It's hard to think about the Cotswolds without conjuring an image of countryside idyll – filled with quaint villages, undulating hills and pure, unadulterated British charm. This vast expanse is a designated region of outstanding natural beauty and lies mainly within the counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, extending to parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire.
A jewel in the Cotswolds crown is Thyme, a luxurious countryside retreat complete with chic bedrooms, spa, award-winning restaurant and cookery school. So why not pack your bags, leave the city woes behind and discover the beauty of the Cotswolds for yourself?
What's the draw?
If there is such a thing as ‘Cotswolds-core’, Thyme is the poster girl. It’s a conurbation of 17th-century honey-stoned barns, cottages and outbuildings set in the idyllic town of Southrop, which has been transformed into an eco-chic hotel by obstetrician and designer Caryn Hibbert. Complete with restaurant, bar, cookery school, spa, boutique, craft classes, kitchen gardens and resident sheep, it is a village within a village. There is a sense that no expenses have been spared in the beautifully devised restoration: each of the 31 bedrooms have been decorated in meticulous detail, complete with botanical themes, hand-painted Bertioli upholsteries, lavish curtains and roll-top baths. Run as a family business with Hibbert’s children Milly (general manager) and Charlie (chef director) you cannot help but reflect on your own familial strife and sit in awe that Thyme operates with such harmony, creativity and unwavering efficiency.
What to eat?
If it weren’t for the throng of craft classes, wellness activities and spa treatments, Thyme could position itself solely as a gastronomic getaway. The main restaurant, The Ox barn, resides in a superbly restored barn complete with a bordered herringbone ceiling and venerable 53ft beams. The restaurant is led by Hibbert’s son Charlie, a chef with culinary heritage at Quo Vadis and a keen interest in seasonal, ingredient-led cooking. The food here is earthy, comforting and delicious, with much of the produce sourced from the kitchen garden, local suppliers and Thyme’s woolly residents. With the aid of a beautiful menu illustrated by Caryn, feast your way through zesty salads, braised meats, chunky rillettes, cheese plates and proper British puds.
What to do?
The calendar of seasonally inspired ‘happenings’ at Thyme is crammed with deeply therapeutic creative activities taught by masters in their field. From cooking classes, floristry and ceramics to sound ceremonies and pilates, get ready to discover your latest hobby. For those who want to unwind, the Meadow Spa and Botanical Bothy are the perfect places to pamper – complete with a Hammam-style wet room, side-by-side soaking tubs, daybeds and treatments using the cult probiotic skin range, Aurelia.