The Lakes by Yoo is a private estate of family-welcoming rental residences and second homes in the Cotswolds. With 850 acres of lakes, meadows and ancient woodland, it's a bucolic setting that's as serene as it is safe. And these luxury villas don’t have a straw of thatch on them – all are contemporary country stays sprung from the creative well of design collective Yoo Studio – co-founded by Philippe Starck – that were destined to be a little avant-garde: ghost chandeliers, egg-shaped bath tubs and a playful streak are present and correct. Alfresco diner Elsa’s menu shines a tractor beam on local produce, and the lakes are an endless source of fun, whether you’re kayaking or zip-lining across. Please note, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the hotel will only be offering stays of a week or more until further notice.
Get this when you book through us:
A welcome hamper with local produce (jam, eggs, milk, bread, bacon or sausages from the local farm and red and white wine) and an hour's hire of the tennis court (or one day's bike hire for two if unavailable)
10am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from $898.90 (£650), including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates usually exclude breakfast, served to your door in a hamper (from £50 for two guests). You can look forward to Sudeley Hill Farm sausages, smoked bacon, organic eggs, bloomer from a local baker, pastries, date-and-apricot granola, tea and coffee.
Yoo’s concierge team will light your fire (literally, not metaphorically), deliver a bike to your door and bring you hampers packed with Cook dishes. Fancy a barbecue? Like the best of house-party guests, staff will arrive with a full grill’s worth of meat, light the coals, cook, serve and clean up after. You can also have a mixologist tend bar in your kitchen with a full arsenal of spirits and a few drinking games up their sleeve.
At the hotel
Man-made lakes with boats and canoes; small beach, tennis courts, football pitch, vegetable garden, arboretum, bird-hide, trampoline, acres of meadowland, spa, sauna and steam room, gym, and free WiFi. In villas: a full kitchen, flatscreen TVs (some with Sky TV channels), Blu-ray players, sound system, Nespresso coffee-maker, board games, gas or coal barbecue, free WiFi and Bamford bath products. Each villa is unique; some by the lakes have kayaks; some have a PlayStation.
Our favourite rooms
Huntsman Lakehouse is a handsome devil, clad in tartan and furs. Its furnished terrace overhangs Huntsmans Lake, and the penthouse suite has 360-degree views and breaking-with-tradition decor of neon-yellow, cowhide and metallic tiling – it may not fly at the local fête, but we wholeheartedly approve.
The indoor, heated 17m pool in the main building (around a 10-minute walk from most villas) cleverly allows you to enjoy the green gloriousness of the British countryside through walls of windows, while letting you shelter from the – occasionally (ahem) – poor British weather. Lined with deep-blue tiles and surrounded by snooze-ably soft loungers and day-beds, it’s also handily set by the sauna and steam room. The indoor pool is open daily from 2-5pm. Brave lodgers by the lakes can also dive straight in for a spot of wild swimming.
Just follow your nose to the Orchard's treatment rooms – cosy lemongrass- and rose-scented sanctuaries in the main building. Therapists will knead, scrub and apply Spiezia Organics and Bamford lotions and potions to ensure that you leave looking as though you’ve been on a refreshing country hike. Beauty treatments are offered too, and the gym is hot on toning and trimming, with boxercise, yoga classes and TRX workouts. The spa's open 2pm–5pm for guests, and there's a £60 a house charge for each visit. (You'll need to bring your own towels.)
Pack a pair of Hunter wellies to look the part; country evenings can be a little quiet, so a stash of travel games may come in handy: Scrabble, anyone?
If you want to commune with nature, stop by the estate’s chicken coop or petting hut to say hello to their feathered and fluffy residents.
Little Smiths are welcome. Villas sleep the biggest broods and a kids club has activities to fill the longest of school hols: rock-music lessons, bushcraft (with Ben Fogle, no less), laser-tag and Nerf wars. Nannies and babysitters can be booked, too.
Juniors, tweens and teens will appreciate the outdoorsy fun.
All villas have enough rooms to sleep smalls; however, White Willow Lodge and Bowmore Lodge get our top spot for their children’s bunk rooms.
The excellent kids club (open midweek during dchool holidays) is divvied up by age into Crawlers (six months to four years), Critters and Yoo Crew, and there's a packed schedule of outdoor and indoor fun. The School of Rock programme teaches kids how to shred on a guitar and beat drum-skins like they mean it; TV adventurer Ben Fogle teaches bushcraft skills: how to make a fire, carve wood and build a rocket stove. There’s also a regular roster of paintballing, Nerf wars, arts and crafts, laser tag and sports. Outside the kids club, little Smiths can play out Swallows and Amazons-style fantasies by zipwiring over the lake, cycling on the estate, and canoeing and fishing on the beach.
The pool is 1.2m deep and has no lifeguard, so children should be closely watched. There's a separate kids' bubble pool for little ones.
Fear not, frazzled parents – at Elsa’s your little ones can run around with abandon while you sip champagne. For kids, there are pizza slices and burgers; highchairs are available on request. Cook’s kids meals (spag bol, mac and cheese) can be delivered to your villa.
Nannies and babysitters can be booked for £52 a child, for a minimum of three hours; each additional hour is £11.50.
Parents attending the Crawlers club are offered coffee, tea and cake while they natter to other parents. No baby-listening. In your villa, a monitor will come in handy, but the estate’s too spread out for it to work in the main building and Elsa’s. The Lakes by Yoo has most bases covered for home comforts, but pack favoured toys and more obscure baby kit.
Fresh air, the grass beneath your feet, a glass of champagne: Elsa’s picnic tables capture the essence of a Cotswolds break.
As Cotswolds-casual as you please, accessorised with a brolly if necessary.
Elsa’s is the Lakes by Yoo’s alfresco eatery for breakfasts and lazy lunches, with picnic tables laid out by a mint-green camper. Chef Jay Halford is a superfood ninja, sneaking health-bestowers into dishes that sound far less nutritious: avocado, poached eggs and bacon. Lunches use the vegetable-garden harvest and local produce in salads and noodle dishes, with burgers and pizzas for little (and larger) ones.
There’s no bar, but Elsa’s has a small yet considered wine list, with Chevalier champagne and Le Dolci Colline rosé prosecco. Fridges can be stocked with wine as well as tasty food (or instead of), if you wish.
Elsa’s is open 11am–3.30pm on weekends and during school holidays.
In-villa, have your fridge stocked and dinner-party-prepped with COOK dishes, or ask the hotel to hire you a private chef. Catering companies Soushi and Mint have encyclopeadic menus for all tastes.
The sprawling Lakes by Yoo estate is in leafy Lechlade to the south of the Cotswolds, in between storybook villages Thornhill and Claydon.
London Heathrow (www.heathrow.com) is the closest international hub, a 90-minute drive from the Lakes by Yoo; Gatwick (www.gatwickairport.com) is around a two-hour drive away.
Swindon is the nearest railway station, a 30-minute drive from the estate. Great Western trains (www.gwr.com) from London Paddington arrive here in an hour, and there are direct services from Bristol and Swansea.
You can have a scone without the cream, but it’s so much better with; the same goes for getting around in the Cotswolds: in the Range Rover-roamed countryside, stations are scarce and taxis are pricey, so be sure to hire wheels en route.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Lakes by Yoo estate is action-packed and considers all guests, whether you want to strap on some waders and fish in the lakes or head to Bowmoor sailing club for a genteel afternoon out on the water; and canoeing, biking and zip-lining cover three of the elements (the jury’s out on the fire-based activity though…). Beyond the estate, the Cotswolds’ perennial bucolic charms await. Village-hopping is the tried and true method of fitting in all the local ale that’s fit to drink and all the scones fit to sit on a cake tier. Lechlade hosts a family-friendly music festival come May, and Filkins, a 12-minute drive away, is home to beloved pub the Five Alls, which has a swimming pool in its garden (open in the summer months). The Romans settled in Cirencester, and happened to leave a lot of their stuff there – some of it is stored in the excellent Corinium Museum, and the Chedworth Roman Villa is a 20-minute drive from town. Cheltenham’s Regency splendour and racecourse, Bourton-on-the-Water’s bird sanctuaries and brewery and Stow-on-the-Wold’s antique shops and farmers markets are all 30 minutes away from the Lakes by Yoo by car.
Flagstone flooring, a fireplace straight from a Dickens tome, maybe a dog in the corner: it’s worth leaving your luxurious home to get cosy in a local-packed eatery. The Lamb Inn is a 20-minute drive away; scarlet interiors and creaky wood flooring give it an old-timey feel, and its pub menu serves straight-up, simple comfort grub. For more refined fare, drive for 40 minutes to The Wild Rabbit in Kingham, which serves an excellent tasting menu with locally sourced goodies – pace yourself, portions are generous.
The original Daylesford Organic Farm shop (champion of organic fare) is in Kingham, a 40-minute drive from your villa. Go for a day-trip and stop for lunch at the shop’s café, where the menu is deliciously healthful.
Local wisdom dictates that light ales should be drunk in summer, dark in winter, but we’re partial to either year-round. The Swan at Southrop, a 10-minute drive away or an hour’s ramble away from Yoo, serves pints of Keene's Cotswold Premium Lager, and has an exemplary menu too. The wood-panelled Riversidepub, a 30-minute walk away, is welcoming and relaxed and has a weekly steak night, which gets two forks up from us.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from these luxurious villas in the Cotswolds and unpacked their tubs of clotted cream and sprigs of freshly plucked lavender, a full account of their British countryside break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Lakes by Yoo’s villas and cottages in quaint hamlet Lechlade…
The Lakes by Yoo has a constellation of stars circling it. Springing forth from design stable Yoo Studio founded by Philippe Starck, influential glamourpusses have turned interior designer: Elle Macpherson, Jade Jagger, Kelly Hoppen… However, the undisputed lady of the Lakes is Kate Moss, whose Barnhouse conversion would cause you to grin from ear to ear if someone suggested you’d been born in one. It’s impeccably styled, with silk carpets, deep velvet couches and a mirrored four-poster covered in (faux) furs; there’s also a curated vinyl collection and a stash of La Moss’ clothes to try on. That said, each of the estate’s modern villas are ridiculously good-looking: some are Scandi-influenced, some are cosily rustic and many have terraces overhanging the estate’s man-made lakes.
Those lakes may be placid, but they’re also action-packed; guests can fish in them, glide over them in a canoe, or even zip-line across. The Orchard Spa and an expansive covered swimming pool (with green views) offer more genteel pursuits. Or, you could sit out by mint-green campervan Elsa’s and eat your fill of French-influenced country fare alfresco – washed down with coupes of champagne and excellent wine. If you’d rather eat indoors, order up a hamper filled with Cook meals, or request that the culinary whizzes behind Soushi or Mint stop by with their wares. You can also get a cocktail maestro to tend bar in your kitchen and – if that goes well – have the ingredients for a fry-up delivered the next morning.