one of the Cotswolds hotels or pubs is a deeply pleasant one. Local breweries dot the area - look out for Donnington ales from the north Cotswolds which is surely one of the prettiest breweries in Britain. Hook Norton is a more famous name nationally, a well known Victorian brewery that offers tours and still delivers by horse drawn drays to local pubs.

DEYA is at the other end of the scale, a Cheltenham-based new wave brewery absolutely focused on quality. It's probably in the top 10 breweries in the country. Look out for Steady Rolling Man. If you see it, try it.

Cotswold Brewing Company was set up by a former mass market brewery employee who wanted to inject some quality into things by creating a new Cotswold brand. Their Cotswold lager is a great summer day beer and they have developed a wheat beer, IPA and stout to build the range. Quite easy to find and stocked by quite a few Cotswolds hotels.

Wychwood Brewery makes the popular Hobgoblin Ale from its base in Witney. We also like Stroud Brewery, where Greg Pilley's organic craft beers are made with local barley. 'Organic Beer from Round Here' as they say.

Lift your spirit at Cotswolds hotels

Lift your spirit at Cotswolds hotels Years ago, the only local spirit for Cotswolds hotels to stock was initially a semi mythical Gloucestershire whisky which was actually blended in Scotland for the village of Oldbury. You can still buy it and it is well reviewed.

There's more choice now though, especially with the arrival of the Cotswolds Distillery, the first properly commercial distillery in the Cotswolds. Located in Warwickshire, the business offers a Cotswold Single Malt and a Cotswolds Dry Gin. The gin is a staple in a Cotswolds hotels bar these days.

The whisky uses barley grown and processed in the area. Sherry, bourbon and wine casks are used. So far only test batches have been released and the initial reports are that it's a floral English whisky. Scottish whisky is the most regulated drink in the world and English producers perhaps benefit from the ability to experiment a little more. Certainly it's already clear that the Cotswolds Distillery aim is to produce a whisky that reflects its location in the Cotswolds. The gin already achieves the use of local ingredients such as Cotswold lavender.

The final version whisky should be available from October 2017. It's gin was recently voted best in the world at the World Gin Awards.

Gin fans can now add a Cotswolds Distillery tour to their cotswolds hotels breaks - but do book ahead as they are very popular. Tours take place at 11am and 2pm, daily. There's a walk in tour at 1pm if you're in the area at short notice.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Autumn attractions near Cotswolds hotels and inns

Autumn attractions near Cotswolds hotels and innsFor many, Autumn is the best time to stay at cotswolds hotels and inns. The area has an arboretum at each 'end' and, in between, plenty of wide open spaces with Cotswold Beech trees taking star billing. If you plan a visit to the area from late September onward you should be guaranteed a display of tree colour. And there's always the prospect of a good pub or afternoon tea at one of the many cotswolds hotels and inns at the end of a long walk - meanwhile there's a nip in the air and the crunch of leaves underfoot. Rather romantic actually.

The arboreta referred to are Westonbirt, near Tetbury in the South Cotswolds. This is the 'National' Arboretum and attracts huge crowds for its displays in various russet hues - from copper to Japanese Maple reds. There are over 15,000 trees here, so allow plenty of time to explore woodland paths. There is inevitably an especially large crowd at weekends in October.

Batsford Arboretum, in the north Cotswolds is a little smaller in scale. The garden has oriental associations and there is added photogenic addition of a Japanese style bridge and tea house to add some style to your selfies.

To the east of the area Blenheim Palace, provides another option, with its 'Capability' Brown parkland and fabulous tree and lake setting. This year, they plan various events through the Autumn period - well worth planning your stay at your choice of cotswolds hotels and inns around.

Cotswolds hotels and inns and wide open spaces

Cotswolds hotels and inns and wide open spaces If you're even just mildly adventurous there's no real need to join the crowds at the area's large scale Autumn attractions. There's a walk that the locals love from every Cotswold village - ask at reception desks in Cotswolds hotels and inns around, check at local tourist information centres or bring the subject up in the pub and you'll benefit from local knowledge.

To help we've included a suggested local walk from each of our hotels on this website - see hotel pages for ideas. Painswick, for example has stunning Autumn views across the valley and a walk alongside the local public golf course to Painswick Beacon. The Manor House at Castle Combe also offers a wooded valley walk and Thyme offers a walk that embraces Autumn colour and quaint Cotswold churches. Utter peace is easily available from our Cotswolds hotels and inns.

A particular favourite that is not, perhaps, so well known is the National Trust estate at Sherborne Park in the central Cotswolds, just a small parking charge here and then you can head off to explore the magnificent woodland surrounded village. The estate pops up on the BBC's Springwatch and Autumnwatch programmes and can be reached from most Cotswolds hotels and inns.

Cleeve Common and nearby Cheltenham are good value in Autumn, with the town's famous parks providing a gentle walking option amongst lakes, parks and specimen trees. Cheltenham has an historic theatre too - designed by a famous theatre designer named Frank Matcham, in 1891. In the Winter, a traditional hotel in the Cotswolds is a good match with a another British tradition - pantomime. Pantomime is basically a musical comedy theatre performance for families, drawing on a stock of well known stories such as Aladdin, Puss in Boots and the Babes in the Wood. For the rest of the year there is a programme of theatre, musicals and comedy at the theatre which is called the Everyman.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Dining at luxury Cotswolds hotels

Luxury Cotswolds hotelsLuxury Cotswolds hotels offer some of the best dining rooms in the Cotswolds, embracing the range from Michelin stars to smart pub.

In general, dining rooms have been busy becoming less formal, many dropping the tablecloths and library atmosphere in favour of more simplified local menus with friendly service in a more relaxed atmosphere. These days luxury Cotswolds hotels restaurants represent a fashionable option for diners.

Leading the way, Randall's at the Three Ways in Mickleton is a proper brasserie, in the sense that you will feel as comfortable ordering a soup and roll as you will a four course lunch. Nice open fire too. The John Greville Restaurant at Charingworth Manor offers a great value fixed-price menu, based on a firm 'buy local' policy. Nearby, at Cotswold House Hotel, the Cotswold Grill shows exactly why a luxury Cotswolds hotels restaurant is often a great choice, with doors opening through to a lovely garden, despite the town centre location. Meanwhile at Dormy House Hotel, there are two restaurants (served by the same kitchen) with the Potting Shed a popular local option, next door to the slightly smarter main restaurant.

Russell's of Broadway is first and foremost a restaurant, but offers a few rooms upstairs. In fact it's one of the most charming 'restaurants with rooms' in the country. There's another surprise up the hill at Moreton in Marsh, where you can step through the door at the Manor House to discover the Beagle Brasserie and a huge garden at the back.

More Luxury Cotswolds Hotels

More Luxury Cotswolds Hotels Lords of the Manor at Upper Slaughter has held a Michelin dining star for the last 8 years and is Gloucestershire's only Michelin-starred hotel - the very definition of luxury Cotswolds hotels. From there, it's a short walk to the Bourton on the Water where The Dial House is at the very heart of the village with its two dining rooms overlooking the river.

An amazing collection of over 450 gins in its bar, risks overshadowing the restaurant at The Feathers in Woodstock, near Blenheim Palace, but, in fact, Great British Menu regular Dominic Chapman is at the helm in the kitchen and the restaurant is on great form.

Heading south to the famous village of Bibury, The Swan Brasserie is newly refurbished and always busy, at the heart at this popular, beautiful village. Nearby, the Village Pub in Barnsley is a well-established dining pub, serving classic Cotswold ingredients simply and very well.

Almost over the road (and under the same ownership as the Pub), Barnsley House grows its own vegetables in its Rosemary Verey planned Potager. The house speciality is Vincisgrassi, a very old Italian recipe. There's an Italian influence too at nearby Swan at Southrop, near Lechlade. Despite that, it's the distillation of what a modern Cotswolds pub is all about.

There's a grouping of luxury Cotswolds hotels in and around Tetbury starting with Calcot Manor which has both a fine dining restaurant and the Gumstool Inn, a pub attached to the hotel. The Beaufort Restaurant at The Hare and Hounds, is an esteemed restaurant in beautiful surroundings, near Westonbirt Arboretum. Farthest south in the Cotswolds, The Old Bell is Britain's oldest purpose built hotel, in the shadow of Malmesbury's impressive Abbey. It's an intriguing, ancient building but dining here is informal and pleasure. Great for romantics. Cotswolds Finest's group of luxury Cotswolds hotels is completed with another Michelin-awarded grand country house, the magnificent Manor House at Castle Combe.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Luxury Cotswold Hotels for Beginners

Hotels & Spas in the CotswoldsIf you don’t know The Cotswolds well, here are some ideas to help you choose which amongst luxury Cotswold hotels is right for you. To start with the basics, the Cotswolds is the name given to an area distonguished by limestone and gentle hilly slopes between Bath and Chipping Campden. The name is from old English - Cots = sheep pens, Wolds = hills: Cotswolds.

Also dotted around the edge are Cheltenham and Oxford. Luxury Cotswold hotels are part of the attraction of visiting, there’s a long traditional of romantic weekend breaks and somehow the list of charming Cotswolds stone hotels seem to grow and grow. In fact, that’s why Cotswolds Finest Hotels was formed - the choice was a bit overwhelming.

Luxury Cotswold Hotels - North and South.

If you don’t have a particular hotel or destination in mind, one way is to decide whether north or south Cotswolds is right for you - and it’s not just not a matter of where you travel from. Very broadly speaking, the North Cotswolds is better known, thanks to the fame of its market towns (Broadway, Stow-on-the-Wold, Burford and others). The area offers a more ‘commercial’ face of the area, with towns such as Bourton-on-the-Water and Bibury popular with coach groups - of course you can always beat the crowds by staying in these beautiful places.

Luxury Cotswold Hotels and the South Cotswolds

Hotels in the Cotswolds & Spas It’s hard to say where exactly the Cotswolds becomes the south Cotswolds, but Cirencester is a good start. The south part of the Cotswolds is equally agricultural and beautiful, but the villages tend to be lesser-known and there’s a ‘real’ quality to this part of the Cotswold hills. It’s also where you’ll find Highgrove (Prince Charles’ estate) and attractions such as Westonbirt Arboretum and the Cotswolds Water Park.

Stroud Farmers’ Market is a big Saturday morning draw and nearby Nailsworth is a foodie favourite.

There are hundred of luxury Cotswold hotels, villages and hamlets in the Cotswolds and our tip is that it’s best to relax and spend time in a couple of them, rather than try to ‘tick them all off.’ They’re all kind of similar, although each has something unique about it. Very often luxury Cotswold hotels are a key part of village life too, another reason to stay there.

If you’re staying in the south Cotswolds, you’ll have the Georgian City of Bath within range, as well as excursions to Berkeley Castle and Chavanage House which is used in the current Poldark TV series, appearing as the Poldark family home. Castle Combe is one of the most famous villages anywhere in the Cotswolds, tucked away in the far south.

So, if you have enjoyed a stay in the Cotswolds, don’t feel that there’s no reason to come back and stay at another one of our luxury Cotswold hotels - there’s plenty to explore, north or south.