The village of Painswick in Gloucestershire is the epitome of Cotswoldshire charm, complete with historic properties, a quaint church, St Mary’s, with immaculately tended yew trees, the oldest bowling green, the site of an old workhouse and lock-up, and a privately run William Morris museum featuring a Burne-Jones stained glass window sought by pilgrim Pre-Raphaelite and Arts & Crafts lovers. This is England at its most loveable and unspoilt, rich in landscape, history and architecture that will have you peering into the windows of estate agents.
The aptly named boutique sixteen bedroom ‘The Painswick’ (sister to Calcot Manor & Spa in nearby Tetbury, Barnsley House & Spa and Lord Crewe Arms) suggests itself as the place to be and is precisely that, being finely positioned for exploring the village on foot. There’s even a murder mystery trail complete with murder weapon, while Painswick’s famed Rococo Garden is an absolute must. There are many other idyllic Cotswolds landmarks a short drive away, such as Prince Charles’s dreamy estate, Highgrove in Tetbury, Bourton-on-the Water and the city of Cheltenham with its grand regency architecture and annual programme of arts and foodie festivals.
On the other hand, The Painswick itself will demand a fair amount of your time and is in such a perfect setting that, after a couple of gin and tonics on the Terrace, with its comfortable sofa-style seating, you may not feel like doing much besides admiring the far reaching views over the rolling Cotswold hills. A great spot to sit back and relax over their sweet & savoury afternoon tea or enjoy dinner al fresco in the warmer months, it’s a feature that makes the very most of a summer holiday in this breathtaking corner of England. That said, I can equally see how the snug bar and series of clubby lounges ensure it’s an all-rounder.
One thing no amount of renovation or interior design can buy is atmosphere and this hotel oozes character. The property, once known as Prospect House, was built at the height of the wool trade in the late 18th century only to become the village’s vicarage a century later and the home of the Seddon family; a feel the current owners reflect through the cosy, yet stylish décor, wood fires and a small, incredibly friendly front of house. Our ‘Hawkers’ bedroom located at the top of the house offered panoramic views, even from the roll top bath, which frankly were too good to entice me to read the thoughtfully placed copy of Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider with Rosie’ donning the bath rack. REN products add a touch of luxury to freshening up, while the tuck shop style mini bar is temptingly stocked with everything from snacks and champagne.
The Painswick restaurant is worth seeking out even if you’re not a hotel resident, presided over by Head Chef Jamie McCallum who has an impressive Mayfair background including Wild Honey and Gary Rhodes. He’s clearly relishing country living and the opportunity to create simple yet elegant dishes that show off the abundant quality British produce; from the freshest Cornish fish to Cotswold lamb. Breakfast, featuring even more exceptional produce, proved an equal pleasure the next day, prior to my late morning restorative spa treatment.
With two peaceful treatment rooms offering Elemis therapies, the experience is a joyful taster of their famous big sister Calcot Spa and is a highlight of this retreat I wouldn’t dream of missing. I had one of the best warm hot stone massages I ever remember, although, once again, I didn’t feel like donning my walking boots afterwards. Ah well. If you’re looking for a rural English country break with style, gourmet flair and buckets of charisma then The Painswick should be next on your list.
Prices at The Painswick start from £139 per night excluding breakfast. For reservations and further information, visit www.thepainswick.co.uk