The Cotswolds has long been a place of respite for overwrought cityfolk, be it in the form of weekend homes or country house hotels. Neither comes cheap, and in this picture perfect part of the country the competition between smart hotels is fierce. From the Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter to Barnsley House, Calcot Manor and now the Wild Rabbit, there is no shortage of beautiful Cotswold stone houses converted into high class hotels.
One which has been given a new lease of life is Lower Slaughter Manor. Rescued from the ashes of the Von Essen chain, the place has survived remarkably well and continues to do good business, both in the hotel and in the restaurant. The village is quintessential Cotswolds: all mill-stream and honeyed stone, and it has a pretty church. The hotel is completely in keeping: a charming manor house with just a handful of rooms and nice nooks and crannies in which to sit and relax with a book.
During our stay in September, the staff were utterly charming and general manager Abbi brings a cheerful air of confidence to the place. We were given an effusive welcome and went straight down to drinks and then dinner on a lovely Friday evening.
Supper in the dining room was very well put together; we ordered from a lovely autumn menu with a good range of choices, and a focus on local, seasonal food. Service was friendly and very professional – on telling our waiter one of our party was allergic, we were steered away from the tortellini with undeclared scallops lurking in the filling. The cheese trolley was a particular highlight: sourcing from local artisans is a commendable choice – even more so when the results stand up to anything from across the Channel. The layout and décor of the room could benefit from a little updating, but the management are not helped by the fact that it’s located on the lower ground floor.
Back for breakfast the following morning, service was genial, but confused, although when the food arrived it was delicious.
Croquet and tea on the terrace were very enjoyable in the September sunshine, and the staff also directed us on a pretty walk through the Slaughters. The rest of the gardens are a work in progress, and I’m sure they will improve with dedicated care as they do have potential.
Our suite was just off the main staircase, which has a good deal of coming and going, and a screen didn’t properly manage to hide an additional door out to the landing. The bathroom was modern and well-appointed, but there was paint peeling from the ceiling – these little things manage to undermine what at these prices should feel like a flawless experience.
We returned to London via a pilgrimage to Daylesford. A symbol of all that the Cotswolds has come to represent, this ‘humble farm shop’ provides locals and Londeners with an opportunity to spend some hard-earned cash; for tourists it’s a chance glance at an England which exists more in the imagination of Lord Fellowes than anywhere else actually located off the M4.
Lower Slaughter Manor is well-placed to benefit from the enduring popularity of the area – the team are talented and hard-working, and the house is very lovely. However, as a Relais & Châteaux property there is work to be done to measure up to some of the best in class they find themselves up against.
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