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.

Friday, 30 June 2017

The arts from your Cotswolds luxury hotels base

Hotels & Spas in the CotswoldsCotswolds luxury hotels are a great base for exploring local arts events.

The local list of events is extensive - a kind of Cotswolds ‘Season’. There are some real surprises too.

For example, the North Cotswolds has its very own opera house. Longborough Festival Opera is, in fact one of the UK's finest country opera houses - an intimate 500 seat theatre set amidst the glorious rolling hills of the Cotswolds. Each performance at Longborough is a new production, created especially for the venue - the Producers work with talented designers, directors, conductors and the best up-and-coming artists to bring you something you won't have seen anywhere else.
A visit to Longborough ensures an intimate and unique experience which truly captures the drama and emotion happening on stage. It was once reviewed as ‘like Glyndbourne before the war’. A visit fits nicely with a stay at one of the Cotswolds luxury hotels, in keeping somehow.
The season runs to the start of August with a chance left to see Mozart’s The Magic Flute or Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.

Dining is an important part of the experience at Longborough Festival Opera. 90 minute dining interval allows time to relax and enjoy the picturesque grounds: you can reserve a space in the on site restaurant or bring a picnic.

Highly recommended - especially as part of a longer stay at one of the cotswolds luxury hotels in the Cotswolds Finest partnership.

Theatre and Cotswolds Luxury Hotels

Hotels in the Cotswolds & Spas Theatre isn’t, perhaps, the first thought when planning a Cotswolds luxury hotels break. But perhaps it should be.

Apart from the fact that Stratford-Upon-Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre is within easy range of much of the Cotswolds, you’ll find a heady mix of local theatres and out-door events on offer. For those in the know, there’s a regular program of musical theatre, comedy and touring productions - including one or two places known locally as secret try out venues for the odd big name.

Chipping Norton Theatre is a theatre, an arthouse cinema, a gallery and a concert hall. Praised by The Guardian for “A programme of distinctive artistic adventure”, the theatre is small but punches well above its weight. Seats 213 people.

Further south, the Sundial Theatre in Cirencester is a 275 seat venue always worth checking out. The likes of Michael McIntyre and Jack Dee have appeared in warm up gigs here.

Giffords Circus tours village green type settings through the summer - a very stylish night out and not to be missed if they’re performing near you during your stay at one of the Cotswolds luxury hotels.

Look out too for Shakespeare performances from Rain or Shine Theatre Company at venues such as Painswick Rococo Garden.

The Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham is the house theatre for the area - a delightful Frank Matcham designed venue. Farthest south in the area, Bath’s Theatre Royal, built in 1805 is, famously, haunted and one of the oldest theatres in the country.

Cotswolds luxury hotels are your key to unlock the best of local culture, whether local opera, theatre or cultural events.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Hotels and Inns in the Cotswolds

Hotels & Spas in the Cotswolds2017 has been declared the year of literary heroes by VisitEngland in a drive to celebrate the importance of authors and poets in the country. We took a look at our own hotels and inns in the Cotswolds to dig our some literary connections - and found a few surprises along the way!

Thinking of purely Cotswold characters, Laurie Lee comes to mind first. His novel Cider With Rosie (published as Edge of Day in the US) described childhood in the small (real) village of Slad, a world of cottages, the village pub (The Wool Pack is still there) and church. Cider with Rosie is a lyrical effort and his sequel As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning is if anything, even more poignant.

These days hotels and inns in the Cotswolds occupy some of those Stroud valleys and other Cotswold locations. The Painswick Hotel is nearby and also not far from Cranham, where local WWI poet Ivor Gurney walked, traumatised by his experiences in the Great War.

The area around Batsford, Sezincote and Broadway had its literary moment in the sun at about the same time. Nancy Mitford live at Batsford House during the Great War and based part of Love in a Cold Climate on her experiences there (It was called Alconleigh in the novels). She later lived at Swinbrook, where she is buried. After the war, J.M. Barrie spent time at Stanway House and returned the favour by buying a new cricket pavilion for the village.

Hotels and inns in the Cotswolds are well used to answering questions about local authors. One of the most common questions is about Shakespeare, who did describe Gloucestershire in Richard II and may have lived at Dursley.

I am a stranger here in Gloucestershire;
These high wild hills and rough uneven ways
Draw out our miles, and make them wearisome.
But I bethink me, what a weary way
From Ravenspurg to Cotswold will be found

Hotels and inns in the cotswolds and literature

Hotels in the Cotswolds & Spas If Shakespeare did live in Dursley , it’s pleasing that J.K. Rowling also contributed to that town’s fame by naming the family in her stories after the place too. J.K. was at school near the Forest of Dean and a couple of references popped up in her stories. The filmed stories used Gloucester Cathedral as a location.

Hotels and inns in the Cotswolds are often used for creative writing courses - often sessions include walking in the area - something that has inspired several literary greats in the past. J R R Tolkien took epic walks from Oxford and into the Cotswolds and is thought to have and the act of walking in the area has given participants and used the area around Chipping Campden as inspiration for ‘Weathertop’ and (as a lover of a good pub) is thought to have modelled The Bell Inn in Moreton in Marsh as ‘The Prancing Pony’ in Lords of the Rings.

Hotels and inns in the Cotswolds are within easy reach of Bath, which Dickens took a bit of a dislike to (Pickwick Papers) but which was celebrated, slightly mocked and immortalised by Jane Austen. She lived in the town from the time of her father’s retirement until his death - about 5 years, so she knew the place well.

Lewis Carroll The author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass spent significant time around Stow-on-the-Wold, where his friend Reverend Edward Litton was the rector of a church.

Graham Greene’s career, after poor sales of his first novel, brought him to Chipping Campden to concentrate full-time on his writing. Living in a cottage called Little Orchard, he completed Stamboul Train which was his first commercial success.

Hotels and inns in the Cotswolds offer many opportunities for touring and exploring - following a literary theme is a good way to discover some of the lesser-known parts of the area.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Visiting historic houses from hotels in Cotswolds

Hotels & Spas in the CotswoldsVisiting an ancient castle or historic house is a popular pastime in Britain - people love to hear stories of kings and queens and historic characters. Many of our guests use their hotels in Cotswolds to explore the long list of stately homes, castles and historic buildings in the area.

From hotels in Cotswolds, one of the most visited castles is Sudeley. It’s a Tudor Castle, meaning that it dates from the 15th Century. It’s an impressive building with beautiful gardens, but the thing that captures the imagination is that it was once owned by King Henry the Eighth.

Henry (1509-1547). Henry was desperate to have a male heir and married six times seeking a son. His various wives came from England and Europe and he disposed of them in different ways; “Divorced, Married, Died, Divorced, Married, Survived” is something that children still learn at school. Katherine Parr was King Henry’s last wife, the one who survived him and she is entombed in the chapel. At the castle, you can also see some of Katherine’s love letters.

One of our favourite places is Chavanage House. It is said to have a ghost (we love a good ghost story - hotels in Cotswolds often report sightings too!). When Britain had a civil war, in the 17th Century, Colonel Stevens, the owner of Chavanage 17th century, reluctantly agree that the King Charles (who was a prisoner) should be executed. His daughter, in a fit of anger at the decision, laid a curse upon her father. Eventually Colonel Stevens died and all were assembled for his funeral, a carriage drew up at the door of the manor house driven by a headless man.

The Colonel was seen to rise from his coffin and enter the hearse driven by the headless personage, who as he drove away assumed the shape of the dead King, Charles I - this being a reminder of the Colonel's disloyalty to the King. The headless ghost and carriage is said to reappear whenever the end of the family line dies.

The Cotswolds has a unique offer for film location managers: hotel, Cotswolds, scenery, built heritage and natural beauty all combine to make it an attractive location. Here are some famous locations and their real life names - which may help to explain why certain places look familiar to you when you visit for the first time. In fact, the Cotswolds in general also pop up in BBC Countryfile, because Adam Henson’s Cotswolds Farm Park is near Naunton.
Owlpen Manor, a Tudor manor house and garden, near Dursley, was location for The Other Boleyn Girl, based on Philippa Gregory's acclaimed best-selling novel. Chavenage House was used for Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson’s memoir. And also the recent BBC revival of the Poldark stories, where it appeared as the Poldark family home. The hotel Cotswolds combo seems to have worked its magic on location managers again.

Outdoor scenes in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s movie Cemetery Junction were filmed in the Stroud Valleys. From your hotel Cotswolds is not the only option - the cloisters attached to Gloucester Cathedral have been used in many of the Harry Potter films - appearing as ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardary’ - pupils from the adjacent King’s School appeared as extras, Harry’s classmates. The Cathedral has also popped up in episodes of Sherlock and Dr Who.

Arlington Row in Bibury, near Cirencester, provided a street-scene backdrop in the fantasy adventure film Stardust, which starred Sienna Miller. The country Christmas scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary was shot in Snowshill and the crew returned to the area for the sequel Bridget Jones's Baby. The Christening scenes were filmed in Swinbrook church.

Ghost stories from hotels in Cotswolds

Hotels in the Cotswolds & Spas One of our favourite places to visit from hotels in cotswolds is Chavanage House. It is said to have a ghost.

When Britain had a civil war, in the 17th Century, Colonel Stevens, the owner of Chavanage 17th century, reluctantly agree that the King Charles (who was a prisoner) should be executed. His daughter, in a fit of anger at the decision, laid a curse upon her father.

Eventually Colonel Stevens died and all were assembled for his funeral, a carriage drew up at the door of the manor house driven by a headless man. The Colonel was seen to rise from his coffin and enter the hearse driven by the headless personage, who as he drove away assumed the shape of the dead King, Charles I - this being a reminder of the Colonel's disloyalty to the King. The headless ghost and carriage is said to reappear whenever the owner of the house dies.

Ghost hunters also love a visit to Woodchester Mansion a unique Victorian Gothic house hidden in a beautiful Cotswold valley. It is an unfinished masterpiece. Building started about 1857, but mysterious stopped in the mid-1860s. Floors and ceilings are missing, walls not plastered and windows unglazed. All the secrets of the construction of the Mansion are visible - something vou will never see in another Country House.

On the Eastern side of the Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace is an extraordinary place. It’s a World Heritage Site and the only non Royal, non episcopal palace in Britain. Blenheim Palace was built to mark a series of spectacular military victories against the French. The scale is enormous.

Kelmscott Manor was the scene of a tragic love affair. It’s the perfect Cotswold manor house. In Victorian times (19th Century) Kelmscott Manor was leased by William Morris and his friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Both were artists, Morris a hugely influential designer of wallpaper and furnishings (still popular today) with connections to Liberty shop in London. Morris brought his family to The Manor, which was then a setting for a love affair between Jane, Morris’s wife, and Rossetti. Morris accommodated the arrangement in the interests of his wife and friend. These days you can visit the house, see the designs and crafts and learn the whole story. There’s a fine garden too - a terrific day out from hotels in cotswolds.

The ‘visiting a country house’ from hotels in Cotswolds experience is never complete without afternoon tea in the cafe and maybe a visit to a garden shop. Most are open between April and October.