Travel: Become a Thyme traveller at luxury Cotswolds country house hotel
PUBLISHED: 08:00 03 July 2016
Bridget Galton has a quintessentially English country break except for a cookery class making ornate French pastries.
Turn into the gate at Thyme and you enter a world where every detail has been carefully chosen.
Yet the overall effect is neither studied nor effortful, but a stylish, luxurious and quintessentially English country break – small wonder that supermodel Kate Moss’s rural retreat is just across the fields.
This 150-acre estate of Cotswold stone barns, houses, cookery school and pub is not so much a hotel as a lifestyle – one that will rest your body and soothe your soul.
It’s there in the lichened flagstones, the old-fashioned medlar and quince trees, the scent of lavender, and yes, thyme, and in the pretty floral dresses of the helpful staff.
In keeping with the owners’ ethos, Thyme is nevertheless firmly rooted in rural life. Duck eggs incubate in the kitchen, horses graze in the paddock and the farm-reared sheep, pigs and chickens supply the restaurant.
Home-grown greens and herbs from the kitchen garden pop up everywhere, infused in alcohol in bespoke cocktails, in a lemon balm tea, or a light herby broth with your delicious lamb supper.
Amid a cluster of cottages, we stayed in the largest. Thyme House comes with its own comfortably elegant living room and expansive kitchen overlooking an English country garden.
Rooms are inevitably named after local plants.
Mine, Wild Thyme, had low beams, a stand-alone tub, and gloriously comfy bed with crisp white sheets.
Miller&Harris smellies continue the floral theme with the scent of Le Petit Grain’s blend of citrus and herbs enveloping the room as I luxuriated in the tub before beginning the evening with cocktails in the ‘Baa’.
A short gambol across the courtyard, this is a converted barn filled with low slung sofas, cashmere throws and a herd of sit-on woolly sculpture sheep.
Once again it combines comfort with style in a way that makes sense of the hotel’s no-children policy. For this is surely a place where grown-ups come to have time away from the parenting coal face.
There may be plans for a boutique spa, sauna and hot tub, but there’s no swimming pool, or games room, and the main restaurant is the village pub.
After drinks we gathered lanterns for the short walk to The Swan at Southrop.
You have to bow your head to enter the low-ceilinged, stone-flagged local which has a cheery fire burning in a nook.
From the spot on staff, to the menu bursting with local or home grown produce, to the inspired wine list, it’s a seamless part of the Thyme brand.
Think of a huge scotch egg that’s melting in the middle, or smoked salmon with capers shallot and a citrus lemon and parsley dressing. Devour a floral rose geranium panna cotta or a salad of radish, quail eggs, watercress and salsa verde.
Or like me you could try one of the best sticky toffee puddings for miles around.
Well fed, we turned in early for a restful night’s sleep, in fact rather too restful since I overslept a little.
Luckily the breakfast at huge communal tables under the vaulted roof of the tithe barn is a relaxed affair.
Fresh eggs, wilted greens, smoked salmon and homemade sourdough, fruits and yoghurt set us up for a gentle stroll in borrowed hotel wellies through the fields and back past the church where Moss got married.
You could just as well flop on a sofa and read the papers, but we were booked in for a cooking class that involved creating a proper Bake-off style Mary Berry frou-frou of patisserie called a Gateau St Honore.
Named after the patron saint of bakers, this involved a whole load of techniques you will probably never needed to master, such as puff and choux pastry, injected with a cold custard called crème patissiere and stuck on with that hard caramel that encases toffee apples.
It was totally over the top but huge fun as we donned aprons and were gently steered through the myriad processes by our patient teacher.
As we decorated the finished creations with pretty flowers from the garden and enjoyed a final cup of tea, there was an undeniable sense of achievement – and not a little regret as we took the 90-minute train ride back to London clutching our cardboard cake boxes.
Room prices start from £260 per night B&B. For further information on Thyme and their Cookery School visit thyme.co.uk