Charming chiming bells from the town church opposite heralded my arrival and I knew already I was in for a blessed time. I had come to stay, right in the heart of Cirencester, at the town’s principal hotel The Kings Head. It’s classically positioned along the thoroughfare with its flags fluttering. This former coaching inn dates back to the 14th century and is an independently owned boutique hotel with Condé Nast Johansens’ seal of approval.

An Old photo of The Kings Head Hotel

Cirencester is 2 hours from London by car and even less by train. It’s pretty and historic with a Roman amphitheater. It’s called the ‘capital of the Cotswolds’, a region of agricultural neatness and prosperity and reminiscent of The Dordogne. There are gorgeous stone houses and plenty of interesting individual shops. Along cobbled streets and past courtyards are the municipal gardens of the Abbey Grounds but the best walking is within the 3,000 acres of Cirencester Park, minutes away with its colossal 40-foot high yew hedge the tallest in Europe.

Both Gatcombe Park (the home of Princess Anne) and Highgrove (King Charles’s former house) are 20 minutes away while Cirencester Park is home to the world’s oldest polo club and where Charles and Camilla carved their initials on a tree as a romantic sign of their commitment to each other.

Through the hotel’s entrance, a former passageway for carriages, bright colorful artifacts, and paintings adorn the foyer. A giant modern hare and an old wooden throne set the tone of the contemporary décor blending with its historic fundament. And there’s a picture frame of colored wools offering a nod to the town’s prosperous roots. For in this bar-cum-lounge area people sit, relax, read the papers, or gossip. And all in front of welcoming roaring flames from a large stone fireplace.

All is built over the remains of a Roman building, a segment of which is preserved within glassed flooring. Throughout the Cotswold limestone comes with raw brickwork and wooden beams, with serene neutral textiles and ambient lighting.

The Kings Head bedroom

The 77 rooms, starting from $225 per night, are all individual and classed as Classic, Superior, Feature, and Indulgent in order of ascending grandeur. They extend all along the parade of shops of Market Place and have characterful shapes retaining the original Cotswold stone. With my exposed wooden high-beamed ceiling it truly resembled an upturned ship, an original nave, with small windows like portholes from which to observe the market stallholders below.

The style is Country Classic and very tasteful. On my king-sized bed was a herringbone woolen throw, and there was plenty of space for the contemporary beige, checked armchairs and a felt and wool-covered footstall. It was all so warm and inviting. So home-from-home with grounding, earthy, neutral décor and furnishings. Room 103 has a big copper roll-top bath and all the rooms have Elemis products. There are ten self-catering apartments which are ideal for families. Children under 12 can stay for free and some rooms even allow for dogs.

In the former stables, opposite the Corn Hall Deli & Wine Cellars, and glassed off from an arcade, is the MBB Brasserie. Underexposed wooden beams are original signature arched windows on one side and floor-to-ceiling glass on the other. So uber-cool, light and airy. The theatre and artistry are in the middle, an open-plan kitchen where the food is prepared in full view. 

From the very affordable menu offering very generous helpings, I loved my Farmer’s Garden Vegetable Soup followed by a Crab and Salmon Fish Cake with buttered winter greens. And I couldn’t resist the Chocolate Knickerbocker Glory (a traditional English confection involving cherries, Chantilly cream, and brownies).

The King's Head Hotel The Grill Restaurant

The breakfast room has wooden flooring and warm terracotta-colored walls. One is adorned with a motley medley of closely hung portraits. Another has a long banquette which, skylit, is so mood-affirming. It was here that I took Afternoon Tea. So quintessentially English and indulgent but a reward for all my walking.

There are no gardens or pool but there’s a roof terrace for the warmer months. In the vaults is live aplenty with a gym, a sauna, and an excellent spa. And there are remnants of Roman mosaics, a vaulted wine cellar, a former Skittles alley (now a fabulous room for private hire) under the unusually flat brick ceiling, and a proper cavern in which to raise the roof with noise. 

The Kings Head Hotel spa

While the subterranean Vaulted Spa offered Elemis facials I chose instead a soothing hot stone massage with candles and ambient music to allow me to drift. Deeply impressive and a fitting finale to a sumptuous stay in the Cotswolds countryside.