In one of the prettiest spots in Gloucestershire, The Slaughters Manor House scraps the traditional country retreat template by offering all the trimmings and luxury design flourishes that you’d expect in a stylish boutique hotel in the city. (Think rich fabrics, aubergine-and-taupe decor and oversized beds.) Of course, all of this is set in a stately home in the Cotswolds, surrounded by impeccably landscaped gardens, green rolling fields and a charming village.
11am, but flexible subject to availability. Check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £194.00, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates include full English breakfast and a copy of the Times newspaper.
Book in-room beauty treatments, or get the hotel to arrange boredom-busting activities: they can sort out anything from archery and rock-climbing to murder-mystery evenings, blind 4x4 driving, and duck herding. Yes, you did read that correctly. If you've got little ones, hunker down in the snug with a DVD.
At the hotel
Five acres of landscaped gardens, billiards room, snug, library, lounge, seasonal boules pitch, croquet lawn, tennis court. In rooms, Vi-Spring mattresses, TV, iPod dock, free WiFi, free bottled water and fresh fruit. Suites also have Nespresso coffee machines.
Our favourite rooms
For an extravagant weekend of romance, book one of the ground-floor Garden rooms in the Coach House: Valentine is a decadent suite with a bathroom featuring twin roll-top baths that gives onto a private garden; Magnolia is a huge double with a freestanding bath and private garden. Deluxe rooms and Junior suites on the second floor of the main house have wonderful views of the village; Mrs Smiths will love Longborough – it has feature beams, a freestanding roll-top bath and a separate dressing room.
Slippers, robes and luxury toiletries are all provided. Bring activity-proof clothes if you want to try quad-biking, rock-climbing or any of the other more mud-prone outdoors options.
Two-night minimum stay at weekends.
Three sets of rooms can be connected for families. Cots (free), extra beds for under-12s (£50 a night including breakfast) or sofa beds (one under-12, £50 a night including breakfast) can be provided in Deluxe rooms and upwards.
An intimate table for two overlooking the gardens. Our personal favourite is the perfectly placed table three.
It’s not stuffy here, but pack your smartest casuals.
The hotel's bright, orangery-esque restaurant has more than earned its impressive three Rosettes. With chef Nik Chappell at the helm, the menu is an ever-changing treasure trove of local, seasonal delights. The sommelier has amassed an impressive cellar of vintage champagnes and prestige wines, so you won't be short of bottled charms, either.
Sup Sipsmith spirits amid the brass and leather luxury of the hotel's bar, in the company of fellow guests and in-the-know locals alike. There are over 46 different types of gin, so come armed with your tastebuds (and possibly a hangover cure…)
9pm in the restaurant during the week, and 9.30pm at weekends.
There's a classic room service menu featuring salads, sandwiches and soup, available from 7.30am–9.30pm/
The nearest airports are Bristol International and Birmingham. The international hubs in London are a little further – Heathrow's 74 miles away, Gatwick is 138 miles.
A direct train runs from London Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh, where you'll need to catch a taxi or bus to Bourton-on-the-Water. The hotel is about a mile further north east.
The M40 will come in handy from both London and the Midlands.
Worth getting out of bed for
At the hotel, peruse the library or knock a few balls around (billards, croquet or boules – take your pick). On Saturday evenings, make sure you're around to hear the professional piano player tinkle the ivories. The Georgian charms of Cheltenham are a few pleasant miles’ drive away. Have a nose around town, or attend an event at one of the festivals: there’s jazz in May, a series of science events in June, music in July and literature in October. Horseracing fans will know that the famous Cheltenham Gold Cup is held at the nearby racecourse, but there are plenty of other race meetings throughout the season. You're also close to Batsford Arboretum and delightful Cotwolds towns including antiques-shop heaven Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water. Give something back to the community and take part in dry-stone wall reparations or tree-planting projects organised by local groups.
Lower Slaughter is a tiny village, so if you want to go out for dinner, you'll need to travel further afield for most restaurants. Set in a honey-coloured rectory in Upper Slaughter, the whisper-quiet, romantic restaurant at Lords of the Manoris known for its on-trend British cuisine. In Cheltenham, we'd recommend the double Michelin starred Le Champignon Sauvagefor butter-poached lobster, rabbit loin and an incredible frozen bergamont parfait. If you'd rather stay closer to home, the Slaughters Country Inn – sister property to the hotel – is directly opposite the manor, and serves a gastropub menu of Brit classics. There's a gorgeous garden at the back and, bonus: you can charge everything to your room at the hotel, so you won't even need your wallet.
I had my first afternoon at The Slaughters Manor House in the Cotwolds all worked out: we’d arrive, explore, potter, drink tea – and then I’d let the pampering commence. Except, my in-room facial and pedicure was supposed to start half an hour ago, and we were still stuck in a tailback in the wrong county, with temperatures rising and blood boiling. When we’d set off from home, it had been the kind of glorious, early summer day on which, if you’re not careful, you burn your driving arm on the sunny side. Mr Smith scalded his. ‘Lower Slaughter’ – a name that was already proving strangely apt, thanks to the en-route limb reddening.
A hint of Hammer House of Horror isn’t an obvious element in the name of a boutique-hotel getaway. But thankfully, images of horror-movie carnage are the last thing to spring to mind as you crunch up the 18th-century coach house’s sweeping gravel drive. The imposing country manor, which overlooks a gentle curve in the dreamy River Eye, has got that tranquillity thing down to a T, with its bowling-green perfect lawn, ancestral chestnut and beech trees, and walled gardens dotted with statues, old climbing roses and gnarly fruit trees.
I don’t know why I’d got so hot and bothered about being late; nobody else was. Check-in is a seamless affair and Mr Smith barely gets a chance to dump his suitcase in our room before he’s banished with his book to make way for the pre-booked therapist, who has managed to rearrange her schedule so she can make my pain go away. A few calming, soothing moments later, the garden doors are open, and I’m zoning out with a lavender-and-mint-scented zephyr wafting over me from the walled garden outside. The only thing that breaks my trance is a low, rhythmic grunting sound. Which – quelle horreur – I realise is me. Snoring.
Still, I’m in the perfect position to check out the decor. Lower Slaughter Manor rocks the classic country-house-chic look, but with enough contemporary flourishes to knock any suggestion of fuddy-duddiness on the head. I mentally tick off my list of requirements: luxe drapery in opulent fabrics – yup. Sexy aubergine and taupe colour scheme – check. Enormous, Princess-and-the-Pea-sized bed – can’t miss it. Knock-out bathroom? I think the freestanding claw-foot bath and the wet room have got that covered. All that, and an abundance of scatter cushions. You get the feeling that if you were to fall, you’d never be too far from something soft and squishy to bounce you back up again. Oh yes, I’m feeling to the manor born and, on discovering the complimentary decanter of sherry, come over all Penelope Keith. Mr Smith, on the other hand, is busy eyeing up the enormous flatscreen plasma TV, the free WiFi and iPod-ready stereo. Men really are from Mars.
But the best was yet to come. I don’t know how we missed it but, tucked inside our private, walled garden is a huge hot tub, complete with sparkly lights for added LA-style glamour. It’s a shame I hadn’t known it was there, otherwise I’d have brought my bikini. (Well, a shame for anyone in the room upstairs that happens to glance down upon us as I dive in, sans swimwear.)
All pampered and hot-tubbed, I’m sorely in need of a pre-dinner reviver. With no main bar, drinks are served in lounges, all stuffed full with antique furniture, gilt-framed paintings and dominated by enormous log fireplaces. It feels like we’ve wandered, unchallenged, into a gentleman’s club in Piccadilly – only without the cigar smoke and old boys.
We sip our aperitifs and pore over the dinner menu which, as well as your old-school favourites (smoked salmon, Châteaubriand, tarte tatin), also has your contemporary classics (Gloucestershire Old Spot, line-caught sea bass). Appetites suitably whetted, we head through to the chocolate-brown dining room, where hushed conversations are punctuated by the chink of crystal goblet and the scrape of chunky silver on fine bone china. It’s the kind of experience that would make any girl feel special. Breakfast is served in the same room. But, come morning, we discover that the daylight has transformed Lower Slaughter’s dining room into an airy, sunny space with engaging views of the gardens, which are a perfect blend of formal and cottage planting.
I’d love to report that we worked off the calories of our full English breakfasts by getting up at dawn for a canter across dewy fields, before fitting in a round of golf at the local 18-hole course. We do at least talk about a spot of tennis. But then we get held up pootling about in Chipping Norton, where we end up eating slabs of home-made chocolate cake and people-watching outside the charming, independent Jaffe and Neale bookshop and café. The combination of sedate pace, country air and obscene amounts of carbohydrate has rendered us good for not much other than sighing happily and eating more cake.
We meander back through the kind of green and pleasant picture-perfect scenes that calendar salesmen make fortunes from. Enamoured of the country life, I even sneak a look in a few local estate agents’ windows and innocently mention to self-confessed, die-hard townie Mr Smith that, if the Young Farmers need any (not-so-young) recruits, I’d like to be considered. If it hadn’t been such an incredibly romantic escape, I think my comment might have earned me the kind of reaction that would make Lower Slaughter live up to its name after all…
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 The Slaughters Manor House’s Guestbook below.
The choice of making your visit as busy or as relaxed as you please. The staff were so friendly and helpful. In the evenings, sitting in front of the log fire after dinner with our favourite tipple was wonderful.
Stayed on 14 Apr 2019
We loved the welcome at the reception and quality of service; our room (Antoinette) was very comfortable; afternoon tea and a pre dinner drink in the comfortable lounge; dinner was excellent and breakfast good. Its a hotel to relax in and catch up on yourself. L'Occitaine toiletries were a treat.
Don't expect grand nor majestic grounds – they will be fine to sit in but not very interesting.
Stayed on 22 Nov 2018
The room was beautiful and spacious – very much what you'd want to see to lounge around on a lazy and/or rainy day in the English countryside. Restaurant is delicious as well.
A ton of things to do on the active side of things.
Stayed on 26 Aug 2018
We loved our room and felt very looked after. The food was exceptionally delicious and the service and attention we received were the perfect mix of friendly and polite. We came back to celebrate where we spent our wedding night 21 years ago and were very glad we did!
Stayed on 19 Jul 2018
Great service, made to feel very welcome, staff ready to help with any query. Good food, particularly enjoyed our meal in their sister pub across the road. Great location and base to explore the northern part of the Cotswolds.
Stayed on 11 Apr 2018
The hotel staff were all very friendly and the facilities of the hotel are suited to people looking for a weekend break or tranquil escape. The dinner dining experience at the restaurant was pleasantly enjoyable and the selection at breakfast was more than adequate. The lady at breakfast was incredibly friendly and helpful in catering for any specific individual needs. Would recommend this hotel for a visit in the Cotswolds.