Not all country house hotels were created equal and few boast the characterful atmosphere and Cotswold charm of The Greenway Hotel & Spa near Cheltenham, an historic, cultural town famed for its Regency architecture, world class racecourse and an extensive annual programme of festivals, from jazz and science to music and literature. Besides the town centre the hotel is well placed for the privately managed Rococo Garden in pretty Painswick and Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe.
It’s easy to spot that The Greenway Hotel is the little sister of the prestigious Bovey Castle in Devon, belonging to the Eden Hotels Collection, with refined and attentive service to match the palatial Elizabethan surroundings. From the first greeting and offer of morning tea and biscuits in the drawing room as we awaited our room, to an informal show-around enabling us to get our bearings and settle in – with a croquet lawn, immaculate gardens and a spa combining its own spa cafe, pool and outdoor hot tub, who wouldn’t want to arrive early?
With just 21 individually designed rooms, including five feature suites and one master which has understandably hosted many newlyweds, our ‘Oak’ suite, located in the main house was exquisitely furnished with antiques, luxurious fabrics and an ostentatiously draped king four-poster. A seating and dressing area, views of the gardens and Cotswold Hills and a deluxe bathroom with freestanding bath and stand-alone rain shower stocked with ESPA toiletries, robes and slippers encourages guests to curl up with a good book or create their very own private spa retreat.
As my husband is always quick to point out, the real epitome of luxury hotel accommodation is having one’s own hallway, no self-respecting suite being quite the thing with a door opening directly onto a corridor. He is pleased by the oddest things. While he enjoyed the novelty of the entrance by sauntering in and out as if hoping for Jeeves to make an appearance and offer him a refreshment, I availed myself of the handmade chocolate truffles as I perused the spa brochure.
‘Toodle-pip!’ I announced shortly, making off for the Elan Spa as hubby made use of the expansive floor space to practice his martial arts. The Greenway Hotel’s luxurious sanctuary, with exposed brickwork and a Persian colour palette, is an undoubted highlight for residents along with day-spa-goers who can combine their visit with brunch, lunch or afternoon tea. Unwind in the hydrotheraphy pool, sauna and steam room to open pores, relax muscles and enhance all treatments, or take a detoxing al fresco juice in the secluded Elan Spa terrace, where the hot tub is an appealing circulation booster all year round.
The back, neck and shoulder massage I selected followed an impressively thorough health questionnaire and interview with my conscientious therapist who tailors all treatments to suit the requirements of the guest; there being a heavenly-scented ESPA aromatherapy oil to detoxify, energise, nourish or restore. She also checked in with me during the massage to make sure that the applied pressure was just right. I answered with an enthusiastically long, deep sigh, inhaling as I did so the hypnotic qualities of the rose geranium ESPA Restorative oil designed to comfort and calm. My skin, desperate for hydration after too much sunbathing, was hungrily soaking it up just as I was absorbing this sacred me-time.
Nourishment continued with dinner and Head Chef Marcus McGuinness’s celebration of the British seasons and the finest Gloucestershire produce. Besides The Greenway Hotel’s own kitchen garden, Martin is a keen forager and regularly features the wild plants, herbs, fungi and fruits he has hand-picked. A delicate, well judged salad of Devon crab, blanched almonds, elderflower and a warming kick of chilli elevated the sweet white meat, while the comforting main of pan-fried Cornish Hake, spring vegetable casserole and foraged wild garlic pesto married the beauty of sea and land.
The other half meanwhile went all out on the flag-flying land dish of 50 day-aged rib of beef in two servings; a rib eye cooked in hay with ‘pub style garnish’ and a rib cap cottage pie presented, not simultaneously, but rather oddly as two separate courses. I ate slowly for fear that hubby would have the guilt of eating his cottage pie alone before his wife the pescatarian; the pie umami rich with caramelised onions and slow cooked pulled beef well coated in an intense jus. This didn’t prevent him from managing the date-heavy sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream ice cream for ‘afters’. My dessert of Scottish strawberries, wild lime polenta cake and Thai basil ice cream was both exotic and cleansing, with petit four chocolates featuring the unusual addition of bay leaves harvested from The Greenway’s own tree. A clever chef indeed. This is one retreat not to consider dieting at.
You don’t need to have tickets to a festival or plans for a raceday flutter to gallop over to The Greenway Hotel and Spa. Continuing Cheltenham’s reputation as a destination spa base – mineral springs having been discovered in the town in the early eighteenth century – the undulating Cotswold valleys, the pride and joy of this green and pleasant land, make for a pretty perfect spa hotel setting and me rather proud to call myself Cheltenham-born.
The Greenway Hotel & Spa, Shurdington, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL51 4UG.Classic rooms from £144 total/£72 pp (two sharing), including full English breakfast. For more information and reservations, call 01242 862 352 or visit www.thegreenwayhotelandspa.com.