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A Cotswolds Country House With A Curious Twist

Pepping up a peaceful, unspoilt enclave of Churn Valley in the Cotswolds is the extraordinary Cowley Manor, the latest fun, five-star hotel from spirited Parisian cocktail aficionados, the Experimental Group.

With resident interior designer Dorothée Meilichzon at the helm, they’ve taken an old English country manor house full of traditional character and given it a stylish, whimsical makeover. Throw in a few French flourishes, a decadent bar, a wood-panelled restaurant and impeccable attention to detail – hallmarks of the Experimental Group brand – and a visit to Cowley Manor makes for a transportive countryside escape.



The Vibe

An intriguing chord of otherworldliness runs throughout the luxurious five-star Cowley, with bold design and subtle – not tacky – nods to Alice in Wonderland. This is inspired by a rumour that British author, Lewis Carroll, was a frequent visitor to the property and based his Wonderland on the impressive, landscaped grounds – where little white rabbits do scurry across the lawn. Searching for funky design twists and Alice-themed clues amid Cowley’s storied oak-panelled walls is half the fun here: the lime green ceiling and giant pillars in the lobby; secret doors; a games room with draughts; checkerboard motifs on headboards, rugs and chairs; salt and pepper in little corked bottles; and whimsical coffee cups in the dining room, to name a few. 


The Rooms

Cowley Manor has 31 spacious rooms, including three suites, spread between the grand main house and a converted stable block. Most have four-poster beds, desks, feature headboards, and statement bathrooms. Colour schemes are bold and muted (think: mustards, forest greens, deep plums). Rooms in the main house overlook the lake, while others look over the spa set into a hill. One of the hotel’s nicest rooms is the spacious Wildflower, find it in the stable building with a private terrace. A majestic giant sequoia tree towers over the outside deck, which is scattered with sun loungers, cocktail chairs, a café set, and outdoor lamps; a nice spot for an aperitif or morning coffee. Also in the stable block are three-storey Family Tree and double-height Alpaca rooms. Another five rooms in a modern extension are due to open soon.


The Food + Drink

A pre-dinner Old Cuban cocktail – a heady mix of rum, lime, ginger and champagne – is a must before dinner. Take it in the enigmatic club room with blue-lacquered bar, or in the art-filled lounge opposite, overlooking the garden. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea is served in a decadent dining room, oak-panelled and filled with natural light from three arched windows dressed in deep orange velvet. Come breakfast, the French-quality pastries and warm house madeleines alone are worth getting out of bed for. Chef Jackson Boxer’s lunch and dinner menus blend classic English and French styles and showcase the best of local ingredients. End the night with a Horlicks Milk Punch; a sweet, comforting-but-punchy cocktail offering a nod to the Horlicks family, several members of whom are buried in the next-door churchyard.


The Spa

Set in a sleek, lair-like building hidden within a hill, the C-Side Spa is a destination in its own right. There’s a steam room and sauna, an indoor and outdoor pool, and also a gym. Professional, uniformed therapists carry out a range of treatments using Green & Spring products. Treatment rooms are hidden off a long corridor, near changing rooms with plenty of lockers with a fresh, fluffy white towel and a pair of white flip-flops. A small selection of swimwear from independent designers is available to buy, alongside refreshing cucumber-infused water on tap.


The Little Extras

Exceptional attention to detail are hallmarks of the Experimental Group. Stands dotted throughout are filled with umbrellas for those inevitable rainy days; there are stacks of green Barbour wellies out front to borrow for your countryside romp; and a neatly-fanned selection of newspapers in the lobby each morning. Rooms are stocked with toiletries by organic Swedish brand L:A Bruket in cool packaging, and little cloches of colourful French macarons magically appear in your room at turndown. Unlike most five-star hotels, there’s no tray charge for room service.


The To-Do List

It’s easy to stay at Cowley for your entire stay, nursing a morning coffee on the terrace before a walk around the wonderland of gardens. Grab a map from reception and follow this audio tour around the storied grounds – past weeping beech trees, a little grotto (another setting that inspired Alice, perhaps?), magnificent ponds and waterfalls. If you dare leave the Cowley rabbit hole, the chic town of Cheltenham beckons – it’s just a couple of hours away.


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