From the relaunch of a Grade-II listed coaching inn, to the opening of a wedding barn and the arrival of two Michelin-starred chefs, Rosalind Sack discovers what’s new in the Cotswolds in 2018
Fairford’s freshly polished gem
Crackling open fires, intimate little nooks and picture-postcard settings in villages of honey-coloured stone; there are some things about my favourite Cotswolds escapes that, happily, never change.
The Grade-II listed coaching inn, The Bull Hotel in Fairford, Gloucestershire, has had new life breathed into its 15th century building, with a complete transformation last year, yet it has maintained its historic charm.
The welcome was warm and friendly when I arrived with my partner on a Saturday lunchtime – a small group of guests were happily watching the rugby in a sunny lounge while, in the adjoining main bar, couples and groups with their friendly pooches gathered for lunch and a natter. In the converted stables beyond the main desk, a large party merrily celebrated in one of the private dining rooms, the faint sound of a spirited rendition of “For she’s a jolly good fellow” floating along the corridor.
Sitting handsomely in Fairford’s market square, and made of two neighbouring pubs, The Bull Hotel was taken over last year by award-winning chef and restaurateur Sebastian Snow and his wife, Lana, of nearby The Plough at Kelmscott and The Five Alls at Filkins.
Its menu of earthy, flavourful modern British dishes – created with co-head chef Piotr Skoczen – is a draw. I enjoyed the delightful prawn, avocado and cucumber cocktail, hearty lamb, rosemary and barley hotpot, and rich and fluffy sticky toffee and date pudding as we sat in pretty candlelight in the cosy teal-coloured morning room overlooking the square.
The newly imagined eclectic décor enhances its charm; from the sweeping floral mural on the wall of the lounge, to the antique and vintage furniture upholstered in rich velvets and dark linens, and the burnt orange leather banquets and reclaimed wood panelling in the private dining rooms – all sitting seamlessly alongside historic photographs referencing the building’s history. Each carefully chosen detail in the bold public areas is the creative brainchild of BAFTA-nominated TV and film set designer Corina Burrough.
Upstairs, its 21 en-suite bedrooms – including two family suites – are equally as striking, albeit with more paired-back colour schemes, beautiful patterned fabrics and monochrome star-design floor tiles in the bathrooms. We stayed in an elegant room on the top floor nestled in the eaves and enjoyed the thoughtful touches, such as homemade biscotti and beautiful toiletries from local company Wold Garden.
Guests can enjoy pottering along Fairford’s quiet high street peppered with cute cafes, galleries and gift shops, or head to nearby Cirencester to explore its array of intriguing independent shops. Foodies will enjoy The Bull’s monthly mid-week sushi pop-up restaurant in collaboration with Soushi Cirencester or, if your love of fish is more about catching than eating, The Bull has private fishing rights to a 1.25-mile stretch of the River Coln, where trout and grayling fishing is available year-round. Or lace up your boots and blow away the cobwebs with a stomp around the fields, or a bike ride along the lanes surrounding the village, safe in the knowledge that a hearty and snug welcome awaits at the end.
Rooms cost £100 per night midweek and from £120 per night at weekends on a B&B basis. Minimum two-night stay at weekends. thebullhotelfairford.co.uk; 01285 712535
Visitors to Daylesford Organic Farm, near Kingham, have long been enjoying their special workshops and courses, and their diary of creative events for 2018 looks as enticing as ever. Sign up to one-day floristry courses in March, watercolour workshops from May and a visit from interior designer Rita Konig, who will be running a workshop in March covering everything from layouts to upholstery, mixing furniture and home entertaining. daylesford.com/events
Originally set up by Martin and Lizzie Graham, who held opera productions in the grounds of their home in 1991, the Longborough Festival Opera is now an established opera company with its own intimate, purpose-built opera house. Music-lovers flock to the hillside setting to enjoy dinner or a picnic in the grounds before each performance. Their 2018 summer festival, from June to August, features four productions of old classics; Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer, Verdi’s La Traviata, Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, and Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea. lfo.org.uk
new for foodies
Owned by Lady Carole Bamford, who started the Daylesford Organic Farm shop, The Wild Rabbit Inn in Kingham has made two exciting new appointments within its culinary team. Chef Nathan Eades, former head chef at Michelin-starred Simpsons Restaurant in Birmingham, takes over as head chef this month; while Alyn Williams, chef-patron of Alyn Williams at the Westbury in London’s Mayfair, joins as chef-patron in May. ‘My ethos is symbiotic with our surroundings, and I am looking forward to working closely with everyone at Daylesford, from the farm to the bakery, to produce great dining experiences for our guests,’ said Williams. thewildrabbit.co.uk
The popular Hyde House near Stow-on-the-Wold is launching their new purpose-built wedding ceremony barn, The Grange, in April 2018. The development of The Grange is part of the restoration of the old formal gardens and the elegant weathered timber barn will have spectacular views of the Cotswolds countryside. The perfect spot to say ‘I do’. hyde-house.uk