Tudor Farmhouse

Clearwell, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom Book from Book from £130 per night

In the Forest of Dean by the gorgeous Wye Valley, this boutique farmhouse hotel combines divine dinners, smart bedrooms and faultless service
The tiny village of Clearwell - 250 inhabitants, a string of stone cottages, one pointy-steepled church - is not an obvious setting for a boutique gourmet hotel. To the east, the endless woodlands of the Forest of Dean; to the west, the deep meandering cleft of the river Wye, canoeists’ and hikers’ paradise, and border with Wales. If you’ve not heard of this region, that’s exactly why you should come. And this is where you should stay.

Colin and Hari Fell took over this 17th-century farmhouse and its stone outbuildings 10 years ago, and have been diligently improving it room by room, dish by dish, smile by smile. Expect crackling fires and fresh flowers in the beamed dining room; feather duvets and monsoon showers in 20 smartly refurbished bedrooms; sweet, unpretentious service from Jenny and the team. Chef Rob Cox has put together a brilliant '20-mile menu': Gloucestershire game terrine with pear chutney, local Longhorn beef sirloin with lovage, girolles and rainbow chard, home-laid eggs at breakfast. Outside are 14 acres of rolling grounds, including herb gardens, hens and ducks, ponies and SSSI-designated wildflower meadows. Book a winter weekend of cosy, gastronomic loveliness with your partner, or come en famille for a summer week of river paddling and woodland adventures.

Highs

  • Fantastic, innovative cuisine - the 6-course tasting menu will rise to any special occasion (without breaking the bank)
  • You’ll sleep like a log on pocket-sprung mattresses amid ancient beams and 2-foot-thick stone walls
  • We loved the Loft suite, a gorgeous barn-for-2 with tall eaves and a claw-footed tub on heated slate floors
  • Colin and Hari are always devising fun new activities: foraging tours, wreath-making workshops
  • Clearwell Caves and Puzzlewood Forest are on your doorstep

Lows

  • There is no pool or spa; it’s not that kind of place
  • A few bedrooms only have Velux windows - no views
  • The villages here lack the perfect prettiness of the Cotswolds (but these are real, living communities)
  • Clearwell is tiny - don’t expect much in the way of shops or eateries

Best time to go

The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley are at their best in late spring (bluebell woods), summer (river swimming) and autumn (golden colours); if you can avoid prime school holidays, even better. But don't rule out winter for a cosy, romantic break with superb seasonal food: look out for the excellent value Winter Foodie Escapes. There's a 2-night stay at weekends, and we'd recommend at least 4 nights if you intend to visit the likes of Tintern Abbey, Clearwell Caves and Puzzlewood.

Our top tips

The Wye Valley is not just about canoeing. Don your walking boots and follow the winding valley from Clearwell down to riverside Redbrook, where you can pick up a section of Offa's Dyke - the long footpath running the length of the Welsh border. Further downstream lie the medieval ruins of Tintern Abbey, roofless but full of atmosphere; upstream are the waterside pubs and picturesque cliffs of Symonds Yat, where peregrine falcons nest.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 20
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

20 bedrooms are spread across the original 17th-century farmhouse and the outlying hay barn, cider house and cottage. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some have tall eaves, others are low and snug. Some have an ancient arrow-slit window or a high Velux; a few have no views. All share the same smart livery: natural fibre carpets, snow-white duvets, poultry-themed art, white walls with ancient beams or a breast of exposed stone.

Gorgeously refurbed bathrooms boast deluge showers and/or claw-footed tubs on pretty tiled floors or under-heated slates, plus fluffy robes and Bramley products to reinvigorate. Other thoughtful extras include hypoallergenic pillows, homemade shortbread and, for our son, complimentary binoculars with bird book.

We stayed in the Family Room (20), which has a cosy but windowless bunk-bedded den attached to the double bedroom; they share a compact shower room and free-standing bathtub (more family options).

For couples, we loved The Loft, a spacious suite under a tall timber A-frame, with its own sitting area and a choice of clawfoot tub or walk-through wetroom. Reached by steep, wonky steps in the farmhouse, room 2 (Cockerel category) is another romantic option, with a handsome four-poster bed and deep-set windows.

But you don’t have to splash out. Entry-level Hatchling rooms are still a decent size (15-18 sq.m.), with a small but bright shower room; Cockerels and Suites get both. Larger rooms tend to have queen beds or zip-and-link king/twins.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Radio
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Dinner is one of the highlights at Tudor Farmhouse. Chef Rob Cox has put together a superb 20-mile menu, using local meats cooked to perfection and innovatively garnished. In winter you might get game terrine with pear chutney; then Welsh lamb shoulder with black cabbage and bronze fennel, or roasted Cotswold pigeon with Madeira sauce. My braised ox cheek was deliciously tender, falling apart along the fault lines, with juicy chanterelles and a dollop of sublime celeriac puree (not words I often use together).

There’s fish too, and a few vegetarian options, though it’s the meats which stand out. Do leave room for dessert - caramelised apples with spicy toffee cake (outstanding), or vanilla panna cotta with elderflower and anise hyssop (smooth and minty). If you’re celebrating something special, pre-book the 6-course tasting menu with wine flight - guests tell us it’s outstanding, and very fair value.

Breakfast is no less impressive, with a rich buffet (including tangy red berry compote, delicious almond-apricot jam, and 5 varieties of apple juice), supplemented by the full gamut of cooked options. Our smoked salmon came with scrambled eggs laid that morning by their own hens.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • On your doorstep are Clearwell Caves, a mile of prettily lit caverns where iron ore and ochre have been mined since Roman times; seasonal events include illustrated stories, brass bands and Santa’s Grotto, or you can don overalls and headlamp to try caving in earnest
  • Just beyond is Tolkien-esque Puzzlewood where ancient iron-ore clefts overgrown with moss and twisting yews have created a hidey-hole habitat for Hobbits
  • 10 minutes’ drive west is the majestically meandering Wye Valley: canoe downstream, stopping for a meadowside picnic or swim (the hotel can help book kayak rental and return transport)
  • Or hike a section of Offa’s Dyke , which runs almost past your door; there's great mountain-biking too
  • The endless oaklands of the Forest of Dean lie to your east: budding Tarzans can zip and swing through the treetops at Go Ape, while lazy Janes can take a Forest Segway or lakeside amble
  • Staff can book you a fantastic foraging tour with the eccentric but expert Raoul; or there are brewery visits, cheese-making tours, award-winning vineyards and a brilliant cookery school nearby

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Caves
  • Fishing
  • Foraging
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Wildlife

Kids

This is a great spot for outdoorsy families - with kid-friendly caves, forest adventures, cycle hire and river canoeing - though you might need to book early to get one of the family-sized rooms.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

The Family Room (20) has a cosy but windowless bunk-room attached to a double bedroom, sharing a compact shower room and free-standing bathtub. The Nest (Suite) has a separate sitting room with a double sofabed which can sleep 2 younger children or 1 older. A more spacious family option is the upstairs-downstairs pairing of rooms 22 and 23 - both can be double or twin-bedded - so long as your children feel comfortable in their own separate room. For couples with 1 child or baby, most Hen-category and bigger rooms can take 1 extra bed or cot.

Babysitting:

Babysitters are available at reasonable rates (all NVQ Level 3 trained)

Baby equipment:

  • High chairs

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

    Children's meals:

  • Kids menu

    Kids Activities nearby:

  • Clearwell Caves: seasonal stories and events
  • Go Ape: zip lining through the treetops (over 10s)
  • Perry Grove: steam railway, adventure playground, woodland walks
  • Pedalbikeaway: cycle centre in the heart of the Forest
  • Canoeing and kayaking on the River Wye
  • Puzzlewood: forest trails, plus playground, willow maze, café and toddler racing track

    Families Should Know:

    The thick walls will hamper baby monitors. There is a tiny stream running through the garden.

  • Distances:

    • Hospital: 6 miles (Lydney)
    • Supermarkets: 6 miles (Lydney)
    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

    Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

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

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    Rates for Tudor Farmhouse