Stylist’s editor Susan Riley visits Broadway in the Cotswolds’ newest, oldest place to stay
The Cotswolds are always on the move. Not literally; that’d be weird. More in a never-standing-still way when it comes to exciting places to stay and fresh things to explore. Already this year – brace yourself, whisky fans – new developments in the region have seen The Cotswolds Distillery extending its facilities, gaining a soon-to-open bigger tasting area and cafe (cotswoldsdistillery.com). Cheltenham’s Ellenborough Park has just upgraded to include three new dining options, including the launch of its own cosy country pub The Horse Box (ellenboroughpark.com). And The Fish, on the Farncombe Estate, near the village of Broadway, is, as we speak, in the throes of a makeover, which includes the launch of a seafood-inspired restaurant, Hook by Martin Burge, as well as the addition of three brand-new treehouses, which are set to open next month.
And it’s not the only Broadway bolthole upping its ante. The Lygon Arms also has some major news to shout about, having recently been acquired by the impressive people behind Cliveden House and Chewton Glen, which saw it reopen last year after a major refurbishment.
So? Well, the outside has never been too shabby, you understand. A historic, honeycoloured 14th-century coaching inn (where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, no less, retreated during their affair in the Sixties), it stands majestically on Broadway’s quaint high street – gift shops and cafes line up before it at the front, and a private courtyard garden sits at the back, which at night is lit up by a twinkling chestnut tree.
Inside, the 86 guest rooms have been treated to a revamp and its spa a facelift (finding a swimming pool on site here is a total treat, by the way; completely unexpected in such an old property). But it’s the veritable rabbit warren of reading rooms, cosy snugs and cocktail-drinking corners in the main building that will bring you the most joy. Like a higgledy-piggledy concoction of decadent lounges that have been modernised just enough to look plush but still ooze olde-worlde charm. Essential in a hotel that boasts a King Charles I Suite (where the king assembled before battle) and an Oliver Cromwell meeting room (he slept there before 1651’s Battle of Worcester). But moreover, the Lygon Arms just feels nice; it’s welcoming from the minute staff park your car to the point they wave you off. And within minutes my friend and I are discussing how perfect it is whatever kind of person you are, and when we’ll be able to return with friends.
After a swim, sauna and pummelling massage in the spa (Oskia, for those who know their products), we wander across from our courtyard suite (they are the newest additions and have charmingly dinky outdoor patios) for a pre-dinner cocktail. As night sets in, we sink into two green velvet armchairs and never want to get up again as we sample pear and vanilla mojitos and smoked bloody marys alongside sugardusted almonds.
For dinner, there’s the Lygon Wine Bar at the front of the hotel, but in my opinion the daddy of eats is the Lygon Bar & Grill – the hotel’s so-hot-it-hurts main dining room. With a double-height arched ceiling painted in cobalt blue with tiered antler chandeliers dangling beneath it and mismatched portraiture decking the walls, it has the grandeur of a banqueting hall mixed with the cool of a modern bistro. I know: it shouldn’t work but it really does. The food features the kind of dishes that make you salivate slightly when you read the menu (twice-baked cheese soufflé, Gloucester pork belly with Oldfields apple cider compote…) but it’s with the puddings that you can really embrace Cotswolds life.
Before leaving, we take a jaunt down the high street to buy Cotswolds fudge, peruse some local art and stop for yet more food at Market Pantry (marketpantry.co.uk). They have several whole cakes sitting under a sign that reads ‘Life is too short to say no to cake’ so it feels like we’re on the same wavelength.
It’s that time of year when you feel very smug at the crispness of the air and the crunch of your wellies underfoot – although summer here is shaping up to be noteworthy too. Harry and Meghan’s nuptials will be celebrated at the Lygon Arms on Saturday 19 May with a jazz trio and afternoon tea served up on long party tables in the garden, while 8-17 June sees the Broadway Arts Festival, one of the Cotswolds’ biggest cultural events, featuring a selection of recitals, performances and workshops staged right on its doorstep (broadway-cotswolds.co.uk). Not that you need to come here for something. It is simply the perfect place to just be.
Double rooms at The Lygon Arms start at £225 on a B&B basis (lygonarmshotel.co.uk)
Images: Provided by The Lygon Arms