Smith Awards 2018 Best-Dressed Runner-Up

Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

Artist Residence Oxfordshire

Rates per night from$106.54

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (GBP83.33), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Country pub redub

Setting

Dreaming shires

Artist Residence Oxfordshire – the fourth boutique hotel for the creative group – has taken the quintessential English country break and shaken it up. The former farmhouse (a gift from the Lord and Lady of Eynsham Hall to their butler) is pretty enough to grace the pages of Town and Country magazine, with a mop-top of thatch, stone fireplace and wood-panelling. But, House of Hackney’s made-you-look wallpapers, reclaimed fairground signs and colourful custom artwork turn tradition on its head – just as we like it really…

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Facilities

Photos Artist Residence Oxfordshire facilities

Need to know

Rooms

Six, including two suites.

Check–Out

11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Check-in from 3pm to midnight Monday to Saturday (until 11pm on Sunday). Later check-in can be arranged on request.

Rates

Double rooms from $106.54 (£83), excluding tax at 20 per cent.

More details

Rates usually exclude breakfast; à la carte options start at £4, and a Full English is £12.50.

Also

The pub has a fascinating history, from the moment the lord and lady of Eynsham Hall bestowed it to their butler – as you do – to more modern times, when it had its own helipad, earned the favour of Marco Pierre White and was owned by Gerry Stonhill, a true character who flaunted Tony Blair’s smoking ban.

At the hotel

Expansive grounds, a herb and vegetable patch, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, Roberts DAB radio, minibar stocked with local goodies, Nespresso coffee machine and tea-making kit, and Bramley bath products.

Our favourite rooms

The hay’s been cleared, but the Farmhouse Lofts have kept an air of rustic romance. They’re set under the eaves, with original wooden beams and flooring, and furnished with a mish-mash of antiques, up-to-the-minute artwork, old-school rugs and Morris & Co fabrics, which somehow work when thrown together – such is the eye of talented owners Charlie and Justin. We’d also like to take a lengthy soak in the Farmhouse Suite’s cool copper bath tub.

Packing tips

Rather than khaki Hunters and waxed jackets, opt for some of the more outlandish Wellie colours and and a parka that’ll stand out amid the greenery.

Also

The restaurant and pub are wheelchair-accessible; however, the historic building doesn’t allow for a lift to the bedrooms on the first floor.

Pet‐friendly

Dogs can stay in Farmhouse Lofts 1 and 2 and the Barn for £20 a night. See more pet-friendly hotels in Oxfordshire.

Children

Welcome. All rooms except The Shepherds Hut and Rabbit Hole can fit a baby cot (free, bedding isn't supplied) and an extra bed (£30 a night) can be added to some rooms. Buggies aren't allowed in the restaurant, neither are under 12s in the evening.

Food and Drink

Photos Artist Residence Oxfordshire food and drink

Top Table

Pile into a banquette or get cosy in a battered-leather armchair by the pub’s fireplace.

Dress Code

Country radical.

Hotel restaurant

The lauded Hanbury Dining Room is a country diner that went to the big city and came back bedecked in House of Hackney’s baroque-aping rose wallpaper and pugilist prints, and with an eye for colour. Pink-mohair banquettes look striking against powder-blue walls and wooden beams. Beyond the restaurant’s countenance, its food is local and incredibly fresh, hunted and gathered (so to speak) within a 25-mile radius of the hotel; some herbs and vegetables come from the hotel’s own backyard. The tasting menu is a hearty feast with canapés, an apéritif and petit fours, topping and tailing three courses of dishes such as wild-nettle gnocchi with foraged sorrel, or venison and suet pie; if your stomach is quite so empty choose two or three courses from the smaller Garden Menu, available Monday to Saturday. As for the mysterious Mr Hanbury, he was created by the owners’ artist friends, the Connor Brothers. 

Hotel bar

Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms pub looks like the living room of a globetrotting time-traveller; original mahogany pews and panelling mingle with William Morris wallpapers and quirky fabrics by Andrew Martin. Dan Hillier’s gold-leaf-flecked stag presides over the space, Andy Doig’s light sculpture adds a shock of neon and gardening tools rub elbows with fairground ephemera. It may all look a bit surreal after a few of the local beers that flow freely here – or a fitting round of G&Ts – but it’ll attract more than one man and his dog.

Last orders

Breakfast is served from 8am to 10.30am (earlier if needed); the restaurant is open for lunch from noon to 2.30pm (till 3pm Saturdays and until 3.30pm on Sundays); dining in the pub and restaurant runs from 6pm to 9.30pm.

Room service

You can have anything from the dining room’s menu served to your room during restaurant hours.

Location

Photos Artist Residence Oxfordshire location
Address
Artist Residence Oxfordshire
The Mason Arms, Station Road
South Leigh
OX29 6XN
United Kingdom

Planes

International airport London Heathrow is a 90-minute drive from the hotel; Gatwick is around a two-and-a-half-hour drive away. Flights arrive at these hubs from all over the world. Call our Smith24 team of travel experts to book flights and transfers.

Trains

Oxford Railway Station is a half-hour drive away. Trains arrive direct from Marylebone and Paddington in London (around an hour’s journey). Closer still, a 15-minute drive from the hotel, is Hanborough Station; trains arrive here direct from London Paddington in around an hour.

Automobiles

Oxford’s classically good-looking streets are lovely to stroll along, but if you plan to village-hop in the Cotswolds and take country drives through some of the UK’s leafiest, loveliest bits, pick up four wheels. Smith24 can arrange car hire for you on request. There’s free parking at the hotel.

Worth getting out of bed for

Filled with some of the world’s finest minds, and some very grand architecture, Oxford is well worth a visit; it’s just a 30-minute drive from the hotel. Aside from craning your neck up at the dreaming spires, nose around the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology and the curiosities at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Museum-dodgers can hire a punt for an hour or the whole day at Magdalen Bridge Boathouse and drift along the River Cherwell. Beginners might want to hire a chauffeur: the pole requires more pump-action than you’d think. Churchill’s family home, Blenheim Palace is a 20-minute drive away; take a tour of its Baroque, gilded and marble-lined state rooms. The hotel sits at the edge of the Cotswolds, so the area’s cluster of charming villages can be easily explored by car. For low-key thrills, ask the staff to map out a ramble for you in the nearby countryside. In August, pitch up to the free-spirited Wilderness Festival in Cornbury Park. 

Local restaurants

With such fine pub grub just downstairs, there’s little need to wander. You’ll need a car to explore the local dining scene: Eynsham Hall is 10 minutes’ drive from the hotel and chef Simon Bradley does wonderful things with the local produce – we like the smoker crafted from an old fridge. In the city, Quod Brasserie & Bar does classic fine dining for reasonable prices. Towards the Cotswolds, in Chipping Norton, The Wild Rabbit does a tempting 28-day-aged steak.

Local cafés

When you’re out and about in the Cotswolds, stop off at the legendary Daylesford farm shop in Kingham to try the superlative afternoon tea (and charcuterie platters, and wedges of cheese, and pastries…). Hopefully you’ve packed light, because you’re likely to leave with armfuls of souvenirs; cookery and floristry workshops are held here too. In Witney, there’s The Cogges Kitchen, a lovely farm café housed in an old milking-shed. The menu of generously filled sandwiches and slabs of home-made cake changes daily.

Local bars

Beyond sampling the local libations at the hotel, try the sommelier’s picks at 1855 on New Road in Oxford. Or opt for cosy traditionalism, right down to the village-green setting and families of ducks swimming by, at The Kings Head Inn in Bledington.

Reviews

Photos Artist Residence Oxfordshire reviews
Lizzy Dening

Anonymous review

By Lizzy Dening , Feature writer

The first question anyone planning a mini-break tends to ask is: town or country? (Swiftly followed, in my case, with: How many bags can I get away with bringing; and is there any way to persuade someone else to drive so I can nap?)

I frequently struggle with an internal debate (first world problem, I know) swinging wildly between my passion for nature and being outside, and my enthusiasm for wearing a nice dress and propping up a swanky bar. Luckily with the Artist Residence in South Leigh you can combine a pinch of country – thanks to its sleepy village setting and nearby walking routes through golden wheat fields – with a dash of city chic. More of a glamper than a camper? This is the spot for you.

From the neon signs in the restaurant to the adorable sketch of an English bull terrier in our bedroom, there’s something pleasing to look at around every corner. It’s one stylish bolthole, basically. Don’t miss its most expensive artwork: a glass case packed with kitsch felt recreations of cult packaging; from Yorkshire tea to After Eights. Ordering a drink at the bar took twice as long as I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it to check out the menu.

I stayed for a weekend with my mum in the generously proportioned Farmhouse Loft, where I suffered serious furniture envy. The battered wooden coffee table and dainty writing desk were particular favourites; I had a soft spot for the grey animal print cushions, too.

But here, it’s really the bathroom that’s the star. I fell head over heels (not literally, thank god) for the dark grey, claw-footed bath – there’s also a large shower carefully tucked into a corner to retain the period feel without losing those modern comforts. Props to them also for doing away with non-eco miniatures and providing lovely big bottles of super-luxe products instead – I didn’t hold back with the bubble bath.

South Leigh itself is pretty and peaceful – accessed by a single lane farm track that makes it feel like a true rural escape. Happily my sat nav had no problems finding the hotel and there was ample parking. When we stayed the venue had only been open for a week, and there’s clearly lots of development going on, with extra rooms being added in outbuildings – but it didn’t disturb the quiet or the countryside views, thankfully.

After a long drive we refreshed our cramped legs with a quick jaunt up a farm track and through the fields, past ancient oaks and shy rabbits, without seeing a soul. An excellent way to shake off the city and build an appetite.

The hotel may be set in a perfectly preserved thatched-roofed farmhouse (with beams for days) but it’s not afraid to flout tradition. There aren’t, after all, many places offering cocktails with pork-fat-washed bourbon in them… But that’s just one of several concoctions on offer in the bar/pub/restaurant combo downstairs, where we sat around a huge stone fireplace and unwound.

As you may have guessed when even the cocktails have meat in them, this isn’t a top spot for vegetarians – when we ate in the pub the menu was lacking a veggie option at all, although I was assured they did have something available. On the plus side, the battered fish and triple-cooked chips were just the right level of decadent, and anywhere serving champagne by the glass can’t go far wrong with me.

After retiring for the night, my one main piece of advice would be to pack earplugs. The beds might be super comfortable, but the downside of such a beautiful old building is rather thin walls and creaking doors. You can always drown out noisy neighbours with the Roberts radio in your room, though…

Breakfast won’t leave foodies (or anyone else) disappointed, with its range of traditional favourites along with some sweet treats – the Scotch pancakes with yoghurt and fruit were our favourite; the granola bowl a close second. Add to that some freshly squeezed orange juice, loose leaf tea, and chunky toast with locally made jam, and you couldn’t get a much better start to the day.

Picturesque Woodstock isn’t far by car if you fancy popping into its little museum, having tea (or something stronger) in its numerous cafés and pubs, or pottering round boutiquey shops. Plus there’s Blenheim Palace to visit, with its extensive gardens and plenty of events year-round. We spent the sunny Saturday exploring Oxford (take the Peartree Park and Ride – traffic in the city just isn’t worth the hassle).

Our top picks? The ramshackle Pitt Rivers Museum; drinking a cup of tea (with optional dinosaur shortbread) overlooking the Natural History Museum; and meandering the small but perfectly formed Botanical Gardens.

Then, once you’ve done the city, and feel tired of tourists and traffic, you can delight in the knowledge that you’re only a little way from that big old bathtub, and a cold glass of fizz in your countryside retreat with a twist. 

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Artist Residence Oxfordshire’s Guestbook below.

We loved

The room design and layout of the hotel.

Don’t expect

The service at the restaurant was very slow and chaotic. I think they were undergoing a management change. Hopefully smoother next time!

Rating

Stayed on 1 Aug 2018

We loved

The room was beautiful, the staff were all really lovely and the surrounding countryside is very peaceful. The food was good, loved the cocktails and the knowledgable waiter was so friendly. I can imagine a stay here will be good at any time of year.

Don’t expect

Lots of facilities like in a hotel; this is a lovely pub with (extra pretty) rooms kinda place, in a good way! With the Cotswolds right on your doorstep, you will not be short on things to get up to, or you can just enjoy the peace and quiet.

Rating

Stayed on 10 Jun 2018

We loved

Quirky decor and comfy beds, great cocktails!

Don’t expect

Total quiet as the walls are quite thin we could hear the barking of dogs in other rooms! Food wasn't as good as we expected.

Rating

Stayed on 8 Apr 2018

We loved

The room was super cool, so is the pub! Very nice atmosphere at night.

Don’t expect

Staff isn't top notch – some of them did not know what was going on half the time.

Rating

Stayed on 2 Mar 2018

We loved

The deep, roll-top brass bath and the wood-burner in our Stable Suite; the impeccable service; the outstanding food. Worth a mention, too, is that the snow threatened to impede our departure. That is, until manager Owen came to our rescue by kindly driving us to Oxford in his Land Rover. What a gentleman. Being snowed in, we couldn't travel far. But worth a visit is the remarkable Norman church, 10-minutes' walk away. The kids will love the 1,000-year-old heaven vs. hell mural and the fact that bats are roosting in the belfry.

Don’t expect

The menu to stay the same.

Rating

Stayed on 28 Feb 2018

We loved

We loved the quirky decor, excellent service and relaxed atmosphere. Everything was done to a high standard but very understated. We loved it!

Rating

Stayed on 25 Jan 2018

We loved

The decor and the food and the staff, who were really friendly and helpful

Rating

Stayed on 5 Jan 2018

We loved

The room was lovely...lovely touch with the old Roberts radio playing. The bed was so comfortable...great roll top bath and powerful shower. Hotel staff are very friendly and the food very good.

Rating

Stayed on 6 Nov 2017

We loved

The farmhouse loft at The Artists' Residence, South Leigh was the perfect getaway for my husband and me. The hotel room was well appointed with a very comfortable bed and there was plenty of room for two generous armchairs. The bathroom was equally well appointed with a rainfall shower and a beautiful roll top bath, both of which were complimented by the wonderful and generous array of toiletries. The pub was cozy and atmospheric and served a lovely food menu in addition to a good selection of drinks. The staff were friendly and helpful, and breakfast was delicious. We will definitely be back.

Rating

Stayed on 9 Oct 2017

We loved

The quirkiness of the building. It's an old property and its higgledy-piggledy nature adds to its charm. We were pleasantly surprised with the food on offer and would definitely stay there again instead of staying in the centre of Oxford.

Rating

Stayed on 3 Oct 2017

We loved

The decoration and the quirky inventive ideas abounding in the hotel and pub. The food is also excellent, although we as vegan got very small portions! At least the chef made an effort to create something special for us and we appreciated that he used ingredients fresh from the raised border veg garden just outside the kitchen. Burford Garden Company has wonderful furniture, art and household goods – some of the art was on the stairway wall at Artist Residence.

Don’t expect

Too much noise or hustle bustle!

Rating

Stayed on 25 Aug 2017

We loved

The thatched roofs, tranquil countryside lanes and friendly staff.

Don’t expect

Cheap drinks or grub.

Rating

Stayed on 13 Aug 2017

We loved

The beautiful decor and the peaceful setting. The food was absolutely delicious and of the finest quality. The staff were so attentive – my husband was on crutches after a recent operation and they were very accommodating: helping with luggage, getting ice packs for his leg and making us as comfortable as possible. We highly recommend the Artist Residence and look forward to returning soon!

Don’t expect

Rowdy nights.

Rating

Stayed on 5 Jul 2017

We loved

There were so many things – the ambiance, the Bramley products (to be used liberally), the interesting and quirky art pieces, the cast iron bathtub, Jazz FM playing when you arrive in your room, the incredibly friendly staff (particular thanks to Karen and Josh), eggs Benedict in the morning and strawberry sorbet at night. I visited by myself for a two day escape from the busy city and could not have been happier with my experience. Special mention to the little toad that crept into my room on the top floor. The staff were very accommodating in coming to remove him.

Don’t expect

To do this without a car as it is pretty remote, but with a car you're in easy distance from lots of brilliant tourist attractions such as Blenheim Palace, Bicester Shopping Village and Oxford.

Rating

Stayed on 27 Jun 2017

We loved

The edgy combination of contemporary art and ancient interiors. There are other Art Hotels, of course, but how many are carved out of an old country pub with curvy oak beams and a thatched roof? Here, flagstone floors and off-the-wall artworks create an eclectic yet homely environment. The neon installations were sparky and the art in the ladies loo was a hoot (so I was told).

Don’t expect

Candlewick bedspreads, chintz, watercolours of hunting scenes or framed prints of the London to Oxford stagecoach.

Rating

Stayed on 1 Jun 2017

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