Set on a working farm, the family run Eckington Manor in the Cotswolds is an enticing blend of mediaeval architecture and utterly up-to-the-minute fittings. Just across a courtyard from the acclaimed cookery school and surrounded by rolling fields, it is ideally situated for guests to make the most of the region’s natural larder.
Get this when you book through us:
An Eckington Manor foodie gift, such as home-made dressing, cider or apple juice
16: four in the Lower End House (two of which are singles with a shared bathroom), four in the Cyder Mill, six in the Milking Parlour (including one suite) and two in the Grain Barn.
11am. Earliest check-in is from 3pm from Sunday to Friday, and from 4pm on Saturdays.
Double rooms from £149.00, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates include breakfast served to your table in the restaurant or Garden Bar.
While Eckington Manor are delighted that further government restrictions have been lifted, their number-one priority and commitment remains the welfare of their guests and their team. They shall, therefore, continue to operate following their previous Covid-19 regulations and guidelines until further notice. Please contact the hotel nearer to the date of your stay for updates on the situation. Breakfast will be served to your allocated table in the Restaurant and Garden Bar at your preferred time, from 8am to 9.30am Monday to Saturday, and from 8:45am to 10.30am on Sundays and bank holidays. In addition to breakfast service, the bar and restaurant will be open (for table service) from 12.30pm to 3pm, Thursday to Sunday, for lunch; from 1pm to 3pm, Thursday to Sunday, for afternoon tea; and from 6pm to 9pm, Wednesday to Saturday, for dinner. Please note, due to the limited size of the restaurant, they are unable to guarantee that a table will be available for you unless a reservation is made in advance.
At the hotel
Free WiFi, on-site parking. In rooms: flatscreen TV with Freeserve digital channels, free bottled water, king-size beds, tea- and coffee-making facilities, White Company toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Room Five is spacious and striking, and comes with an original-beamed sloping ceiling; there’s also a huge TV that begs movie-watching from bed. Room Three has a spectacular weeping willow-embroidered silk wall feature commissioned from Fromental, as well as cute purple love chairs and a lovely mosaic ensuite. The Deluxe Suite in the Cyder Mill – beautifully renovated barn – stretches the length of the building.
Bring a pair of walking boots – the surrounding countryside is far too beautiful to resist.
Over-eights are welcome at the hotel, and an extra bed can be added for an additional £35 a night (including breakfast) to some Luxury and Deluxe rooms.
The terrace is lovely for dainty cakes and scones during afternoon tea.
Whatever you like, with an apron thrown on top. There are wellies to borrow (as originally sported by the cast of The Apprentice who filmed here).
The restaurant at Eckington Manor has a farm-to-table ethos and is open for dinner on Wednesday to Saturday evenings; the home-grown and locally produced delights are served in the light-filled and laid-back dining room above the reception. Signature dishes include tartare of Eckington beef with smoked egg yolk, hay mayonnaise and beets and apples from the garden; and slow-roasted chicken with barbecued hispi cabbage, smoked carrot and wholegrain mustard sauce. If you arrive on a sunny day head to the outdoor terrace for lunch or afternoon tea, available Thursday to Sunday. Cold 'supper trays' – consisting of a posh Ploughman's – are available every night (order these in advance), and evening meals for groups can be arranged in advance. Breakfast includes home-made, home-grown everything – from muesli, bread, preserves and marmalade to tasty eggs and award-winning breakfast sausages. Much of the meat is from the farm. If you'd like to get more involved and cook yourself, Eckington Manor Cookery School is located above reception. Courses include alfresco dining, Christmas feasts, breads from around the world and authentic Thai dishes.
Eckington Manor is fully licensed, and there’s an informal bar area close to the restaurant, which is popular for pre-dinner drinks on Wednesdays to Saturdays. A fully-stocked honesty bar can be found in the large main hall, where guests can get cosy on comfy sofas beside a wood-burning stove.
Breakfast is from 8am to 9.30am Monday to Saturday, and from 8:45am to 10.30am on Sundays and bank holidays.
Birmingham International is 45 miles away, and is linked up with Aberdeen, Belfast, Edinburgh and Glasgow by BMI Baby (www.bmibaby.com). Taxis and hire cars are both available.
First Great Western runs a direct service from London Paddington to Pershore (four and a half miles from the hotel). The station also serves Worcester and Oxford.
Cheltenham Spa and the cathedral town of Worcester are both around 25 minutes away. There's free parking.
For seafaring Smiths, temporary and overnight moorings are available on the River Avon, a short walk away.
Worth getting out of bed for
With its state-of-the-art facilities and proximity to some of the freshest produce in the British Isles, the Eckington Manor Cookery School, just across a courtyard, is the perfect place to come and brush up your culinary skills. One-, two- and three-day courses, catering to all levels of ability, can be booked. If you don’t fancy slaving over a hot stove, then we recommend long, leisurely walks in the nearby Bredon or Malvern Hills, shopping in Cheltenham or visiting the local Georgian market town of Pershore, which is home to a a magnificent abbey, specialist shops and restaurants, and a thriving theatre. Cheltenham Racecourse is a mere 20-minute drive away, for those who fancy donning some eye-catching headgear and watching the races.
There's little nearby, but you could venture down to charming thatched inn the Swan to sample its varied manu of gastro faves and hearty roasts. Or try Russell’s of Broadway, which showcases the best of local produce in its mod-British menu.
Very precise instructions (turn right at the third pony) lead us to a farmyard on the edge of the Cotswolds. Around it are half a dozen buildings, and we're wondering which one houses the cookery school. Is it the bally-well-ancient timber-framed beauty of a mediaeval hall with a tiny formal herb garden laid out in front? Is it the handsome but scaffolding-festooned red-brick outbuilding opposite? Perhaps the pig stys? Parking up, we fix our culinary hopes on a converted Dutch barn, all clean lines, wood and glass. Entering, we find ourselves in a reception-cum-shop, appropriately full of choice edibles and kitchenalia, with stairs leading to the state-of-the-art cookery school above. The welcome we experience, from mother and daughter Judy and Jane, is so enthusiastic and friendly that, once we're in the privacy of our room, Mr Smith derides me for believing they haven't rumbled our reviewer status. I stick to the script: I guess some people are just genuinely nice.
We're sleeping in the bally-well-ancient part of the set-up, Eckington Manor , a boutique bed and breakfast in its own right, with two singles, three doubles, a connoisseur's honesty bar and a big sitting room that is has its poshness tempered by cowhide rug, dog-picture tapestry cushions and a leather piglet. In the gleaming country kitchen, used for events, there's a collection of antique farm tools framed on the wall; upstairs, we find a handful of not-very-agricultural design features, such as a turquoise devoré chaise-longue and a chandelier made of antlers. Room 5 doesn't need any design features. It has great 800-year-old beams A-framing the eaves, and a monumental, asymmetrical stone chimney-breast, on which hangs an outsized flatscreen television, pointing straight at the bed. We're here to learn the finer points of Indian cookery, not to snuggle under the duvet watching telly, but we end up doing both, and walking up a big hill. And going to the weirdest pub in England. But first: mackerel masala.
Eckington Manor Cookery School has one super-skilled chef, teaching everything from Indian, Thai and Italian to mastering an aga and bread-making, as well as special classes for men, youngsters and beginners. We're uncertain about how one person can be an expert on rustling up jalfrezi and ciabatta – even if he is from Birmingham, unofficial curry capital of the world. But we are proven doubting Thomases, because the class is just brilliant: engaging, fun, confidence-building and manageable. There are demos – deft fish filleting – as well as tips (try damp kitchen roll to anchor your chopping board), and chef's commonsense views on fat in meat (good), German knives (great) and oily fishbones (rubbish for stock). None of the class, largely young couples, have attended a cookery class before, and the difficulty level is spot-on. We make lamb meatballs, naan and a very nice Goan mackerel dish, and we all feel pretty clever. The meat we use is from the farm's award-winning livestock, and there are even views of the countryside from the windows, so it all lives up to the owners' 'eat local' ethos.
Staying the night – before and after our class – makes the whole experience exceptionally relaxing. Once we've wiped down our individual kitchen stations, hung up our stripy aprons and boxed up doggy-bag leftovers, we retire to Room 5 – what a treat to get into bed in the middle of the afternoon. Well, we have been working quite hard, slaving away over hot stoves… There's time for a bit of an explore later on, though. We drive to the Monkey House, a pub we've heard being celebrated for its magnificent old-fashionedness up there with the Red Lion in Snargate, Kent, and the Three Stags Heads in Derbyshire. When we mention our pilgrimage to Judy, her faintly quizzical response leads us to question whether it's a pub at all. Perhaps it is truly a place of abode for primates, suggests Mr Smith. ‘Or a strange Cotswolds slang for a brothel,’ he smiles. We find, with delight, that it is someone's house with a hatch serving cider, a garden with a flower-filled shopping trolley, and a tiny extension with a tall chimney and an open door, full of locals smiling and singing. No flatscreen television, or even electricity, at a guess. The only reason these metropolitan voyeurs don't stay long, is that we’re shy.
Back at our 13th-century lodgings (so wonderfully wonky that the beds have bespoke varying leg lengths), we settle for a supper tray, rather than driving miles to the nearest decent restaurant. We're expecting cheese and biscuits, and that's what we get, but in glorious Eckington style. It is copious and beautifully presented: hams, dates, tomato salad of red and yellow fruit, two mustards, three breads, four chutneys, posh black crackers and oatcakes. All that to accompany a fine selection of local cheeses. We eat alone in the warm, homely dining room – nothing at all like a hotel – and a feast that beats a burger in the village pub. In the interests of fairness, we checked out the Bell, Eckington's local, and it's friendly and clean and fine for lunch, but it's not as romantic as a wedge of Double Worcester, the honesty bar and that lovely bed just up the creaking stairs.
This part of the Cotswolds is less-trodden but still as lovely as the familiar Gloucestershire hills, and on the Sunday, we drag ourselves away from eating and idling to find windy, baa-lamb happiness up Bredon Hill, a short drive from Eckington. We stomp towards what we think is 'the top', crossing acres of farmland, grazing pasture and forest to reach a folly and a standing stone called the Elephant. It makes a bracing chaser after yesterday's gastronomic concentration and steadies us before the drive back home. Eckington Manor is a true find: there's the social, active, learning side; and plenty of private downtime in the beamed bedrooms. We arrived with all sorts of townie tiredness, and we're leaving with fresh air in our lungs, vastly improved spice skills, and several Tupperware containers of the finest curry money can't buy.