Travel review: Costwold House Hotel, Chipping Campden
Too often, when the holiday season comes around at last we are quickly saying farewell to Old Blighty for a week or two.
But by simply leaving on a jet plane we are overlooking some of the most amazing places that are practically on our doorstep.
Thankfully, the long-overdue hot summer has seen a rise in the ‘staycation’ and people are discovering some real gems on the UK map – while avoiding airport waits and lengthy journeys.
Including me! The jewel I discovered was just over an hour’s drive away in the beautiful Cotswolds.
‘How have I never been to Chipping Campden before?’ I wondered as I wandered down the charming main street.
Passing perfectly preserved buildings of old Cotswold stone it was like taking a step back in time. This could be the setting for Downton Abbey or even Pride and Prejudice.
The historic, tranquil Chipping Campden is the perfect retreat but it is only 20 minutes drive past the must-see Stratford upon Avon.
In fact, not only is Chipping Campden nestled among the picturesque villages of the Cotswolds it is within easy reach of a host of popular attractions including Warwick Castle and Blenheim Palace.
We had the pleasure in staying in the very indulgent Cotswold House Hotel and Spa which sits in Market Square in the old wool merchants town.
One of the Signpost recommended hotels, Cotswold House has a winning combination of an award-winning spa and an impressive restaurant and bistro. Not to mention the gin garden!
Dating back to 1815, Cotswold House was originally home to the family of Aubrey Smith who went on to captain England in their first ever cricket match again South Africa in 1889. It recently invested in a £1 million refurbishment of the hotel including the rooms and public areas as well as the outstanding Fig restaurant.
There are 28 rooms but for a real treat I recommend a junior suite which is like a small apartment and as well as being incredibly comfortable and roomy includes all the mod cons along with some very clever and modern lighting. Delicious breakfasts are served in Fig but it truly shines with its high quality fine dining in the evening.
Embracing the ambience of the countryside and following a fig theme, the relaxing décor of the airy restaurant makes dining a pleasure at any time.
The French doors open out onto a patio and splendid English gardens. And as for the food . . .
There is a mouth-watering tasting menu at £65 per person for the full experience or the main menu offers two courses for £39 or three for £48.50.
This is affordable gourmet food with starters such as warm cured salmon with aubergine and miso, asparagus with pheasant egg and a buffalo burrata which melted in the mouth. Main courses included halibut supreme, Prosecco and parmesan risotto while the rump of lamb with shallot purée, goats cheese and minted green beans was a rush of flavours and the meat cooked to perfection.
Desserts included caramel and Madeira tart, strawberry parfait with lemon sponge, limoncello and mint and a very varied cheese selection. Meanwhile the Bistro on the Square offers a lighter but equally high quality menu from brunch to lunch to tapas or evening classics
The menu includes such dishes as mussels in white wine cream, squash and sage risotto (£14), pan fried hake or chicken breast with creamed mash and vegetables (£16).
There are various restaurants and bars in the town should you fancy a change. There are actually some 70 local businesses in the town with many products produced in Chipping Campden itself.
Meanwhile, offering free use of the facilities for hotel guests, there is the spa. A perfect way to unwind after a day sight-seeing.
Discovered in a secluded spot at the top of the hotel’s serene gardens, there is a hydrotherapy area with pool, whirlpool bath and aromatic steam room. Also six treatment rooms if you would like to book a facial, massage or other piece of pampering heaven.
Chipping Campden is on the doorstep of many attractions but Stratford really is a must-see and we had a lovely day visiting the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, butterfly farm and enjoying a riverboat cruise.
The second day we obtained tickets from the hotel for Blenheim Palace which is a 45-minute drive away though any journey is a pleasure as you soak up the lush green Cotswolds scenery.
Stretching from Stratford in the north to Bath in the south it is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty.
Blenheim Palace, home of the 12th Duke of Marlborough and host to Donald Trump in July, is breathtakingly lavish with centuries of history in every room and artwork.
As well as the splendid rooms there are various exhibitions predominantly regarding Winston Churchill, famously born there in 1874.
And if you manage to get round all that, the formal gardens are extensive and there also The Pleasure Gardens on site.
A great, if long, day out, then it was back to relaxing in the spa.
With jewels such as the Cotswolds virtually on our doorstep, a staycation seems a pretty good idea this summer doesn’t it?