Barnsley House is a gem of a hotel in the picturesque Cotswolds
Over the past fifteen years a new breed of luxury British hotel has emerged: providing world-class food, amenities and accommodation without the stiff formality and pretension that once plagued upmarket venues.
Moreover, acutely aware that adults searching for a relaxing break would rather not listen to an endless chorus of screaming children, a growing number of venues do not welcome under-16s.
Barnsley House is one such perfect example of this very welcome trend. Based in the gorgeous Cotswolds countryside in the chocolate box village of Barnsley, the property is easily accessible from London (under two hours by car), but far enough away from civilization to provide an unparalleled haven of rest and relaxation. Warmth and hospitality is obligatory at this hotel, snobbery most definitely forbidden.
Barnsley House does, however, boast quite a regal history: it was originally a manor house built in the 17th century, although it subsequently became the private home of David and Rosemary Verey, who owned the property from 1952 until her death in 2001.
Thereafter it was purchased by the owners of the similarly excellent Calcot Manor in Cirencester, who today do an impeccable job of running the hotel.
“Warmth and hospitality is obligatory at this hotel, snobbery most definitely forbidden”
What was once a family home now functions as the south-west’s leading deluxe address, complete with 18 bedrooms, a superb restaurant, small spa and idyllic gardens. Not to mention an expansive drawing-room bar, perfect for sipping pre-dinner cocktails. On arrival, we were shown to our duplex suite, several of which adjoin the main house, which is a star attraction in its own right.
Indeed, the building itself must not be omitted from this discussion. It is simply charming, a poster-child for a rural retreat: golden stone, gables and mullion windows set the scene, which is completed by the romantic garden and vegetable plot, which supplies most of the restaurant’s produce during the summer months.
The hotel’s suites are also everything you would expect from such a prestigious address: super high-spec, spacious duplexes that are equipped with modern bathrooms complete with a lovely whirlpool bath.
Light, cheerful and creamy colour schemes create a suitably serene feel to the bedrooms. The enticingly comfortable beds and luxury furnishings and fabrics are found throughout.
But the ultimate crowning glory of this slick and yet totally unpretentious hotel is the grounds. Set in the gorgeous Cotswold countryside, it is impossible not to feel totally relaxed in this little haven of tranquillity.
However, if you get restless there are plenty of local walks on offer – the hotel can help with routes – and a small spa, complete with an inviting outdoor thermal pool with bubble beds, in addition to the prerequisite sauna, steam room and treatment rooms.
Gastronomic duties are handled by Head Chef, Francesco Volgo, an extremely talented chef who has been with the Calcot Collection for many years.
Passionate about seasonality and provenance, Volgo exploits the hotel’s herb and vegetable garden to their full potential, ensuring that what arrives on your plate is fresh and hearty – a genuine celebration of life’s finer things.
We began with a few glasses of delicious Prosecco, which set the standard for the feast that followed. Saffron risotto and scallops served with a Jerusalem artichoke puree were both exquisite, as apparently was my friend’s pan-fried Hake fillet, served with shallots, fried pancetta and mushrooms. The food was spot-on and in keeping with the hotel’s ethos: well-executed, delicious and yet not remotely pretentious or overwrought.
The following morning arrived all too quickly, but we quickly snatched a spot of breakfast in the dining room, which was bathed in the morning sunlight from the adjoining garden patio. The food was fine – what really stood out was the gracious service, a constant highlight at Barnsley House.
It gave me pause to reflect that while there are quite a few contestants for the prize of the UK’s most luxurious rural hotel, Barnsley certainly deserves a slot in the top five.
Barnsley, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
0128 574 0000