Travel writer Laura Feasey looks back on her childhood holidays to the Cotswolds, and shares her current favourite spots for a modern-day boutique break.
Growing up just outside of Oxford, the Cotswolds has always been a part of my life. I remember long Sunday walks through the cornfields getting lost in the woods and daring my dad to drive through the ford in Shilton; there’s something about bounding through the water as a kid that seems wonderfully dangerous! And as an adult, it continues still to hold my excitement.
Quintessentially English with its rolling hills and tumbling stone houses, the Cotswolds is the perfect spot for a countryside escape. Here, you’ll find some of the UK’s most charming villages and towns, all with pubs, boutiques and tea rooms at their fingertips, luring you in with their picture postcard settings.
So whether you want an indulgent spa weekend, a quiet escape from the city or a foodie break, here are a few of my favourite boutique hotels to experience it for yourself.
A boutique hotel for a rural escape in the Cotswolds
The pretty market town of Stow on the Wold is one of the Cotswolds’ most famous; its name alone sounds like something from a Jane Austen novel. It sprawls across hillsides peppered with shops, art galleries and cafes, including Lucy’s Tearoom – head here early to grab the bay window seat and watch the world go by…
Stow on the Wold is also just a few miles from famed Bourton-on-the-Water, deemed the Venice of the Cotswolds and perfect for an afternoon stroll, an ice cream and even a trip to Bird World or the Dragonfly hedge maze. That said, I’d recommend you try visiting during the week, weekends get feverishly busy.
The Sheep on Sheep Street couldn’t be more apt when it comes to a personal recommendation. When I was about eight my aunt used to sell ceramics at craft fairs in Stow on the Wold, and I would earn pocket money painting sheep on terracotta pots and selling them to the locals. Although this boutique hotel has had a chic facelift since then, it’s still homely and charming, and found in one of those pale Cotswolds buildings from the 17th century.
You’ll find stylish pops of colour in the bedrooms, cocktails and craft beers at the bar, and a glorious pizza oven that fires out some great food… if you ask nicely, they’ll even put one in a box for you to take away.Compare price
The ideal boutique stay for a Cotswolds hipster
Bedding up for the night in a former piggery or stable block is just part of the charm at The Wheatsheaf Inn in Northleach. This boutique hotel brings cool to the Cotswolds – you’ll find rock oysters on the menu, a pop art pic of Kate Moss on the wall and plush velvet chairs beside the fire.
This is the place to be seen when it comes to the English countryside, where stylish out-of-towners hang out alongside the locals, where the dining room is always full and where Bellinis and devilled kidneys on toast are the norm.
The bedrooms at The Wheatsheaf ooze style, there’s original artwork on the walls, rooms with rolltop copper bathtubs and the promise of blissful sleep thanks to Hypnos beds and indulgent Egyptian cotton. In the morning you’ll wander to breakfast accompanied by Pavarotti on the sound system, which by lunchtime makes way for some cool Mississippi blues.
Outside you’ll find a garden draped in delphinium and plenty of seats for lazing in the sunshine. The staff will also provide tips if you want to venture further afield. Shooting nearby is popular with guests, so much so that there’s even a gun cabinet if you have your own and want to bring it for the break too…Compare price
A boutique hotel for the ultimate foodie break
Said to be the “worst-kept secret in the Cotswolds”, The Kingham Plough is a must for foodies. Here you can try delicious creations from chef-owner Emily Watkins: former sous-chef to Heston Blumenthal. I’ve been for the Sunday roast and it is well worth co-ordinating your stay so you can experience it.
Set in the pretty village of Kingham, this boutique Cotswolds hotel not only spoils for choice with its mouth-watering menu, but it’s also just a short walk from the Wild Rabbit pub, another foodie fave. You’ll also find Daylesford farm nearby, a hipster haunt for its deli, organic farm shop and spa.
All that said, even the fish and chips in nearby Chipping Norton will satisfy. I used to pop here with my dad at the weekends; we’d often wander around the town, and I distinctively remember an antique shop where Ronnie Barker stuck his tongue out at me through the window… this is typical of Cotswolds’ character!
Just six bedrooms upstairs keeps it cosy at the Kingham Plough, but don’t worry, each offers plenty of space. They’re quietly chic with some countryside charm – a great base for any of you foodies that want to indulge for the weekend.Compare price
Boutique break with city comforts in the Cotswolds
I’ve seen Cheltenham under many guises: on a hen do, shopping with my dad, and most recently at the Jazz Festival. It has always been a great place for a wander, with regency buildings giving it that grand feel, high-end shops to satisfy your shopaholic and manicured gardens and squares that cry out for lazy afternoon picnics. Head to the stylish Montpellier quarter for boutique shopping – especially if you like antiques or stationery – and stay for food and cocktails.
Just next to Montpellier, peering over the Imperial Gardens is the boutique Cotswolds hotel: No. 131. With just 11 rooms, this cool spot feels like your own stylish stately pad. It boasts a library, a restaurant and a bar, which is a must visit if only for a quick drink and an obligatory selfie underneath the “sin will find you out” neon cross on the wall. Jazz parties here have seen the likes of Gregory Porter, Jamie Cullum and Trevor Nelson perform, making it the place to be during the Jazz Festival.
Rooms are as stylish as they come, with original art by the likes of David Hockney (a personal fave), Sir Peter Blake and Banksy. If that doesn’t seal the deal, its free-standing bathtubs and double showers will. Make sure you don’t leave without trying the coffee, a signature blend from the hotel owners, you won’t be disappointed.Compare price
A rock´n´roll boutique hotel in the Cotswolds
City suave meets countryside chic at The Slaughters Manor House. This unique retreat brings a bit of eccentric urban styling to the Cotswolds. It’s surrounded by five acres of landscaped gardens and is crammed with decadent design touches that’ll make you feel as though you’ve been whisked to another realm. Inside you’ll find provocative colour schemes, framed posters of the Sex Pistols and a member’s club feel in the billiards room, drawing room and snug.
This place is English decadence at its finest. I would have been happy sitting on one of the millennial pink velvet stools at the bar, but an afternoon of strolling beckoned; it would be rude not to when there are welly boots waiting at the door to get muddy!
Don’t miss afternoon tea in the garden, and choose the amped-up version with a gin cocktail teapot if, like me, you’re bored of all the tedious tea and cake offerings elsewhere. There’s also an eight-course tasting menu on offer in the dining room and a sommelier to make sure you wash it down with the perfect grape.
Finish off your indulgent Cotswolds hotel weekend with an in-room beauty treatment or go with one of the hotel’s recommended nearby activities. Personally, I’d try the duck herding if you really want to get down and dirty in the countryside…Compare price
A peaceful boutique hotel in the Cotswolds for escaping the everyday
Nestled in the rural retreat of Moreton-in-Marsh, this historic hotel aims to provide everything you need for an indulgent break. The village itself is rich in history – it’s located on the Fosse Way, an ancient travel route that’s still in use today. Touch on this local lore with a wander through the market stalls and shops, steeped in quaint traditions.
Spend the evening unwinding in the hotel’s Beagle Bar and try the selection of infused spirits that are home-made on the premises. The Beagle Brassiere is where to head for a casual bite. Log fires and wicker chairs make it very easy to stay for dessert after dinner too, especially where the warm treacle tart with Armagnac ice cream is concerned. For more formal dining, head to the Mulberry Restaurant, which has an extensive wine collection.
Each room at the Manor House has its own special atmosphere. The hotel has made sure that no two rooms are the same, so you’ll have a one-of-a-kind experience each time you stay. The Apple Cottage is also available for a private retreat, complete with its own garden, terrace and hot tub.Compare prices
A writer living in London, Laura is currently working on her debut novel – a fictional tale inspired by her travels across America. When she’s not checking out the ideal hotel bed thread-count, she’s penning short stories, writing for various publications & brands, and sharing fashion tales on her blog, LauLauLand.