The hottest temperatures on British record couldn’t have arrived on a better occasion; my friend, collecting me in her stylish convertible and taking the scenic route through the Cotswolds for a girls’ spa break at the exclusive Barnsley House Hotel & Spa. Let’s face it in England you have to make hay while the sun shines.
Sister to Calcot Manor, The Painswick and The Lord Crewe Arms, just 18 bedrooms and a no under 14s policy makes Barnsley House Hotel an exclusive boutique retreat for grown-ups, albeit one more aimed at couples; our hip mezzanine stable suite boasting a glamorous slipper bathtub adjacent to the bed. “We’ll bring our chaps next time!” my friend and I giggled and shrugged. Fortunately there was a private en suite shower room stocked with generous full-size REN toiletries, while the accommodation was spacious enough to have a flat-share vibe thanks to a separate upstairs living and television area with a well stocked pantry and mini bar suggesting a binge fest of Friends. The high vaulted stable rooms are radiant (remember your sleep mask if you’re sensitive to the light), with shuttered windows, posy vases adorning the highest ledge and trendy bulb lighting adding contemporary chic to classic Cotswold charm. We even had our own table and chairs on the sun bathed communal courtyard, a nice spot for an aperitif or room service breakfast.
A quick change into white robes and it was time to head to Barnsley’s luxurious stand-alone spa, discreetly nestled in Barsnley’s famous gardens, redesigned by renowned garden designer Rosemary Verey in the 1950s and featuring statues, a Laburnum Walk and an ornamental fruit and vegetable garden. Vevey went on to design gardens for Prince Charles, Elton John and Princess Michael of Kent, not to mention the impressive New York Botanical Gardens. You know a hotel garden is out of the ordinary when special garden tours are offered to non-residents – inclusive of tea and biscuits of course. We were lucky enough to enjoy the heavenly-scented grounds at our leisure, each area taking on a new atmosphere at different times of the day.
The Spa’s breathtaking garden location couldn’t be more suited to peace and quietude with five chic treatment rooms, a sauna and steam room, a relaxation area with all the travel and fashion glossies you could desire, along with an outdoor hydrotherapy pool and sun loungers facing a Roman-inspired temple with seating and lush pastureland ensuring you never forget you’re in the heavenly Cotswolds. Barnsley House Spa features CACI and Elemis, with a wide range of rejuvenating treatments such as the Biotech Skin Resurfacer, a Pro-Collagen Age Defy facial or my preference, an indulgent full body massage with hot stones. You’ll be a new you in no time. Spa guests can take advantage of complimentary tea and coffee post treatment, or why not follow our lead and order sandwiches and mocktails to your lounger so as not to disrupt an intensive sun worshipping session? The spa staff couldn’t be more accommodating, while the intimate scale makes the spa feel very much your own experience. Afternoon tea on the hotel’s main terrace is also a great option, although frankly we couldn’t be bothered to get dressed.
A late afternoon drive via the idyllic market town of Stow-on-the-Wold brought us to Daylesford Farm near Kingham for a two-hour mocktail masterclass hosted by Borrago, a British non-alcoholic spirit company featuring the finest botanicals. One of Barnsley House’s top tips for things to do in the local area, a food or drink demonstration is a great way to experience Daylesford’s exciting foodie offering and an excellent addition to a day of pampering and self-care. Held at Daylesford’s sunny stand-alone Chelsea Garden Room, we were each given the ingredients and accoutrements to make a selection of delicious drinks showcasing Borrago’s versatility; from a Nogroni, a Virgin Espresso Martini and a Summer Cup, the perfect heatwave thirst-quencher. Tickets (£25) included a goodie bag with a full size bottle of Borrago to encourage participants to put those new mixology skills to good use.
Returning to Barnsley House for a fashionably late dinner at the smart, yet relaxed Potager, the restaurant’s doors opening onto the terrace carried the magic of the garden inside, as did the sprigs of rosemary on the tables and a menu featuring just-picked vegetables from their own kitchen garden. A beautifully presented starter of Barnsley House pickled beetroot paired with goats curd and candied hazelnuts took inspiration from the local landscape, while a main of pan-seared trout reflected nearby Bibury’s fishing heritage and was paired with fregola, brown shrimps and sea vegetables; the pasta being a nod to Head Chef Francesco Volgo’s Italian roots. A summery dessert of whipped vanilla cheesecake with an intense homemade mango sorbet was a fond farewell to a tropical-feeling day.
If you fancy prolonging the evening with a nightcap, head to their very own Village Pub across the road, with flag-stone floors and roaring open fires come winter that make this an idyllic all-year-round destination. The hotel also boasts its own private cinema with pink leather sofa seating and a weekly film programme that is complimentary for hotel guests. For non-residents midweek cinema packages start from £29pp including a two course supper at The Village Pub – popcorn inclusive. For £200 midweek, the cinema can be reserved for corporate or private events, and frankly what could be more romantic than a certain someone surprising you with a screening of your favourite movie?
Awaking to the sound of dairy cows mooing has to be a close run thing to stirring to the sound of crashing waves, and certainly makes you ready for a hearty Cotswold breakfast, each cooked dish doing full justice to the exemplary local produce literally on Barnsley’s doorstep, not least the vividly yolked free range eggs from their own small flock of hens. As Cotswold spa breaks go Barnsley House Hotel is pretty darn cracking. When my friend ‘forgot’ her pyjamas and returned the following week rather than asking them to post them to her, I confess to being a little sceptical. I suspect Barnsley House have an unusually overflowing lost property department, for who wouldn’t want an excuse to return here? Why oh why didn’t I think of leaving something behind?
Barnsley House Hotel & Spa, Barnsley, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 5EE. Rooms start from £224 per room per night, based on two guests sharing a superior double or twin, including VAT. For more information and reservations please visit the website.