Many hotels promise to be dog-friendly, but few are as truly welcoming as Wild Thyme & Honey in the Cotswolds, say Paula Lester and her labrador Nimrod.
Billed as a ‘love letter to Cotswolds living’, Wild Thyme & Honey at Ampney Brook might not — from the outside, at least — look like the ideal place to take your dogs for a spoiling break at a tranquil country retreat, situated as it is bang on the busy A417 three miles east of Cirencester. However, as we know, first impressions can be deceiving.
Granted, the long and narrow building that abuts the road is not the prettiest that this outrageously attractive area has to offer, but its interior was revamped in 2021 to create an inviting wooden-clad bar, reception and lounge area that has sandwiched a 16th century inn (The Crown) together with a cosy 24-room hotel (Wild Thyme & Honey).
Fortunately, our suite was located at the rear of the property, where the double-glazing drowned out any traffic noise. It was also cleverly designed to make the most of a small space—without negating the comfort of a king-sized bed and a free-standing bath — as well as a dog bed and a built-in cupboard with plenty of room for wellies and wet coats.
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Furthermore, not only are dogs allowed in the lounge area — the staff and fellow guests are remarkably unflustered by any canine barking or whining — they’re also permitted to sit at your feet when dining in the downstairs and upstairs restaurants.
Which leads me to the establishment’s crowning glory: the food, which aims to take the best local produce and turn it into seriously tasty pub grub. During our two-night stay, when we were expertly looked after by the maître d’, James, we devoured a wholesome beef (me) and pork (my husband, Simon) roast on Sunday evening. Then on Monday night, having been staggered by the breakfast display (everything from cold meats, and cheeses to fresh fruit-topped yoghurt served in coupe champagne glasses, plus all the usual cooked fare), we dived into the fishy delights on the menu. Simon had the spiced monkfish tail with sweet potato dahl and I opted for the grilled fillet of plaice with caper beurré noisette, enhanced by a heritage tomato salad and a glass of Albariño.
Aside from a series of thoughtful touches — such as ear plugs and a Roberts radio — the best aspect of this latest boutique hideaway for dog devotees is that you can take them for a lovely (and safe) walk around the village of Ampney Crucis, via a footbridge over the brook to the cricket field and footpaths beyond. That, and being able to have your charges at your side in any area of the hotel, makes it a paws-itive winner for us and our trio: Nimrod, Mole and Chester, who would like to say ‘bark-you’ very much.
While you’re there
- Comfortable all-year round, it’s best to visit in autumn and winter to indulge in the ski-chalet-esque ambience afforded by the fur throws in the open-air courtyard, where you can hunker down — with a mug of Marimba hot chocolate — in front of the centrepiece Argentinian grill, in which a crackling log fire is lit every evening
- Don’t worry if you forget your Wellington boots — the hotel supplies its own in the foyer
- Not only are guests treated to a complimentary cocktail on arrival (we had a ‘discarded negroni’ and a ‘signature cocktail’ made from Cotswold gin with a honey and thyme syrup), there’s a decanter of sloe gin in every room for those who fancy a nightcap
- Small bottles of milk are left outside your door every morning, so that you can make your own tea or coffee using the Nespresso machines in your room
- Licensed for weddings, the hotel has a VIP apartment, No. 3 London Road, which has its own living room and private deck, with sauna and hot tub, plus a dedicated make-up area, making it ideal for brides and honeymooning couples
- For fun outdoor dining, even in the depths of winter, book one of the three heated ‘riverside hives’ (glass domes) that overlook the brook that babbles behind the hotel
- Cirencester — with its elegant mediaeval St John the Baptist church and plethora of independent shops, cafés and restaurants — is a 10-minute drive away. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, near Tetbury, is nearly half an hour further away, but was well worth the trip for the burst of colour on display from the 2,500 species it’s home to when we visited in October. It’s also incredibly dog-friendly — with areas where they’re allowed off the lead — even if Mole, my husband’s labrador, took a decided dislike to the Gruffalo hidden amongst the trees
You can follow Paula Lester @paulaslester.