Claire Brayford goes on a luxury spa-break with her children at Home Farm Cottage at Barnsley House Hotel...
It’s not easy to wind down with children but English country retreat Barnsley House is doing its utmost to ensure you try. The 17th century manor house in the Cotswold village of Barnsley was traditionally a childfree bolthole, but with the combination of the self-catering Home Farm cottage and The Village Pub just across the road, it now accommodates even the liveliest of families. While your darling little devils run wild in the spacious cottage, you can enjoy the luxury of the spa, 30-seater cinema and fine-dining restaurant all on your doorstep. Words: Claire Brayford
Writer Claire Brayford with her husband Iain and their children Cecila and Ursula, wearing coats by Barbour.
After a comfortable two-hour drive from London, my husband and I arrived at our detached three-bedroom home with our daughters, Cecilia, aged three, and Ursula, aged four months. The traditional Cotswold stone cottage – it is surrounded by rolling green countryside but don’t expect mud under your fingernails – may be rural but is very sophisticated. There is a formal drawing room where my husband and I had a glass of wine in front of the log burner in the evening, and a fully-equipped family room with board games, DVDs and games consoles, which CC littered across the floor within seconds before racing outside, shouting “higher, higher” on the swings and tearing around the spacious garden. Inside, thankfully, all is calm. Contemporary, creamy bedrooms are accompanied by even more roomy bathrooms. CC was almost lost in the giant roll-top bath – and the master bathroom has a wardrobe inside so bathing and getting the little ones dressed is a breeze.
One of my favourite touches was the welcome hamper filled with freshly baked bread, French butter, fresh duck eggs and homemade strawberry jam straight from the restaurant kitchen (the hotel will also organise any further local produce you need). Suffice to say the homemade chocolate brownies and shortbread didn’t last long. While my husband offered to take the children to the nearby village of Bibury – and its pretty fish farm – I raced over to the spa before he had a chance to change his mind.
Barnsley House is famed for its gardens (the head gardener Richard Gatenby is often on hand to answer any horticultural queries) and the winding path through the graceful grounds, alongside the potager and vegetable garden, leads to the hideaway spa. My new happy place is being pounded by the jets in the toasty hydrotherapy pool, breathing in the crisp, clear winter air overlooked only by a few mooching cows. If that’s not relaxation enough there are a range of signature, Rodial and Aromatherapy Associates treatments including a Clear Your Mind massage – the perfect reviver for stressed-out parents. But before I had time to finish my cucumber water it was back to mummy-mode and planning for dinner. The hotel offers babysitting services should you wish to dine out, or, if you prefer, either The Potager or the Village Pub provide room service. So whether you have a taste for the signature vincisgrassi (baked pasta with truffles and porcini mushrooms) or homemade pie or beer-battered fish, it will come straight to your very own dining room. And the food is unfussy and scrumptious so you definitely won’t go hungry – especially as the wonderful Daylesford farm shop is just a half-hour drive away. A full English breakfast in the quaint Village Pub a few doors down set us up for the next day, and afterwards we took advantage of the hotel bikes and rows of Hunters (what else?) big and small to enjoy the bucolic countryside. It’s all very Instagrammable and yummy mummies Gwyneth Paltrow, Liz Hurley and Kate Winslet have all visited. And this (wannabe) yummy mummy can definitely see why. Prices start from $924.25 for an overnight stay at Home Farm Cottage (excluding breakfast) – with seasonal rates applying – for a minimum two night stay (with a decreasing nightly rate beyond three nights). A welcome hamper, use of spa and cinema facilities, service and VAT are all included. Telephone: +44 01285 740000, email: [email protected] For more information go to www.barnsleyhouse.com