"The bronze key is for your room and the silver one is for the front door if you come back late. Although there’s not much going on at night around here,” says friendly receptionist Charlotte, as she shows us where the kettle, milk and freshly-baked shortbread are located in our room. What she says doesn’t surprise me. I wasn’t expecting any late-night revelling in the vicinity of The Rectory Hotel, and while Crudwell is lovelier than its name suggests, dotted with stone dwellings bathed in the honey-coloured light of the afternoon sun, it seems like the quintessential sleepy English village.
Bags down, kettle on, feet up. Our spacious, thoughtfully-designed room is an easy blend of comfortable and contemporary, flooded with natural light and stocked with gorgeous Bramley bath products, which are made in Somerset. While I wait for my bath to run, I find the WiFi password on my bedside table. It’s #goforawalkinstead. Right... Message received. I also discover there’s Amazon Prime and Netflix on our TV so conclude the tech-no diktat probably isn’t to be taken too seriously.
A stroll around the neatly-tended grounds reveals the outdoor pool – which must have felt like heaven during last summer’s heatwave – and the Cottage, a self-contained three-bedroom option for exclusive use. It’s a peaceful and pretty setting, perfect for escaping the always-on energy of city life. Inside the hotel, in addition to its 15 bedrooms of varying sizes, communal spaces are filled with open fireplaces, sink-into-me velvet sofas in deep jewel tones, huge windows and covetable worn-in wooden furniture.
It doesn’t take me and my husband long to decide that if we had our own countryside weekend retreat, it would basically look like this. It’s the best kind of homely, with just enough hotel. In fact, if I were a rector with a wife and 14 children – like the building’s former inhabitants – I’d be very appreciative of the numerous nooks and crannies. I’d have ordered several of the most troublesome children to the top floor and basked in relative peace on the ground floor. Unfortunately for the rector, he wasn’t able to take advantage of the small but perfectly formed bar, which manages to feel buzzy despite featuring only three tables to host guests. If you’re dining and feel too hungry to wait for the bread basket, you can order a Before appetiser, such as a cheese and truffle toastie or cod’s roe and brown shrimp choux bun. Save space for an excellent meal, too – expect local produce mouth-wateringly well.
As a perk of the job, the rector would also have enjoyed the proximity of his home to his place of work. God’s house, in Crudwell at least, is visible, and audible, from Room 6. Deep sleepers and those used to London’s night-time symphony won’t have a problem. A light sleeper like me may not be thrilled by sonorous chimes alerting you to the fact that it’s exactly 5.55am and the birds are as awake as you are. I then later discovered 25 guests writing reviews for Mr & Mrs Smith that didn’t even mention the bells – rather, they deemed it “blissfully quiet and relaxing” – so maybe it’s just me. Regardless, the bed is so comfy I have no problem dozing in it for hours, reading the paper – all of it – and finishing a properly English quantity of tea. This is the simple stuff of weekend wake-up bliss. No life admin, no small people demanding attention, no plans, no worries.
We eventually shuffle down to breakfast, which is set up in the conservatory extension that wins full marks for not feeling like a conservatory. The sourdough with avocado, smoked salmon and eggs is predictably delicious, says my husband, and I’m rewarded for my off-piste choice with a fluffy buttermilk waffle with fat juicy berries, a dollop of mascarpone and crunchy granola sprinkled on top. We’re the first down to breakfast, but not alone for long. A procession of familiar-looking couples trickles in – all are dressed in variations of jeans, neutral knits, Converse or Chelsea boots and several of the men have beards. The radio is playing, everyone’s reading the weekend supplements and we hear one woman pipe up with “An oat-milk flat white please”. You can take the Londoners out of London…