Well Intentioned: A Winter Wellness Guide to the Cotswolds

Keep warm in the heated indoor pools at Cowley Manor in the Cotswolds
Keep warm in the heated indoor pools at Cowley Manor in the Cotswolds | Courtesy of Cowley Manor / Expedia.com
Photo of Emma Sparks
18 November 2021

Batteries running low? Take time out to recharge with a restorative spa break, surrounded by some of England’s most superlative countryside.

Welcome to one of England’s most pristine corners – a patchwork of rolling green hills studded with yellow-stone villages and grand country manors. Popular with romantic couples and frazzled urbanites, the Cotswolds is a soothing remedy for the stresses of modern life. From high-end spas and luxury boutiques to woodland walks and wholesome country pubs, here are ways to find comfort and joy in the Cotswolds.

Barnsley House

The exterior of Barnsley House, near Cirencester, with a view of its formal gardens
Courtesy of Barnsley House / Expedia.com
Fresh air, fine food, plush digs – this is rural living at its finest. This Grade II-listed country manor was once the home of revered garden designer Rosemary Verey, and its formal gardens are her lasting legacy. The spa, mini-cinema and rooms with roll top baths are each an invitation to unwind. Feeling active? Wrap up warm to explore the local area on foot or two wheels – guests can borrow e-bikes from the hotel. The chocolate-box village of Bibury is just 3mi (4.8km) away.

Bamford Wellness Spa

For yoga mats in a bright, white studio at Bamford Wellness Spa in the Cotswolds
Courtesy of Bamford Wellness Spa
Gwyneth Paltrow would fit right in at this chic spa, owned by organic farmer Carole Bamford. Sound healing and gong meditations are among a relaxation-ready roster of classic yoga and pilates classes; reiki rituals and jade stone massages are designed to rebalance tired souls and aching bones; and the spa cafe serves up apple cider vinegar shots and superfood smoothies. Save time to browse the zero-waste pantry and organic shop at Daylesford Farm next door.

Dormy House

A neutral-toned room at Dormy House in the Cotswolds, including a double bed and much wooden furniture
Courtesy of Dormy House
Kick off your shoes, put on your out of office and surrender to relaxation at Dormy House, a luxury Scandi-chic farmhouse set within the 400-acre (162ha) Farncombe Estate. The spa steals the show, with its 52ft (16m) infinity pool, salt steam room, Finnish sauna and champagne-serving nail bar. After a couples massage, cosy up in the Potting Shed for a dinner of elevated pub classics such as wagyu burgers and sticky toffee pudding.

Westonbirt Arboretum

Botanical Garden, Forest
Very tall trees surround a pathway being walked by two people at Westonbirt Arboretum in the Cotswolds
© Johnny Hathaway / Courtesy of Westonbirt Arboretum
Winter may not showcase Westonbirt Arboretum in all its blossoming glory, but even frosty forest bathing has its benefits. Wander some of the 17mi (27km) of walking trails to discover 2,500 different tree species, keeping an eye out for ecofriendly sculptures hidden between the boughs. The whole place comes alive around Christmas, with illuminated displays and kid-friendly events running through November and December. Need to warm up? A hot chocolate from the cafe should do the trick.

Cowley Manor

The exterior of Cowley Manor near Cheltenham, as viewed from an adjoining lake.
© Cowley Manor / Expedia
Rooms at this Italianate manor near Cheltenham are a masterclass in colour therapy, each featuring bright, mood-boosting jewel tones – and nearly all have baths and walk-in showers. Outside, the sprawling grounds are dotted with modern sculptures, walking trails and lakes. If ambling leaves you chilly, the hillside spa’s heated indoor and outdoor pools, steam room and sauna will soon warm you up.

Well Bath

A close-up image of a man having a hot stone massage (potentially not in the Cotswolds)
© Andrey Popov / Depositphotos.com
Ready to feel rested and restored? It’s no five-star spa, but this wellness centre in Charlcombe, with wraparound views of green fields, is a warm, informal spot for some me-time. Holistic therapies on offer include acupuncture, cupping and deep-tissue acupressure. There’s also a regular schedule of yoga and pilates classes, held in a calming, plant-filled studio.

Tisanes Tearooms

Tea Room, Tea , $$$
Floral hanging baskets adorn the exterior of Tisanes Tea Rooms in Broadway, the Cotswolds
© Tim Gainey / Alamy Stock Photo
In a place as quaint as the Cotswolds, there’s one simple British tradition that feels extra special: drinking tea. Tisanes sits within a 17th-century building made from the region’s classic honey-coloured stone, overlooking Broadway’s charming high street. After a spot of retail therapy, settle down here for a pot of earl grey or a soothing lemon and ginger blend – plus an indulgent slice of cake.

Painswick Rococo Garden

Botanical Garden, Park
The red-painted exterior of the Red House at Painswick Rococo Garden
© Mifl68
Time spent in nature helps beat the winter blues – and this playful rococo garden is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The grounds are lavished with colourful follies, providing respite from rain showers and striking views of the Cotswolds countryside. Come January and February the grounds are draped in a carpet of snowdrops – a sure sign that spring is around the corner.

The Wheatsheaf Inn

Pub, Pub Grub
The interior of the Wheatsheaf Inn in Northleach, with many wooden tables set for dining, including some near a fireplace
Courtesy of The Wheatsheaf Inn / Expedia.com
After a brisk country walk, there’s nothing better than heading indoors for a hearty meal by a roaring open fire – and there are plenty of excellent pubs to choose from in the Cotswolds. The ivy-cloaked Wheatsheaf in Northleach takes pub grub to a new level: think venison carpaccio with girolles and truffle mayonnaise, harissa-spiced lamb and sumptuous choccy puds.

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