We Review Cowley Manor in the Cotswolds
With its idyllic countryside setting, Cowley Manor makes for a relaxing family break
The Cotswolds is known for its outstanding natural beauty, with quaint villages and market towns, as well as stunning honey-coloured limestone buildings around every corner. It’s also home to over 700 luxury hotels. So what makes one hotel more appealing than the other? It’s always down to individual requirements, however, I am certain most would agree it’s all about being able to escape from normal life – even just for a few days. And we really needed to do just that…
An overnight stay at Cowley Manor
It had been a long week in the run-up to our overnight stay at Cowley Manor – a luxurious spa hotel just a short drive from the stylish town of Cheltenham. A sickness bug had floored the kids but even though they recovered in record time, the husband and I were exhausted.
The Cotswolds is easily accessible from Surrey and after an uneventful journey of just two hours [thankfully], our befuddled spirits soon lifted as we made our way up a small country lane and saw the sun glistening across a serene lake and a stunning mansion house framing our picture-perfect view. After pulling up outside, the kids’ interest was further heightened after spying several multi-coloured wellies on display. “Can we use those?” my eldest exclaimed with delight. As we later found out, yes, we could – the wellies are for any guests who want to explore the extensive grounds.
Cowley Manor is impressive – and apparently one of the most famous buildings in the country due to its rare Italianate stonework which was based on the Villa Borghese in Rome. Much like its exterior, which belies a more European-inspired country-house chic, inside isn’t as traditional as you’d first imagine. On being shown around the main hub of the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised by the playful interiors – bright lime green and azure painted walls, with funky bright spinning chairs and eye-catching artwork – some of which really caught the attention of the children – particularly the sculpture of a zebra’s bottom above our heads as we enjoyed lunch in the bar.
We had barely finished our drinks, and the kids were desperate to investigate the pool and TV rooms both of which you can have private use of – just by simply shutting the door. By this time our room was ready and after walking out of the main house and towards the converted stables, we settled ourselves in our new surroundings. The kids adored having their own room complete with bunk beds, TV and toilet. My eldest felt extremely grown up – until he saw the lollipops, and proceeded to fight his brother over flavours. All I wanted to do was slip into my bathrobe and complimentary flip flops and pad upstairs to our huge mezzanine bathroom and soak in the tub. But it wasn’t to be for now – it was to the pool, demanded the kids.
Cowley Manor’s C-Side Spa has both an inside and outside heated pools, and at certain times throughout the day, children are permitted to swim. While the husband and I took turns to try out the spa facilities including the sauna and steam room, the kids enjoyed splashing around in what was essentially our private own pool – there was only one other family with us! Although I didn’t get the opportunity to try out any treatments, the floral scents of Green & Spring products emanating from the back rooms were heavenly.
Back in our room, I finally got that long-awaited bubble bath while the children happily watched TV. Time seemed to run away from us and it was already supper time. We headed to Cowley restaurant which was quiet – but not uncomfortably so. Sat by the grand fireplace, the kids wolfed down pasta and sausages followed by ice-cream sundaes, while we devoured freshly baked bread with leek and potato soup, followed by ham hock croquettes and a delicious mushroom tart. Service was attentive and friendly, and dinner was a relaxed affair.
We all slept soundly that night, and the following morning after a hearty breakfast – of which there was a wide choice on offer including cooked meals and fresh fruit, we were all determined to take a walk around some of Cowley’s 55 acres of gardens and woodlands. Our first stop was past one of Cowley’s two majestic lakes towards a large green sculpture representing the Cheshire Cat’s grin – it has been said that Lewis Carroll wrote his best-known book, Alice in Wonderland, during his stays in the village, drawing his inspiration from the grounds of Cowley Manor. The kids loved running free and discovering many of the hidden nooks and statues.
Even though we only spent one night at Cowley Manor, we all left feeling reinvigorated and relaxed. We were stunned to be told the hotel was at full capacity because at no point during our stay did we feel like the hotel was busy or overcrowded. So mellow are the surroundings – even in the communal areas, that it felt like Cowley Manor was our own secret country escape. It truly offers the perfect combination of being in the middle of nowhere but also being so close to civilisation. So we were even more disappointed to be departing after discovering we were actually booked in for another night… Next time, there’s always next time…
Prices: Exceptional rooms from £355 per night / standard rooms from £205.