Cowley Manor, a grade 2 listed Italianate manor in Gloucestershire, was built in 1855 and belonged to the Horlicks family. It is now a contemporary luxury hotel with 30 bedrooms, set within 55 acres of glorious gardens. It is here that Charles Dodgson met a little girl called Alice. Inspired by her and the fantastical grounds he wrote, under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Hubby and I arrived at 2pm on a sunny Sunday. We were too early to check into our room, so we walked through the modern and quirkily designed reception, bar and lounge (oak panelling, cowhide seats, paper mache ‘stuffed’ animal heads on the wall) to have lunch on the terrace. We sat overlooking the tiered luscious lawn, which was sprinkled with daisies and laughing children playing croquet, and looked out at the twinkling lakes and the great sweeps of majestic trees. In the distance I could see couples enjoying picnics on sun loungers. Waiters delivered cocktails to those reclining on Fat Boy beanbags. As I don’t have friends in the aristocracy, or hang around with oil bazillionaires, I’ve never been able to sit as a guest and enjoy sumptuous surroundings like these. It was like staying in a National Trust property that had been given a Living Etc makeover. An array of brightly coloured Hunter wellies are provided for guests to go exploring.
We ordered lunch. A fish finger sandwich and triple cooked chips for me, and a crayfish sandwich for Hubby. A crayfish salad arrived, which Hubby, ever the diplomat, decided he’d keep. My fish finger sandwich showed up too, but no chips. A couple of minutes passed so I enquired after my potato snacks and asked for some ketchup. A further 10 minutes passed, during which my sauce-less sandwich grew cold, and the only chip I had was the one growing on my shoulder. Was this turning into Angela’s adventures in blunderland?
Flustered, friendly apologies, ketchup and some incredible tasting chips arrived from the kitchen and my hunger grumps were satiated. Cowley Manor threw off this shaky start and went from strength to strength for our two night stay.
We stayed in room 22, which is classified by Cowley Manor’s own rating system as “great”. It was huge. We had a small island for a bed, more designer armchairs, a desk, and enough electronic toys – flatscreen, iPod dock, CD/DVD player – to keep Hubby entertained. The minibar was stocked with a range of high-end treats, including popcorn and candyfloss in case you wanted a movie night. The bathroom housed two sinks, a cavernous bath surrounded by plentiful products, and a walk-in shower that was bigger than my entire en suite at home.
We walked to the local, The Green Dragon, for supper the first night (more traditional pub grub than gastro, it’s a beautiful building with roaring fires, lovely staff and good value food). And we ate in Cowley Manor’s main restaurant, next to the window, overlooking the twilight gardens, on our second night. Locally sourced, fresh produce was cooked and served by knowledgeable staff. Tasty, without being mind blowing the food should easily satisfy most foodies. The cocktail and wine list also went down well.
During the day we hung out at the beautiful and modern C-Side Spa. A little bit of Ibiza in the Cotswolds. There’s an inside and an outside pool, and you can order drinks and food. I indulged further with a massage and a facial, both of which were exceptional. The skilled therapists dealt with what can be a tricky customer (me) with confidence and calm. I’d recently suffered the double blow of a neck dislocation and a rash caused by the hormone fight back my body had launched, but the therapists managed to sooth and repair me to my former self. Well worth the money.
As we sipped our wine, and played board games in the lounge that overlooked the lantern lit lawns I knew we’d be back. Hell, I’d move in if I could.
Cowley Manor: magnificently modern manor living. More please. 5/5
View Cowley Manor’s site here.