Week­end away

WITH THE FREE­DOM OF YOUR OWN SPACE YET THE EASE OF A HO­TEL, THESE COTSWOLDS COT­TAGES HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

The Simple Things - - ESCAPE | HOME STYLE - Words: RE­BECCA FRANK

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.

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