20 May 2019
The wind is whistling and the rain is hammering down, as it has been for hours, but I’m snug, and smug, inside. In fact, today I’m actually thankful for this relentless, moody British weather because it gives me license to languish within the confines of my home for the weekend – Foxhill Manor – where champagne flows freely and being lazy is encouraged. Tucked away in the heart of the 400-acre Farncombe Estate, Foxhill Manor belongs to the same family as Dormy House (that perfectly conceived boutique hotel) and The Fish (affordable luxury), but it’s been described as ‘just that little bit more exclusive’. This grade-II listed manor house has quite the pedigree; it was built in 1909 by local Cotswolds craftsmen and designed by Yorkshire-born architect Joseph Lancaster Ball. It caught my attention when it was named The Sunday Times Hotel of the Year within a year of its opening.
In part, this must be because Foxhill’s secluded, indulgent and laid-back offering is utterly conducive to romance and relaxation. All its eight rooms and suites, named after trees, are individually styled, influenced by Foxhill’s Danish owners, who have an impeccable eye for detail and art. The most spectacular is the Oak suite, in which my husband and I could have happily hunkered down for 24 hours without surfacing – surely the benchmark of success on a weekend away in the Cotswolds? Its big, open-plan sleeping/ living areas draw on a Scandi-cool palette of white, light wood, dark mushroom grey and tan, with the odd leopard print cushion and mirrored unit here and there. Twin tubs stand side by side, perfect for soaking in while soaking up the sweeping, sheep- speckled views across the Vale of Evesham. Try to make the most of the enormous wooden four-poster bed before your sport-obsessed husband twigs another perk of the baths. One can watch England playing cricket on one TV and rugby on another.
When (if ever) cabin fever sets in, pad just a dozen or so steps to the drawing room, where a well-stocked drinks trolley is there to be taken advantage of. Foxhill is not the place for any kind of abstinence. You can opt for a room rate that includes champagne, beer, wine and glass decanters of spirits, along with soft drinks, ‘help yourself’ cakes and snacks available 24/7 from the pantry. The latter is stocked up with homemade brownies, popcorn, marshmallows, fruit and drinks, and we carry away our haul in striped paper bags, feeling like kids about to have a midnight feast.
Despite the fact that there are no set menus or meal times at Foxhill Manor – the chef follows a ‘whatever, whenever’ policy – the other couples staying at the same time as us seemed to be creatures of habit when it comes to dinner time. There was a cheery atmosphere in the 16-seat dining room, which is complete with crackling fireplace. An amuse bouche is trumped by the arrival of hunks of bread with Marmite butter. It’s so good you could eat it with a spoon (and I am not ashamed to admit that I do). The rest of the meal is equally, satisfyingly unfussy. We share each other’s desserts and are having such a good evening that we laugh all the way to the final course at a very cheesy joke (excuse the pun) about mature cheddar.
I sleep a solid 10 hours, which is just what I need. The darkness, the temperature, the bedding – by this point I’m not surprised it’s all just right. In the morning, a click of the iPad results in a smiling member of staff delivering fresh milk and the papers. Appetites whetted by smoothies and Chelsea buns, we tuck into a top-notch full English. Our day continues with a visit to Dormy House’s spa, which is impressive, in an understatedly un-spa-like fashion. It offers a range of treatments by Temple Spa in the Suite of Treats and a decadent Veuve Clicquot champagne nail bar, which looks nothing like any nail bar I’ve ever visited and is all the better for it. The dining/chill-out area has a Scandi-feel, as does the outdoor terrace, which boasts an array of wicker furniture just begging to be lounged on in the summer. The artwork is eclectic and well chosen and, although the spa is technically underground, it’s flooded with light. The infinity pool is just big enough for lengths but I mainly float around before hopping into the Jacuzzi.
Before we leave, we head to postcard-pretty Broadway, just five minutes away by car, to enjoy its famed deli, quaint cafés, homeware shops and local pubs. Drive a bit further to visit some of the loveliest villages and towns in the Cotswolds, including Chipping Campden and Stow-on-the-Wold. Foxhill Manor has hit the nail on the head. I can’t think of a better place to while away a long weekend.