Honestly? I was a tad disappointed when Mr Smith said he’d booked a pub for the weekend. Being seven months pregnant, I was hoping for something luxurious for our last weekend à deux for some time. Turning off the motorway, we swung onto a country road shrouded by dark forest, punctuated with glints of cute, hidden cottages. I wondered if Mr Smith had thought this one through. He knew my litmus test for an overnight stay by now – amazing beds, huge bathtubs, brilliant but unfussy food, and sophisticated but not too try-hard. Could the unassuming-sounding Wheatsheaf Inn deliver?
Perched on bar stools several hours later, encouraging Mr Smith onto his second pint of local ale by a warming log fire, I had to admit he had nailed it. Formerly a coaching inn, beyond the ivy-clad stone façade, Wheatsheaf Inn keeps the same friendly atmosphere I imagine it had when welcoming weary days-gone-by travellers. Original stone flags are suitably worn and roaring hearths keep the pub toasty.
Checking in, squeezed between locals at the bar, was a little more cosy than I had anticipated, but we were ushered into the fold with cheerful banter. Around us other weekend-awayers were crashed out in padded alcoves for wind-down drinks, lively chatter floating in from the two dining rooms flanking the bar. Subdued green walls, exposed Cotswold stone and antique armchairs hemmed in by the low-beamed ceilings conveyed chintz- and clutter-free charm and impeccable taste.
And oh our room! My smile stretched to a broad grin when I spied the most welcome sight in our Excellent Room: a freestanding claw-footed slipper bath. Bath lovers can attest just how exciting little details such as a big pot of bath salts and a stack of plump white towels warming on the rail are. Open-plan, apart from a small room for the loo, opposite the bath is an enormous bed with robust oak headboard. This passed Mr Smith’s super-king test: lying widthways across the bed still leaving plenty of room. Contemporary flair was there too in the dusty pink and grey goose colour scheme, the Lewis & Wood wallpaper and a vast B&O television. (Due to my burgeoning bump the bath stood little chance of accommodating us both, but the all-in-one design of the room ensured an easy bed/tub rotation.)
Dinner in the Wheatsheaf proved a convivial, noisy affair. Huge tea towels masquerade as napkins and foil-wrapped Gloucestershire churned butter accompanies freshly baked bread. Great British fare, but excellently executed: perfectly pink partridge, whole plaice with shrimp butter and an oozing ginger sticky toffee pudding. The wine list, perhaps reflecting the better-heeled clientele stretches into the hundreds.
Waking the next morning I wondered why I couldn’t move. I was just that comfortable. It wasn’t only the Egyptian cotton or the comforting weight of blankets; turns out it was because the beds have Hypnos memory-foam mattresses. The Wheatsheaf Inn has a knack of making guests happy – just as it’s met one set of demands, it throws you a little something extra to really warm the cockles. Mmm… afternoon toast and peanut butter in the snug by the crackling fire… a bowl of gourmet chocolate eggs in the room (perfect with a cuppa)… O-Check Design Graphics notepads to hand. OK – who needs the hotel to have five stars when you've got touches like that?
The village of Northleach, a 500-year-old market town, is well worth a mooch around, with its pretty vaulted church, the bells of which we could hear from our room. It’s what Americans would call ‘quaint’, but lacking the saccharine-sweet chocolate-box veneer that some villages in the Cotswolds have. It’s window-shopping gold too – we found ourselves in the extraordinary Dolls House shop and then in a time-warp emporium selling antique clocks and tiny music boxes.
Back at our 17th-century bolt hole, staff were revving up for the next busy mealtime so we retreated to the sanctuary of our room for another round of baths. We heard the pub door bang repeatedly as hungry customers eagerly arrived, reminding us that the chilled-out Wheatsheaf is not just a Cotswolds boutique hotel but a thriving boozer with a lively atmosphere – and thank goodness for that. It’s the way forward for a relaxed, stylish break. And, as Mr Smith later informed me, the hotel welcomes babies, children and even dogs (the hotel also has its own Labrador, Pudding), perhaps providing the perfect solution for our own growing Smith clan.
We loved the public house feel to it all. Pints of fine ale in the bath, a do-it-yourself Bloody Mary at breakfast, and everyone so smiley. So, you can keep your big country hotels where couples eye other couples over fancy martinis and dine formally in a Michelin-starred dining room, after all. And you can wipe that smug look off your face, Mr Smith.
Anonymously reviewed by Harriet Whiting (Circumnavigating scribe)
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 The Wheatsheaf Inn's guestbook below.
The host, James, was a dream – in fact, all of the staff were attentive, charming and good fun. The food was fantastic, the fires well stocked, and (thank god for good weather in November!) the local countryside was beautiful for our rather novice hiking. Go there today! We could have stayed longer.
Tracy, BlackSmith stayed on 10 Nov 2013
The food was lovely, the ambience is perfect, the staff was really helpful.
The bedroom had a bath but not shower and in hindsight I would have preferred one with a shower. But that's my fault, not the hotel's.
David, SilverSmith stayed on 21 Aug 2013
I loved this place and will definitely be going back. It's got a great location, beautiful garden and stylish interiors, and bedrooms with fabulous bathrooms stocked with lovely aromatherapy products. I spent a leisurely evening drinking cocktails and dining outdoors where there was a buzzy atmosphere and a good mix of locals and visitors. The food was delicious. The best bit, however, was outstanding service from a really friendly team.
Jane, BlackSmith stayed on 24 Jul 2013
I loved every single thing, from the "modern Cotswolds" decor to the amazing restaurant and beautiful garden. Spacious rooms with luxurious claw foot bathtubs. Most comfortable bed of our whole vacation. Perfect location in the Cotswolds to visit many other towns and villages.
The room we stayed in didn't have a closet or wardrobe; be sure to ask for a room with storage if you're going to be there a few days.
Jennifer, BlackSmith stayed on 9 Jul 2013
Really lovely, relaxed yet professional pub in the pretty market town of Northleach. Comfortable rooms, great beds, in-room toiletries were organic and most appreciated by both Smiths. I loved the breakfast – so many nice touches that showed they really thought about guests (gluten-free bread, delicious creamy yogurt, help-yourself bellinis and bloody marys…) Dinner in the evening was equally good – really delicious food and great service, and all done in an effortless way.
Not sure I can think of anything to change – other than having to return home!
Jenny, BlackSmith stayed on 15 Feb 2013 No
This is an exceptionally friendly and welcoming hotel, with a relaxed atmosphere. Our dog was made especially welcome. The food was delicious, the menu was interesting, and the wine list was excellent. Our room was beautifully decorated, as was the bathroom, and the bed was extremely comfortable. The village of Northleach is charming and there is plenty to do and look at. The local inhabitants are exceptionally friendly.
If I had any minor quibbles, it was being woken by the rubbish collection truck and the fact that, had we been staying longer, there really wasn't enough storage or hanging space in the room.
Michele, GoldSmith stayed on 16 Sep 2012
Rowena, SilverSmith stayed on 12 Sep 2012
The food was great: fresh, tasty and good portions; the relaxed ambiance; the in-room toiletries; the spa treatments in the garden shed.
The rooms were a little small with the photos being taken from deceptive angles so they were a bit over-sold. The afternoon tea (which was the Mr & Mrs Smith special offer) had to be requested twice and hunted down and was still accidentally charged to our room. The breakfast should include the cooked options. The car parking was limited on a busy weekend.
Sue, SilverSmith stayed on 25 Aug 2012 Our friends had a baby and stayed in Room 6 which was really too small to put a travel cot into... He ended up on the bathroom floor!
On a particularly cold weekend in March, the roaring fires as we stepped into the Wheatsheaf were so welcome and everything just got better from there. The Wheatsheaf is one of the best Mr & Mrs Smith places we have stayed in so far: a stylish room with copius Bramley products (it was difficult to resist popping them into my bag when we left), delicious food and a great atmosphere. The whole place was busy and lively, even on a Sunday and Monday and booking a table in advance is definately recommended. The Cotswolds has so much to offer but above all, the beautiful villages are the real attraction. A round trip from Northleach taking in the villages of Snowshill Broadway and Winchcombe is one of the best ways to spend a Cotswolds day, especially if you include a visit to Snowshill Manor, Broadway Tower and Sudeley Castle (or all three if you can manage it), combined with lunch at the Market Pantry in Broadway. We will certainly be back for another stay.
Rowena, SilverSmith stayed on 4 Mar 2012
Stayed at the Wheatsheaf Inn to celebrate my birthday – what a wonderful hotel in the glorious Cotswolds. On arrival the hotel bar and restaurant was packed and so buzzy and vibrant it felt as though you were in the heart of a city establishment. Our room had the most amazing modern art and a wonderful en-suite bathroom, with a silver slipper bath – the ideal place for two to share a glass of my favourite champagne, Billecart Salmon. I had a superb dinner that evening and the friendly staff and interior design were amazing. I highly recommend popping into Daylesford Organic farm shop (www.daylesfordorganic.com) nearby, to sample some of Lady Bamford’s organic produce. Cannot wait to return to this fabulous small slice of boutique heaven.
Candyce, GoldSmith stayed on 1 Feb 2012