Last week I was whisked away for what I thought was my 30th birthday surprise. However, it turned into something even more special; I left with a boyfriend but returned with a fiancé. I wanted to share with you a little snippet of my weekend away in the beautiful Cotswolds, one of the most magical parts of England, and now a location I have on my wedding wish list.
The first surprise was a stay at The Wheatsheaf Inn, located in Northleach, a stunning little market town in the heart of Gloucestershire. This cosy country inn was where Oliver took me for our first weekend away two years ago on my birthday. Extremely romantic, yet I still had no clue he was going to propose! I absolutely adore this quaint little hideaway, previously a Coaching Inn built for travellers to rest and refuel, it boasts original features such as wooden beams, open fires and flagstone floors. Each of the 14 rooms are stylishly decorated with their own unique twist, plush furnishings, tweed throws, freestanding baths and 100 Acres toiletries which create the best bubble baths. The exterior of the inn is also covered in Virginia Creeper, which I LOVE.
Being part of the The Lucky Onion group, the food is something else. Locally sourced ingredients offering simple, hearty and delicious cuisine such as Wiltshire lamb rump, Tamworth pork fillet, and duck shepherd’s pie. Relax in the one of the inviting armchairs, sip on a Negroni, or their current cocktail of the week (thank you to the lovely staff member who made me constant Cherry Bakewell Sours). Continental breakfast is included in your stay, homemade jams, pastries, cold meats and cheeses are available along with cereals and breads. We paid that little bit extra and treated ourselves to their hot breakfast menu. Choose from French toast with bacon, pancakes with maple syrup as well as eggs and soldiers (it is totally worth the extra pennies).
The Wheatsheaf Inn offers rustic luxury, it has a homely and warm vibe, no stuffiness or snooty service, the staff are welcoming and friendly, creating a relaxed and cosy atmosphere. If you fancy holding a celebration or a large group dinner, The Wheatsheaf has two beautiful private dining spaces, decorated with hunting memorabilia and beautiful paintings.
After two lovely nights in Northleach, we headed off to our next secret location, this turned out to be the rather impressive Barnsley House. Part of the The Calcot Collection, I had heard amazing things about this Cotswolds retreat, a 17thcentury manor-house, nestled in the middle of a ‘chocolate-box’ village. The house itself is simply stunning, golden stone exterior, cool contemporary furnishings, and a stunning spa that is perfect for pampering.
Although the vibe is slightly more, shall we say ‘posh’ compared to our first location, the staff are absolutely brilliant and incredibly welcoming. Oliver was by this point, quite pale and extremely twitchy due to his upcoming task, I was told afterwards that the staff were all in on the ‘big surprise’, so I can imagine their smiles were even more enthusiastic. We were handed a lovely picnic hamper and away we went to explore the grounds, (Oliver had now gone from twitchy to silent and twitchy). One of the best features of this stunning estate is of course the landscaped and perfectly manicured gardens, designed by the late Rosemary Verey. Stone statues, beautiful flora and fauna, grape vines, a scarecrow and a fruit and vegetable garden that provides the fresh produce at the hotels Potager Restaurant. We ventured a little further away into the nearby fields, here we found beehives and some very excitable chickens. I had by this point, wondered if a proposal was on the cards, this was mainly due to Oliver constantly getting off of the picnic blanket and walking away to speak to the bees. Whilst I was busy concentrating, attempting to flatlay the picnic goodies in order to capture the best shot for ‘the gram’, that is when he asked (obviously the iPhone was dropped at this point). As you can tell, I said yes!
Heading back to the house with a new sparkly bit of bling, we were shown to our room which was one of the Junior Suites. I can honestly say that it was the most beautiful room I have ever stayed in. Modern in design, chic décor, dusty pink and cream furnishings, it was light, airy, luxurious and super stylish. I know that not everyone is fan of a soft pillows, but for me they were fluffy cloud, marshmallow perfection, we even had our own lounge and Nespresso machine. You know you are being ultra-fancy when George Clooney’s favourite coffee is in your hotel room!
Dinner was booked in at The Potager for the first evening, the menu is rather special. I had the Barnsley House picked beetroot, goat’s cheese curd and candied hazelnuts (wow) and sea bream with brown shrimps and garden agretti! The restaurant has a really relaxed atmosphere and like the rest of the hotel, sophisticated and elegant. Breakfast was my favourite, included in our stay was either a continental or full English breakfast. Although I love a cooked breakfast, the continental was one of the best I have ever seen. DIY granola, oats, fresh berries and fruits, pastries, breads, jam, juices and more.
Oliver had booked me a spa treatment (he did alright didn’t he), so after my Swedish body massage, we floated in the hydrotherapy pool and relaxed in the steam room and sauna. The spa facilities are beautiful, the relaxation room is adorned with branches and twine, giving the feel that you are in a remote forest, the lounge offers spectacular views overlooking the grounds and countryside, not forgetting the reflecting pond with a waterfall. The hotel also offers clay pigeon shooting, guided walking tours and movie nights in the on-site cinema.
For our last night we had a table booked at The Village Pub, a two-minute walk from Barnsley House and also run by The Calcot Collection. The Village Pub is exactly that, cosy, warm and friendly, offering hearty pub grub such as baked cheddar cheese soufflé, traditional beer battered cod and chips and the Calcot beef burger. As we visited on a Monday evening, it was extremely quiet, we found service to be so fast that we ended up having a starter and main course within 40 minutes! A little too fast for us as we like a leisurely dinner, however if you visit when it’s quiet make sure you let them know you want a relaxing meal. The Village Pub also have six contemporary and newly refurbished bedrooms, perfect for a cosy weekend away.
Barnsley House offers stylish charm paired with luxury, with a true secluded, ‘escape to the country’ atmosphere. It is also a dream wedding venue and available for exclusive use, and yes, I did take the wedding planners contact details before I left! In the middle of a very busy event season, our five days in the Cotswolds may have been the most relaxed I have been in years. The perfect place to get engaged.
Places to See: We also visited Burford, Stow on the Wold, The Slaughters and Cotswolds Wildlife Park during our stay.