A Trip to the Cotswolds
At the end of June, I took my Mum to the Cotswolds to celebrate her birthday. We’d been to the Cotswolds together once several years ago, and, remembering the beautiful countryside and pretty villages, we were excited to explore the region a little more. This time, we stayed at The Kings Head in Cirencester, a picturesque town in the heart of the Cotswolds.
The start of summer is an exquisite time to visit the English countryside, with the promise of lush green vistas, blooming roses and – if your luck holds – blue skies. Happily, although we did experience a little rain, the sun mainly decided to cooperate and shone gaily for much of our weekend jaunt.
The Kings Head
The train ride from Paddington to Kemble, the closest station to Cirencester, was smooth and fast. We’d barely finished our croissants and tea before pulling into the charming, old-fashioned train station, 1hr and 22 minutes after leaving London. From Kemble, it was a 10 minute drive (we hailed a taxi at the station) before we were dropped off at the doors of The Kings Head Hotel, situated a stone’s throw from the pretty church in the centre of Cirencester.
++ A Historic Past ++
The Kings Head is a large, beautiful hotel steeped in history. A section of glass flooring near the reception desk reveals part of the remains of an ancient roman road, and records of the building date list it as a coaching inn in the 14th Century. With a history of hospitality spanning hundreds of years, then, it’s not surprising that the hotel is the epitome of elegance and comfort. The wide-range of rooms and event spaces available make it a fantastic choice for either a weekend getaway or occasion gatherings.
Fun details in the decor catch the eye of the particularly observant guest: the head of the hotel’s eponymous King is engraved on the iron staircase bannisters, starting with him as a baby and ending up a wizened man by the third floor. I loved how the Kings Head’s fascinating history is reflected in the design throughout the cavernous building: brightly coloured spools of yarn on display reference Cirencester’s wool industry past; ancient artefacts are scattered throughout the maze of the underground cellars and exposed brick walls and original wooden beams have been thoughtfully incorporated into the hotel’s recent renovations.The result is an appealing mix of heritage and modern sensibility and comfort.
++ Feature Space Room ++
One of the things I loved most about this hotel was the opulence of sheer space. The room was massive, easily fitting a king size bed, sofa, desk, coffee table and wardrobe. The elegant, muted tones of the decor offset the exposed wooden beams and brick walls perfectly. I was charmed by the bathroom, which had a brick fireplace, large tub and walk-in shower.
My Mum, who loves her coffee in the morning, was delighted by the espresso machine, and I was equally pleased with the good-sized kettle, fresh milk and wide selection of teas. Other thoughtful details included free wi-fi, bottled water and Elemis toiletries (Elemis is a favourite skincare brand of mine, so I was particularly happy to try out their body cream!).
Mum and I had spent the afternoon of our first day in Cirencester watching Polo (which I’ll be writing about in my next blog post), and had enjoyed a fabulous lunch and afternoon tea in a beautiful marquee on the Cirencester Park Polo Club grounds. Our stomachs gallantly rose to the occasion, however, and we were able to enjoy a thoroughly appetising supper too.
You know how much I appreciate a great set menu, and the Kings Head dinner menu is fantastic. I was blown away by the quality of the food and the incredible value. The menu offered was £16.50 for two courses or £20 for three. I chose ham hock terrine with piccalilli, toasted brioche and herb salad, followed by grilled fillet of sea bream, crushed potatoes and wilted summer greens. My first choice of summer pudding for dessert was no longer available, so instead I settled on vanilla cheesecake with limoncello sorbet.
Everything was delicious: my ham hock terrine was bursting with flavour, and the sea bream was the highlight of the meal for me – cooked to perfection and extremely tasty. I very much enjoyed the cheesecake as well, although I would have preferred a more traditional cheesecake base – the firm biscuit was hard to cut. The sorbet was beautifully refreshing, though, and the creaminess of the cheesecake topping was a lovely pairing with the tartness of the limoncello.
Mum had decided on a goat cheese and beetroot salad with orange dressing, with roast beef and all the trimmings as her main. After her incredible beef, she couldn’t manage even a spoonful of my cheesecake, let alone her own dessert!
As you can see, the restaurant’s portions are exceedingly generous! Mum said her beef was superb, and she very much enjoyed the salad to start as well. We each had a glass of the house white wine with our meal, which was crisp and pleasant.
Breakfast, Spa, Prosecco
After a refreshing night’s sleep, we made our way down for breakfast, and found that – somehow – we were able to eat again. There was an inviting cold buffet of juices, yoghurt, granola, cold cuts, cheese and pastries, but we both opted for a hot breakfast. I went for scrambled eggs on toast with sausage (delicious), and Mum had a veggie option of avocado, fried mushrooms and tomatoes and toast.
Extra toast was served with Tiptree jams and honey, and of course we washed everything down with generous refills of tea and coffee. It was very pleasant to sit and relax over yet another great meal, knowing that we had a further day of fun awaiting us.
The Kings Head Hotel has a large spa, as well as a steam room and fitness centre, and we were both booked in for 30 minute spa treatments after breakfast. I decided on a pedicure, selecting a bright hot-pink varnish to welcome summer, and Mum went for a foot massage and nail buffering. The spa was delightfully calm and quiet, and our beauty technicians were very helpful, giving me open toed slippers so I could walk around the hotel after without smudging my polish.
After our spa appointments, we decided to indulge in a glass of prosecco on the hotel’s roof terrace, enjoying the sunshine and letting my polish dry. The terrace offered a fantastic view of the church spire and was a peaceful spot to sit and sip our bubbly, listening to the bees droning over the potted flowers next to us.
After our thoroughly relaxing morning, we headed out to discover more of Cirencester.
Cirencester is a historic market town that is full of charm. It’s the perfect place to explore in a post-breakfast stroll, with a pleasing assortment of independent shops, delis and cafes, beautiful walks and an interesting church and art galleries.
++ Tour the Shops ++
There’s a good selection of homeware and stationery shops on offer – well worth a browse! Black Jack Street is particularly worthy of a wander, with lots of lovely boutiques and some great cafes.
I stumbled across Ocatavia’s, a charming children’s bookshop, and felt like I was stepping into a scene from You’ve Got Mail as I crossed the entrance. Meg Ryan, alas, didn’t greet me from behind the counter, but I still had a very charming assistant who rung up my purchase (a classic pony book by Joanna Cannan) and gave us a recommendation for where to go for tea and cake.
++ Eat Some Cake ++
Her suggestion proved to be about a minute walk from the shop: Jack’s Cafe. Mum and I gazed in awe at the selection of absolutely enormous cakes before settling on a slice of coffee and walnut (her) and Bakewell tart (me).
The cakes were marvellous – dieting is clearly not an option in the Cotswolds!
++ Walk Up Cecily Hill ++
For a classic Cotswold street, full to the brim with charm, look no further than Cecily Hill in Cirencester. The beautiful Cotswold stone houses with matching painted doors and flower pots offer a particularly pretty scene. At the end of the road is a lovely park above what I presumed to be the remains of Cirencester castle.
I think Cecily Hill must be home to some of the prettiest doors in the Cotswolds – don’t you?
++ Visit the Polo Club ++
The Cirencester Park Polo Club is a 10 minute drive from the town centre and is gorgeous. The grounds are enormous, and we had so much fun watching our very first Polo games. I’ll write more about the experience in my next post, but I definitely recommend stopping by the Club for a meal or even a Polo lesson should you be in the area.
If you’re keen to discover more of the Cotswolds, then I definitely recommend basing yourself at The Kings Head. You’ll be guaranteed a luxurious stay, and Cirencester is an excellent location for exploring more of the area: Bourton-on the-Water and Bibury (a favourite of William Morris!) are two other lovely villages nearby.
The Kings Head has rooms available from £140, B&B. Check availability and book online.
Note: Our stay was provided by The Kings Head for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.