Georgie Lane-Godfrey uncovers the charm of the Cotswolds at Slaughters Manor House…
The problem with the Cotswolds is that you really are spoilt for choice. Every single village you pass is so picture perfect, so chocolate-box cute that picking just one to stay in is near on impossible.
Of course, there are always a few that stand out. One of the most idyllic of these villages is Lower Slaughter, a sleepy hamlet around 20 minutes away from the fashionable Chipping Norton and it’s famous ‘set’, which includes household names like David Cameron, Jeremy Clarkson and Alex James.
But instead of celebs, in Lower Slaughter you’re more likely to find swans paddling against the gentle current of the River Eye that runs like an artery through the village. You’ll also find plenty of traditional Cotswold stone houses, with one property in particular that you can’t fail to miss.
Slaughters Manor House is your traditional 17th century country house on the outside and contemporary boutique hotel on the inside. Instead of the usual chintzy interiors taken straight from the pages of an Agatha Christie murder mystery, the hotel has recently been given a ritzy make-over. Yes, there’s still wooden-panelled walls and the original stucco ceilings, but in fresh modern pastels and glossy metallics.
The sleek new circular bar, for example, perfectly captures the hotel’s new look. Partnering craft gin distillery Sipsmith, the cocktail menu here channel’s quintessentially British flavours such as elderflower, mint and raspberry. It’s the kind of place where, dressed for dinner, you’d come and perch on one of the pink velvet stools for an aperitif. The Sloe Royal, a Sipsmith Sloe Gin topped off with an effervescence of champagne, would set the mood nicely.
Afterwards, head to the restaurant downstairs to sample Slaughter Manor House’s exquisitely presented seven course tasting menu. Chef Nik Chappell has focused on interesting flavour combinations using local Cotswolds produce, such as tasty goat with teriyaki and pineapple, and a lime mousse served with rose and menthol.
The atmosphere is admittedly a little quiet in times as diners talk in hushed tones to each other, but of course that could be down to the fact that they were too busy eating all those courses for conversation. If you do want something more casual though, order a wild boar burger in the buzzy bar or try the excellent room service which lets you enjoy private dining from the restaurant’s menu during operating hours.
Another reason to plump for the room service is the gorgeous rooms themselves. Next door to the main part of the hotel stands the old Coach House, which is home to Slaughter Manor House’s most luxurious suites. We stay in the aptly named Valentine, a palatial space designed to be the ultimate love nest for couples craving a little privacy.
Everything about Valentine is sumptuous – the king-sized four poster bed is so big that it requires a ladder to mount it. Step inside the bathroom and you’ll find not one but two freestanding baths stood side by side for long romantic soaks. Outside, there’s a secluded hot tub in Valentine’s own private garden that’s perfect for late night dips under the stars.
Of course, with the hotel’s setting being so pretty, it would be almost criminal to stay indoors. In the five acres of landscape gardens there’s plenty of room to sit in the sunshine and enjoy an afternoon tea on the front lawn or play a game of tennis on the hotel’s courts.
Meanwhile, Slaughters Manor House is the perfect base for exploring further afield, the bustling Bourton-on-the-Water a twenty minute stroll away. Ask at reception to borrow one of the pairs of Dubarry boots lined up by the front door for these kinds of strolls – one of those little touches which helps to give Slaughters Manor House its charm.
It’s lucky Bourton is close, because half an hour in this tourist-ridden town will make you long for the quiet comforts of Lower Slaughter again. A wander around the village won’t take you long, but its quiet, quaint appeal makes it worth the walk. Follow the river down from the hotel and it’ll lead you to the The Old Mill Museum. Sweet but small, the museum also has excellent tearooms and a popular ice cream parlour next door.
If you visit the village’s pretty church, look out for the village flower garden which lies behind the weathered graveyard. Tended by volunteers from the village, the garden is full of wild flowers, such as ox-eye daisies, foxgloves, cornflowers and clover. 57 species have been counted here before, making it something of a hidden gem for horticulturalists.
If fine dining seems like too much fuss after a day exploring, the hotel’s sister property, The Slaughter’s Country Inn, on the opposite side of the road can serve up a more rustic dinner. Unfussy and relaxed, the inn serves barbeques on the terrace during summer so you can make the most of that rare British sunshine.
The food here is good and it’s all very charming, but as you leave you can’t help feeling slightly smug as you escape to your little slice of luxury back at the manor house across the road. Well, there is a hot tub after all…
Overnight stays at The Slaughters Manor House start from £195 per room, based on two sharing on a b&b basis. Dinner menus start at £65 for three courses or a seven course tasting menu is £85. For further information or reservations visit www.slaughtersmanor.co.uk or call 01451 820456.