Barnsley House Hotel & Spa, Cotswolds, United Kingdom

Think of the Cotswolds. What springs to mind? Quintessentially British countryside dotted with quaint villages and charming cottages? Cream tea with scones and jam set up beside a roaring fireplace? Undulating fields, misty mornings and wellington boots? Four miles away from the undeniably beautiful historic town of Cirencester – also known as ‘the heart of the Cotswolds’ – you’ll find all of that and more at Barnsley House Hotel & Spa.

The Hearth, Barnsley House. (Photographer credit - Mark Bolton)smSet above a sloping landscaped lawn, the hotel is surrounded by four acres of formal gardens and boundless rolling hills. A member of the Calcot Collection – which also owns the nearby Calcot Manor Hotel & Spa, Barnsley House is a hats-off country retreat merging traditional character with just enough minimalist, modern style.

Born of honey-hued Cotswold stone, the 17th century manor house stands proud in its much-celebrated gardens. From 1952 and for nearly 50 years thereafter, it was home to Rosemary Verey, a famed garden designer, lecturer and prolific garden writer – who focused her skills on this land to critical acclaim. Inside the house, there are just 18 guest rooms, each one individually decorated in a classic combination of English country style and contemporary comforts in primarily muted tones of caramel, cream and warm gray. From homely stable yard rooms to the secluded secret garden suite with its own private access, there’s something to suite every wish.

Ours is one of three deluxe garden rooms, with a four-poster bed, a lounge area with a writing desk, a fireplace, and windows on two sides looking over the landscape. Some rooms are framed with feature wooden beams, others with embedded stone fireplaces and mullion windows; all include en-suite bathrooms with fragrant Aromatherapy Associates products. The bathroom is perhaps the best part of all: a huge minimalist space with wooden floors, two cast iron baths side by side and an enormous rainforest shower.

There are two options for dining: first, The Potager restaurant, an intimate space with lit fireplaces, exposed wood and excellent yet comfortably informal service. Food here is classic British fare served with an honest touch, full flavor and refined presentation. There’s a focus on local produce, and a delicious garden plate that uses seasonal vegetables picked fresh from Barnsley’s gardens. Across the road lies the Village Pub, also owned by the Calcot Collection, which offers diners an alternative option (and let’s face it – a staple in British culture), for a livelier affair with equally good, homely dishes.

A word on the spa: small, but perfectly formed. A sweep of glass walkways bordered with Cotswold stone and framed with wooden beams leads to a cozy relaxation room filled with comfortable sofas and candles. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer far reaching rural views, while outside, a pretty courtyard features a fire pit with surround seating and a heated hydrotherapy pool, perfect for chilly days. The overall effect is organic, serene and encourages a connection to nature.

Other features of the hotel include a fully-fledged cinema, a helipad for stylish arrivals and a tennis court, as well as bikes to borrow for exploring the local area. Reception has walking maps to hand and can arrange picnics, horse-back riding, hot air ballooning, fishing and clay pigeon shooting.