As most expats will know, a trip back to the motherland is rarely a relaxing one; made even less so when friends and family are as widespread as mine. Despite best laid plans and intentions, I often spend much of my time in the UK frazzled and frantic as I travel from one side of the country to the next – sleeping in countless spare bedrooms in the process – aiming to squeeze in as much time as possible with loved ones. Given the last minute nature of my visit to the UK in April, it was even more fast-paced than usual, and so, after two weeks of bed hopping and more time spent on trains than I care to remember, I headed to the heart of the Cotswold countryside for a serene and stylish stay at Oxfordshire’s Artist Residence.
An idyllic rural retreat in the sleepy village of South Leigh, the drive to this thatched 16th century cottage was a treat in itself. It was an unseasonably warm day hinting at the promise of balmier climes to come, and the rolling fields and honey coloured houses we passed were bathed in the sort of early afternoon sunlight that made the British countryside look like something out of a picture perfect postcard. We arrived just before our room was ready, and so took the opportunity to enjoy a chilled glass of rosé in the sun-dappled courtyard, basking in the silence and tranquility of our surroundings.
No sooner had we finished our wine than we were shown to our room; which was rather aptly named the Farmhouse Loft. Both cosy and comfortable yet spacious in size, it was so inviting that I almost wished the weather was more dire so that we could batten down the hatches and spend a guilt-free afternoon inside. One of just five rooms in the hotel, each are eclectically decorated with reclaimed wood floors, chicken-wire lamps and bedside tables made from tea chests. Featuring Bakelite phones and ethnic rugs which add to the almost thrown-together, junkyard look, many of the furnishings have been handpicked from auction rooms, reclamation yards and even eBay, by Charlie and Justin Salisbury, the couple behind the boutique hotel brand. Our bed was opulent and cloud-like, with luxury white linen, and a contrasting blue throw, while the bathroom had both a rainfall shower and a sumptuous bath, complete with Bramley essential oil products.
Extra touches like the digital radios and well-stocked minibars, whose contents are not dissimilar to something you might find in a farm shop and include a range of tasty treats like shortbread and Roccos chocolates, make it the perfect spot to really switch off and the fusion of bohemian styling, antique furnishings and serene surroundings deliver the sort of rustic bolthole you never want to leave. After a late afternoon walk in the nearby village, which comprised of pristine country homes, endless green fields, and unrivalled views of the surrounding Cotswold countryside, we settled in for an early dinner in The Mason Arms – the downstairs hotel pub which boasted flagstone flooring, open fires, dark wooden panelling, rustic beams, exposed stone and brick, and served seriously good food in a wonderfully cosy setting. With a menu typical of a gastropub, we enjoyed ale bread and hand churned butter to start, followed by beer battered haddock and bashed peas for our main, before retiring to our room to curl up in the fluffy robes that came with the room.
The next morning, we woke to the sound of the chickens stirring in the outdoor coop – a true sign of its rural location – and decided to indulge in breakfast in bed, opting for the fluffy scrambled hen’s eggs on toast and the organic oat porridge with berries and cinnamon, a fitting finale to our brilliant but brief Cotswold’s getaway.
Perfect for arty urbanites looking for a taste of the English countryside, the modern rustic charm at Oxfordshire’s Artist Residence meant the only downside to our stylish sojourn was its unwelcome end.
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An eccentric bunch of fun and friendly places to eat, drink and sleep, and with hotels in Cornwall, London, Brighton, Bristol and Oxfordshire, find out more about Artist Residence here.