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It has been quite some time since my last English country trip. There are so many idyllic places throughout the UK that it’s hard to choose where to go on my next location. Eventually, I arrive in the beautiful, historic Cotswold village of Broadway, which promises to be a memorable place to stay and a perfect base from which to tour the local area and enjoy the stunning walks. The pretty High Street is lined with horse chestnut trees and features a mixture of period houses and picturesque honey-coloured Cotswold stone cottages which have lured visitors for centuries.
At the heart of picturesque Broadway is The Lygon Arms, a traditional inn, rich in history and charm. More than this, the inn is also an international-standard hotel with an enviable reputation for the finest cuisine and the best of 20th-century comforts. It has three acres of grounds which include lawns, flower gardens and croquet for the exclusive use of its guests. The Lygon Arms was a tired shadow of its former self when it was acquired by Iconic Luxury Hotels back in 2015, and since then it has undergone a rather glamorous makeover. Thanks to Anita Rosato, the interiors now represent the staggering lineage of this olde world inn. You’d be forgiven for assuming that the dark wooden beams, spotlighting and prominence of original antiques would be somewhat oppressive, but this simply isn’t the case.
It has been soothingly restored and exudes cosy-chic appeal, making it a place to simply sink into. There are numerous lounges and snugs and several fireplaces; furnishings range from Gordon Russell pieces to restored antiques – and plenty of squishy sofas throughout the main areas, along with a polished bar. As part of the makeover, staff formality has been toned down, with their new smart-casual uniform of jeans and blue shirts. There are lots of personnel too, on hand to park cars, guide you through the labyrinth of sitting rooms and advise on local attractions. The hotel itself has a wealth of history, especially when you imagine it at its roots, dating back from the 1300’s, and you can stay in the suite that Oliver Cromwell stayed in the night before the Battle of Worcester in 1651. There is also the impressive King Charles I Suite, which was where King Charles I and his supporters would meet together and the King’s coat of arms stands regally over one of its fireplaces today. Visitors will also notice that the face of the royal lion is missing, presumably hacked off by Parliamentarians.
All the rooms are stylishly comfy, with numerous different coloured tartan bedheads and warm tones in each bedroom. Many are reached via evocatively creaky stairs in the main building and there are 13 further large courtyard rooms. This renowned Cotswolds hotel is one of Britain’s most historic inns, probably around 800 years old and still completely functional today with a modern 21st-century touch. I’ve been invited to stay in one of the Courtyard Suites which really are the spirit of the Cotswolds and are all named after individuals connected to The Lygon Arms. The suite itself comes with an adjoining living area and a vast bathroom. This is a perfect retreat for the next few days and I think it’s now time to unpack my typically excessive range of outfits from my stylish luxury leather cabin luggage, made by luxury English brand, Aspinal of London.
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A walk is always my first idea, especially as it gives me the chance to explore this hidden gem of a village and when, suddenly, a fabulous dream home appears, right before my eyes, I am stopped in my tracks! I stand completely still for a good few seconds, vowing to myself that it will happen for me one day (don’t we all naturally get this?) just like winning the lottery! The village offers a delightful display of fruit and veg shops, butchers, an old-fashioned sweet shop, country pubs, and gift shops galore selling independent luxury goods, to name but a few. It’s both rare and rewarding to see so many small local businesses in this lovely quaint setting, rather than the massive chains which are just everywhere. You may have heard that our British weather has recently taken a turn for the worse and the village has now turned into a magical white haven with the snow-covered landscape like icing on a cake. Unsurprisingly, my formal attire is most definitely NOT suitable for the weather, especially my suede monk shoes which are now completely soaked through, charming eh!
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While the snow is still swirling, it’s time to head back, my mind filled with thoughts of a hot giant cuppa and sinking into a plush armchair next to the roaring fire, rescuing my feet and hands from the threat of frostbite. Why didn’t I think of bringing my cashmere scarf and gloves, but it’s impossible to plan effectively with the weather changing constantly – typically British. But, once inside, the hotel brings warmth, joy and feels very much like home. Not to mention The Lygon Arms Spa, a haven of peace and an oasis of calm away from the hustle and bustle of Broadway, providing the opportunity for Spa guests and hotel guests to relax and rejuvenate. The Spa, with its own heated indoor swimming pool, is a perfect retreat – and I think I hear my swimming shorts calling.
After a few hours of unwinding, my stomach is starting to rumble. Time to head over to the Lygon Bar and Grill, a relaxed and informal dining area with, arguably, one of the finest looking dining rooms in the Cotswolds. The room is decorated in a tasteful dark shade of blue, the walls boasting a variety of portraits and landscapes, and the marble top tables, leather chairs, table lamps and an open pit fireplace complete the cosy, welcoming feel. Dishes such as Caldecott chicken, ham hock, and leek pie offer home comforts but mind you don’t overdo it on the sides – each is generously portioned and it would be a crime to miss out on the sticky toffee pudding. There are also two bars – with one offering a more casual Italian menu at the Lygon Wine Bar along with European Wines by the glass, carafe, and bottle – and an afternoon tea can be taken in the living room.
On the last remaining day, the best part of the day is always breakfast, a real winner for me. Often, I try to myself, “let’s order something that I don’t cook at home”. I’ve opted for the Full English Breakfast along with some freshly squeezed orange juice, a proper English breakfast tea, fruit platter and so on. It’s always a treat with a large breakfast feast lying on the table, not knowing where to start!
All packed and ready, the staff bring the car, hand over the keys and it’s time to set off. There’s something very ‘Wind in the Willows’ about travelling through the Cotswolds, the two-and-a-half-hour drive from central London takes you on a guided tour of the area, with the famous towns of Burford, Stow on the Wold, Bourton on the Water, Bibury and Moreton in Marsh passing intermittently, showcasing the quintessential beauty of English countryside and I have to agree that Broadway is one of the most picturesque villages I’ve ever seen.
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This is a perfect country escape to experience, at least once in your lifetime. London is calling but my heart is in the Cotswolds – time for another country trip very soon methinks?
Photos by Diana Martin Photography