Cotswolds - travel review

Leigh Sanders took his foot off the pedal for a relaxing break in the Cotswolds...

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The Howard Arms is nestled in the idyllic village of Ilmington, eight miles south of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire

Modern life can be like the starting grid of a Formula One Grand Prix.

The jostling for position, rushing around and revving of engines can leave even the calmest of souls flustered and dreaming of quieter things.

So what better way to improve one’s lot then the quintessential British escape to the country?

The Cotswolds are one of our lushest landscapes. Green and vast they conjure up images akin to Goodnight Mister Tom of children on bicycles splashing through puddles while ducks and geese amble out of the way.

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The comfortable bedrooms are spacious and stylishly decorated

The village of Ilmington is one such idyll. Situated just eight miles south of Stratford-Upon-Avon it provides the ideal base for either rambling over the beautiful Warwickshire countryside or perhaps heading north and delving into the most detailed pages of Shakespeare country.

Its population was last counted at around the 700 mark, and its streets are so quaint they do not even boast streetlights. It is recommended by the pub/hotel The Howard Arms that a torch be carried when out after sundown.

And it is with this calming quiet you reach your base, overlooking a village green and nestled nicely off one of the main thoroughfares. The venue itself is stunning. Inside and out it looks clean and welcoming, and once you breach the front doors and are greeted by the smell of burning log fires the staff are quick to welcome and offer assistance.

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The cosy bar offers food and beverages for all tastes

Within minutes we were in our home for the weekend, and the room was spacious and decorated with style and elegance. Our bed, large and comfortable, was accompanied by ample storage space, a television and the décor included lovely low beams. And here is where the idyllic setting really came to the fore. Both of us use O2 mobiles, the network is pretty all-encompassing and manages to penetrate the most rural of nooks and crannies. Or so we thought.

Here, neither of us picked up a bar of signal. The hotel came with superfast (and free) WiFi, but should we choose to we could ignore it and really cut ourselves off from the outside world for the duration of the stay.

No office emails, no Facebook updates and no text messages making the usual mundane requests of every-day life.

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Food is well-presented and delicious

We opted for a weekend of relaxation, taking a short walk around the village to gauge our surroundings. Ilmington boasts a further pub hosting live music most weekends and there is a well-stocked village shop and café in an old Catholic church which will do wonders for community spirit in the modern era of closed doors and curtains.

When you do fancy company, The Howard Arms offers delightful food in a well-maintained setting. The pub is low-ceilinged and the bar small, but the drinks they offer are of a good variety and will appease spirit lovers, ale drinkers and cider guzzlers alike.

The food is grandiose and well above your standard pub grub. The dishes are well presented and the meats we sampled were perfectly cooked and delicious to taste. This goes for their morning offerings too. The full cooked breakfast was among the best I have ever consumed.

The staff, once again, were extremely helpful. They asked guests what plans were ahead for the day and offered suggestions and travel guidance if required.

We could not speak more highly of our stay and would recommend a retreat to the calm and peace of this countryside gem. You’ll return to work on Monday having forgotten what all the stress and panic was about.

By Leigh Sanders

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