This review of Lower Slaughter Manor in Gloucestershire is taken from our guidebook Mr & Mrs Smith: Hotel Collection – UK/Ireland Volume 2.
I had my first afternoon at Lower Slaughter Manor in the Cotwolds all worked out: we’d arrive, explore, potter, drink tea – and then I’d let the pampering commence. Except, my in-room facial and pedicure was supposed to start half an hour ago, and we were still stuck in a tailback in the wrong county, with temperatures rising and blood boiling. When we’d set off from home, it had been the kind of glorious, early summer day on which, if you’re not careful, you burn your driving arm on the sunny side. Mr Smith scalded his. ‘Lower Slaughter’ – a name that was already proving strangely apt, thanks to the en-route limb reddening.
A hint of Hammer House of Horror isn’t an obvious element in the name of a boutique-hotel getaway. But thankfully, images of horror-movie carnage are the last thing to spring to mind as you crunch up the 18th-century coach house’s sweeping gravel drive. The imposing country manor, which overlooks a gentle curve in the dreamy River Eye, has got that tranquillity thing down to a T, with its bowling-green perfect lawn, ancestral chestnut and beech trees, and walled gardens dotted with statues, old climbing roses and gnarly fruit trees.
I don’t know why I’d got so hot and bothered about being late; nobody else was. Check-in is a seamless affair and Mr Smith barely gets a chance to dump his suitcase in our room before he’s banished with his book to make way for the pre-booked therapist, who has managed to rearrange her schedule so she can make my pain go away. A few calming, soothing moments later, the garden doors are open, and I’m zoning out with a lavender-and-mint-scented zephyr wafting over me from the walled garden outside. The only thing that breaks my trance is a low, rhythmic grunting sound. Which – quelle horreur – I realise is me. Snoring.
Still, I’m in the perfect position to check out the decor. Lower Slaughter Manor rocks the classic country-house-chic look, but with enough contemporary flourishes to knock any suggestion of fuddy-duddiness on the head. I mentally tick off my list of requirements: luxe drapery in opulent fabrics – yup. Sexy aubergine and taupe colour scheme – check. Enormous, Princess-and-the-Pea-sized bed – can’t miss it. Knock-out bathroom? I think the freestanding claw-foot bath and the wet room have got that covered. All that, and an abundance of scatter cushions. You get the feeling that if you were to fall, you’d never be too far from something soft and squishy to bounce you back up again. Oh yes, I’m feeling to the manor born and, on discovering the complimentary decanter of sherry, come over all Penelope Keith. Mr Smith, on the other hand, is busy eyeing up the enormous flatscreen plasma TV, the free WiFi and iPod-ready stereo. Men really are from Mars.
But the best was yet to come. I don’t know how we missed it but, tucked inside our private, walled garden is a huge hot tub, complete with sparkly lights for added LA-style glamour. It’s a shame I hadn’t known it was there, otherwise I’d have brought my bikini. (Well, a shame for anyone in the room upstairs that happens to glance down upon us as I dive in, sans swimwear.)
All pampered and hot-tubbed, I’m sorely in need of a pre-dinner reviver. With no main bar, drinks are served in lounges, all stuffed full with antique furniture, gilt-framed paintings and dominated by enormous log fireplaces. It feels like we’ve wandered, unchallenged, into a gentleman’s club in Piccadilly – only without the cigar smoke and old boys.
We sip our aperitifs and pore over the dinner menu which, as well as your old-school favourites (smoked salmon, Châteaubriand, tarte tatin), also has your contemporary classics (Gloucestershire Old Spot, line-caught sea bass). Appetites suitably whetted, we head through to the chocolate-brown dining room, where hushed conversations are punctuated by the chink of crystal goblet and the scrape of chunky silver on fine bone china. It’s the kind of experience that would make any girl feel special. Breakfast is served in the same room. But, come morning, we discover that the daylight has transformed Lower Slaughter’s dining room into an airy, sunny space with engaging views of the gardens, which are a perfect blend of formal and cottage planting.
I’d love to report that we worked off the calories of our full English breakfasts by getting up at dawn for a canter across dewy fields, before fitting in a round of golf at the local 18-hole course. We do at least talk about a spot of tennis. But then we get held up pootling about in Chipping Norton, where we end up eating slabs of home-made chocolate cake and people-watching outside the charming, independent Jaffe and Neale bookshop and café. The combination of sedate pace, country air and obscene amounts of carbohydrate has rendered us good for not much other than sighing happily and eating more cake.
We meander back through the kind of green and pleasant picture-perfect scenes that calendar salesmen make fortunes from. Enamoured of the country life, I even sneak a look in a few local estate agents’ windows and innocently mention to self-confessed, die-hard townie Mr Smith that, if the Young Farmers need any (not-so-young) recruits, I’d like to be considered. If it hadn’t been such an incredibly romantic escape, I think my comment might have earned me the kind of reaction that would make Lower Slaughter live up to its name after all…
Anonymously reviewed by Mr & Mrs Smith
Whenever you book a stay at a Mr & Mrs Smith, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what real-life guests had to say in Lower Slaughter Manor's guestbook below.
The hotel looks beautiful on the outside the inside. Room (suite) was perfect for us and meant we could use it to relax in as well as sleep. Free sherry a nice (if a little old fashioned) touch! Food was fantastic; we loved the breakfast choices. Best of all however is the service: attentive, personal and dedicated. Loved it.
The dining room needs to have pillars or be redesigned as in the evening there is no ambience; you feel you have to whisper!
Nikki, BlackSmith stayed on 25 Oct 2013
Lovely hotel; we had a beautiful room; staff members all very helpful at all times. We got engaged so it will be a special place for us.
Mark, BlackSmith stayed on 27 May 2013
I went to the hotel with my sister and brother in law and had a wonderful time. The staff was very attentive and gave us numerous suggestions on where to go and what to see. We will return
It was all great.
darwin, BlackSmith stayed on 20 May 2013
We were upgraded on arrival to a beautiful suite (Antoinette) where we enjoyed our complimentary half bottle of champagne. The staff couldn't have been more helpful or pleasant; the food was superb (eight-course taster menu at £85 per head – absolutely fantastic) and the ambiance was very relaxing. We loved it!
Nothing – everything was just right!
Sandra, BlackSmith stayed on 25 Aug 2012 No - it was a treat for our honeymoon.
This was a little weekend trip with my mum and my grandmother. It was a perfect girls' weekend getaway and a short drive from London. The pictures of the hotel online don't do it justice – it's beautiful inside and out and the service is just wonderful.
Gwen, GoldSmith stayed on 18 Aug 2012
Very friendly and attentive staff - the manager even helped us with our boot selection for a walk.
Danielle, SilverSmith stayed on 17 Aug 2012
Stunning – absolutely loved it, was a really perfect get away from London. Service was excellent, as was all food in the restaurant. Nice touch with the Dubarry wellies at the door and loads to do in the area.
Marzena, SilverSmith stayed on 5 Jun 2012
How stunning when you pull into the drive! The reception staff were very helpful – with no need to ask for assistance they took the bags from the car. We were upgraded and had chilled champagne waiting in the room. We did find the set of steps – required to get into the four-poster bed – a little alarming; but once we were inside the bed was very comfortable. The food was well cooked and presented, but not totally to our taste. On the second day the staff were very attentive in wishing my wife a happy birthday.
Ray, SilverSmith stayed on 29 May 2012
Come to Lower Slaughter for unashamed luxury and relaxation. This is a place where you can just feel at home. Lounge in front of the fire reading a book, drinking wine or afternoon tea; wander out for a stroll or muster up the energy for a game of tennis. Food and service in the hotel were both terrific. A easy walk into Bourton on the Water along the stream would be our recommendation for a leg-stretch and a pint of local ale – we were disappointed that the bar opposite the hotel had nothing local.
Susanna, BlackSmith stayed on 14 Apr 2012