Slow Cotswolds

  • A stay at The Old Kiln House, Shipston-on-Stour

    It has recently rained, the sky has recovered to a translucent blue and the fresh scent of a candyfloss pink rose, jewelled with delicate raindrops draws me to a 'secret' garden gate. Behind the softly-coloured old brick wall and the pale olive gate over which the rose petals drip and drape is a hidden garden; a reclusive retreat with the mesmerising gentleness of a trickling water fountain, pots overflowing with colour, roses rambling this way and that, and the cool shade of a damson tree throwing shards of light across a patio. I've had a hell of a day, sleep deserted me the previous night, and entering this retreat-like haven is enough of a tonic to make everything right with the world again.

    One of my recent commissions as a travel writer has been to review hotels, guesthouses plus Bed and Breakfast accommodation in Warwickshire for The Telegraph's online portal, The Hotelegraph. It has led me to familiar places that are already included within the 2nd edition of Slow Travel: The Cotswolds. It has also introduced me to notable others for a future edition! The Old Kiln House in Shipston-on-Stour is one such.

    There is a certain wow factor about opening the garden gate to The Old Kiln House. Tucked away behind the High Street, right in the very centre of Shipston (detailed on pages 113-14) you'd be forgiven for thinking you were stepping into the garden of a rural country cottage. There is an element of townhouse about the 300-year-old brick property but the tranquillity resembles that of somewhere far more remote.

    Bridget and Patrick opened the Bed and Breakfast in 2015. Says Bridget as she pours me a 'Welcome drink' at her kitchen table overlooking the garden, "The property had been quite unloved when we bought it. We completely renovated the house and did all the interior decoration ourselves so that we could get exactly the look and quality that we wanted. We uncovered 300-year old flagstone floors in the Grade II-listed former barn during the process and opened up spaces to reveal exposed stonework and brickwork." Bridget then selected the finest quality fixtures and fittings to create the luxurious feel that guests now receive today - brass light switches, elegant bedside lamps, the finest quality sinks in the en-suite washrooms and the most sensual of fabrics selected for curtains, cushions and bedsteads. Much of the furniture was sourced from a particularly attractive interior design shop, Richard Harvey, within the town.

    There are three double bedrooms at The Old Kiln House. On the ground floor, accommodated in the former barn and next to the low-beamed entrance hall, is 'Avalon'. Here, in a room filled with light, is a king-size bed and an en-suite washroom with roll-top bath and separate shower. Bridget has decorated the room in a traditional French style with elegant painted furniture.

    On the second floor are two further rooms, the 'Westminster' and 'Salisbury'. Both have super-king size double beds, the Salisbury having the option of becoming a twin room. The Westminster is large yet cosy, with sloping ceilings and exposed beams that were once part of a ship! The Salisbury - my room - is soothingly pale in background colour but warmingly inviting with touches of red and gold in the bedhead, cushions, curtains and contemporary paintings. I love 'my' room, where I can sit in the oh-so-comfortable Roche Bobois armchair beside the low window and look out upon the birds sitting in the damson tree as I work (and drink a delicious white wine and nibbles served on a tray, brought to me by Bridget).

    There's filtered water beside the bed, organic tea and coffee making facilities and Bridget provides a flask of fresh, chilled milk rather than those hideous UHT capsules. I've black-out blinds too and they, along with one of the most comfortable mattresses I've ever slept on, give me the outstanding night's sleep I've been craving. My en-suite washroom, with exposed brickwork and a huge, walk-in shower offers sumptuous morning comfort, with the softest and thickest of towels and Bulgari toiletries.

    Downstairs, Bridget is preparing breakfast in the open-plan kitchen and dining room. Light floods the agreeable space, casting a warm glow over the exposed stonework and oak floorboards. Had the weather been slightly warmer, breakfast in the garden with the scent of the roses would have been perfect. For now, I'm content to be indoors to enjoy my breakfast juice and freshly prepared homemade fruit salad, Bridget's homemade bread and damson jam (made from the fruits in the garden), served in baby Kilner jars.

    Breakfast is staggered between guests so that Bridget can offer personal attention. Anything cooked is to order - a full English using the tastiest of sausages and oak-smoked bacon from Taylors Butchers (page 114) and eggs from her neighbour. Even the tomatoes and mushrooms are full of flavour - not always the case with hotel-prepared breakfasts. Smoked salmon, omelettes, porridge and croissants are also on offer, as are bowls of delicious yoghurt and home-prepared muesli. Even the butter is served 'properly' rather than those silly little individual packets so often seen.

    I'm sorry to leave. Bridget and Patrick - and their beautiful house - have been the perfect hosts. And the visitors' books supplied in each room tell you that I'm not the only one to think so. But, the scent of that rose - what a parting gift.

    The Old Kiln House costs £130 per night per room for two people with no seasonal variation. A single supplement applies. Guests must be aged over 16 years. No dogs are allowed (Bridget and Patrick have a small, very well-behaved dog of their own).

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