When I first heard of Barnsley House, it seemed like it was straight out of a fairytale: an old British manor with fireplaces galore, a mix of modern and classic furniture fittings and Hunter wellington boots there for the borrowing, so any guest can walk through its grounds on a romantic tour of its snowy wonderland.
As guests of Barnsley House in December quickly learn, this is the sight that defines the holiday season here in the countryside. And Barnsley House knows how to complement its storybook surroundings.
The stunning house was built in 1697, four miles north-east of Cirencester, a small town in the heart of the English countryside. Since then, it seems very little about the house and area has changed, and trust us, that’s a very good thing. It wasn’t until 2003 that the house was opened to the public as a hotel. It has since become an exclusive destination for travellers seeking a quiet country retreat, characterized by stunning architecture, cozy comforts that keep one from missing home, delicious locally-sourced meals (with fruit and veg from the garden when possible) at The Potager Restaurant, and gorgeous grounds, that attract visitors from near and far.
Originally the home of acclaimed horticulturalist, Rosemary Verey—who, over 40-years created what remains a world-renowned example of the perfect wild-yet-manicured English country garden—the grounds at Barnsley House may appear simple, but rest assured, there is an unmistakeable art to every living organism in the garden—unparalleled by most gardens any will see in their lifetime. A plethora of English rose bushes and Secret Garden-esque spots help build this fantasy, sights that are particularly breathtaking come the winter months, when frost creates spectacular garden views. With such views, just imagine the beauty of arranging your own Christmas decorations here during the hotel’s Christmas Wreath Workshop, on December 16th.
The rooms at Barnsley House have almost an eclectic makeshift feel to them, which add to the coziness. Luxurious linens in cream and white and unfinished wood are a common theme through rooms, contrasted against modern bathrooms with charming side-by-side tubs, a handy room addition for a romantic holiday getaway. New Year’s Eve in the bathtub? Throw in some bubbles and champagne, and why not?
Guests staying through the holidays won’t want to miss the restaurant’s champagne breakfast come Christmas morning. In the heart of the countryside, a view of the hotel’s back garden provides a magical setting to toast the occasion with a couple of mimosas.
Breakfast, like all meals at the hotel, are helmed by acclaimed Head Chef, Graham Grafton, whose resume includes London’s Caprice, Bibendum and Chez Bruce. Using local and fresh produce from the ground’s gardens, the kitchen serves up English fare with Italian influence. When dining here, skip the eggnog, and opt for a bottle of Chianti instead to pair with the robust flavours of Chef Grafton’s dishes.
Should guests be planning an earlier December visit, may we suggest partaking in a pre-Christmas festive feast (on the 17th to be exact) with the hotel’s Christmas Concert and Dinner package. Beginning with a candlelit stroll to St Mary’s Church, where the concert is held, the evening ends with an exquisite dinner at The Potager Restaurant that will leave you in food bliss as you head back to your rooms. Best of all, guests are welcomed into the season of giving with a portion of proceeds being donated to both Oxfam and the Amalthea Trust.
Beyond the 18 individually-designed bedrooms, and superb restaurant, is the spa where serenity is invited into your holiday experience. With six treatment rooms, steam room, sauna, relaxation room and a hydrotherapy pool, the year’s stresses will fade away, and rejuvenation will be yours.
Further your quest for tranquility with a walk along one of the hotel’s trails, which will take you to the back of the grounds, which the closed-in spa looks out onto. Spa-goers need not worry about any peek-a-boo situations arising with strollers out, guests are afforded absolute privacy, thanks to a desolate and serene field directly outside the spa windows.
From the spa, head to the heated pool, where a Christmas Eve dip may just have you hearing “Silent Night” singing out from the woods. Afterwards, stretch out your legs with some refreshing citrus water in the spa’s Relaxation Room, where floor to ceiling windows once again tempt you with winter’s splendour. Hours could be spent here in pure bliss, humming holiday melodies, while flipping through the surplus of magazines laid out for guests.
A holiday vacation at Barnsley House is more than a romantic stay in the snowy English countryside, it’s about getting back to the roots of relaxation, shedding the worries of modern life and embracing the beauty of nature, and what better gift is there than that?
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