Fun for all the Family

Quirky touches and exceptional service made for a glorious break in the Cotswolds at Cowley Manor

Review by Jo Gregory

Even on the wettest day in months it doesn’t dampen our trip to Cowley Manor. We’re greeted with smiles as we arrive at reception, we check in and they kindly take care of our bags while we head straight to the bar for some lunch. Our two-and-a-half-hour journey from London means we’re more than ready to tuck into anything and everything from the delicious menu. We settle on a halloumi burger and the pea and asparagus pasta all washed down with a bottle of the chenin blanc. The service is friendly and quick, but we take our time, staring at the long-forgotten rain from the comfort of our cosy seats.

After lunch we are shown to our room. We’re staying in one of the hotels ‘Best Rooms’ and are giddy with excitement as we’re shown around, it’s huge and the terrace area is bigger than most London flats. The four-poster bed and bath (which resembles a small pool) are both calling me in equal measures. But before we get sucked into either, we gather our things and head down to the C-Side spa.

The spa offers a range of holistic treatments in its four treatment rooms. There’s also a gym, relaxation area, steam room & sauna all in a breath-taking space. Using traditional Cotswold brick, it’s a juxtaposition against the floor to ceiling windows which embraces the surrounding landscape. I’m booked in for a Glow Force Firming Facial and am called through for my treatment. The cute birds from the spa products packaging is carried through into the décor of the room, a real attention to detail. My hour’s treatment sends me to sleep, perhaps having been given the choice of music meant I relaxed into chilled beats rather than the classic ‘plinky, plonky’ spa music. I awake feeling revived and as it says on the tin, glowing.

After my deeply relaxing facial, I head to the pool. The 15 metre outside pool is beautiful however, even though it’s heated, the sideways rain makes it’s a tad uninviting. Unfortunately, the indoor pool is a-wash with children, fantastic if you have a family, not so great if you are looking for a place to unwind. The hotel itself is extremely child friendly. There is an extensive children’s menu in the restaurant, Disney films on loop in the lounge area and games dotted around both inside and outside to keep the little ones amused.

We head back to our room to freshen up. There are 31 bedrooms here, all with stocked mini bars, Green & Spring toiletries, fluffy robes and a Bose speaker, a nice touch when your kicking back in the what seems to be the world’s largest bath.

We head down for dinner and have a couple of gin cocktails in the bar to kick off proceedings. The restaurant manager Attila is tending to our every need and even takes our food order before showing us to our seats in the Malt restaurant. We’re sat beside each other looking out over the 55 acres of Grade II listed gardens as the sun (what we can see of it) sets. Rustic bread and small pots of parsnip and sweet potato soup are brought over to whet the appetite before our starters. I opt for the blackened figs and pancetta while my guest tucks into soft poached egg, ham hock & pea valoute. Both are utterly divine. Then comes the main course, a tad too quickly for my liking, especially when you are in snails-pace, spa mode. However, a beautifully presented grilled Lemon Sole with tossed vegetables appears along with a succulent fillet of beef with fondant potato and does not disappoint.

As darkness falls, the flicker of the candles, designed by Kim Thomé, bounce off the panelled, Victorian walls, the space now oozing with warmth and romance. We decide to have a long break after the main course but eventually find room to squeeze in desert. We order the salted chocolate mousse, passion fruit, honeycomb with malt ice cream each and a glass of Californian Muscat desert wine to finish, pure decadence. And after what can only be described as one of the best meals I’ve had in years, we head to bed.

We wake to bird song and the occasional noise from the sheep in the neighbouring field after an extremely restful sleep. I make myself a cup of coffee and head out to welcome the day on the terrace. The rain has cleared and the views across the lakes are beautiful. Families of ducks and a couple of swans keep me amused for most of the morning before we head down for breakfast. A buffet of cereals, juices and pastries await however we decide to line our stomachs before the long drive home with something fresh from the kitchen. Mushroom omelette and smashed avocado on toast with poached eggs set us up for the day nicely.

After breakfast, we decide to take a walk around the grounds of the hotel. Quirky pieces of art nestle subtly into the trees, a nice touch in such a traditional setting. We laze on garden hammocks, soaking up the views and the last of the Cotswold air before setting off. Although it feels more like a hotel for families, that didn’t impact our time here. It was glorious, even if the weather wasn’t. riddle_stop 2


Prices at start from £205 per night B&B


Enquiries: Cowley Manor, Cowley, Cheltenham GL53 9NL  / 01242 870 900 / /

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