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. When we revisited in winter, we arrived to whirling snow, twinkly fairy lights and a warm welcome - and were smitten anew.
- 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
- Good 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
- Closed for refurbishments until July 2023
- 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
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel & Spa
- 31 rooms
- Restaurant and bar (open daily)
- All ages welcome (best in school holidays)
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Car recommended
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
- Bicycles Available
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 four-poster bed, very large bathroom with a tub for two, 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 the 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.
- Safe box
Malt restaurant's high ceilings and ornate wood panelling give a lovely sense of grandeur to your meal. 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 depth or 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. You can usually order a picnic in summer months, with four delightfully curated spots to book around the grounds.
- Kids' meals
- Organic produce
- Restaurants nearby
- Room service
- 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: Two 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.
- If you fancy a spin on the clubs, the Star Golf Course takes day players.
- The summer months sometimes see al fresco cinematic screenings and theatre performances.
- 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:
- Historical sites
- Horse riding
- Hot air ballooning
- Shopping / markets
- Well being
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.
Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)
Family friendly accommodation:
All rooms have big bathrooms with tubs but note that only Great and Exceptional rooms can take extra beds and baby cots. Some individual rooms (including Better, Great, Good, Exceptional and Outstanding options) can interconnect to make a Family Suite, which we think a good option. All Exceptional rooms can have two extra beds and a cot added, some have a bedroom area for parents and a side sitting room with pop-up bunkbeds.
Cots Available, Extra Beds Available
Monitors available on request
Baby cots available on request
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
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 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. Child-friendly afternoon teas are also available.
Kids Activities on site:
- The pools are heated (children can swim between 8:30-11am and 3:30-5:30pm)
- 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
- 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
- Airport: 1 hour
- Hospital: 12 minutes
- Shops: 10 minutes
Cowley is set between Cirencester and Cheltenham in the county of Gloucestershire, central England.
London Heathrow (90km) is about 1.5 hours' away, travelling east by car, and Bristol Airport is 45 mins. Alternatively you can arrive by helicopter on their top lawn.
The nearest station is Cheltenham Spa, (15 minutes' drive), a 90-minute ride from London Paddington. From here you can take a taxi.
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. The hotel can assist with charging your car but you'll need to bring your own chargers and adaptors as there isn't a charging point.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.
- London Heathrow 145.0 km LHR
- Bristol 80.0 km BRS
- Beach 80.0 km
- Shops 10.0 km
- Restaurant 10.0 km