There is something immensely satisfying in finding a perfect little pocket of England and exploring. Some find British climes an impediment to enjoyment, but they have obviously been staying at the wrong hotels. One of the best things about despicable weather is staying indoors, and a hotel of merit in England can therefore be measured by the thought that’s gone into passing time inside. For me, a beautiful bath and welcoming fireplace are vital – both provide comfort in the cold and a way to punctuate and pass time.
I found two hotels boasting brilliant baths in Chipping Campden. The first was at the charming Noel Arms Hotel. My stay here started with a late arrival due to traffic, and I expected to feast on peanuts or crisps, but was instead told that the chef would wait and prepare a meal before he left for me to enjoy by the fireplace.
Heartily fed, I made my way through the Cotswold stone building to my room. Room is a little ungenerous a word in this case: in the part of the hotel dating back to the 17th century, I was allotted a Jacobean masterpiece, a split-level ode to all that is good about the British countryside. On the top level was a bathroom complete with a window seat, mullioned windows, a view of cobbled streets and, of course, a wonderfully welcoming bath from which to enjoy. On the bottom was a four-poster bed dating back to 1657 that I climbed into (quite literally – I required the assistance of a footstool to make the ascent) after I’d soaked for a length of time in the bath.
Roused from slumber by the sun streaming through the windows, I wandered across the street to check in at the Noel Arms’s sister hotel: Cotswold House. After indulging in some cream tea and a walk along the Cotswold Way (for the ambitious amongst you, this runs all the way to Bath. If you merely want to walk off that extra scone as I did, a mile along you hit a rather nice view from which you can feel rewarded before starting back down), it was time to test the waters in the new quarters.
There were, in fact, a total of three places to warm up in the huge cottage off the frost-bitten gardens: the bath, a stone fireplace and a private outdoor hot tub. Basking in and around them took the better part of a day and there seemed scarce need to venture away from such splendour, but I managed to do so twice – to visit the restaurant and award-winning spa.
The latter promised quiet without interruption and that it did deliver. The poolside was an oasis of calm with waters unruffled by boisterous children. I opted to finish the stay with a 23-Carat Gold La Sultane de Saba facial, during which I was lulled into complete relaxation. A good maintenance treatment, it left my skin nourished and, well, gold due to the brushes of gold powder applied to my face at the end. Before we set off I had one last bath to send me on my way and, though I rubbed myself clean of the gold, knew the alchemy of the Cotswolds would stay with me for some time.