Temple Guiting Manor is one of the country’s most handsome Tudor manor houses; together with its surrounding barns, it affords lavish and characterful self-catering accommodation in the heart of the Cotswolds. Paula Lester took a trip.
‘One of the finest, if not the very best, of the small Cotswold Tudor houses,’ rhapsodised the late architectural historian and author, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, of the Grade I-listed Temple Guiting Manor, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire.
In fact, I’d defy anyone who approaches this honey-hewn eyrie — where a statuesque beech shades the gateway, flanked by pleasingly symmetrical Cotswolds drystone walls — and crunches their way down the gravel drive, not to be beguiled by the shape and the setting of this most impressive and historic six-bedroom retreat.
As with so many places in the Cotswolds, this one — with extensive 14.5-acre grounds and a tranquil series of garden ‘rooms’ masterminded by psychologist turned RHS Chelsea winning designer Jinny Blom — has to be seen to be believed.
But what if the impossibly romantic Manor House — with a formal, vaulted dining room seating up to 12 — which overlooks its own lake (with a boat and a jetty) isn’t enough? There are also four traditional, yet contemporarily decorated, barns (The Granary Barn, which sleeps six, The Barn — where I stayed — which sleeps 10, that can also be taken with the one-bedroom The Peacock Shed, next to the outdoor, heated swimming pool, plus The Cow Barn, which sleeps two), that can be taken either on an exclusive or an individual basis.
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As you might expect from a property of such architectural note, which has been in private ownership since the 15th century, the rooms in the manor house are chock full of charm and fascinating period detail, such as ancient wood panelling and a well worn spiral stone staircase.
Furthermore, Steven and Jane Collins — who own Henry’s Townhouse in London and another, soon to be announced property in Tuscany, as part of their meticulously-run Collins Collection and previously enjoyed the house as a weekend and holiday haven — have furnished it in a comfortable and entertaining way. Squashy velvet sofas and quirky pieces of furniture abound, along with four en-suite bathrooms.
Each nook and cranny has been put to good use, too. Its two dovecotes (notable for being within, rather than without, the manor) — which are accessed via hobbit-like doorways — are home to a hot tub in one and a secret cinema (perfect for teenagers too cool to hang out with mum and dad) in another.
Eating and drinking
When it comes to food and drink — almost anything goes. In fact, the options are so copious (from booking a private chef to rustle up a tasting menu or having staff order a takeaway) that they are too legion to list here. When I visited in May, the kindly and encyclopaedic estate manager, Gavin Thomson, had picked up a lovely light lunch (quiche, salad and a bottle of fizz) from The Cotswold Guy, a delicatessen and food distribution service in neighbouring Guiting Power.
Then, for my evening meal, I took a pleasant 20-minute stroll to The Halfway pub in Kineton, where I enjoyed a lip-smackingly tasty bavette steak with peppercorn sauce and crispy fries.
How they’ll keep you busy
Again, the list of available activities is as long as your arm (flower arranging, quad bike riding, rifle shooting, time with a magician and a cocktail-making masterclass were some of the many options that caught my eye).
However, for me, the opportunity to kick back and relax at my own leisure, either on the white mediterranean style loungers by the swimming pool, beside the tinkling water feature in the garden by the main house (possible if the manor is not let) or revel in the sheer bliss of being in the midst of such serene countryside — where the silence is only interrupted by the birdsong or the baa-ing of a sheep — was everything I needed.
What else to do while you’re there
Should you wish to venture out of this idyll, which also has an all-weather tennis court (with rackets, balls and its own umpire’s chair if you’re that competitive), the property is not far from a clutch of impressive country houses (such as Sudely Castle and Sezincote) or Lady Bamford’s Daylesford organic farmshop.
I also visited the picture-postcard 17th century village of Lower Slaughter, with two stone footbridges over the clear-as-a-bell River Eye — where time has literally stood still. However, the highlight of my visit was the most indulgent and restorative 1.5-long holistic massage by Johanna Leah at The Retreat, a treatment, gym, yoga and pilates space, a short walk from the manor, in Temple Guiting (named after the Knights Templar) itself.
Who is it for?
Multi-generational families looking for somewhere they can be together, yet have time alone. Couples in search of a quiet and spoiling getaway, plus anyone wanting to get married — the range of accommodation is perfect for a wedding party.
What gives it the ‘wow’ factor?
The sheer history of the house — I can only imagine everything that has happened there in the past 600-plus years — and the fact that anyone can enjoy this most private of homes. I was also struck by the Collins’s skill of having sympathetically designed and furnished the properties so that they have every modern convenience you could wish for (there are two dishwashers within the sleek white marble kitchen island in The Barn), without compromising on the authentic charm of the old Cotswolds agricultural buildings.
Furthermore, I welcomed the fact that, even though you can ask for or arrange pretty much anything you want, you’re essentially left to your own devices, which is exactly what I craved after a busy spell at work.
The one thing we’d change
I’d ditch the need to arm the alarm before vacating any of the properties. In this day and age, it must be possible to set up a centralised system that would relieve guests of this responsibility.
Rent the entire estate (which sleeps 32) at Temple Guiting Manor & Barns on an exclusive basis, from £38,150 per week. Alternatively, The Granary Barn — or any of the other barns — can be booked from £1,000 a night, for a minimum of two nights — call 07748 118288 or book direct at www.templeguitingmanor.co.uk
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