In a past life (not so long ago, just a little different to this one) I was a Travel Editor. Which, to answer the question everyone asked was, Yes, it was the best job in the world (although don’t shoot me – I never stayed in places for longer than 3 nights, was paid a pittance and jet lag is still jet lag, no matter how beautifully it’s packaged). The downside however, is that it has made me incredibly picky when it comes to hotels. It’s not about cost – nothing thrills me more than discovering a brilliant, gorgeous, thoughtful hotel for under £100 a night – but it is about showing a little imagination, a lot of care and making you, the guest, feel special for staying there. Which is why I fell completely head over in heels in love with Barnsley House in Gloucestershire. So much thought, care and consideration has been poured into this place, that you know the minute you walk in the door that you’re in hotel heaven.
There are 16 rooms. All of them gorgeous. Our room was especially divine. So gorgeous in fact, that we both talked for hours about how we’d love our room at home to be exactly like this. Obviously, a huge beamed bedroom with gorgeous ensuite bathroom in the eaves of a former manor house is a little hard to recreate in a London terrace, but still – I can dream. The beams, the bed (sooo comfy), the space, the beautiful, beautiful bathroom where you could lie in the bath and watch TV…it was utter heaven. My husband thinks it was his favourite hotel room ever. And coming from the partner-in-crime of a former travel writer, this says a lot….
The food was also sublime. We did the double – ie breakfast at Barnsley House (great coffee, mini pain au chocolat and eggs to die for) and dinner at The Village Pub, Barnsley’s sister pub just a short stroll down the road. Packed to the rafters (always a good sign) the food was ridiculously delicious. I like things simple but packing a punch, which is exactly what my grilled mackerel salad with new potatoes and bacon proved to be. While the sticky toffee pudding was every bit as good as my old-school dessert craving called for…Oh! And the scones. How could I forget the scones? I seem to have developed a habit of indulging in tea and scones whenever I go to a hotel (all for research, of course) – they were di-vine…..
I’m not going to make any pretence about knowing anything about gardening, but I will say that even a novice city-dweller like me will be awed by the gardens at Barnsley House. They are, in fact, what the hotel is famed for. Designed by Rosemary Verey in the late 50s, they are quite simply sublime. The top picture was the view from our window.
With a hotel so small you wouldn’t necessarily expect a spa. But, that’s another thing that makes this hotel so great – the extra touches – the spa, the cinema room, the Village Pub – all amazing. Hidden away at the bottom of the garden (so you just have to walk through and explore them), the spa is wonderful. Not only was my Rodial facial amazing (my skin literally glowed for days), but the relaxation room is probably the most relaxing i’ve ever stepped in. Darkened, except for a screen playing images of softly swaying grass, I would have slept there if my room wasn’t so darn gorgeous…
The thing is ALL of Barnsley House is gorgeous. And I say that in a hand on heart, I would go back in a flash kind of way. As well as the rooms, the spa, the gardens and the food, it was all about the vibe of the place. Vibe. Just what is that? Well, I think it’s what sets one perfectly nice hotel apart from a really great one. The real, truthfully warm welcome when we arrived. The perfect Parisian-esq lounge music playing in the tiny bar at night, the complimentary wifi and newspapers (i’m a sucker for those things), the way you were made to feel as if you were the most important guests in the world. All so easy when you see it written down on paper, but all so rare in practice.
Go: With your husband/boyfriend/mother/girlfriend for a truly relaxing and spoiling break. And if you like the idea of Barnsley House, but want to bring the family, do check out Calcot Manor, Barnsley House’s other sister hotel. We visited earlier this year and I honestly think it’s the best family-friendly (and properly family-friendly with amazing children’s rooms and facilities) hotel in the UK. Rooms at Barnsley House from £280 a night.