Whatley Manor: Why Go Anywhere Else?


I don’t want to sound like the upper class equivalent of Betty and Norman from Scarborough who booked an all-inclusive package holiday to Turkey and never stepped foot outside their resort, but the great advantage of splashing out on a luxury five star hotel like Whatley Manor in the Cotswolds is that the moment you drive though the drawbridge-like wooden gate you really don’t have to worry about anything. Leave the keys with the porter and relax.

A hotel since 2003, just 23 individually designed rooms and suites makes Whatley Manor an exclusive affair, doubly so when you discover they have a Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant, a more casual restaurant, an award-winning spa, private cinema and 12 acres of immaculate gardens which are the epitome of English countryside charm. Glimpsing the stone manor from the viewpoint of fragrant peach blooms in the enchanting walled Rose Garden with pretty central fountain secures it as a jewel of the Cotswolds. Even if the sun forgets itself momentarily you can shelter in one of the summer houses or gazebos with a good book and a coffee thanks to the ‘press for service’ buttons always within easy reach. Now that’s my kind of staycation.

The more energetic guest can head to the gym or studio with its weekly pilates and yoga classes, the nearby equestrian centre or Cotswold Water Park. Although I would be utterly heartbroken to have to go out for the day when staying at Whatley, there are many idyllic places to explore in the area, from Westonbirt Arboretum and the picturesque villages of Lacock and Castle Combe to the historic market town of Tetbury, while it only took us a 40 minute drive to reach the hotel from the World Heritage City of Bath. We first stayed at Whatley Manor over ten years ago, when we were living in London and were grateful to escape to the Cotswolds for the weekend and I’m grateful that it’s practically on our doorstep now.

Next time we’ll bring our Spaniel having seen how affectionately dogs are welcomed, with access to the bar and spacious lounges, along with the beautiful Arts and Crafts garden with its many room-like compartments. The lawns are as pristine as those belonging to Wimbledon or Lords (before the players arrive), while the topiary is perfectly clipped and the deep borders are richly sewn with wild flowers, heavenly-scented roses, alliums and foxgloves. The only area dogs are understandably excluded from is the Kitchen Garden which provides the hotel and its restaurants with freshly picked delights. But fear not, there are jars filled with gravy bones dotted around the hotel to appease your four-legged friend and reward them for good behaviour. You’re not the only one who’ll want to come back.

The more time I spent at Whatley, the more I realised that what appears to be a quintessential luxury manor house hotel is actually full of surprises, not least the fine dining experience with a course served in the kitchen and the hotel’s inspirational achievements at reducing their carbon footprint. You’ll probably first become aware of their efforts in your bathroom, stocked with beige-coloured recycled toilet rolls and Molton Brown amenities, not in the plastic bottles we all fondly remember snaffling into our suitcases before check-out, but in stoneware bottles beside the bath for you to enjoy during your stay, but ready to be replenished for the next guest.

Besides having our own living room with sofas and writing desk, an in-room pantry with complimentary drinks and snacks and premium super-kingsize bed, handmade in Yorkshire by Harrison Spinks with thousands of pocket springs to ensure sound sleep, I most enjoyed the pretty leaded windows looking over the gardens – an enticing place to spend the afternoon with a chilled glass of Wild Idol alcohol free sparkling wine. Which is precisely how we spent the interval before a gastronomic experience at The Dining Room to rival any in the South West.

Having originally joined Whatley Manor as a sous chef in 2018, it was only a few weeks after Ricki Weston was appointed Executive Chef in 2022 that The Dining Room was awarded a Michelin Star. The Dining Room now boasts one Michelin Star and a Michelin Green Star for their ceaseless quest for sustainability, and it didn’t take me long to see how deserving the team are of the recognition on both counts. Course after course proves Weston, whose CV includes two Michelin star Restaurant Sat Bains, to be an experienced and innovative chef gunning for perfection, with seasonally changing menus showcasing British produce along with ingredients from Whatley Manor’s own kitchen garden.

I especially loved that, after enjoying an aperitif in the wood-panelled lounge, with the best potato crisps and dip you’re ever likely to taste as our opening ‘Potato’ course, we were shown to the kitchen to see Chef Weston and his brigade at work whilst enjoying a delectable morsel of pancetta, onion and Parmesan-topped choux inspired by Chef’s love of cheese and onion crisps. The calm service which goes on as you taste these delicious bites offers a fascinating insight before the rest of the meal is served in the elegant Dining Room, with its linen-dressed tables and light green walls.

Just as the menu is well-balanced, the front of house offer a charming and attentive level of service that never verges on the intrusion, while the kitchen have judged just the right pacing. There’s nothing worse than a tasting menu with too many long pauses! Shortly after the sommelier charged our glasses with premium alcohol free sparkling wine, Wild Idol (good to see it on the menu) we were presented with a trio of ‘Introductions’ featuring a caviar trifle in a Whately-labelled tin and comprising layers of beef tartare from grass-fed Angus, crème fraîche mousse and mushroom ketchup and finished with a generous helping of caviar. The Dining Room might not come cheap at £175 per head (wine pairing £95) but they do indulge their diners with the finest ingredients. The other ‘Introductions’ were equally luxurious; a langoustine tart (made gluten free for myself and my husband) with a red pepper compote and langoustine bisque bavarois, followed by a Blue Fin tuna croustade with aje verde (a Peruvian green sauce made with cilantro and jalapeños) topped with marinated trout roe.

In what was a faultless experience, other highlights were the fish course of roasted turbot, wrapped in mushroom and accompanied by a spiced and smoked buerre blanc with tomato fondue, and which, despite being one of the simplest courses, is a stand-out ensemble that put me in mind of Spanish holidays, while the meat course of Herdwick lamb featuring the loin and slow cooked and spiced shoulder partnered with a deconstructed ratatouille and superb lamb jus proved a sophisticated adaption of a classic. But perhaps the dish that most excited me was the pre-dessert of sweet woodruff parfait with baked chocolate and fermented raspberry gel, finished with milk foam crisps. A sensational marriage of textures and flavours, this exciting combination could only have been created by a talented and pioneering chef.

I can well understand why some guests spend the majority of their time at The Aquarias Spa, inspired by the surrounding Wiltshire countryside and offering traditional and innovative therapies. The Spa Lounge serves light meals and refreshments so there’s no need to traipse through the hotel in your robe and flipflops if you’re making a day of it, while the fact that the hydrotherapy pool with massage jets and airbed is partially set outdoors makes for the perfect summer spa, with loungers overlooking the manor’s fruit orchard. If there’s any anxiety on the horizon try out the floatation pod, thermal cabins, salt scrub showers or infrared sauna, while the relaxation room’s heated stone recliners are blissful before and after one of the Aquarias Spa treatments featuring Sothys and Gaia.

I opted for the 60 minute Gaia Bespoke Body Massage; my therapist inviting me to choose from a selection of aromatherapy oils and taking a great deal of care to really listen to my health concerns, quietly checking during the treatment that the pressure was to my liking. Fully soothed and relaxed, I realised that the term ‘bespoke’ epitomises Whately Manor in a way few hotels ever achieve, whether its dietary needs, your preference for a firm pillow or desire never to catch a glimpse of a newspaper for the duration of your stay, it’s the kind of place where they remember your name, your dog and your favourite drink and put it in your room the next time you stay. Here’s hoping.

Whatley Manor Hotel and Spa, Easton Grey, Malmesbury, SN16 0RB. For more information and reservations please see the website