It’s a Monday morning, and while others are sat at their desks doing the same old 9-5, I’m fortunate enough to be off on a Bridget Jones-style mini break in the Cotswolds. I’ve never been before, but I can’t wait to get snapping buttery-coloured buildings and sit by an open fire with a glass of red wine.
We pull up in Bibury, having fought with other tourist BMWs to get a parking spot – don’t judge my sister in a Skoda, she is fierce. Bibury is everything I imagined and more: there’s a post office that sells postcards and fudge, ducks waddle over quaint wooden bridges, and autumn leaves cascade down pretty cottages with uneven roofs. I dream of what it would be like to live here: a simple life where I can have my own vegetable patch and chat to Cedric next door about what a scandal it was that Margaret’s turnip wasn’t picked as ‘best in show’ at the local village fête. Outrageous. But then I notice all the tourists (me included) taking pictures of the cottages and remember that I always forget to close the curtains when I’m getting dressed. Maybe it’s not the simple life I desire after all.
I forget that it’s winter and the sun only rises for practically 2 hours a day, so by 4pm it’s dark and we haven’t even made it to our destination yet. Although it’s only a half an hour drive to The Painswick, it’s so dark that we manage to get lost down country tracks and at one point my sister even drives over a village green. After a daunting ascent up a road with a 45° angle, we arrive at the welcoming sight of The Painswick.
As we go inside the typical Cotswolds hotel, we’re hit with the thick, smoky smell of a wood-burning fire. With only 16 bedrooms, The Painswick feels more like a luxurious B&B than a large, corporate hotel. Our room ‘Griffin Mill’ is the epitome of cosy. There’s a hot water bottle lying on top of a gold, herringbone wool blanket. We’ve been left homemade flapjacks from the chef, there are giant square pillows embroidered with the letter ‘P’ and Radio 3 is playing Vaughn Williams’ The Lark Ascending. We boil the kettle so we can sit down, have a cup of tea, and take it all in.
What to do first: have a bath? Read my book by the fire? Order a glass of Malbec to my room? It was just all so inviting! I run a bath while admiring the pencils-come-paintbrushes that are left on your bedside table (in case you want to do a sketch and then a watercolour, because that’s what you do while on a mini break in the Cotswolds).
After a solid 30 minutes of post-bath-and-nap selfie-taking, we head down to the lounge to sample ‘Merry Mondays’: half-price cocktails until 8pm. We peruse the dinner menu (one of my favourite pastimes) and nearly choke on our Pornstar Martinis as we spot ‘beef wellington with buttered greens and dauphinoise potatoes’. Oh, the delight of a chunk of meat wrapped in pastry!
Previously a vicarage, the restaurant – once a Parish room, is beautifully snug with original features such as arched window frames and tiny wooden doors perfect for escaping a tiresome Sunday School session. It’s warm and inviting with rustic hessian napkins, studded leather chairs and sturdy, solid wood furniture. My sister and I note how nice it is that all the furniture is matching. We’re so bored of this strange mis-matching furniture fashion.
We decide to share an ox cheek ravioli with beetroot and a grilled octopus to start. Formerly beetroot’s arch enemy, I apprehensively try the roasted delicacy, preparing myself for the worst. Whether it was the Guinness reduction, or the sprinkling of parmesan, the earthy root vegetable seemed to melt in my mouth in wholesome goodness, and I instantly retract any hatred I ever had towards the purple produce. The dinner was faultless and we finish off (as we always do) with a fresh mint tea.
It’s the details at The Painswick that make it so special. Local walking routes have been written, rolled up and stuffed in pigeon-holes for you to choose from. Whether it’s a 1 mile, 5 mile or 10 mile walk you’re looking for, they all start from the door of The Painswick. And don’t worry if you’ve only got leather loafers or white trainers with you, there are welly boots in every size to borrow.
We’re suffering from post-breakfast blues as we pack our bags. It’s not just the luxury of fresh linen or the delicious madeleines in our room that we’ll miss. It’s The Painswick’s all-consuming sensation of total relaxation. Walking the Cotswold Way, sketching the view, sipping tea while reading the next chapter of our page-turning novel: a slow way of life that all of us crave and few seem to achieve.
When we return home we light a fire, sit under blankets and read our books. No phones or TV, only green tea and my sister’s company. We’re one step closer to that simple life we all desperately want, and that’s thanks to The Painswick.