This is the quintessential English escape in this ultimate country-house hotel. Barnsley House Hotel & Spa is a true hideaway tucked in a sleepy village amid a gorgeous, rolling Cotswold landscape. It’s four miles from the town of Cirencester and only an hour by train (to nearby Kemble Station) from London Paddington.
Up a winding, sloping drive is a divine and dreamy honey-hued, picture-perfect, wisteria-covered manor house. It has gables and mullion windows. Church bells chime, chickens roost in their penthouses, and cows moo in the neighboring working farm. Built in 1697 it became a hotel this century. But it was the previous owner, Rosemary Verey, who lived here for almost fifty years, who defined and is the essence of, this hotel. She was a legendary garden designer who planted for King Charles at Highgrove, Sir Elton John, and Princess Michael of Kent. Her four acres of gorgeous grounds and formal lawns, suntrap terraces, and kitchen gardens are very evidently the result of a lifetime passion. Thankfully it’s still a stunningly beautiful garden with her love and care continued by the hotel which, likewise, retains the former spirit as a family home.
It’s very romantic this boutique hotel. The lounge rooms are made extra cozy by a plethora of stone fireplaces, wooden floors, and large mirrors. In the small sitting room, I could relax with newspapers, books, and games before climbing the lovely carpeted stairs to my room: one of eighteen that have great variety. Some have high ceilings and wooden beams, some offer four poster beds and others are garden suites set apart from the main house. My suite was light, and airy and had calming, muted walls and furnishings offset by bright watering cans. I sunk into my crisp, white bedding before awakening to my walk-through shower and stand-alone bath stocked with Land and Water products. All very indulgent.
The Potager Restaurant is stylish and smart while also homely and friendly and has neutral tones and a Scandinavian simplicity. There’s a whimsical abstract landscape by Ivor Hitchens and in the center of the room is a gorgeous large fireplace. Many windows look out onto two sides of the garden charmingly lit up by fairy lights. At the back is a pretty terrace with its tables and parasols and a pit fire burns out at the front. My candlelit farmhouse table was dressed with linen and sprigs of fresh lavender. I could feel the love of the garden transferred onto my plate which was decorated with edible flowers. Such a visual treat. The kitchen garden supplies nearly all of the vegetables, salads, and herbs which are chosen each morning by the chef and freshly picked. I loved being able to witness the food I was then to experience. For the kitchen vegetable garden is a veritable potager of chard, beetroot, beans, roses, lavender, onions, asparagus, cabbages, and peas.
Indoors is a snug bar with dark earthy colors creating a little cave for night-timers. Down the road is the village with all her buildings in the local stone. The monochrome Cotswold grey or celadon doors and windows are painted respectfully to harmonize with the natural surroundings. Across is The Boot, discreetly advertised from the road to blend with the environment. It’s the hotel’s very own ‘Village Pub’ offering a roaring open fire and six bedrooms upstairs and a 3-bedroom cottage close by. It maintains the standard of The Potager and is popular with the locals which is always a good sign. There’s a copper-topped bar and a decorative turtle shell beside black and white portraits of historical European figures.
All my senses were engaged as bees roamed amongst rich violet beds towards the hotel’s hive that created honey for my breakfast. Rosemary’s garden includes a stone temple tucked away and perfect for weddings, christenings, and romantic dinners. There’s a knot garden and playful statuaries. Her flowering cycles involved roses and clematis, violets and pansies, and sweet peas, and dahlias in the summer season I witnessed. Down all the nooks and crannies there’s a mixture of topiary and beds of wild flowers. The laburnum and yew walks make for an aesthetic harmony of verticals and horizontals.
Tucked away, past the quintessentially English croquet lawn and the swinging chair and down a leafy path, is the Barnsley Spa. It offers every conceivable form of relaxation: be it a treatment, a sun lounger, a sauna, or an outdoor hot tub hydrotherapy pool. To hideaway within this hideaway of a hotel there’s even a mini-cinema with pink pampering leather sofas for couples to enjoy a date-night from a wide choice of films. There are bikes on offer to cycle through the village or walks to unwind along flattish straight paths and deserted roads to the touristic villages of Bibury with her small, stone houses and Bourton-on-the-Water dubbed the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’.
Barnsley House is now a popular rural escape for urbanites. It truly is a genuine delight free of any artifice. It’s on such a refreshingly small scale that it feels wonderfully uncrowded. The staff stands out for their charm, attention, and upbeat attitude as they clearly appreciate, whilst appearing relaxed in, their working environment. It’s all very heartening and good for the soul.
Rooms at Barnsley House start from $430 per room