Pubs are an immutable part of British culture and you’ll find some of the country’s finest establishments in the Cotswolds – an 800 square mile area characterised by rolling hills, eponymous stone buildings and pretty market towns. There’s something to suit everyone (and so there should be with all that space), from rustic hostelries that specialise in ale and traditional grub, to the newer breed of chic gastropubs (I’m looking at you Wild Rabbit), and everything else in between.
Thankfully, plenty of these places are within walking or short (responsible) driving distance of some truly excellent places to stay. So, without further ado, pull up a bar stool and order another round, pub-lovers, because here’s where to stay in the Cotswolds.
Thyme, a village style hotel in Southrop – close to Burford, of golden-yolk egg fame – is so much more than a hotel. It’s a passion project, brought into being and overseen to this day by the Hibbert family. Matriarch Caryn is a former doctor and the brainchild behind Thyme’s restoration from agricultural buildings to luxury hotel, spa (which has recently been expanded), cooking school and shop. Her eldest son, Charlie, heads up the seasonal kitchen (there isn’t an avocado in sight) and daughter Camilla is involved in the hotel’s Bertioli brand and much more besides. The Ox Barn restaurant and Baa Bar pay homage to Thyme’s former farm life.
The bedrooms – no two are the same – are scattered across various manor houses, cottages and barns. The pink-hued English Rose room – with its roll-top bath and views of a centuries-old cedar tree and flocks of Cotswold Lion and small, black Welsh Mountain sheep beyond – is my favourite.
Another round please No village is complete without a pub so Thyme has its own, the Swan, due to reopen in June for the first time since lockdown. It’s undergone an extensive refurbishment, but the outstanding food and traditional, cosy pub interiors – low-slung ceiling and an open roaring fire – look set to remain.
LUCKNAM PARK HOTEL & SPA
Lucknam is rare for accommodation of its size, a standalone hotel with no sister properties, but it’s this singular attention to detail that’s made it the Cotswolds stalwart that it is today. The site is historic; records show that a farmhouse existed where the main Palladian-style house now sits more than 1,000 years ago. In fact, the only older place of note nearby is the Roman city of Bath, a 20 minute drive away.
Behind the soft, grey stone facade lie 43 bedrooms in a variety of styles, from the more feminine Country Rooms to the grand and more imposing Junior Suites, befitting of a large country house. A well-tended garden supplies the Michelin-starred kitchen with an enviable amount of veggies and herbs, a beguiling sculpture collection studs the 500-acre grounds and a world class equestrian centre is home to 30 horses. There’s even an equine therapy course on offer.
Another round please It’s hard to miss the Methuen Arms’s imposing frontage on Corsham’s pretty, paved high street, a 15 minute drive from Lucknam, though there’s a strong chance you’ll hear something before you see it – Corsham’s most popular residents are a muster of peacocks.
THE RECTORY HOTEL
The Rectory, in Crudwell, is a more contemporary take on the typical Cotswolds country hotel. Out with the ancestral portraits and swag curtains, in with the moody grey walls, seagrass carpets and squashy velvet sofas. And, with only 18 bedrooms, it all feels more like a private members club.
Its piece de resistance is a toss up between its ever-buzzy bar and the elegant garden, home to beds of lavender, a lily-strewn pond and – uniquely for these parts – a serene, heated swimming pool. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available in the dining room or brick-floored glass house overlooking said garden. Don’t forget to order a cocktail: they’re distractingly good.
The biggest bedroom has a four-poster, super-king bed in it, or there’s a separate cottage with three bedrooms and a log burner, perfect for families or small groups of friends.
Another round please The Potting Shed Pub is within tumbling distance – it also happens to be owned by the hotel’s owners. The interiors here are a little less slick (in a good way of course) – mostly exposed and worn brick walls scattered with framed sepia prints of dogs – and the food a little bit more relaxed. There’s a good selection of ales too.
WILD THYME & HONEY
It might not look like your typical Cotswolds beauty from the outside, but Wild Thyme & Honey (not to be confused with the aforementioned Thyme; clearly it’s a popular herb round here) makes up for it where it counts, on the inside. It’s also so dog friendly that the bar’s prime position, a spot in front of the open fire, is reserved for lucky hounds.
Though it’s situated on the fringes of Cirencester and the Cotswolds itself, the 24 bedrooms and communal areas feel Scandi in style. In the rooms, you’ll find bare board floors, buffed brick walls, mid-century modern desks and felt headboards. In the central courtyard, a stretch awning, a double-sided fire and sheepskin rugs will keep you warm, whatever the weather.
Another round please You’re spoiled for choice here, from the Seven Tuns at Chedworth (the brainchild of promising young chef Tom Conway), to the New Inn at Coln St Aldwyns, feted for its burgers (try the buttermilk ‘Chick-Inn’ version) and craft ales.
DOUBLE RED DUKE
This wisteria-clad, 17th century former inn in Bampton is a design aficionado’s dream, drawing all of its interior inspiration from the textile designer, poet and novelist William Morris, whose former home, Kelmscott Manor, sits nearby. Lots of the walls have been painted olive green, a colour popularised by the Arts and Crafts movement, and there are plenty of indoor plants, a not so subtle nod to Morris’s own long standing affection for botanical prints. And the hotel is setting trends of its own – when it first opened to much fanfare in 2021, the stripy red umbrellas in the garden were an instant Instagram hit.
Where possible, everything has been sourced from British designers: Fermoie fabrics, Lewis & Wood wallpaper and Catchpole & Rye free-standing baths. Each of the 19 bedrooms and bathrooms come stocked with 100 Acre products, an organic Cotswolds-based brand.
You won’t want to miss the food, overseen as it is by two of the UK’s leading meat chefs, Richard Turner and Richard Sandiford, who both sharpened their knives at Hawksmoor. And, if you overeat, nab a pair of Hunter wellies from the line-up next to the front door and work it off on a long walk through the surrounding countryside.
Another round please The Bell Inn in Langford is a 10 minute drive or an hour’s walk from the Duke. It dates back to the 16th century and boasts rustic inglenook fireplaces, but it’s the simple pub grub and locally-sourced game, cooked to perfection, that keeps people coming back for more.
Continue the classiest of pub crawls by exploring our complete collection of Cotswolds hotels