WITH THE FREEDOM OF YOUR OWN SPACE YET THE EASE OF A HOTEL, THESE COTSWOLDS COTTAGES HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Once the stable block, carriage house and outbuildings for the 18th century Bruern Abbey, the 12 houses that now form Bruern Cottages have been tastefully renovated to provide topnotch self-catering accommodation, in the hamlet of Bruern near Chipping Norton. With cottages sleeping from two to ten, there’s flexibility to enjoy a cosy break à deux or gather friends and family in one large house or spread around the estate. It’s plush yet comfy; all houses are dotted with antiques and decorated with classic fabrics and wallpaper from Nina Campbell, Osborne and Little, and more. The large glass-roofed heated pool is a real bonus; shared between the houses, it was never busy during our stay and, with large glass doors opening out onto a walled garden, on a sunny day it feels more like being in a Tuscan villa than a Cotswolds cottage.
Where we stayed
Shipton Cottage is a single-floor deceptively large cottage with three en-suite bedrooms, sleeping six, and a pretty kitchen/diner, and a sitting room with a beautiful white ceramic woodburner making a striking centrepiece. Light and sunny and decorated in seaside tones of blue and cream, it has its own private garden and a small children’s play area (in the early morning we were very excited to spot a hare on the lawn). A generous welcome basket meant there was no need to rush out to fetch supplies for breakfast, and it wasn’t long before our girls had bagged their four-poster beds, and discovered the next-door games room and, of course, the decadent swimming pool.
What we ate
We could have just stayed in and feasted on the welcome hamper with its fine local produce including Cacklebean eggs, Paddock Farm sausages and bacon, and treats such as champagne and lemon drizzle cake (who knew they went so well together?). But out we ventured to The Hare at Milton, which has Friday champagne happy hour and serves delicious bar nibbles including mini sausages with brown sauce, and sweet potato fries with harissa mayo. The nearby village of Kingham has two great dining pubs – The Wild Rabbit (wildrabbit.co. uk), with its light, convivial dining room and tasting menu, and the award-winning Plough (thekinghamplough.co.uk). For something a bit different, The Old Butcher’s in Stow-on-the-Wold serves mostly excellent seafood (theoldbutchers.squarespace.com).
What we did
We walked with the dog and the kids from the cottage along the River Windrush and through farmland, quickly abandoning our map and getting lost, but not really caring. There are plenty of typical pinch-me-pretty Cotswoldian villages, and bric-à-brac and antique shops in Stow. At Daylesford Farm, we had coffee and delicious carrot cake, before browsing its dreamy interiors and farm shop, vowing to come back one day to do a flower-arranging workshop or just spend a day in the spa. If we’d had longer, top of our list would have been Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens and, on a warm day, the Cotswold Waterpark for watersports on the lake.
We also liked
There’s loads to do and discover around the area and you could easily fill a week or more, but it was really lovely just hanging out around the cottage, sneaking off for a peaceful swim and gazing at the sky above, making a fire in the woodburner, curling up with a book or to watch a DVD from the well stocked library and enjoying some family time. Bruern’s gardens come into their own in the spring and summer, and you’ll find yourself meandering through the stableyard, admiring the rose and clematis, or winding through the wisteria tunnel before ending up at the cutting garden, perhaps with a morning coffee or evening G&T in hand.
The best thing
It’s quite rare to find somewhere that’s so child-friendly yet has enough space and privacy to accommodate couples happily and give parents the chance to really wind down. Bruern is luxurious yet relaxed – dogs are allowed in several of the houses, kids can run around or ride bikes between the cottages or play on the lawn. And little luxuries like spa treatments on site, the beautiful pool, and fluffy white robes and Elemis products in the bathrooms, make the grown-ups feel looked after, too.
We stayed in Shipton Cottage with three en-suite bedrooms (sleeps six). A three-night stay in June costs £1,120; bruernholiday-cottages.co.uk.