I had been warned: May bank-holiday in the Cotswolds would be a disaster. Loads of traffic, loads of people, loads of bare trees.
But bravery pays dividends sometimes. And being nifty does for sure! We discovered the most charming little hotel situated just before the motorway ‘issues’ on the A34 begin.
The Manor at Weston-on-the-Green is exactly what you would hope for from a historic country house – lovely honey stone, turrets, and a gorgeous garden. The place positively reeks of history; not surprising as its story began at the time of the Norman Conquest. And the size is right, just 25 rooms and many small, private sitting rooms. Like a luxurious home, not a hotel.
And instead of the sometimes starchy welcome in historic hotels, the Manor has a team of young, enthusiastic people who are happy to make your stay the best they can deliver. When I flooded the bathroom in a foolish bath move, they were at hand with towels, buckets, and a smile. (I have been sniffed at for less in grander places.) It was a great joy to find a hotel that actually truly wants to look after you.
Our room could not have been nicer. The four-poster bed in a totally oak panelled room made me feel like the Queen who once stayed in this Manor. Elizabeth I came here to repair the injustice done to the D’Oyly family by her father, Henry VIII. The spirit of this formidable lady is still in the house, especially in the lovely Baronial Hall where breakfast is served. This wonderful room has an intricately designed and exposed oak-timbered under-roof, oak panelled walls, and a Minstrel’s gallery. It has views to a garden so stocked with topiary you feel as if you, too, could amble out there like an extra in the old Greenwood film, The Draughtsman’s Contract. Cool elegance!
That the garden within the former moat is a bit wild in places could be by intention or just the beginning of the season, but we actually liked it not being too manicured in places. Looking through a gate clad with a bit of rust makes the old house look it’s true age, believably beautiful.
The restaurant is also of a size that makes you feel at ease instantly. You have room to talk and enjoy your food, not the general din we have in London all the time nowadays. It’s good for the soul to look out at the many bunnies playing on the lawn. And if you fancy a change of style, the hotel also runs a very smart pub just a minute’s walk away, the Black Sheep, with delicious food at reasonable prices.
But then, of course, we wanted to explore a bit, and got stuck in the infamous traffic approaching the roadworks on the A34 towards Oxford. Had we listened to advice from the lovely Reception Manager, we would have gone the scenic route through the backroads. This is what we did on the return and the countryside was amazing, even in this late spring. Tuscany beware! If you go ‘off piste’ like that and take little winding country roads to Upper Wychwood, Wilton Wychwood, Shipton Wychwood and Whichever other Woods you find, you will see the Cotswolds at their best.
On May Bank Holidays, places like Woodstock and Bourton-on-the Water really off limits; too many people kill the genteel atmosphere. But staying away from it all can be this easy. And seeing the fresh green everywhere, woodland with thousands of bluebells, blossoming cherry trees, huge rapeseed fields like golden carpets … even a short weekend can make you feel so much better.