I must admit, I’d never been to the Cotswolds before. I know, I know, it’s inexcusable really, but there has to be a first time for everything, right? As far as firsts go, this particular getaway was one of the best I can remember; not just because it was in the picturesque county of Gloucestershire, but because of where we stayed: Calcot and Spa.
Whether you’re browsing the best hotels on TripAdvisor, or reading through ‘top getaways’ on The Telegraph, a few Cotswold hotels pop up over and over again, Calcot and Spa being one of them. Nestled within 220 acres, the buildings of Calcot can trace their history back over 700 years, having been built by Henry of Kingswood in the 1300s as the tithe barn annexe of Kingswood Abbey.
After King Henry VIII dissolved England’s monasteries in the 16th century, he gifted the estate to one of his courtiers and it has remained in private ownership ever since, first opening its doors as a luxury hotel in 1984.
I’d heard all about the Cotswolds, obviously. How could you not know about how wonderful and marvellous and fabulous the Cotswolds is? Cotswolds hype is real, and it sets the bar at another level. Let’s just say my expectations were high.
As we first turned into the long Calcot driveway, my expectations were already met, and then some. The quintessential vine-covered stone buildings, timber barns, sprawling lawns, impeccably trimmed hedges and meandering pathways were exactly what I’d pictured in my mind. I could tell straight away the pace of life at Calcot was just ‘different’, and each step I took only confirmed that life was meant to be lived just a little bit more slowly here.
This break was all about taking a deep breath and enjoying the simple things with my family. Flipping through a coffee table book about David Bowie while nibbling homemade shortbread, sipping a cappuccino and warming my toes by the fire. Taking long country walks with my kids and forgetting all about work and bills and the 17 loads of laundry waiting for me at home. Sinking into my feather pillow, listening to nothing but a quiet country breeze, and not setting an alarm. Calcot is the kind of hotel that takes you miles away from everyday life.
The rooms at Calcot are the definition of cosy luxury, with eclectic but classy décor, cushy pillows and a mattress so comfortable I was tempted to strap it to the roof of my car and bring home.
If you’re travelling with the kids, booking a Calcot Family Pad, or even better, a Generous Family Pad, is the perfect way to make the most of your time away. Each Pad comes with an adjoining kids’ room so you can relax privately while the kids snooze away in their bunks or mini beds.
The Generous Family Pad, where we stayed, is designed over two floors and gives the whole family enough space to hang out for the whole day, if that’s what tickles your fancy. Some even have their own private garden and a bathroom with twin tubs.
Each Family Pad has a lengthy list of fabulous amenities including indulgent Aromatherapy Associates products, fresh fruit and homemade shortbread, a selection of books and magazines, a bottle warmer and steriliser, changing mat and nappy bin, in-room listening monitor, Nespresso coffee machine, and fluffy robes and slippers for every member of your family.
Food and drink
The Conservatory Restaurant was the perfect place for our first meal in the Cotswolds, offering a menu of seasonal dishes paired with glorious countryside views, and an impressive wine list too.
The ravioli of confit Cotswold white chicken with white onion velouté and pancetta was quite the show-stopping starter, especially paired with a glass of Coopers Creek Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The main event – loin of venison, Savoyard potato, sprouts and chestnuts – was equally, if not more, delectable; and although I might have been able to fit some dessert in my belly, I decided not to spoil my meal and end the evening with an Irish coffee instead.
The little ones were spoilt for choice and devoured delicious kid-friendly dishes including Cornish fish and chips, and Calcot organic spaghetti Bolognese.
For a more laid-back vibe, The Gumstool is the hotel’s very own Cotswolds inn, guaranteeing a warm welcome and plates piled high with deliciousness. I thoroughly recommend the twice-baked cheddar cheese soufflé to start, followed by the hake and chorizo with butternut squash, onions, pickled mushrooms and sorrel. Finish with the almond financier with roast pear and yogurt sorbet, while the kids gobble up a homemade chocolate brownie. Delish.
Kids Activies at Calcot
The hotel loves families and is ready and waiting to give the smaller ones in your group an unforgettable experience. Book the kids into the crèche at The Play Barn while you relax with a magazine and some homemade cake. Your younger ones will have endless fun playing with toys and other kids, and teens can enjoy games consoles, computers and even a 12-seater cinema. Every Saturday, the kiddos can create their own masterpieces at a Bake Time workshop, and during school holidays, there’s a dedicated team running a timetable of fun activities, including scavenger hunts, arts & crafts and lots more.
Explore Nearby Towns
Calcot is the ideal base for exploring the lovely market towns of Tetbury, Cirencester and Stroud, and the cute little villages of Minchinhampton and Painswick, plus many more. I thoroughly enjoyed whiling away the day at antique shops, purchasing random brick-a-brack that I really didn’t need, and stopping for tea at any charming café I came across.
While the kids are being looked after at The Play Barn, don’t miss out on a bit of ‘me’ time at Calcot Spa. I thought Calcot’s fireside lounge was ‘it’ for me, but the spa was an entirely different relaxation experience. Spa guests can enjoy the outdoor hot tub, a wide range of treatments, a manicure or pedicure, a leisurely swim in the indoor pool or a detox in the sauna or steam room.
Walks with Hawks
Worth the 45-minute drive from Calcot, Walks with Hawks is based in the heart of the Cotswolds in Cheltenham and offers falconry, hawk walks, owl encounters and lots more. Wow the kids by getting up close and personal with beautiful birds of prey, or treat them to the Ultimate Experience that takes you on a journey with lots of different birds, from eagles to hawks, falcons and owls.
Going home after a short break is never fun, but it was especially hard this time. Calcot and Spa gave me the kind of feeling you dream of having when planning a break, but rarely get: pure relaxation and happy kids. It gave me a total life recharge that is so needed every once in a while, and an experience I hope to have at Calcot again.
Family Pads at Calcot can be booked from £489/night for a family of four (bed and breakfast).