It’s the honey-hued cottages lining snaking lanes and trickling streams, and puffing smoke into the silent evening air that draws us to the Cotswolds as soon as the temperature drops, as well as the undeniably snug appeal of its local pubs-with-rooms.
Here, crackling fires warm a scene of old stone, dogs-on-rugs and gnarled beams, while in the surrounding country piles, guests sink into drawing room sofas and afternoon tea rituals or stew in outdoor hot tubs amid the frost and crisp country air.
From time capsule country pubs with superb food to hotels towing the traditional (yet unstuffy) country home line, here are the cosiest hotels in the Cotswolds to book now.
Calcot & Spa, Tetbury
A Cotswoldian favourite, Calcot & Spa’s main, honey-hued building is surrounded by a maze of renovated barns and outbuildings, all set within 220-acres of rewilded meadowland for post-lunch ambles. Far from imposing, the hotel’s wisteria-clad facade glows an inviting amber in the darker months, engulfing guests through its entrance for afternoon tea in one of several drawing rooms or a proper pub lunch at the Gum Stool Inn.
The Conservatory may seize on a more elegant theme with extensive wine lists and refined plates such as lamb rump with artichokes or bream with confit fennel and bisque, but the tone is refreshingly unstuffy. Much like the rooms, which retain their cosy, timber beam and heavy bed linen appeal amid the modern touches and clever tech. But the ultimate snug-factor can be found in the tastefully renovated spa barn, where a large hot tub sits at the centre of a lavender-infused courtyard, with an open fire ensuring exits are toasty.
From £265; calcot.co
The Lygon Arms, Broadway
This is the historical, ruddy-faced Cotswolds the punters came for, where muddy wellies and labradors splay out across original flagstones, and period-style rooms thrust guests into the 16th century. Counting Oliver Cromwell and Charles I among its illustrious guests, this original coaching inn sits along Broadway’s main thoroughfare and elicits a shiver of joy as it pulls you in from the cold to a warren of crackling fires and snug corners.
The main pub’s low-slung beams and convivial character is the ultimate post walk tonic, but if cosy is any way synonymous with roasty hues and a profound sense of history, the grand restaurant with its banquettes and stucco ceiling surely prevails (where Chef James Martin will shortly be shaking up the menu). Courtyard suites are a modern riff on tartan-clad country bedrooms, so for the characterful original floorboards, Jacobean windows and beams bearing the centuries, check into the main rooms via an old creaky staircase.
From £185; lygonarmshotel.co.uk
Thyme riffs on an enlightened form of cosy: the botanical sort where comfort is found in ethics and organic-styled interiors reflecting the sublime surroundings. It’s really all about the food here. A handful of cottages, tastefully renovated barns and then a handsome honey-stone old rectory took their cue from the cooking school preceding them, which continues to sit front and centre.
Sheep stools honour the Baa’s previous life as a lambing shed, where velvet sofas, blonde timber and gin and tonics infused with garden herbs have replaced the hay. Now a foodie pilgrimage spot, the Ox Barn serves up a lofty, seasonal spin on cockle-warming numbers, such as confit guinea fowl with potato and pancetta, or baked chickpeas with pumpkin and goats curd, all immaculately cooked with the estate’s own bounty or produce from surrounding farms.
When not wallowing in the heated springwater pool or being lathered in botanical oils in the Meadow Spa, the cosiest place to be is under the rooms’ sumptuous bed linen following a piping hot bath, or indeed in the Swan – a time-battered pub with wildly delicious food.
From £360; thyme.co.uk
Set within 500 acres of parkland not far from Bath’s Georgian symmetry, Lucknam Park is the blue-blooded aunt who loves children, dogs and country pursuits. Renovated to a rustic-yet-refined design brief, a series of serviced cottages scatter the grounds for ultimate privacy, while a far grander proposition can be found above the main 18th century pile’s salons and drawing rooms.
Here, resplendent bedrooms of mahogany four posters, silk drapes and floral wallpaper embody clipped English country idylls without the rooms at the lower end of the scale, or in the courtyard, feeling short changed on country house oomph. Following a brisk morning ride or archery lesson, guests can cocoon themselves in the spa’s sauna or Japanese salt room before curling up in the library with an elaborate cup of tea and a good book.
From £295; lucknampark.co.uk
The Painswick, Stroud
With its bucolic views of the Slad Valley (carpeted in snow if you’re lucky) and chesterfield sofas facing onto mottled stone fireplaces, the Painswick, at first glance, is your classic country pile with rooms and exceptional food. Yet look a little closer and the modern artworks lining the wood panelling, nordic lighting and creative cocktail menu feel centuries away from its mullion window character, easing the hotel into relevancy.
It’s the playful, artsy younger sister of Tetbury’s Calcot Manor, who relishes a game of pool or backgammon followed by a cream lathered scone by the fire, washed down with a few glasses of champagne. Pastel-hued rooms are infused with the same playful twist on tradition, with quirky retro touches and roll top baths studded with delicious Ren potions. Chef Jamie McCallum’s sourdough has gained a mythical status, while his new menu of Cotswold venison and Wiltshire truffled pumpkin agnolotti shows off the region’s farming prowess.
From £197; thepainswick.co.uk
The Wild Rabbit, Kingham
If an emotional and aesthetic sense of comfort is articulated through organically-minded interiors and menus honouring their location, Carole Bamford’s The Wild Rabbit, is the epitome. Only a few wild acres from its spruce organic HQ, Daylesford, this flawlessly renovated pub draws on the group’s free-range hallmark, with earthy tones, four posters crafted out of wobbly birth branches and linen with that coarse, just-spun finish.
The pub’s grey stone walls and original beams are gently perked up with a smattering of modern art (nothing too jarring), while the bar weaves reverentially into its traditional character (it’s worth nabbing the deep leather armchair by the crackling fire – a prime spot). Chef Sam Browser whips up innovative spins on the hearty crowd pleasers, where in signature Daylesford style, provenance sits front and centre. This is cobweb-clearing-country-romps-and-roast territory, but if all country authenticity vanishes at the thought of a massage, the Bamford Spa is conveniently close.
From £140; thewildrabbit.co.uk
The Stump, Cirencester
There are pubs with rooms, then there are pizza-shacks with rooms. The Stump is ultimately an amalgamation of the two – a Cirencester success story that saw two friends expand their pizza-making prowess from London to the Cotswolds. Here their decidedly modern take on down-time fills out the old bones of an old coaching inn, and while a creative-yet-unfussy menu, cool playlists and microbrewery beer all qualify as the hipster trappings Londoner’s may be trying to escape on a Cotswolds jaunt, these roll out amid art depicting country pursuits, antique chairs and and wonky wooden beams, all of which preserve the pub’s historical soul.
Upstairs, light-filled rooms serve up comfortable beds, walk-in showers with Bramley products and little more – such is the charm of a gasto-pub with rooms.
From £90; thestump.co.uk
The Swan Inn, Swinbrook
A blue-blooded pub is there ever was one, The Swan Inn on the edge of pretty Swinbrook is owned by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire ‘Debo’ (youngest of the Mitford sisters) and embodies all Cotswoldian tropes, from the speckled stoned walls softened with wisteria to the understated, tavern-style interiors warmed by log burners and candles.
David Cameron may have chosen this as a lunch spot for then French President Francois Hollande, but the inn has an appropriately low-key character, with children celebrating fiendish board game manoeuvres and photogenic plates of breaded tiger prawns and posh fish and chips swung under the watchful gaze of the five Mitford sisters’ sketched portraits, hung casually above fire. The Mitford memorabilia continues along the walls of 11 comfortingly classic rooms occupying a renovated stable block and riverside cottage (removed from the din of the main pub).
From £92; theswanswinbrook.co.uk
Barnsley House, Cirencester
A whimsical vision of wisteria-coated turrets, topiary and curly garden gates, Barnsley House is a paean to English gardening prowess which doubles up a cosy, spa-centred retreat during the frosty months. A soak in the outdoor hydrotherapy pool comes with heart-tugging pastoral views over the traditional estate fencing, into the rolling meadows, while inside gown-glad guests float between Elemis treatments, relaxation corner and steam rooms in a delicious state of delirium. Cosy is synonymous with peace here at Barnsley, which is guaranteed by both its bucolic location and 14+ stance on children.
Drawn out suppers at The Potager (tables scattered in a previous drawing room) of Herdwick lamb croquette and aubergine caviar then quail wellington or lobster ravioli, are typically rounded off with a botanically-infused cocktail at the bar or a fresh mint tea in the room. These are found either in the renovated stables as multi-level, modern, creamy takes on country living, or in the main house – all with deep, dreamy beds and that crisp linen that only top-brass hotels seem to know where to source.
From £349; barnsleyhouse.com
Some of this Worcester retreat’s polished, white-washed rooms of with french greys and pink patterned flourishes may not chime with the idylls surrounding cosy Cotswoldian stays, but Dormy House delivers on the shoulder-lowering home-from-home feel where so many others fail to. The interiors feel restrained, clean and fresh – not your typical merlot-hued and tartan-clad Cotswoldian decor – though the laid back agenda in this renovated 17th century farmhouse renders it a bona fide weekend bolthole.
The surrounding walks and village safari are certainly worth it, but guests would be excused for simply holing up in this labyrinth of cream linens and velvet sofas with its three restaurants (two gourmet, one more unbuttoned), or whiling away the hours in the superlative spa’s Natura Bissé-stocked treatment rooms.
From £309; dormyhouse.co.uk