Cowley Manor

Gloucestershire, United Kingdom Book from Book from £185 per night

Contemporary country hotel and spa set in beautiful Cotswold parkland, perfect for some R&R
Roll up to this stately home with its 55 acres of parkland, lakes and river and you expect something grand or traditional inside. But walk in past the colourful Hunter wellies and you instantly pick up the contrast. Look up to prism crystals suspended from high ceilings, catch a glimpse of a rockstar-esque snooker room, then proceed to the bright guest lounge. Furnishings are modern designer but there's an easy ambiance we loved: newspapers rustle, contented guests gaze out to parkland. Expect funky interiors, cowhide seats and mock hunting trophies made from papier-mâché on the bar-room wall.

Nothing about this place feels fussy or pretentious; the atmosphere is pure relaxation and staff are wonderfully down-to-earth. The 31 contemporary bedrooms are delightfully comfortable, with enormous bathrooms and lots of treats, but it was the heated outdoor pool and excellent spa that really stole the show. And when we revisited in winter, we arrived to whirling snow, twinkly fairy lights and a warm welcome - and were smitten anew.

Highs

  • A feeling of real generosity. It's not a cheap place to stay, but you feel very spoilt
  • Award-winning C.Side spa with treatments galore
  • Very friendly staff who go the extra mile
  • Great for families, with a relaxed atmosphere, masses of space and fun organised activities in the school holidays
  • Magnificent grounds in Cotswold countryside with sweeping views from the house, and lovely walks

Lows

  • Those seeking a peaceful or romantic retreat should come midweek or out of school holidays
  • Food was decent but lacked the wow factor
  • Although the rooms are being re-furbed one by one, in the meantime a couple of the older rooms feel dated
  • We'd have liked a kettle to make proper tea and some homemade biscuits

Best time to go

Any time of year: in winter for crackling fires; in spring and summer for enjoying the grounds at their best and lazing by the pools (your visit could coincide with seasonal events such as their outdoor summer movie screenings); in autumn to see the trees changing colours

Our top tips

For a change of scene, the Green Dragon across the grounds is a classic country pub with open fires, good grub and flagstone floors. Borrow a bike to cycle there if you don't fancy walking.

Great for...

Family
Honeymoon
Spa
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Hotel & Spa
  • 31
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome (best in school holidays)
  • Open all year
  • Pools
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Snooker Table
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Best Room

Rooms

The 31 rooms range between Good, Better, Great, Exceptional, Outstanding and Best Rooms. They vary wildly: some have enormous bathrooms; some are split level, some open plan; some with views across the garden. But all have a contemporary feel with bright soft furnishings against a backdrop of modern Scandinavian styling. Wooden furniture is mostly handmade; you can expect wall-mounted CD players, TVs and interesting minibars (with Dairy Milk and Jelly Beans for kids and big kids). Bathrooms are amazing throughout: super spacious with rain shower heads, thick robes and big bottles of Green and Spring toiletries. All but one has a tub, too.

At the top of the pecking order is Best, a one-off with a 4-poster bed, very large bathroom with a tub for 2, and a balcony with the best views across the countryside. There are also a few bonus extras like a PS2. Outstanding Rooms have large terraces with beautiful countryside views, while Exceptional Rooms have big bathrooms and living areas with pop-up sofabeds for kids, plus some have their own terraces (we liked #18 which has views on both sides of room). Great Rooms have views across the lake, and a couple can be blocked off together to make a family room.

Better Rooms are in the stable block, and most have a split level set-up with a mezzanine level overlooking the central white gravel courtyard (#14 can take pets). Good Rooms are the smallest but benefit from being closest to the spa.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • CD player
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • DVD player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite TV
  • Toiletries
  • TV
  • WiFi

Eating

Malt restaurant's high ceilings and ornate wood panelling give a lovely sense of grandeur to your meal. Expect crisp white tablecloths and stunning starry lampshades.

Produce is locally sourced and the menus are proudly British. We enjoyed our slow-roasted duck ceasar salad, and a beer-battered bream with warm tartare sauce. Mains were pork tenderloin with chive potato puree and calvero nero, and a shoulder of lamb on puy lentils, red cabbage and an artichoke and potato purée. Both were decent but unfortunately lacked a depth of flavour. Puddings were the highlight of the meal: a chocolate malteser ball, which was drenched in hot chocolate sauce and collapsed dramatically, and a pear and pistachio tart with crème fraîche ice cream.

The breakfast buffet is enormous: pastries, fresh figs, prosciutto, pots of Bircher museli and various homemade breads. Don't feel you need to pay extra for the cooked breakfast, as we were disappointed with ours. The fresh Continental options should keep you going.

For lunch there's a selection of dishes ranging from cider roast ham, buck rabbit or venison sausages which lend a country theme, to Caesar salads or simple Cowley steak burgers. You may want to leave room for their afternoon teas - delicious cakes, fancies and finger sandwiches, served with a Sipsmith G&T or Champagne.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children's meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Bliss out in the C-Side spa. There's a steam room and sauna, and a series of treatment rooms offering massages, wraps and holistic treatments. The Cloud 9 experience (a mix of aromatherapy, Qi energy balancing, reflexology and acupressure) sounds divine, and there's a large range of pregnancy options
  • Swim: 2 heated pools are side by side (one outdoor). The larger indoor pool is set in a vast pillared building, which is very swanky with huge glass panels bringing in masses of daylight
  • Walk in the fabulous grounds or beyond into the beautiful Cotswold countryside; there are wellies to borrow and modern art sculptures to admire
  • Play billiards, sip cocktails, laze in the lounge with the papers or curl up with a DVD in your room
  • Cheltenham is close; admire its Regency houses, shop in its gorgeous one-off boutiques, or time your visit to coincide with one of the festivals

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Well being
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome and this is a super-popular hotel for families in the school holidays, with fantastic organised activities, and indoor and outdoor heated pools. Wellies can be provided for romping around the extensive parklands, hot water bottles can be provided on request. The extra bed rate includes breakfast and dinner from the kids' menu.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms have big bathrooms with tubs. Better, Great and the Best room can all fit a baby cot or extra bed, and some Great rooms can interconnect into a family suite. A couple of the Exceptional rooms have a bedroom area for parents and a side sitting room with pop-up bunkbeds.

Babysitting:

On request

Baby listening:

Monitors available on request

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Creche/Kid's Club:

No kids club or creche as such but amazing organised activities and film screenings are arranged in the school holidays - magic shows, art clubs, even a reptile roadshow!

Children's meals:

Children are welcome to dine from 5.30pm onwards in the bar and lounge - there's a kids' menu and special cutlery. The restaurant opens at 7pm, and older children are allowed. Parents can feed their children in the bar, then ask for a family film to be shown in the Kids Den (small library) next to reception so they can dine a deux. In the summer you can ask for a family picnic in the grounds along with picnic basket, mini-bar and giant beanbags.

Kids Activities on site:

  • The pools are heated (children can swim until 5.30pm)
  • 55 acres of parkland, woods and meadows, plus natural springs and a series of lakes; wellies and kids' bikes to borrow
  • Outdoor Giant Chess, Connect 4 and Jenga
  • Plenty of indoor communal space
  • Lots of board games
  • DVD library and regular Kids Movie Nights

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Nearby adventure parks
  • Horse riding
  • Zoo
  • Bourton on the Water has a miniature village
  • In July Cheltenham has a Music and Fringe Festival, there's the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford

Families Should Know:

There are dedicated 'family swim times' at C-Side Spa - which includes both pools. Kids should be supervised around the lake.

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour
  • Hospital: 12 minutes
  • Shops: 10 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Location

Cowley is set between Cirencester and Cheltenham in the county of Gloucestershire, central England.

By Air:
London Heathrow (90km) is about 1.5 hours' away, travelling east by car, and Bristol is 45 mins. For a list of airlines serving these airports, click the links at the bottom of the page. Alternatively you can arrive by helicopter on their top lawn. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.

By Train:
The nearest station is Cheltenham Spa, (15 minutes' drive), a 90-minute ride from London Paddington. From here you can take a taxi.

By Car:
The hotel is about 1.5 hours' drive from London and 45 minutes from Bristol. If you need to hire a car, see our car rental recommendations.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.

More on getting to the UK and getting around

Airports:

  • London Heathrow 145.0 km LHR
  • Bristol 80.0 km BRS

Other:

  • Beach 80.0 km
  • Shops 10.0 km
  • Restaurant 10.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 2 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
9/10
Food
9/10
Service
8/10
Value
9/10
Overall

As soon as you drive into the car park you are wowed over by the setting. We arrived early as it was cold and we wanted to have some food before going to our room. They have a good arrangement for everyone with a sitting room which couples or families can use for their own privacy. We had a tour of the facilities and then settled down to relax. They have a long list of dvds, every television has a dvd set up with it. This meant our toddler could settle down to a Disney movie. They have a large selection of games in the larger lounge for guests to use. The children's food was very reasonable costing £5 for a main. Which was more than plenty for each child. There is a pool table room which my boys also used and were very excited about. The hotel's service is excellent they have such a caring and respectful manner. My children were very comfortable and the staff only helped make us all feel relaxed. The rooms are well designed we had an Exceptional Room with kids bunk beds. The helpful part was their was a WC in their sleeping area which meant a lot of convenience. Set up in the room was lovely. I found staff not as friendly in the spa. I felt that as a family and the fact that we had children was not something they really invited much. There were no facilities for changing in a cubicle or with families. The pool was not very warm. Dinner was wonderful and we enjoyed it. Food was superb, portions were big and service good too. I loved the fact they had wellies for everyone to borrow. Such a cute extra touch. The grounds are truly beautiful, well kept and child friendly. I feel this would be a wonderful place to stay anytime of the year.

8/10,

Lovely stay at Cowley. The relaxed atmosphere is just right. The thoughtful touches likes wellies and flip-flops, were very welcome. If we have any tips to improve it would be maybe more variety on the menu and yoga mats in bedrooms.

10/10,

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