28 Wednesday January, 2015
By Sacha Smith-Laing, Ampersand's marketing manager
Where to go for a girly weekend break with a heavily pregnant friend, not too far from London, somewhere that offers spa treatments but isn’t a “spa hotel”? The Wheatsheaf Inn, said Ellie, Ampersand’s UK product manager – and she was spot on. This boutique bolthole in the village of Northleach provided the perfect January mini-break when Christmas is a fading memory and bank holiday season seems a long way away.
The Wheatsheaf Inn is not 5-star, but it is so charming that it hardly matters. Located two hours’ drive from London and an hour from Oxford, the property is set in an old 16th Century coach inn where people used to park their coaches when they were on their way to London from the west. Built with Cotswolds stone, it has lots of cosy corners, panelled walls adorned with traditional and modern artworks (you’ll find paintings of Kate Moss, if indeed she hasn’t dropped by for a pint in person) and well-loved, comfy armchairs.
It is unpretentious and authentic with a lively pub at its heart complete with roaring fires, dogs running around and colourful local characters propping up the bar and swapping stories. This is more of a pub with rooms than a hotel and it won’t suit overly fussy or high maintenance types, but if you want to see local people having fun and interacting, the Wheatsheaf Inn is the real deal.
There are 14 rooms classified into three categories: Good, Very Good and Excellent. Excellent rooms are spacious and stylish, with Bang & Olufsen TVs, huge hypnos beds with Egyptian-cotton sheets and gorgeous bathrooms with stand-alone roll top baths, fluffy towels and handmade 100 Acres toiletries. There is also an in-house spa – a sweet one-room shed – with freelance therapists who can be booked in advance for facials, massages and mani-pedis.
The restaurant is open all day and the food is rustic and hearty – for brunch we had a moreish little dish of creamed ham hock, poached egg and tarragon on toast; for dinner we ate a winter-warming twice baked cheddar soufflé and a perfectly roasted saffron cod. The menu changes daily but there is always plenty of seasonal local produce, seafood and game.
There is a large leafy terrace which is glorious for alfresco eating and drinking in summer, but I would not overlook the Wheatsheaf Inn in winter. Bring your walking boots to explore the stunning Cotswolds countryside and warm up again with fine food, English ales and good conversation by the fire.
More information: The Wheatsheaf inn, Northleach village, The Cotswolds
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