Sometimes when life comes at you full force, an escape to a far-flung retreat is what the mind, body and soul needs. However, this also involves big budgets and a boss who lets you block book your holiday. Sadly, or maybe not as you’re about to find out, these two key ingredients were missing from my life mix, but what I did have was a free 24-hours pass to leave London behind and head to Chipping Camden’s own tonic, no gin required.
Parking-up in Chipping Camden, it’s hard not to feel a little giddy: quaint tea shops line the street; there’s not a Starbucks in sight and brass door-knockers gleam against a period palette of rectory red, drawing room blue and studio green. If time travel was possible, I’d just arrived in the 1700s where checking into Facebook, photographing for Instagram or tweeting the hotel are alien activities. Here, you can embrace the life that existed before your phone became your best friend. There’s real darkness, an uncluttered horizon and not a night bus in sight. Bliss.
Designed to cover the needs of couples, families or larger parties, accommodation at Cotswold House is varied. There’s doubles, deluxe kings, suites and arguably the jewel in their crown, cottage suites – also my home for the evening. Nestled just behind the main Regency Townhouse, and amongst the pretty gardens, the Longborough Cottage Suite has been carefully constructed for the traveller wanting complete R&R. Within seconds I was in a bikini, grabbing a magazine from the coffee table, phoning through to order drinks on room service and heading outside to my very own private hot tub – I challenge anyone not to find this surprise as thrilling as I did. Minutes later myself and my pal were as far away from London mentally as the physical miles of countryside in between; giggling and chatting as the jets worked their magic.
Pepped-up, by both types of bubbles – a bottle of Prosecco here is a very reasonable £28.50 – it was time to head to dinner at The Dining room. Grand in its presentation and skilled in its menu, ordinarily this could be a little off-putting for some guests. But like the attention to detail in the rooms, it is not. The knowledgeable waiting staff guide you through the menu; there’s the choice of 3,4 or 5 courses that are prepared using locally reared meat, local veg and seasonal produce. The unique twist in the menu is the option to mix up your courses as you wish: all savoury, all sweet, pudding for starter, it’s your choice. And, I have to admit that for one moment my sugar-addict within was pirouetting to the sound of 5 puddings, but thankfully she was stopped in her tracks by the delicious sounding Seared scallop, avocado and sesame, plus more. I should also mention that menu is allowed the time and attention it deserves, over a pre-dinner cocktail no less. We loved this touch.
The hotel itself is simply fantastic, but the spa at the end of the pretty English garden – expertly planted and the epitome of quaint – is without a doubt the Hotel’s secret weapon. Housed within the converted coach house, the large windows flood the hydrotherapy pool area, that’s stocked with mags and has enough comfy beds to go around, with daylight, while the treatment rooms on the second floor are hidden gems.
Recently the spa chose to update their menu and now use the La Sultane de Saba Spa brand – a range of products that are inspired by the “ancient and precious beauty rituals of Oriental women”. In our opinion this was a faultless choice. Not only does the brand hail from Paris, with roots in Morocco (very on trend), but the products melt into your skin, enveloping the body in a blanket of organic ingredients and heavenly scents.
On my visit I booked The Cotswold House Garden of Dreams treatment (£95 for 85 min), one of the spa’s signature treatments. Ordinarily I tend to shy away from scrubbing, buffing and wraps; simply because I don’t want to sacrifice even one tiny minute of massage heaven. However, something about the sound of this treatment grabbed me: the use of organic herbs from the garden; the cleansing skin wash with crushed olives and hot mitts; being cocooned in vitamin-packed Shea butter; or maybe, it was the full-body massage. In all honesty I’m not sure which of these inviting elements prompted my choice, but i’m glad it did as the complete experience left me sparkly clean, so relaxed I went from massage bed to pool bed for a power nap – leaving a trail of orange blossom en route – and moisturised from top-to-toe.
I indulgently added a side-serving (Jessica Express Pedicure, £50 for 30 min) to my treatment menu, which I’d recommend. There’s nothing more satisfying than filed, tidied and painted nails in my book. Especially as I regulary cringe at the sight of my feet during yoga!
Aside from the fabulous food and dreamy spa, the hotel also boasts of a few other treats: a roaring fire in reception greets on arrival; fluffy robes and slippers in the rooms invite you to pad around; the bathrooms are stocked with REN bath and body products (i’m a big fan of this brand); you can order mini muffins at breakfast; there’s not once ounce of chintz and beyond the hotel grounds there’s the charming high street of Chipping Camden to explore.
As you can probably tell, I’m smitten, and I have to admit I also didn’t want to publish this feature. When you find a bolthole that covers all bases, including the hot tub, you worry what will happen when the world discovers it too. Safe to say, my conscious took over and I’m doing it now. After all, the best secrets are the ones you share together. Just don’t tell too many people, okay?
Currently Cotswold House are offering a Three-night Christmas Break starting from £750 pp (based on two sharing). This package includes Christmas Eve tea and cake, a canapé and champagne reception, midnight treats and Christmas Day lunch. Also included is a evening Casino (Christmas Day), falconry demonstration (Boxing Day), a black tie dinner and Cotswold Breakfast. Mention uk.glam.com when you book to receive a free half hour spa treatment.
Cotswold House, The Square Chipping Campden GL55 6AN
Call Great Little Breaks on 08448 488 488 (www.greatlittlebreaks.com).