Recently, THE KINGS HEAD INN at Bledington, Gloucestershire, was underwater, but swift work has returned this exceptional B&B to its former self. Situated on the picturesque village green, all bedrooms are en-suite, tastefully decorated, and have wireless access. Guests can sample fresh fish from Cornwall or beef from the family’s Aberdeen Angus cattle. The owners, Archie and Nicola Orr-Ewing, who also lease the Swan Inn, Swinbrook, from the Duchess of Devonshire, say: ‘We wanted to create the kind of pub you hope to find but seldom do; good food, comfortable beds and that magic ingredient, great atmosphere.’
Kings Head Inn, The Green, Bledington, Oxfordshire (01608 658365; www.kingsheadinn.net). £70 (pub room)
BURFORD PRIORY, Oxford-shire, is a short walk from Burford’s historic high street. This Benedictine Anglican priory offers spiritual retreats and counselling. Set in its own grounds, where the monks and nuns grow much of their own food, the guests can take part in the gardening or even printing (the Community makes prints, icons and incense) while staying in the guest house, The Lenthall Room. Silence is plentiful; radios are banned. So, if you’re in search of something far from the madding crowd, this is it. Payment is voluntary, but the suggested donation is £36 (to cover costs).
Burford Priory, 30, Priory Lane, Burford, Oxfordshire (01993 823605; www.burfordosb.org.uk). £36 per retreat per person
Shaped by a violent past, the Landmark Trust’s OLD CAMPDEN HOUSE in Gloucester-shire was destroyed by retreating Royalist forces during the Civil War. Built by the wonderfully named Sir Baptist Hicks, only its East and West banqueting houses survived. Once after-dinner entertaining space, these attractive Jacobean houses are set in the remains of Sir Baptist’s gardens.
Old Campden House, c/o The Landmark Trust, Shottesbrooke, Maidenhead, Berkshire (01628 825925; www.landmarktrust.org.uk). £563 for a three-day weekend
The glorious Elizabethan manor BARTON HOUSE, Gloucester-shire, is our next top tip. Built in 1550, and remodelled by Inigo Jones in 1636, the house sits next to a 12th-century church. The 6½-acre gardens feature in the RHS and Good Gardens guides, and provided the venue for an open garden event at which the existence of a ghostly figure was revealed to the house’s owner, Hamish Cathie, last year. It has a friendly family atmosphere, and three bedrooms available.
Barton House, Barton-on-the-Heath, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire (01608 674303; www.wolseylodges.com). £140
For garden lovers, BARNSLEY HOUSE, Cirencester, is a must. Rosemary Verey’s last house, it has been modernised with a spa, jacuzzis, mirror balls, Bose sound systems and rainforest showers. However, as Kathryn Bradley-Hole says, this ‘radical surgery stayed inside the house. Mrs Verey’s garden lives on much as she planted it, and it is maintained to her high standards’. Head gardener Richard Gatenby has been there since the Verey days.
Barnsley House, Barnsley, Cirencester, Gloucestershire (www.barnsleyhouse.com 01285 740000). £290
In the quintessential Cotswold town of Burford is the up-and-coming HIGHWAY HOTEL. Crammed with character and creaking floors (it dates from 1480), unique local drinks such as the award-winning Cotswold Lager draw in locals and visitors alike. The relaxed family atmosphere is typified by the invitation at the bottom of the menu: ‘Locals are encouraged to bring in any fruit and veg for a fair swap.’ ‘People like to know we’re supporting local produce so we do,’ says Tally Nelson, who runs the Highway, on the scenic high street, with her husband, Scott.
The Highway Hotel, 117, High Street, Burford, Oxfordshire (www.thehighwayhotel.co.uk 01993 823661). £95
Once the home of Thomas Strong, Sir Christopher Wren’s Master Mason at St Paul’s Cathedral, LOWER SLAUGHTER MANOR in Gloucestershire is a luxury hotel. But the self-proclaimed ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’ was once a ‘distressed being’, says Andrew Onraet, the architect who oversaw the manor’s restoration. ‘We used an eclectic mix of French and English furniture and styles.’ The multi-million-pound work has restored much of the original character of the manor, with original ceilings being uncovered and innovative design solutions used, such as baths in the coach-house bedrooms.
Lower Slaughter Manor, Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire (01451 820456; www.lowerslaughter.co.uk). £230
The COURT HOUSE is at one end of historic Owlpen Manor. The building, dating from 1620, was originally where the lords of the manor dispensed justice to their tenants and collected their dues. In use well into the 18th century, it sleeps up to six people. Sir Nicholas Mander, the present owner, says: ‘Once you arrive, it’s hard to leave. I’ve been here for 33 years already.’ One of the manor’s more unusual visitors is the ghost of a young woman, who appeared two years ago, much to the surprise of a boy revising for his A levels. It is let on a self-catering basis, and there is a restaurant on the estate, The Cyder House.
Court House, Owlpen Manor, Uley, Gloucestershire (01453 860261; www.owlpen.com). £315 (4+ people for a weekend)
Last, but by no means least, is the ancient seat of the Clifford family in Gloucestershire. With beautiful Georgian rooms and a spectacular orangery that this magazine once called ‘the prettiest garden building in England’,
FRAMPTON COURT is an architectural masterpiece. In one of the Cotswold’s loveliest villages, which reputedly has the longest green in the country, this B&B is a real family experience on a working estate with spectacular parkland.
Frampton Court, Frampton on Severn, Gloucestershire (www.framptoncourtestate.co.uk 01452 740267). From £110
Prices are based on two people sharing a double room for one night with breakfast (unless stated)
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