Worth getting out of bed for
Active country pursuits abound here, from walking to cycling, horseriding, tennis, rock climbing, golf, exceptional fishing and water sports (at the Cotswolds Water Park on South Cerney Lakes), all of which can be organised by your hosts. For riding, trot to Talland School of Equitation (talland.net), near Cirencester. Clay-pigeon and game shooting are a blast, too, with sessions for all levels and regular competitions to test the best. Try Ian Coley Shooting School (www.iancoleysporting.co.uk), near Cheltenham, or one of the private estates recommended by the Wheatsheaf crew.
To unwind after, book a massage or facial in the spa treatment room by the garden. Mr Smiths are well catered for, with chilled-out grooming options (one of the therapists, Damon, is the stylist for Morrissey when he's on tour – and he's also shaved the English cricket and rugby teams). The Wheatsheaf is also starting a cinema club from November 2011 for guests and locals, screening an arthouse movie every Sunday.
History buffs can check out various stately piles within an hour's drive, including Sudeley Castle (www.sudeleycastle.co.uk) and Blenheim Palace (www.blenheimpalace.com), or ask the hotel team to arrange private tours of one of the glam gardens in the area. Northleach is also brilliantly placed for missions to the heritage-toting, grey-stone Cotswolds towns of Chipping Campden, Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water and Moreton-in-Marsh. Cheltenham's Everyman Theatre (www.everymantheatre.co.uk) should amuse the thespians.
Closer to home, the Wheatshelf keeps up a busy calender of wine, beer, cocktail and champagne tastings, dining deals and sports events, as well as celebrating everything from New Year's Eve to Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night. If you'd rather just relax, laid-back types can luxuriate in the landscaped beer garden, where Cotswolds-green picnic tables, striped deck chairs, sunloungers and a tiny walled nook for sneaky pints beckon.
Sunday lunch is a must at gastropub the Horse & Groom in Bourton-on-the Hill (+44 (0)1386 700 413; www.horseandgroom.info). It's bagged awards for its regularly changing menu, which runs the gamut from rib-eye steak to beer-battered hake. A brill bistro by the owners of the Wheatsheaf Inn, The Royal Well Tavern on 5 Royal Well Place in Cheltenham dishes up modern British and French tavern fare, with a focus on fresh local seafood and meats (+44 (0)1242 221 212; www.theroyalwelltavern.com).
The Village Pub in Barnsley near Cirencester (+44 (0)1285 740 421; www.thevillagepub.co.uk) and The Swan at Southrop (+44 (0)1367 850 205; www.theswanatsouthrop.com) are both smart bets for sipping a pint in stylish surrounds, with tasty food options to see off that hangover. Overlooking the main square in Northleach, The Ox House Wine Bar has about 20 wines available by the glass, a cosy wood-lined interior and an airy courtyard outside, leading to a handy Wine Barn shop (+44 (0)1451 860 649; www.oxhousewines.com).
A top tip for simple food done well is restaurant, café and deli Made by Bob in The Corn Hall, 26 Market Place in Cirencester, which serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea (+44 (0)1285 641 818; www.foodmadebybob.com). Chef/owner James 'Bob' Parkinson uses quality ingredients, and the London culinary vibe here keeps folk coming back for more. Don't miss hybrid café, farm produce shop, and chic garden and homewares boutique, Daylesford Farmshop & Café (+44 (0)1608 731 700; www.daylesfordorganic.com). Set on a Gloucestershire organic farm, it also has outlets in London, and blends impeccable style with gorgeous sustenance.