I’ve visited the Cotswolds twice before many years ago, but it’s the kind of place that lingers with you long after your trip. Rolling elegantly across not one but six English counties, the thatch-roofed cottages, rickety almshouses and ancient mansions of honey-coloured stone are the kind of sights you don’t forget in a hurry. Springtime – before the summer crowds arrive and when fresh greenery, colourful wildflowers and playful lambs fill the long stretches of unspoiled landscapes – is arguably the best time to make a return visit. We decided to stay at the historic boutique hotel The Wood Norton, and explore in a quintessentially English convertible Morgan car to renew memories of the chocolate-box pretty area…
The Wood Norton is a perfectly preserved and beautifully presented Grade II listed hotel. Once a hunting lodge, a home for exiled European Royalty, a listening post during the Cold War and more recently a Doctor Who filming location, the extraordinary hotel is all dark wooden panelling, large open fireplaces, immaculate gardens and ornate balconies taking advantage of the beautiful surrounding vistas. With more than a whiff of aristocratic nostalgia, it’s the kind of place that satisfies a lust for all things historic and ornate….and satiates a restless romantic soul. It’s also a place where you know has a story – or two – to tell.
Offering 50 rooms and five spectacular suites, a restaurant using the finest local produce, a contemporary bar and alfresco dining terrace, the hotel seamlessly fuses historic features with modern luxuries. We stayed in the grandest suite which came with a separate living area, a huge sprawling bedroom and sizeable marble-clad bathroom complete with a sumptuous Turkish style bath and a two-person rain shower. Brimming with both character and impressive original features, from the moment I walked through the door I felt like I was transported back into a time of hat-tipping gents and corseted ladies.
The gentle limestone hills that make up the Cotswolds are astoundingly photogenic, dotted with a string of suspended-in-time, story book-villages and crisscrossed by a network of long-distance tracks and picturesque lanes, offering the perfect antidote to smoggy, fast-paced city life. In an area teeming with history and nostalgia, there was no better way to explore than in an iconic Morgan – a truly beautiful classic car handcrafted by a team of dedicated local artisans.
Over two days we carved our way through the idyllic countryside and satisfied hunger pangs in traditional tea shops, wandered into churches decorated with beautiful carvings, negotiated precarious-looking fords, supped real ale in wood-beamed pubs, scaled rolling green hills and an imposing Gothic Folly and basked in the waves and nods of road-side admiration (there’s a lot of love out there for convertible Morgans)!
In the forty-eight hours we’d managed to squeeze in local highlights such as Moreton-in-the Marsh, Stow-the Wold, nearby Evesham, Broadway (known as the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds), and Upper and Lower Slaughter – two impossibly gorgeous villages which have strayed into the 21st century from another era.
Eventually, it was time to leave the dreamlike haze of honeycomb villages and spring-fresh fields behind and head back to London, once again the Cotswolds had worked its magic…