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Charingworth Manor Hotel (Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire)

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Manor hotel between Chipping Campden and Shipston-on-Stour in the Cotswolds.

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      26.05.2012 17:12
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      Luxurious and immaculate hotel set in the north of the Cotswolds with spa complex and restaurant.

      We recently celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. Having not spent a night away without our two teenage children for six years, we decided to mark the occasion with a night in the Cotswolds, alone, and if we were going to stay away then why not do it in style. After all we don't make a habit of this kind of thing, so we felt that we could splash out and stay somewhere a little bit special.

      **Booking and cost**

      A trawl through late rooms.com and booking.com gave us a short list of about six hotels in the northern part of the Cotswolds but there really was no competition; we both loved the historical elegance of Charingworth Manor. The fact that it had a pool, sauna and gym was one of the main selling points, as there is nothing that I love more than a tranquil hotel pool to relax in after a day out.

      Although we had found the hotel on web sites we chose to ring the hotel directly to clarify the difference between a standard room and a deluxe room. With only a £20 price difference we thought this worth investigating and were told that the deluxe rooms were in the oldest part of the house and had the best views. It seemed worth paying the extra bit as beautiful Cotswold views sounded very appealing and I didn't relish a delivery yard view as you so often get with hotels. As the hotel agreed to charge us the online rate of £149 per night over the phone we made the booking directly with them. It was only when we stood in the reception area on arrival that we saw a list of room charges and realised that our deluxe room was listed as being £310 per night and that we had grabbed ourselves a bargain. Having said that, I doubt many people book a hotel without checking out online prices so we probably paid much the same as everyone else staying. This rate included bed and breakfast with a check in time of 3pm and check out at 11am plus full use of the leisure facilities. We could have chosen to eat in their restaurant in the evening but this would have cost £30 each for a two course meal and £40 for three courses so we gave that a miss and chose instead to explore the idyllic Cotswold town of Chipping Campden, just a couple of miles away, and had a fantastic meal in the Lygon Hotel on the High Street, instead. Spa treatments are also available at an extra charge and have to be booked in advance. The hotel specialises in weddings which appear to use a marquee on the lawns as there is no large function room and there is a small venue / conference room which looked to seat about 20 people. A friend of mine who runs conferences and business events later told me that this is a venue that she has successfully used for her clients. Afternoon tea was also available for £14.50.

      **Location**

      The hotel is located on the B4035 between Chipping Campden and Shipstone on Stour in Gloustershire. We easily found it as it is clearly signed on the left as we approached from Chipping Campden, but in our reservation letter we were warned not to follow a sat nav as this would take you into the village of Charingworth and the hotel can only be accessed from the main road. It is a great place to stay to explore the Northern area of the Cotswolds such as Chipping Campden and Moreton in the Marsh.

      **First Impressions**

      Turning off of the main road we drove up a driveway of about 1/4mile and as we ascended the hill the hotel came impressively into view. As with most other old buildings in this area, it is built from the traditional honey coloured Cotswold stone which is now weathered to a warm grey colour. The oldest parts of the Manor House were built in the 14th century and historically you can see additions that have been made over the years. It has been a hotel for the last twenty years and is now run by the group, Classic Lodges. It has 26 rooms and the web site states that they are all recently refurbished. Ours was certainly in immaculate condition both decoratively and form a cleanliness point of view. It is not a huge building but it is very homely looking with two storeys with old leaded windows and then gabled attic rooms. More recent additions (17th century) that house bedrooms and the leisure facilities are in keeping with the character of the building and are off to one side so don't interfere with the main facade which still looks as it probably has for centuries.

      Despite a light drizzle as we approached it looked truly stunning and as it is set in 54 acres of land it stands alone with no other buildings nearby. The driveway leads you past a small lake, a tennis court, a croquet lawn and even a helicopter pad - (oh yes, how impressed were we to be staying somewhere where those who could afford to arrive by helicopter might stay) - before leading into a carpark at the rear of the house, where there was plenty of space to park. I felt a little apprehensive as we approached wondering if we had gone too posh and would feel out of place. We need not have worried though as our Mondeo was not out of place in the carpark and other guests seemed quite normal and wandered around casually in jeans just like us.

      Check in was efficient and welcoming and we were shown first around the communal areas of the hotel and then to our first floor room, up narrow flight of stairs. The receptionist offered to help with our bags, but as she looked a lot less substantial that us we decided it would be cruel to watch her struggle with our case and declined her assistance. As this is an ancient and listed building there isn't a lift so I wouldn't recommend it for anyone with mobility difficulties. As far as I am aware none of the bedrooms were on the same level as the dining area and lounges and the leisure suite was down more steps.

      **Our room**

      Entering our room, Stafford, was a definite wow moment. It was unlike any other hotel room that I have stayed in; no standard rectangular room with the bathroom taking up the corner near the door here. The first thing that I noticed was the stunning leaded three section leaded window set into the thick stone walls and the padded window seat under this - not massively comfy to sit on but perfect for staring out at the far reaching views across the Cotswolds in the distance and immediately above the main gardens of the hotel. Having stayed here now I am glad that we made the decision to have a deluxe room as our room had to have the best views of the entire hotel, although I don't think you would be disappointed with any outlook in this hotel. At worst you would be in a more modern room overlooking a pretty courtyard or rooms at the back of the house that still looked onto a pleasant gravel parking area, trees and plenty of flowers. The attic rooms have tiny windows so I wonder how much you would have been able to see from them.

      The furnishings were all of a high quality and probably antique with solid mahogany dressing table, bedside table and a chest on which the tea and coffee making facilities were displayed. The presentation box in which the generous assortment of fine teas were housed really caught our attention and was a definite indication of the class of our home for the night. The wardrobe was unique being set into a recess in the heavy stone wall and as well as plenty of hanging space it included a key code safe. An occasional table had glasses and bottles of water on it as well as a leather bound folder with historical details about the hotel, room service (ultra expensive) details and reception contact numbers etc. Two very comfortable brown leather bucket style chairs went with this which my husband found comfortable to sit on and read although I preferred to lounge on the bed. The bed was made up with heavy expensive feeling white sheets and duvet cover with a runner in brown and rust colours. The bed itself was a slight disappointment as it was standard size and my husband and I are used to sharing a king size so didn't sleep as well as we would have liked although the mattress was comfortable. A deluxe room, I feel, deserves a deluxe and large bed and I think there was sufficient space to have provided a larger one. That was my only complaint with the room though, so not bad.

      Other accessories included a suitcase holder set in the huge and beautiful stone fire place with a flat screen TV mounted above with a good range of television and radio channels, a hair dryer, sewing kit, slippers, monstrous thick white dressing gowns that were definitely man size and left 5 foot 2 me drowned and feeling like I was in a sauna when I tried wearing one, and a pretty selection of small toiletry bottles mounted on a nice shelf in the bathroom window. The decor throughout was neutral creams, browns and rusts and there were several soft pastel paintings on the wall with soft lighting but adequate lighting from wall lights and three heavy brass lamps. Even the pale cream carpet did not have a single mark on it and we felt obliged to remove our shoes so that we were not the first to spoil the look. It was all very attractive and comfortable and I savoured every moment spent in that room.

      Our en-suite bathroom was accessed by a windy short corridor that housed a full length mirror and chest of drawers and was positioned above the central porch of the house with a fine old window with even better views than the bedroom. Sadly this was too high to be able to lie in the bath and look out of. The white suite appeared as new and consisted of toilet, wash basin and bath with a shower mounted over and a clean white shower curtain. The shower had one of those huge modern heads and was plenty powerful enough and we had ample hot water.

      After exploring all of the nooks and crannies of the room we moved outdoors into the garden. The weather was appalling during our stay so we only managed to look at the immediate area before the heavens opened so the remaining 53 acres remained undiscovered. The front of the hotel is lawn with pretty planted areas which consisted of seasonal spring tulips and wall flowers while we were there and there is also a lot of lavender which should look and smell fantastic for the summer. There are also some pretty hanging baskets and a good number of green wrought iron tables and chairs; it would be a heavenly place to sit and relax on a perfect summer day.

      **Exercise time**

      A swim was a must for this visit, but first we decided that a token visit to the gym was also needed, just to say we'd been good and done a bit of exercise. The gym like all areas of the spa is accessed by an electronic key fob. It was quite small but seemed to have an average array of kit for a hotel but obviously nothing compared to a large complex. I just used the aerobic equipment - tread mill, rowing machine and exercise bike and my husband had a go with the free weights but there was also a resistance machine with assorted exercises, but we didn't use it as there was no one on duty to show us what to do.

      We swiftly moved through the changing area and into the pool - this was more like it - an idyllic brilliant turquoise blue, kidney shaped pool with Roman type decoration of columns and palms with plenty of seats around the outside. There was no one else in the pool as I climbed down the steps expecting to ease my way into normal chilly pool water. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was not going to have to be brave and plunge in as this water was so warm, almost bath like. At first this was great but it was actually a little too warm and not conducive to exercising so after swimming a few kidney shaped lengths I spent the rest of my time in the pool wallowing. I even found myself resenting the other four people who came into the pool ruining my solitude and especially my husband's splashing which really didn't fit well in this luxurious surroundings. My husband spent a lot of time in the sauna and I had a brief trial of the steam room which both seemed to be normal for this kind of facility. I would have loved to have had a Jacuzzi, but regretfully this was missing from this spa.

      The changing rooms were a little small and basic for what I expected with only 2 cubicles and a toilet. There was a plentiful supply of dry towels and an overflowing bin of used ones, but no spin machine to dry our swimsuits which I would have liked to use as we ended up taking soaking wet cossies back to our room and draping them over the shower where they were in our way. The spa is also open to the public for a £5 fee. I think I'd make use of this if I was local and it did feel very luxurious.

      **Breakfast**

      I'm well known for loving hotel breakfasts and always make the most of them trying out as many selections as possible. As we walked down to breakfast I remarked that I would be really happy if there was fresh melon and pineapple , smoked salmon and scrambled egg and pastries, not expecting them all to be on offer but I was not disappointed and neither was husband who chose a full English breakfast minus the black pudding. Breakfast is served from 7 to 10am (later at weekends) in the dining room. This is an intimate and cosy room in neutral creams and browns formed from a number of the previous separate ground floor rooms giving lots of smaller areas with about six tables in each. The waiters were polite and friendly and appeared to be silver service trained.

      A table was laid with small selection boxes of cereals and bowls of muesli, yogurts and a full range of most fruits and a tempting fruit salad that did not scrimp on strawberries and grapes. A further table had a toast making machine and an array of miniature croissants, pain au chocolat and danish pastries. In a menu was a range of cooked meals which the waiter took orders for and which were freshly cooked. My salmon was delicious but the scrambled egg was a little watery and flavourless but my husband thoroughly enjoyed his cooked breakfast and we also made good use of everything else on offer, leaving with stomachs well satisfied and more than sufficiently full to last through until afternoon tea.

      The two lounge areas occupy the remainder of the ground floor of the main building, but we had no time left to sit and enjoy these but they did look very inviting with big comfortable sofas and a large inglenook fireplace in one.

      **Somewhere to make you feel special**

      Reviews on Trip Advisor all seem to rate this hotel as top quality and a plaque outside the front door advised that it won a Best Loved Hotel Award in 2010. I totally agree with these ratings and definitely give it 5 stars. It was the perfect location for a special night away and I hope that we will be able to go back again one day - maybe for our silver wedding anniversary.

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