Cotswolds: Enchanting England

- Rachel Denning, We enticed Rachel from the corporate world of BusinessWeek back in 2005 and put her at the helm of the Europe, Middle East and Africa region where she and her team have built our largest regional collection of 800 stunning properties in over 60 countries. Rachel has 18 years' experience of sales, marketing and PR with a strong background in luxury travel and cannot sit still. Her passion and energy have taken her to well over 50 countries in remote corners of the world where she has been held at gunpoint, rescued from a sabotaged helicopter and looped-the-loop in an open-top 1943 biplane, all in the name of relationship-building. Rachel speaks 3 languages fluently, converses in another 3 and thrives in her role working with so many diverse cultures on a daily basis. In addition to running our regional team from our central London base, Rachel is our VP of Global Partnerships and responsible for seeking out the right audience for our properties and building the brand with a dash of wit, a lot of style and some truly ground-breaking promotions. Rachel grew up in England, graduated with a dual-language degree from a French business school and has never stopped learning. She is in her element on a ski slope or a golf course, loves to write and is a very creative member of our team.

There are few corners of England as authentic as the Cotswolds with its rolling hills, quant stone villages and cream teas, which is why it’s a favourite for indulgent weekend breaks in luxury hotels.

I took my little red Mazda for a run last month and was pleasantly surprised to find an absence of chintz in the Kiwi Collection luxury hotels that pepper the area – probably the largest concentration of 5* rooms outside London.

Cowley Manor, with its coveted location in the Cheltenham countryside and pantone-registered signature green, had the painters in. Come October, expect a fresh new look in the same quirky style but with a riot of colour.

For the girls, this has always been a favourite with its indoor and outdoor pools, treatment rooms and idyllic picnic spots but the new ‘Village Shop’ onsite takes some beating – a good place to stock up on Christmas gifts away from the bustle of the high street.

Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter Manor have both been given a makeover and the rooms are simply gorgeous. We are often wary of converted stable blocks which can be nothing like the manor house rooms advertised on a hotel website but, in the case of Lower Slaughter Manor, the ‘garden suites’ were my favourite with private gardens, outdoor hot tubs and acres of space.

I spent the night in Cotswold House, right in the heart of Chipping Camden, and loved every minute of it. From the street, the hotel blends into the honey stone village but the back reveals a fabulous hidden garden that, by year-end, will host one of the area’s best spas along with an indoor pool and spa suite.

Cotswold House gets everything right, from the blend of luxury and comfort in the contemporary rooms and suites to the eye-catching artwork, intimate bar and casual Hicks’ brasserie with its own on-street entrance.

But it does one thing exceptionally well and that’s the food in its main restaurant, Juliana’s. I sat down alone for dinner at 8pm with a book to keep me company and was still there 3 hours’ later with not a page turned thanks to the delectable creations of Head Chef Steve Love and the company of Bill, the waiter who brought every dish to life and made exceptional service seem effortless.

They even got breakfast right, which is a rarity, with a menu featuring traditional English starters and main courses and a view into the garden. I still remember every dish I ate (and there were many) and have already planned my return visit – a 40th birthday dinner in the high-beamed Grammar School Suite with 10 girlfriends, a roaring fire and Mamma Mia on the 42” plasma screen.

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