Now the kids are back at school, how about a touch of grown-up time? Jill Nash enjoys a special treat at Gloucestershire’s most glamorous Barnsley House.
Drive three hours to the picturesque hills and meadows of the Cotswolds and find yourself in a heavenly manor house. One of the most stylish country house hotels in England, this photogenic Grade II-listed manor house with 11 acres of landscaped gardens won’t disappoint.
Barnsley House has 18 rooms, including 11 suites, it’s small enough for an intimate getaway and the grounds are large enough for you to feel you are the only guests. Even at full capacity, this place still feels like a private members’ home.
The rooms all vary in style, size and price tag. The superior rooms are located in the manor house, and the peaceful stable rooms are set around a courtyard garden – these are split-level with a mezzanine area for lounging or reading the pile of luxury magazines with an espresso coffee in hand. For deeper pockets are the top suites or the cosy ‘potting shed’ hideaway. The suites, each with their own individual character, are ultimate romantic peaceful havens for an escape without the kids. All the bathrooms are a pretty big deal, boasting roll-top baths, walk-in showers, TVs, double sinks and decent-sized aromatherapy products. Almost like your own private spa, you probably wont want to leave your room. But if you do, Barnsley House has much to offer.
There is an on-site private cinema with evening movie screenings (on Wednesdays and Sundays throughout October), or a tennis court for those wanting something more energetic. You can also explore the Cotswolds countryside from the back door of Barnsley House on a bike, they have complimentary bike hire for guests. If you want to enjoy a leisurely autumnal stroll, they can provide walking maps, Hunter wellies and prepare a Barnsley House picnic hamper for the road.
Last but not least, there is an impressive rustic garden spa with untamed views of the nearby meadows, you can easily find yourself sleeping on an outside lounger bed next to the log-burning stove in a fluffy robe. There’s an impressive outdoor hydrotherapy pool too, surrounded by lavender-scented gardens, sun terrace and herbaceous sauna. It’s small in comparison to other spas, but it has an intimate, secluded feel. Five treatment rooms are gorgeously floral scented, and therapists are able to offer a range of holistic treatments, with a firm favourite being the Barnsley House Signature, which combines head and full body massage with a warming foot ritual for 115 minutes of pampering… and it is worth every pound.
The Potager restaurant has a ‘no young child’ policy during breakfast and dinner, so you can guarantee a calm and peaceful dining experience during these times. Vegetables, salads and herbs are all sourced from their own garden plot, offering a freshly picked and varied seasonal menu. Their head chef is a long-standing servant of the Calcot Collection of hotels and you can sense this from the consistency and quality of the dishes. The Twice-baked Cheese Soufflé, followed by the scrumptious Duck Breast and Barnsley House Beetroot is a firm favourite. The Potager restaurant is really calm and unfussy. You definitely don’t need to dress up in your finest, which makes the experience very relaxing for guests who really want a chilled break.
For those who can’t wait for a bite at dinner, head for an afternoon tea experience. The creative G & Tea- styled Afternoon Tea (£28 per person) offers a very generous selection of sandwiches, homemade scones and jam, accompanied by a novel ‘Gin of the Week’. You may need a nap in the room after this experience.
The Cotswolds are brimming with pretty market squares and honey-coloured architecture. Nearby Cirencester has plenty to offer for those wanting a market town experience; littered with little boutiques, teashops and antiques. For horse lovers, there are plenty of places to explore on horseback and the area is well-known for its riding centres. Alternatively, you can challenge yourself to a day clay pigeon shooting; tuition is available for beginners or for practise gun owners. For something a little calmer, there is a nearby cookery school set in the private grounds of Colesbourne Park Estate. Here, you can try your hand at making pastries or prepare something for Christmas, Prices start from £95 per day of cooking, visit foodworkscookeryschool.co.uk for more information.
Superior rooms from £244, including breakfast and VAT.barnsleyhouse.com