Once owned by an Elizabethan bailiff, the Kings Head Hotel in Cirencester cherishes its history, but adds a warmly sympathetic stamp of contemporary country cool to its old stone walls, wooden beams and original Roman mosaic. Stroll the honey-hued Cirencester streets (make sure you visit the Corn Hall next to the hotel, where the famous market is held daily) or set off further afield, Barbour in hand, for a brisk walk through the rolling fields outside the town… then return to your cosy home-from-home to kick back in the bar with an elderflower G&T.
11am. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Guests arriving early are welcome to use the facilities, store luggage and explore Cirencester.
Double rooms from £99.00, including tax at 12.5 per cent.
Rates exclude breakfast (£9 each for Continental breakfast; £17.50 for a full English).
Keep your eyes peeled as you walk up the wrought iron stairs to your room – the eponymous King is featured on the bannisters and, as you climb from floor to floor, he grows from a toddler, to a middle-ager (complete with bald pate) and finally to an old man.
span>Due to renovation, the spa's thermal suite is closed until further notice, although treatments are still available. The main restaurant is open for dinner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, as well as for Sunday Lunch. At other times, the MBB Brasserie will be open for lunch and dinner.
At the hotel
Spa, lounge, meeting rooms, free WiFi throughout. In the rooms: Flatscreen TV, air-conditioning, tea-making kit, mini fridge (with free mineral water), Greener Lifestyle (Classic and Superior rooms and Apartments) or The White Company (Feature and Indulgent rooms) bath products.
Our favourite rooms
All the rooms have light, muted colours, super-soft beds and ensuite bathrooms. The Feature rooms are each individually styled to show off the Georgian, Tudor and even mediaeval elements of the building; some have bare beams or exposed, centuries-old brickwork. Go for a Superior room if you're travelling with little ones; 119 is a particularly good choice, and the hotel has three sets of interconnecting rooms. Room 219 is one of the hotel's most individual: it's brightly decorated in tartan, and has a conservatory-style roof. But our favourites are the Indulgent rooms: 101 is huge, with a pencil four-poster and a freestanding bath tub in the ensuite; 103 has a copper bath tub on a wooden floor next to the bed.
Down in the vast vaulted basement is the spa, kitted out with ELEMIS products, which has four treatment rooms and an elegant relaxation room, where you can unwind with herbal tea or a glass of something sparkling. We highly recommend a massage for two in the couples' room; other treatments include prenatal massages, facials and full-body scrubs.
Bring your casual clobber for muddy walks in the country (don't forget your waterproofs to stand up to the British weather). A dash of tweed wouldn't be out of place.
Pets are accepted in all room types (excluding Indulgent) for £20 a night, and are welcome in the lounge/bar (where bowls are provided), but not the restaurant. Dogs larger than a labrador/retriever unfortunately cannot be accommodated. See more pet-friendly hotels in Cotswolds.
Under-12s can stay in extra beds (£30 a night) on request in Superior rooms (some Feature rooms can also accommodate extra beds) you'll need to book well in advance. Baby cots are (£15 a night) and high chairs are available in the restaurant.
For the best of the action, head towards the back, near the open kitchen. If you've got a four-legged Smith with you, ask for a table in the bar, where an extensive menu is served.
Smart country garb. A T-shirt wouldn't be scorned, but neither would a tweed blazer.
There are two. The hotel's main restaurant (open on Friday and Saturday for dinner and for hearty Sunday lunch and dinners) is a homey-yet-modern space serving up British food with a contemporary twist; as much as possible is locally sourced. A mish-mash of artwork hangs on the walls, including a commissioned piece by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and there are leather banquettes and parquet flooring, plus a few rustic touches. The menu is as alluring as the decor, with slow-cooked pork cheeks, sirloin steak in Béarnaise sauce, and wild-mushroom linguine. For afters, the poached pineapple with blackcurrant and orange sorbet is a must-try. And the lively MBB Brasserie, with painted stone walls and leather banquettes, serves lunch and dinner. You can watch the chefs cook and bartenders mix up cocktails here, and the menu also champions locally grown, farmed and fished produce. Enjoy Creedy Carver duck terrine, garden beetroot risotto and lemon posset with brandy snaps. To ensure you get your fill, book in advance.
The backlit bar is a destination in its own right, pulling in thirsty Cirencesterians in search of well-mixed cocktails. It's the first thing you see on entering the hotel and feels like a more grown-up space, with leather sofas for two and elaborate booze concoctions. Go for a G&T mixed with a spirit from the hotel's extensive gin collection and a flavoured Fevertree tonic water – we like the elderflower one. Dogs are allowed here (but not in the restaurant), and there's a generous menu of sandwiches and other treats to pick at. With a nod to the town's history as a centre of the yarn trade, colourful bobbins of thread are mounted on the wall, and bare brick and flagstone tiles give a hard edge to the cosy chic.
The main restaurant serves lunch from 12 noon–4pm on Sundays, and dinner from 6pm–9pm (from Friday to Sunday). In MBB Brasserie dinner is from 6pm–9pm.
The hotel is in the heart of town, its entrance just off the ancient market square.
The nearest airport is Bristol (www.bristolairport.co.uk), which serves the UK and more than 100 European destinations. It's about 50 miles southwest of Cirencester. For further flung places, Heathrow is around 90 miles east.
Kemble is the nearest station, and a 10 minute (four-mile) drive away. It is served by First Great Western trains for destinations from London Paddington to the West Country.
There is a dropping-off space at the front of the hotel, and a pay and display car park at Market Place (free from 6pm to 8am) next to the hotel. Alternatively, stow your wheels at the Waterloo car park a few minutes' walk from the hotel (£7.50 for a 24-hour stay) or the Forum car park (free after 3pm, maximum 4 hour-stay). If driving from the north or west, exit M5 at junction 11a, on to A417, then A429. From the south and east: exit M4 junction 15 to A419, then A429.
Worth getting out of bed for
This is the heart of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, and a fine base for muddy exploration of the rolling hills nearby. The Bathurst Estate is a five-minute walk away, and a good place to start for a leisurely stroll; owned by the Earl and Countess of the same name, its mix of long, straight paths and wild foliage make it a favourite with dog walkers. Just around the corner from the hotel, Black Jack Street boasts a clutch of traditional shops, including Jesse Smith, the town’s favourite butcher. Along the same road is the Corinium Museum, a treasure trove of Roman history, and there are regular Saturday morning farmers' markets on the square in front of the hotel. Further afield, the ridiculously pretty village of Castle Combe (used in filming of War Horse) is a 40-minute drive to the southwest. The Coln Valley, to the northeast of town, has a series of equally beautiful villages strung out along the River Coln, with the nearest about a 15-minute drive from the hotel. For those who fancy a flutter on a filly there is racing at Cheltenham and curious monarchists, eager gardeners, amatuer historians or fans of Georgian architecture might like to potter around Highgrove House, home to Prince Charles and his Duchy Home Farm (open in Spring and Summer).
Jesse's Bistro on Black Jack Street is the sister restaurant to the butcher of the same name; as you'd expect, the meat is top-notch. For elaborate, two-starred Michelin munching, the Dining Room at Whatley Manor is a 20-odd-minute drive out of town.
Cirencester is more about cosy pubs than swanky wine bars, and among the best are close to the hotel. Head to The Black Horse to prop up the bar with locals supping pints, or old-school charmer theWheatsheaf Inn, who have a beer, cider and pizza garden come summer.
This is a hotel that wears its history comfortably, but never lets it weigh the place down. The Romans set up home in the neighbourhood, attracted by the location and the thriving wool trade, and put the locals to work building neat little roads on their way to conquering Wales. The Kings Head gives a nod to the past with a glass floor at reception that reveals a Roman mosaic a metre or so into the earth below. Colourful yarns and bobbins on the walls nod to the trade that continued long after the Roman Empire faded away. There has been a building here since around 1550, and it has housed an Elizabethan baliff, Georgian cockfights, and, fleetingly, a scarpering royalist, rousted by local supporters of parliament during the Civil War. It all gets a passing nod here, through architecture or decoration, but with enough calmly cosy modern flourishes to make this a very contemporary country stay.