|COUNTRY COOL: The garden at the Cotswold House.|
WHY GO: The summer tourists are gone, the weather is cool, and it’s time to slow down for an attitude adjustment. Rent a car in London, perhaps a classic convertible Jaguar (www.classicmotoring.co.uk), for a leisurely two-hour drive northwest of London to the scenic country lanes of the Cotswolds, where peaceful river valleys, quiant country towns, and villages of honey-colored stone, and traditional pubs await.
|St. James’ Church is an English wool church.|
HISTORY MEETS HIGH STYLE: When they took over Cotswold House (www.cotswoldhouse.com) in 1999, owners Christa and Ian Taylor set out to preserve the property’s architecture and character while creating a contemporary, luxury boutique hotel. Though the Regency townhouse was built in the 19th century, the garden cottages, which house the Kiftsgate, Griggs, Ashbee, and Hidcote rooms, predate the main structure, and there is evidence that buildings have stood on this site since medieval times. However, there is nothing medieval about the interiors or the grounds. Think sumptuous beds and a pillow menu, soaking tubs big enough for two, fine Frette linens, state-of-the-art Bang & Olufsen cordless phones and LCD flat-screen TVs, and striking modern furnishings and art from local and internationally renowned artists. Set against the beams of centuries-old buildings and stone fireplaces, the effect is unexpected yet magnificent. In the new Montrose rooms, the Taylors took it up a notch with color-changing shower lights and, in Room 16, an Ammique bed that holds you in the perfect sleeping position, regardless of your shape, size, or movement. Price tag for the bed? About $25,000. If it’s privacy you seek, book the nearby Grammar School Suite, with two bedrooms, two baths, and access to the hotel’s many amenities and services. If it’s good enough (and under-the-radar enough) for Johnny Depp, it’s good enough for you.
|Centuries-old architecture meets contemporary design.|
TRICKS OF THE TOWN: The town of Chipping Campden, its High Street lined with the golden facades of buildings fabricated in local Cotswold limestone, was a rich wool trading center in the Middle Ages. Across from the Cotswold House sits the famous 17th-century Market Hall, with its striking arches. Another nearby attraction is St. James’ Church (www.stjameschurchcampden.co.uk), called a “wool church” because it was built primarily with the proceeds of the wool trade. Within the sacred walls are significant religious relics, including intricate medieval altar frontals (embroidered cloths that would have decorated the altar) and a cope, or liturgical vestment, dating back to 1400. But perhaps the most impressive “attraction” of the town and its church is the cemetery, filled with beautiful ancient headstones and sculpture that date back hundreds of years, inscribed with the words of love for those dearly departed.
FLOWER POWER: It’s impossible to visit this part of England without experiencing the classic beauty of traditional English gardens. At the Cotswold House, under the green thumb of Keith Finlay, the townhouse garden has bloomed into one of the finest in Chipping Campden, both in bold planters and in the borders that burst with color. Nearby is the famous Hidcote Manor Garden, designed in the Arts & Crafts style by horticulturalist Major Lawrence Johnston, son of Gertrude Winthrop, who purchased Hidcote Manor Estate in 1907. The garden, with its collection of rare shrubs and trees, herbaceous borders, and unusual plant species, is a series of outdoor “rooms” that peak at different times of year. Around every turn is a more magnificent array of color and texture than the last. Thanks to a generous donation of more than $3 million in 2006, the National Trust embarked on an ambitious plan to restore the garden to its 1930s glory by the year 2012.
Enjoy the Show
On the banks of the river Avon sits Stratford-Upon-Avon (www.stratford-upon-avon.co.uk), famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare, whose plays have been continuously performed since the 19th century. This historic town is also home base for the Royal Shakespeare Company (www.rsc.org.uk), perhaps the best-known theater company in the world. The RSC’s mission is to keep modern audiences in touch with the works of Shakespeare, although its repertoire also includes works by Shakespeare’s contemporaries and living dramatists. This theatrical powerhouse attracts talent both behind the scenes and on stage, including some of today’s acting greats, such as Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren, Patti LuPone, Jeremy Irons, and Judi Dench. Currently underway is the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, a modern-day take on the courtyard theaters of Shakespeare’s day. The prototype for this space is the Courtyard Theatre, which is hosting performances of Twelfth Night, Henry V, Henry IV, and Richard II through December.
THE COTSWOLD HOUSE
Gloucestershire GL55 6AN
+44 (0)1386 840310
Rates: $300–$1,450 a night. Visit the website for packages and special offers.
How to get there:
British Airways flies nonstop from Dallas to London Gatwick. The Cotswold House website provides detailed driving directions to the hotel. You can also reach the Cotswolds by rail. The nearest station to the Cotswold House is Moreton-in-Marsh, and the hotel offers transfer from the train station.