The Lakes by Yoo

nr Lechlade, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom Book from Book from £400 per night

Luxurious lakeside rentals (sleeping 5-10) in the Cotswolds, with superb spa, indoor pool, private chefs, sailing, forest trails and much more
Imagine, if you can, a tip-top Scandinavian chalet resort transported to the Cotswolds, with gorgeous lakefront houses conceived by Philippe Starck, eye-popping interiors designed by Kelly Hoppen or Jade Jagger, zip-lining and forest activities created by the likes of Ben Fogle. Add some watersports, outstanding private chefs, an enriching holiday kids club, and a spa with a 17-metre heated pool and blissful La Spiezia treatments - and you begin to get the picture.

This elite hideaway is hidden - inasmuch as an 850-acre estate can be - behind gated walls outside Lechlade, just 90 minutes from London. Alongside 100 or so privately owned holiday homes, it offers a handful of rental chalets for families or groups of 4-10 friends. This is Swallows and Amazons living made easy, and ultra-comfy: lake-facing decks with day beds and BBQs, kingsize bedrooms with climb-into bunks and duck-down duvets, open-plan living spaces with sleek kitchen islands and oversized sofas, mountain bikes and locally stocked breakfast hampers delivered to your door. It's perfect for a cobweb-banishing weekend away, or an easy-does-it summer holiday in the heart of the UK, yet a world away from home.

Highs

  • It's a great option for a special celebration, with superb private caterers and mixologists on tap
  • Spa treatments are top of their game and fairly priced: my 60-minute, £60 massage was one of the most deeply relaxing ever
  • We loved the houses' lovely, light sitting rooms (most with huge TV and DVDs), and their lazy lakefront decks with loungers
  • If you're feeling active, there are 15km of trails to explore on foot or by bike, as well as fishing, kayaking, tennis and adrenaline sports
  • The indoor pool, gym and spa treatments provide an insurance against rainy days

Lows

  • Unsurprisingly, this is an expensive place to stay - but it's a real bubble of bliss
  • It's a large resort: over 100 houses, but spread over 850 acres and 5 lakes, and screened by woodland, so you wouldn't know it
  • Not all houses have direct access to the water, so wild swimmers may have to walk or cycle off for their morning dip
  • New houses are currently being built at the edge of the estate, which could create minor disturbance on weekdays (check when booking)
  • Extras can add up - things like bike hire, midweek cleans, breakfast hampers, spa induction charge and a credit card fee

Best time to go

Most families come during school holidays - May or Oct half-term, summer hols, Easter - and that's when the Kids Club operates. Groups of friends tend to come at weekends, year round. Book midweek, outside summer, and you could well feel as if you have the place to yourself - the houses are widely spaced and screened - but bear in mind that Elsa's café will be closed, and the spa working on reduced staff (so book ahead).

Our top tips

It's only 1-2 hours' drive from London, Bristol, Birmingham or Southampton, so come for a weekend (or, better still, a sneaky midweeker): even 2 nights away will feel like another world, one of sun-dappled birch woods, hovering damsel flies and leaping trout.

Don't assume it's beyond your budget: if you come with a group and fill all the beds, it usually works out under £100 pppn

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Spa
  • 16 houses (for rent)
  • 3-5 bedrooms per house
  • Self-catering (café at weekends)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Indoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
  • Pool Table
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The contemporary, timber, 2- or 3 storey houses offer airy open-plan interiors, floor-to-ceiling sliding windows and serene waterside decks. All except Barnhouse are perched right on the lake. Some bear the stamp of illustrious designers (Kelly Hoppen, Jade Jagger), while others are decorated to the owners' spec by Yoo's own design studio. Either way, they feel uplifting and indulgent, with top-label fittings and bright splashes of colour or witty art. They're classified in 5 categories (Fabulous, Outstanding etc) but, in truth, they're all pretty special and you're more likely to be steered by number of bedrooms (3, 4 or 5) and by availability.

We saw half a dozen houses, and struggled to pick a favourite. 3-bedroom Claydon Lodge is one of the most affordable, but no less lovely. Its south-facing, white-timber-and-marble living space is full of sunlight; its lakeside deck, despite being near the site entrance and A417, perfectly tranquil - just lapping waves and quacking ducks.

Also on Warrens Cross Lake, but facing east, is 4-bedroom Lakeside Villa- tastefully neutral in decor, with cream and khaki colours and blond-washed floorboards. We liked the top-floor master suite with its wraparound balcony (a real refuge for stressed out parents), the equally sumptuous first-floor suite with its walk-through bathroom, and the ground-floor dining zone with its retro white leather banquettes.

Tucked away on little Huntsman Lake, with unspoiled easterly views over green waters to dense woodland, and a wooden jetty for easy kayaking and wild swimming, are White Willow and Arcadian Lodge. Both have calming grey palettes lifted by touches of colour (lilac, teal, lemon yellow) and softness: sheepskin rugs, Moroccan lanterns, glassed-in woodburners for winter cosiness. We loved Arcadian's industrial-chic touches: metallic pendant lights and Meccano-style benches outside. Like most larger houses, the living area has a semi-separate snug with giant sofas and a vast TV (plus, here, a well-tuned upright piano). Upstairs, alongside 2 double bedrooms, is a cheerful 4-bunk kids' room and a separate play room, plus a top-floor office and master suite.

The flagship 5-bedroom Barnhouse, where we stayed, oozes the glamour of Kate Moss: sexy black-and-white prints of pouting stars line the stairwell, the master suite comes with an emperor-size four-poster in a gallery above the double-height living/party room, and you get a heated pool to make up for the lack of lake access. We loved the secluded patio and the funky record player (vinyl collection included). In terms of price and wow factor, it's top of the range, though actually we preferred the more affordable waterfront houses.

Features include:

  • Barbecue
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee maker
  • Dishwasher
  • DVD player
  • Fireplace
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hairdryer
  • Hob or stove
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Satellite TV
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Toiletries
  • Tumble dryer
  • Underfloor heating
  • Washing machine
  • WiFi

Eating

All the houses come with superbly equipped kitchens, usually open-plan to the dining-living area for sociable cooking. Some have kitchen islands with bar stool seating, others feature a homely Aga or a huge pull-out wine cooler for chilled celebrations; but most importantly they're never short of sharp knives or mixers or stacks of crockery. In good weather you can eat outside on the lake-facing deck; most have a BBQ, too.

Or you can book a private chef to whip up fabulous food at fair prices. Our dinner with Michelin-trained Jay Halford was an absolute highlight. Seared scallops on creamed peas and pancetta crisps, overnight-roasted lamb medallion with perfectly caramelised spring veg - all of it was light, nutritious and ambrosially delicious. Jay's mission is to make healthy, often raw, food taste fantastic, and his 'pinacolada' dessert (pineapple gel, mango sorbet, coconut parfait and black sesame salad) is proof of the pudding: pure bottled fruitiness. If you can book Jay, I urge you to do so.

He's also the force behind the lovely, laid-back, al fresco café known as Elsa's, serving super juices, pizzas, all day breakfasts and 'Cotswold Caprese' salads from a cute Citroen H-van resting in an apple orchard outside the spa (summer weekends only).

Needless to say, the staff can also fix you up with deli-style hampers (the breakfast selection is particularly mouth-watering), pre-stocked fridges, frozen meals from Cook, and an army of cocktail makers and shakers for parties on your lakeside deck. Outside in the real world, Lechlade (4km) has a couple of restaurants, a fish bar and two traditional pubs.

Features include:

  • Barbecue
  • Chef on request
  • Coffee maker
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Dishwasher
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob or stove
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Meal delivery service
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Shopping service
  • Toaster
  • Welcome hamper
  • Weekend café (lunch only)
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The lakes await: sailing, kayaking, fishing or wild swimming, the choice is yours
  • You also have 15km of walkways, nature trails and cycling routes within the estate (mountain bikes can be hired)
  • Out at The Meadow (behind Warrens Cross Lake) are 2 tennis courts, a herb garden and a hennery (help yourselves to eggs), as well as a small 'beach' for easy lake access
  • Archery, trampolining, fitness classes (for all the family) and even axe-throwing are sometimes offered
  • Try the exhilarating zipline over a corner of the lake - book in advance (ideally as a group), gird your loins ... and jump!
  • Wind down afterwards in the Orchard Spa, with its outstanding Spiezia and Daylesford treatments, not to mention a heated 20m pool, gym, steam room and pool table

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Clay pigeon shooting
  • Climbing
  • Fishing
  • Gliding
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Polo
  • Pool table
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Shooting
  • Swimming
  • Wakeboarding
  • Water skiing
  • Well being

Kids

This place is bliss with children, especially those who enjoy the outdoors. With such an array of activities (see below) and patient, professional guidance, it would be hard not to. But if the rain does fall, there are home cinemas and craft courses for the kids, and spa treatments or indoor swimming for the parents.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

All the houses are brilliantly set up for families of different sizes: most have bunk rooms (some sleeping 4), a few have dedicated kids' play rooms, and all have a range of games and toys, including DVDs to play on the huge screen in the snug.

Babysitting:

Available at extra cost

Baby equipment:

  • High chairs
  • Baby cots

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

Creche/Kid's Club:

A separate kids club (for ages 4+) operates in school holidays, offering near-daily activities from water sports and cycling to bee-keeping, puppet shows and pirate days. There is also a summer camp at various dates in August, where you can try your hand at drumming, smoothie making or archery, or sign up for the 'Lakes Olympics'. Autumn sees a big Halloween event plus activities such as apple pressing during half-term themed for hibernation and the outdoors

Kids Activities on site:

  • Guided watersports
  • Cycling
  • Zip wire
  • Tennis lessons
  • Yoga and fitness
  • Bushcraft
  • Archery*
  • Bee-keeping*
  • Go-karting*
  • School of Wild*
  • Krazy Kitchen*
  • Bouncy castle*
  • Trampolining*
  • Drumming*
*These activities (and more) are available at specific times during school holidays through the Kids Club

Families Should Know:

  • With toddlers, be aware that, while the houses' lakeside decks have railings, there are some areas outside with unprotected access to water.
  • Children have limited access to the spa's heated pool
  • Bespoke activities can be arranged for larger family groups with advance notice

Distances:

  • Shop: 4km (Lechlade)
  • Medical centre: 4km (Lechlade)
  • Hospital: 25km (Swindon / Cirencester)
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

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

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Rates for The Lakes by Yoo