Happily, one of those manors has had its outbuildings converted into a dozen luxury self-catering cottages, sleeping from 2 to 14: perfect for families, multi-gen breaks and group celebrations. Decorated in fittingly traditional English style, with slouchy sofas and antique chests, curtained four-posters in cosy bedrooms, they fit the setting perfectly. Well-stocked kitchens come with porcelain tea sets and a posh welcome pack – think homemade lemon drizzle cake and Heidsieck champagne.
But what we love most about Bruern are the rambling gardens, which burst with flowers and wisteria-draped paths. There’s a lawn for picnics or ball games, a small adventure playground, shady bowers for hide-and-seek, and (a godsend when it rains) a heated indoor pool. Toddlers can explore the supersize Wendy house, older kids the ping-pong and games room, frazzled parents the excellent massage menu. With its unpretentious style and idyllic Cotswold setting, this is a real tonic for all ages.
- We loved the welcoming, homely feel: stacks of novels, fine crockery, Oriental rugs – a far cry from most commercial rentals
- A great venue for families, be it one or several holidaying together, or a gathering of the whole clan
- Stay for anything from a weekend to a week (or more), with flexible arrival days and a refreshing absence of house rules
- Outside school holidays, the 1-bedroom cottages are great for a cosy weekend à deux
- Don’t fancy cooking? Book their (very affordable) chef, or pop to Milton or Kingham (2 miles): both have great gastropubs
- Some double beds are standard width, rather than queen or kingsize
- Reception service is limited during weekends (but someone is always contactable)
- It's a popular place, which means limited availability in the holidays, and a 13-week-ahead payment policy
- Short stays are considerably more expensive (per night) than weeks, but all prices include a fab hamper, bikes, games etc
- The compulsory housekeeping fees are quite steep (see payment policy)
- Boutique Cottages
- 12 cottages for 2-14
- Self-catering; chef on request
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Indoor Pool
- Beach Nearby
- Creche / Kids Club
- Off-street Parking
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Daily Maid Service
- Towels & Bedlinen
- Snooker Table
- Bicycles Available
- Maid service on request
There’s a wide range of cottages, with 1 to 5 bedrooms, to suit couples and families of all sizes. The majority are housed in the handsome 2-storey stable block, whose warm Cotswold-stone walls extend around a neatly striped croquet lawn fringed with rampant ivy and roses. You can't help feeling smug as you pull in here and scrunch around the gravel drive to unload your bags.
Most cottages are on 2 levels, with sitting room, kitchen and dining area downstairs, bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. Interiors ooze homely luxury and antique furnishings: think handsome four-poster beds with toile-de-jouy canopies, wrought iron twin beds and cheerful wallpapers in the kids' bedrooms, deep old lambswool sofas and well-worn rugs in the sitting rooms.
There's no designer sparseness or commercial caution here: instead a real sense of generosity and of noble heritage. You'll find rosewood secretaires and mahogany chests of drawers, lace-edged bedlinen and brass candlesticks (complete with candles), pretty watercolours and botanical prints and ceramic plates on the walls, bright bouquets bursting out of pretty porcelain vases, and copious ornamental knick-knacks.
If you're lucky enough to have a choice of cottage for your dates, here are some pointers.
Of the 2-bedroom cottages, Sandown occupies central spot in the stable courtyard, with an 11ft-high open-plan living space and direct access to the games lawn. Perched above it is Cheltenham, a cosy split-level apartment with elevated 2-way views over Bruern's lawns and woodland; we loved the top-of-the-tower feel (but not so much the spiral staircase up to it). Corner-cottage Wychwood has a sweet rear patio garden in touching distance of the wisteria and apple tunnel.
If you need a 3rd bedroom, Goodwood or Epsom (spotted the theme yet?) are situated at either end of the stable wings, with secluded private gardens; both sleep 5. Aintree and Bookers sleep 6, the former boasting a children’s den under the stairs (with cooker, toys and dressing up clothes), the latter set apart from the stables in its own apple orchard.
Of the larger cottages we were smitten by Weir House (5 bedrooms), with its wisteria-draped facade (complete with rose window), its private drive flanked by yew hedges, its front and rear gardens (with outdoor dining), and its very generous indoor spaces (including a vast open kitchen and a separate games/TV room).
Couples can hole up in Saratoga or Cope (both 1 bedroom); we liked the layout of Saratoga, with its central stairwell up to a romantic attic bedroom, and super-cosy bathtub alongside.
- Central heating
- DVD player
- Ipod dock
- Satellite TV
- Tumble dryer
- Washing machine
All 12 cottages have an extremely well-equipped kitchen - usually open plan with the living-dining space - with all you need to cook up a storm. Ours had a Bosch hob-oven, dishwasher, microwave, big fridge with chilled water dispenser, and crucial extras such as lemon juicer, salad spinner, grater, weighing scales, sharp knives on a magnetic strip, and drawers full of peelers, scissors, foils and films. Most have a washing machine and dryer too. All have a (semi) private garden area, with dining table and BBQ for lazy summer dinners al fresco.
We arrived to find a very welcome lemon drizzle cake (with a choice of 8 teapots to serve tea from!), and a chilled bottle of Heidsieck champagne if tea just won’t cut it after the long journey. A generous breakfast pack contains top notch English goodies: creamy milk in glass bottles, deep yellow cuts of butter, potlets of local jam (“Tutti Frutti” homemade by Judith from Eynsham), Tamworth pork sausages and delicious local eggs.
If you're feeling lazy, hire a local chef (Sara can recommend several), or pop down to The Hare at Milton (2 miles) for superior pub grub, including a superb “Marine Cuisine” board and innovative salads and snacks (wild boar & black pudding scotch egg, anyone?). It's a similar distance to Kingham, which boasts not one but 2 award-winning gastropubs: The Plough, hailed as the “poshest pub in England”, and the equally elegant Wild Rabbit, owned by nearby Daylesford Organics (where you can stock up on mouthwatering cheeses, homegrown meats and veg, in fact almost anything you'd hope to find in Selfridges' food hall).
- Chef on request
- Coffee / tea making
- Coffee maker
- Food blender
- Full kitchen
- Hob or stove
- Welcome hamper
- Explore the beautiful gardens and grounds, which include flowering borders, secret nooks, a wisteria and apple 'tunnel', a wooded stream, a large lawn for picnics or games of football, and an adventure playground
- While your kids splash in the heated indoor pool, relax in the small but well-reviewed spa next door (2 therapists, one specialising in reflexology, the other in beauty and holistic therapy); or in the gym room if your endorphins need a top-up
- Borrow the free mountain bikes to cycle along country lanes or wooded paths to Kingham or Shipton; there are helmets and kids bikes too, though specific sizes can't be guaranteed
- Horse-riding, golf, shooting and archery are all available within a few miles, while Cotswold Water Park (for watersports and lake swimming) is under an hour
- Don't forget Blenheim Palace (not just the building, but also 2000 acres of park and lakes including a butterfly house), Tudor Sudeley Castle with its award-winning gardens, the Cotswold jewels of Burford and Chipping Campden, and Shakespearean Stratford upon Avon
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Table tennis
Best Time to go
With its heated indoor pool, spa treatments, giant Wendy house and fireplaces in most cottages, Bruern also makes a great option for Easter or spring / autumn half-term holidays. And in winter term-times, we'd recommend it above all for couples wanting a cosy and romantic escape.
Our Top Tips
Bruern Cottages are set in beautiful gardens in the Evenlode valley, between Kingham and Shipton, in Oxfordshire. You're close to Bourton, Burford, Stow and Chipping Norton.
London Heathrow is your best bet if arriving from overseas; Bristol and Birmingham also receive international flights. There is a small airfield in Kidlington, just outside Oxford, which receives private flights if you're feeling flush.
It's easiest to arrive by car, and there's easy parking on-site. It's about 1.5 hours' drive from London, Birmingham or Bristol. There's no EV charging point but an extension cable can be provided. If you need to hire a car see our recommendations.
The nearest train station is Kingham (2 miles away), which is connected to London Paddington by direct trains (journey time approx. 1h15).
Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.
- Birmingham Airport 82.0 km BIR
- London Heathrow 118.0 km LHR
- Beach 216.0 km
- Shops 3.0 km
- Restaurant 3.0 km