Hotel Review: Barnsley House, The Cotswolds

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Pretty as a picture postcard

This impressive 17th century manor house is the ultimate country retreat. Tucked into the charming Cotswolds village of Barnsley, Gloucestershire, honey-hued Barnsley House seamlessly blends its original features with stylish contemporary additions; its 18 rooms epitomising understated luxury. Surrounded by landscaped gardens, with a private cinema and heavenly spa to boot, it’s no wonder guests return year on year.

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​Quintessentially Cotswolds

Barnsley House is ideally situated for exploring the Cotswolds’ picture postcard English villages and rolling countryside. Just a few minutes down the road you’ll find some of the most photographed villages in the region. Beautiful Bibury’s tiny stone houses are deemed so iconic that they feature on the inside of British passports. Bourton-on-the-Water is heralded the “Venice of the Cotswolds” with its five little bridges crossing through its heart; and the Slaughters (Upper and Lower) are pristine with perfectly proportioned cottages, window boxes bursting with colour, set against the banks of the babbling River Eye. In addition, four miles away is the historic market town of Cirencester. It’s primely positioned for walks and cycle trails, both of which the delightful staff at Barnsley will be happy to advise on.

Stepping inside, the house feels instantly welcoming with three cosy sitting rooms, plump sofas in rustic tan and orange, and high-backed armchairs centred around numerous roaring fireplaces. Papers, magazines and board games are stacked around the house to while away an afternoon.

Six bedrooms are located in the main house; all generously sized and with lovely views.

Other rooms are located in the stable yard and total privacy is offered in the stunning Secret Garden Suite and the Potting Shed. Our room – Room 6 in the main house – is a particularly gorgeous attic suite in the eaves of the top floor. It’s a haven, with garden views from both the bedroom and bathroom. One can feel the house’s history here, with its heavy wooden door, exposed beams, and the original windows and fireplaces. A luxe modern aesthetic, with a scandi-chic coffee table, a patterned headboard and a geometric rug somehow blend in effortlessly. Beds are vast and the linen sumptuous. There’s a living area with a large sofa, arm chair and flat screen TV, as well as an array of delightful garden-themed reading materials.

Bathrooms are quite the focal point at Barnsley. Ours is the ultimate in luxury – the size of most hotel rooms – with an inviting freestanding roll top bath in the middle of the room. There are twin sinks and a large rainforest shower, as well as a subtly placed small flat screen TV for bath time viewing. Other bathroom highlights include Room 1 which has two bath tubs side by side and Room 15 with its sunken Turkish bath.

Glorious Gardens

The gardens here, set within 11 acres of grounds, are renowned, having been designed by the house’s former owner and internationally acclaimed garden designer, Rosemary Verey. The ornamental fruit and vegetable garden, knot gardens, laburnum walk, and statues by Simon Verity are simply beautiful all year round.

Follow a pathway through the grounds and you’ll come across the adorable 30 seat cinema, resplendent with two seat pink leather sofas, showing the latest movie releases. Ask in advance, and it can be reserved free of charge.

Wander further still, and behind the hedgerows is the Garden Spa. An oasis of calm in a striking modernist glass box, you’re greeted on arrival with a fluffy robe and slippers. Its hydrotherapy pool is picture perfect with dramatic waterfalls cascading into the turquoise blue, framed by the backdrop of green rolling countryside in the distance.

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The Journey On

Inside, pale exposed brick walls and beams create a peaceful ambience. The garden theme runs throughout the treatments and facilities available, from the herbaceous sauna and steam room to the excellent Elemis “superfood facial”. Treatments range from hot stone massages to reflexology. After, I sit in “The Journey On” – an immersive relaxation room with rainforest projections and sounds. Reclining on a day bed, I’m brought a cooling grapefruit sorbet and cucumber-infused water and could happily remain here all day.

There are two restaurants at Barnsley. In the main house is The Potager, showcasing seasonal gourmet British cuisine with an Italian twist, and a terrace overlooking the glorious gardens. Tables are candlelit, dressed with linen and sprigs of fresh lavender. It’s stylish and smart while also homely and friendly. The food is excellent – the head chef has worked at London’s top restaurants. The lamb chump with Jerusalem artichoke puree and tempura anchovies is sublime, as is the local venison.

Across the road is The Village Pub, offering more casual but by no means less tasty traditional pub food. Both use delicious homegrown produce from the House’s kitchen garden – in the summer, about 70% of produce on the menu is homegrown.

Breakfast is served in The Potager – a spread of local breads, pastries, jams and fruit, followed by a menu of hot treats, with eggs freshly laid.

One last wander around the garden before we depart, and it’s hard to say farewell. Barnsley offers such romance and comfort. It leaves the fondest of memories. A return is already being planned!

Holly Rubenstein

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