You’ll pass by impossibly pretty honey-hued cottages, pink roses nodding at the door. You’ll meander past idyllic rolling hills, the likes of which are normally painted in children’s books. This is the Cotswolds, with its world-famous chocolate-box appeal making it one of the most visited – and traditional – corners of England.
When it comes to innovative places to stay, Farncombe Estate is upping the ante. The 400-acre expanse is already home to some of the country’s most characterful and impeccable boutique hotels – Dormy House, Foxhill Manor and The Fish. Known for their combined luxury facilities, which include an outstanding spa, fine cuisine and beautifully-curated interiors, these are the ultimate addresses to stay if you are after a romantic break a deux, or perhaps a grown-up weekend with good food, long walks and fresh air thrown in.
While children are readily welcomed at all properties, Farncombe has expanded its offering to families and friends, with a more relaxed option of newly renovated private homes to stay in. The launch of Hillside Hangouts is, in part, a response to the rising trend of people wanting to take multi-generational breaks and groups of friends wanting to reconnect. The collection of two holiday homes – known as The Hoot and The Nook – in the grounds of the estate, offers a relaxed yet luxury stay for those not wanting the confines of a hotel stay. The range of properties on offer is also set to be expanded soon.
At the Hoot, a sprawling home with seven bedrooms, which sleeps 16 guests, the fun-factor has been sewn into its seams. Contemporary décor and modern facilities mean that both adults and children are kept happy.
Out on the terrace, there’s a bubbling hot tub, table tennis table and large BBQ. On the top floor, meanwhile, there’s a huge lounge, squidgy sofas and an atmospheric log burner. A state-of-the-art surround-sound TV means this is the perfect spot for film nights all together.
Downstairs, the stylish kitchen-diner has a Scandi-feel with the smart, navy-blue cabinets offset by mustard-coloured dining chairs and a blonde wood table – large enough to seat 16. Le Creuset dishes and crystal glasses mean that the finer details have not been overlooked and the cheerful space means that fun-fuelled meals are easy to organise.
Throughout the house, there are also plenty of cosy nooks and tucked-away corners so nowhere feels cramped and everyone can find space – essential when staying in a large group.
The series of bedrooms are found across the two floors and are nicely spaced out. Giving nods to the local area are the hand-crafted bed-throws made by the Cotswold Woollen Weavers, found in Lechlade. In fact, the woven textiles, contemporary lighting and cosy tweaks mean that each room oozes the essence of hygge. There are sheepskin throws, velvet cushions and charming nature-inspired wallpapers – featuring botanical motifs, owls and trees. In fact, a Danish family has owned the estate for over four decades and you can feel the Nordic influence throughout the new venture. Adding to what feels like an upscale hotel vibe, each bedroom has its own ensuite bathroom with French-style tiling, some with stand-alone tubs and walk-in rain showers.
Thoughtful touches are scattered throughout the house – so you feel like it is more a home than just a homestay. There’s freshly-baked shortbread in the kitchen, a boot-room stocked with wellies should you want to ramble across the fields, an office space should you need to work and the kitchen even has two dishwashers, so no one gets stuck on washing up duty. Coffee-machines, soft towels – and plenty of them – and even retro arcade games mean that everything has been brilliantly thought out.
While guests can access the restaurants at the hotels, should they wish, self-catering is made super-easy with ‘hospitality boxes’ that you can order up from a specially-designed menu. There are ingredients so you can create a cheese and wine evening; a movie-night box, filled with pick ‘n’ mix sweets, snacks and popcorn. BBQ boxes are stocked with locally-sourced produce – from butcher’s sausages to chef-made salads. You can also elevate your stay by ordering in a lobster in garlic butter, or perhaps moules mariniere – both come with frites and crusty French bread. Hand-made by the hotel chefs, you can also order prepared meals, such as the thinnest, crispiest pizzas, indulgent fish pie and delicious macaroni cheese, not forgetting pavlova and crumbles for dessert. For breakfasts, you can order in a continental option – with pastries, yoghurt and granola; or a full-English which is a feast of farm-sourced produce.
For lunches out or nights-off, The Lodge – which is the hub of The Fish hotel – is just steps away. In the bar area, you can order from a family-friendly menu, featuring wood-fired pizzas, salads and burgers. For something more ‘grown-up’ there’s The Hook, which focuses on seafood – with lemon sole and shrimps, oysters and fritto misto all ready to be devoured.
Adding a bespoke touch, so you never feel ‘forgotten’ about, each home also comes with a host, who seamlessly organises your food deliveries – and even private chefs to cook for you – as well as any activities you might want to book on the estate. From archery to axe-throwing, falconry to clay-shooting, you can take advantage of a range of country pursuits, led by local experts. Ideal if you are holidaying in a group with varied ages, these prove to be wholly bonding.
Of course, this is also the perfect base from which to explore the beauty on your doorstep. Nearby is Broadway, impossibly pretty and a 30-minute walk from the estate. Note: coming home is uphill so you might not want to over-indulge with the shopping. Or you can pootle around nearby scenic towns such as Burford or Bourton-on-the-Water.
AS well as a 2km nature trail through the estate, walking paths are everywhere in this part of the world, including the epic Cotswold Way, a 100-mile trail which you can tap into. You’ll pass historic country pubs, limestone villages and meandering farmland – made all the more tempting, by the thought that you will return to the ultimate cosy home, This is what halcyon days are made of.