Whatley Manor Hotel and Spa, Malmesbury
Muddy says: Looking for a Cotswold retreat where you can leave the world behind? Whatley Manor Hotel and Spa aces every base.
Whatley Manor may be a luxury, 17th-century, Grade II-listed country manor house in a knockout Cotswold setting, but it’s got no airs and graces – in fact when you go to stay, eat, hang out in the spa or just visit the stunning gardens, you feel like you’re visiting a beautiful private home not an über luxe hotel (though it’s that too, obv), which makes it possibly one of the nicest places to visit in the world. (Yes, Muddy LOVES Whatley!)
The 15 rooms and six suites are all individually decorated – no cookie-cutter approach to design here – and furnished with an eclectic mix of antiques, contemporary pieces and international art. Tip: try and bagsie one with views of the gardens and field below that slopes down to the river. (If you’ve seen the 1971 film The Go-Between, that’s what it’ll put you in mind of – bucolic English countryside basically.) There are 26 distinctive gardens in the 12 acres, many based on the original plans from the 1920s, the heyday of garden design.
The food, meanwhile, is also AMAZING. Executive chef of The Dining Room Niall Keating won a Michelin star in 2017 for his take on modern British food, which throws in flavours from Korea, Japan and France. The tasting menu is a sublime odyssey of the taste buds. And for a more casual bite to eat, the newly refurbished Grey’s Brasserie is perfect for a mid-week lunch, Sunday brunch or just a yummy comfort meal, while The Green Room with a chef cooking theatre in the round is the ultimate party venue with its ostrich leather walls and bar.
And when you’ve done eating, sleeping and luxuriating in the mellow vibes of the gardens, the hotel’s impossibly lovely Aquarias Spa will take you even closer to heaven. There’s a hydrotherapy pool complete with airbed, air tub, neck massage jets and air bench; a tepidarium with heated stone recliners; salt scrub and experience showers; thermal cabins including a calidarium, steam grotto, laconium and sauna; a wave dream sensory room; a VIP suite complete with its own hydrobath; and a gym with fitness classes by arrangement (personal training, tai-chi, pilates and yoga classes on specific evenings in the spa lounge). Plus, if you need some serious pampering, you can have a facial in the spa’s exclusive Natura Bissé Bubble Suite, a 99.995% pure environment which provides next level plumping, rejuvenating and purifying.