What makes a trip to the Cotswolds a perennially popular choice for a countryside escape? It might be the honey-hued villages or patchwork of green meadows. It might be the tranquilty. But there’s one definite lure that will keep you coming back: the impressive foodie scene, with a string of pubs and hotels beckoning any discerning food lover.
The hotels come in all shapes and sizes, meaning something for anyone who appreciates high-quality cuisine with a spectacular bucolic backdrop. The options span country houses with grand Michelin-starred restaurants through to cosy pubs making simple classics come alive beside stone fireplaces.
Pack your bags, bring your appetite – here’s our round-up of the best places where you can stay and eat in the Cotswolds.
What an epicurean haven in postcard-pretty Southrop (so pretty Kate Moss chose to get married here in 2011). What Caryn Hibbert began as a cookery school has morphed into a ‘village within a village’ – also home to cottages, a pub, spa and more. The hotel’s Ox Barn restaurant offers menus largely based on what’s ripe in the vegetable garden, while upstairs cosy rooms designed by the owner await, decorated with soft colours, feature wallpaper in some and fresh flowery fabrics in others.
The Bell Inn, Langford
Two Cotswolds lads reopened the doors to this much-loved local boozer in December 2017, preserving the rural bolthole vibes but giving it a modern Farrow and Ball-esque makeover. Historic features have been retained in the rooms but they’re far sleeker than you’re expect from a village inn. And as for food, it showcases the owners’ love of hearty British cooking (game faggots, fallow deer loin, or rabbit, bacon and prune pie, anyone?) with the addition of a wood-fired elements (hence the pizza options).
For more information, see thebelllangford.com
The Wheatsheaf Inn, Northleach
The restaurant inside this creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty boutique hideaway draws a regular local crowd due to its spot-on flavour combinations and use of stunning English produce. Menus might feature Devon crab linguine, dry aged cuts of meat, or twice-baked Cheddar soufflé. The bedrooms look terrific, decorated in soothing colours and given distinctive character by the art on the walls (Number 1, for example, has an edgy portrait of Jack Nicholson by Sebastian Krüger). Eleswhere there are open fires, rugs on flagstone and wood floors, and retro school seats as dining chairs.
The Kingham Plough, Kingham
The current incarnation of this old inn is the creation of Emily Watkins and husband Miles Lampson – he’s a landscape designer, she’s a talented chef, formerly with Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck. Here she’s won numerous awards for her modern British cuisine with a twist (dishes are often based on old Cotswold recipes). There’s a pleasingly short and sophisticated à la carte menu as well as well-priced bar menu featuring gastro comfort food. The ‘pubby’ element has been retained throughout, while blue and cream rooms of varying shapes and sizes are comfortable.
Read the full review: The Kingham Plough
Whatley Manor, Malmesbury
This is a Michelin-starred traditional country house hotel that conjures that relaxing sense of staying with hospitable landed gentry friends. The brilliant reputation for food is now forged around chef Niall Keating’s 10-course tasting menu, which might include delicate cod with subtly fermented cauliflower, and mackerel with preserved raspberry. Rooms feature richly upholstered sofas and swathes of curtains, and some are decked in flamboyantly striped wallpaper, others have antiques. You don’t fiddle around with Nespresso machines or kettles here; a complimentary tea tray is brought to your room.
The Wild Rabbit, Kingham
This is a rural pub made posh, with a long bar, leather armchairs and open fires. There are 15 rooms, all named after woodland creatures, decorated in a designer symphony of cream and taupe, with beds clad in soft Egyptian linen. A rustic-chic edge remains: most have exposed beams and stripped-back stone walls. The farmhouse kitchen-style restaurant, filled with light from long windows, sources mostly from the surrounding organic Daylesford estate; expect hipster touches to countryside fine dining.
• Read the full review: The Wild Rabbit
Buckland Manor, Buckland
The jaw-droppingly pretty setting, under a dramatic edge of the Cotswold escarpment, is matched by the magnificent food served in the restaurant. Chef William Guthrie draws on local produce and also on what’s available from manor’s garden to create British-European dishes. The property is staunchly traditional, creaking with history, but regularly returning guests seem to love the old-school snoozy charm; the vibrancy of the food stands out even more against this backdrop. Rooms have been individually appointed, so could feature a four-poster bed, or tweed flourishes, and dotted throughout the country house are fireplaces, oil paintings, antique prints and china ornaments.
Eckington Manor, Eckington
A cookery school and a working farm (the property backs onto a field of Aberdeen Angus and Highland cattle) set the mood for this hotel, inside which a first-rate restaurant is headed up by a Masterchef: The Professionals winner. Inventive dishes come exquisitely presented on the plate, and feature produce grown or reared on the farm – the likes of hay-smoked lamb cooked three ways, and deconstructed raspberry cheesecake. There’s an eclectic range of styles in the 17 bedrooms: cosy-contempoary in the old milking parlour, hand-painted silk walls for ones in the former cider barn, and ones in the 12th-century hall have exposed beams and flourishes of funky furniture.
Read the full review: Eckington Manor
The Ebrington Arms, Ebrington
This hidden treasure set in a gloriously unspoilt village is a modern day version of a country tavern – it’s at once a genuine pub that brews its own very smooth ales, a lovely restaurant with real local flavour, and a charming hotel with a polished rural aesthetic. Dishes, which could range from hot-smoked Bibury trout salad to and Cotswold lamb with stuffed tomatoes, arrive beautifully presented (many vegetables come from surrounding Drinkwater Farm). It’s a spacious yet intimate place, chock-full of character: an inglenook fireplace, wood burner, exposed beams, sofas crafted from old barrels.
The Five Alls, Filkins
There are all the hallmarks of a proper pub here – a log fire, low ceilings and exposed beams, leather sofas – but this is a very much a foodie haunt. Focaccia is baked fresh each day, infusing The Five Alls with tempting aromas, while menus are split between pub classics done well (steak, pies) and clever combinations, such as crispy duck with pomegranate and mango salad. Expect creaky character in the five (smaller) rooms upstairs, plus five more spacious lodgings across the car park. In the summer, run the sun down with drinks and supper on the outdoor terrace.
Read the full review: The Five Alls
The Painswick, Painswick
This handsome 18th-century house with Arts and Crafts additions now plys its trade as a restaurant with 16 stylish bedrooms. It’s got an easygoing vibe but food is taken seriously – sophisticated yet unfussy. The quality of ingredients is key; starters might include goat cheese panna cotta with foraged wild garlic, while main courses could include local saddle of lamb with tempura of purple sprouting broccoli. Rooms are individually styled and have retro-chic flourishes, many with clawfoot baths. Through mullion windows there are breathtaking panoramas of the lovely Painswick Valley.
The Feathers, Woodstock
The composite parts of this gloriously meandering property have variously housed a sanatorium, the local reading institute and a draper’s shop before being amalgamated into a hotel; that explains rooms of differing shapes and sizes, set somewhat higgledy-piggledy up separate flights of stairs and along spot-lit corridors. But you’re here for gourmet edge: a tasting menu spans five courses (maybe charred mackerel with compressed pineapple, or perhaps velvety shoulder of lamb with broccoli puree), and you can opt for pre- or post-dinner drinks from a bar stocked with more than 350 gins.
Read the full review: The Feathers
Lords of the Manor, Upper Slaughter
You’re in one of the most famously pretty parts of the Cotswolds here, and if you’re seeking a classic country house hotel, look no further. It’s a rambling property, with a converted granary and barns adjoining it. The old-school décor (pelmets, swathes of curtains, stripy wallpaper) evokes a comfy sense of history. The afternoon teas, with cakes, scones and lashings of cream, are a Cotswold institution – but leave room for dinner, which is a complete treat: expect dishes along the lines of quail breast and foie gras ravioli or fallow deer with spiced red currants.