Stylist’s Matt Phare finds the holy grail of boutique hotels: a romantic bolt-hole that – gasp – can cope with children
The Cotswolds isn’t short of excellent places to stay. Over the past decade, as Londoners have wised up to the area’s charms – a two-hour drive from the capital brings you to ridiculously picturesque market villages, fine inns and the sort of countryside that makes you feel healthier just looking at it – pubs have turned into gastropubs, corner shops have converted to organic delis and B&Bs have become boutique hotels.
On visits to see family in Wales, my partner Kate and I have come to see the Cotswolds as a halfway house for a couple of romantic days on the way home. But on this occasion, our two young boys needed an entertaining family holiday. I hoped the two weren’t mutually exclusive.
The Rectory Hotel is a 12-room former family home set in three acres of grounds. It looks more like the country pad of our imaginary aristocratic friend than a hotel. Inside, the open log fires, armchairs-madefor- two and blend of contemporary and antique furniture make it as stylish as it is serene. We loved the relaxed vibe: rows of Hunter wellies for guests’ use line the doorway and the reception is simply a freestanding table with a bell on it and two huge glass jars, one full of lollies for the kids, another full of dog biscuits.
We’d be sleeping in Cleeve (£165 per night), a large room tucked up in the arches, where the light decor and airy atmosphere immediately made our shoulders drop and our foreheads unfurrow. Even though the rest of the guests were couples on romantic breaks, the hotel couldn’t have been more helpful with the boys and had placed two small beds in our room for them.
Plenty of options for hide and seek: bagsy behind the sofa
We’d hoped to dine nearby at The Potting Shed, a renowned gastropub with the same owners as The Rectory, but it was already heaving with hungry locals on a busy Saturday night (tip: book!), so instead, we piled back into the hotel’s dining room. But we didn’t feel short-changed – the seasonal menu is creative British fare and, where possible, ingredients are sourced within a one-hour radius of the hotel.
I went for scallops with prosciutto, followed by tender pork loin with black pudding, and Kate loved ham and butternut squash ravioli, with a main course of maize-fed chicken with mushroom risotto. With a two-course meal ringing in at just £26.50 per person, it was a bargain by Cotswolds standards. And there’s an organic kids’ menu, so the boys scoffed fish, chips and pea purée.
Best of all, when we decided to take pudding up to our room, the staff brought up coffee tables to set us up with an indoor picnic. Another plus for parents is that the building’s network of twisty, maze-like stairwells lead off to very private-feeling rooms, so we felt truly tucked away up in the eaves.
The boys’ 7am wake-up call was the perfect opportunity to try out the heated outdoor pool before breakfast. As you’d imagine, we had it to ourselves and felt secluded swimming within the walled gardens. It was the perfect way to work up an appetite for a full English, which included the best sausage I have ever eaten – and this is not a claim any man makes lightly.
Our stay at The Rectory Hotel was brief, but we know we’ll be back. To quote PG Wodehouse on country houses, it has that ‘general atmosphere of leisured cosiness’ that couples – and families – are always in search of.
Doubles start at £105 per night, including breakfast; therectoryhotel.com