In need of a little escape? I’m a very big fan of the Manor at Weston-on-the-Green, a cosy country retreat that’s easy on the eye and heavy on the charm.
If you’re feeling a tad stressed out by hectic modern life, may I suggest a dose of the Manor At Weston? The main ingredients are cuddling up by a fire, playing lady of the manor with a walk in the rambling gardens and consuming huge helpings of edible delights. The Manor is here to give your senses a big hug and make you feel ridiculously relaxed.
As country houses go, this one’s a bit of a charmer. The house itself dates back 900 years and is steeped in history. It’s grand enough to have a sweeping gravel driveway, baronial hall, manicured gardens and towering fourposter beds, but small enough to still feel cosy and intimate. Staying in one of the 28 rooms is like being invited for a weekend at a (very very rich) friend’s house and the staff are genuine, friendly and keen to make you feel at home. Lucy and I felt like we had the run of the place from the start. A stay here doesn’t feel too busy, either, as there are lots of little hideyholes and snug sitting rooms to relax in, and relax we most definitely did, spending a big portion of the weekend sprawled out by fires, eating shortbread and drinking coffee from huge china mugs.
I’m sure the house’s gardens come into their own in the summer, and I was rather sad that the bright blue heated pool is off-limits in the colder months, but the wintery grounds are still a wonderful place to wander in. It all feels like a cross between the set of Downton Abbey and The Secret Garden – croquet lawns, towering lines of hedges and gnarled apple trees bursting with fruit, plus maze-like walks dotted with little stone benches to sit on and enjoy the chilly fresh air. There was even a helicopter flying lesson going on on the lawn (maybe less Downton, more Made in Chelsea, then).
Dinner at the Manor is a feast, cooked up by head chef Larry Jayasekara and served by the lovely Benoit Lamaudiere and his team in the lofty 11th century Baron’s hall, which is surprisingly cosy when lit by candlelight. We tried the taster menu, starting with game ravioli dusted with truffle shavings and confit salmon with horseradish. I loved the latter so much that I felt bereft when I’d eaten all of it. These concoctions were followed by a beautifully rare cut of beef served with cauliflower textures and capers and matched with a rich red wine. The puddings were pleasant but lacking the genius of the trio of savoury beauties we’d tried – Larry is clearly a master of the main course.
During dinner, Benoit regaled us with a series of spooky ghost stories that are linked to the Manor, most chillingly that of Mad Maude, who likes to stalk up and down the Monk’s Walk in the garden. Eeek. Luckily, we were so full of food and wine that we both slept happily through any bumps in the night.
My only real lament was that the hotel’s adorable resident dog Holly was too busy being festive to hang out with us. Still, despite this terrible canine slight, I’d come back winter or summer to revel in the joy of doing very little in the Manor’s snug surroundings. It’s the perfect little escape with someone you love.
The Manor at Weston-on-the-Green is in the heart of the Cotswolds, steps away from from Oxford, Blenheim Palace and Bicester Village. More for info on staying and dining there, including last-minute Christmas and New Years offers, visit themanorweston.com