Travel: Tortworth Court, The Cotswolds

Magnificent: Tortworth Court.
Magnificent: Tortworth Court.
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‘WELCOME’ is says in stone, in big, bold capitals, over the entrance archway to Tortworth Court, writes Jim Wilson.

You couldn’t design a better first-impression view for a hotel.

But it’s no new commercial addition. That message was put up in the 1850s when the present Tortworth Court was built, as a private residence, for the second Earl of Ducie.

And what a magnificent Victorian pile it is, albeit one with a chequered past.

The estate’s history can be traced back as far as the 1300s and it has been a family home to Knights of the realm, Lords, Barons, Viscounts, Earls, an Alderman, Sheriff and Lord Mayor of London, a ship’s captain – and Australian farmers.

During the Second World War it housed American servicemen and their equipment, and a big hospital was built in the grounds. In 1991 the property was bought by a controversial entrepreneur and soon after a disastrous fire gutted the main body of the house.

Since then it has made a comeback as a 189-bedroom country house hotel and over £20 million has been spent on its renovation.

It is part of the small and friendly Four Pillars Hotels group and its principal attraction for us, in South Yorkshire, is its location, location, location.

Just a couple of miles from junction 14 of the M5 in south Gloucestershire, just before you hit Bristol, it is exactly half way to Cornwall.

What better place to break a long journey and explore the Cotswolds.

It is within striking distance of myriad villages with suffixes like on-the-Water, in-the-Marsh, under-Edge and on-the-Hill which litter this interesting countryside.

We spent half a day exploring Tetbury, with its ancient buildings, plethora of antique shops and inviting coffee shops.

And we spent a quiet afternoon just walking round the hotel’s grounds, exploring and viewing the magnificent house from all angles, including quirky details like a wisteria and laburnum tunnel and a pets cemetery.

On both evenings we enjoyed a splendid three-course dinner in the hotel’s ornate dining room, formerly a vast high-ceilinged library.

Just the thing to break up a 350-mile Cornwall journey.

The contrast to the modern ‘crisp, clean lines’ new-build Hawke’s Point (see above) couldn’t be greater. Tortworth is all intricate Victorian stonework, heavy heraldic furnishings and oak beams – but it’s just right if you fancy a ‘two-centre’ holiday.

The one thing you can be assured of is a very big ‘WELCOME’.

TRAVEL FACTS:

Tortworth Court Four Pillars Hotel, Tortworth, Wotton-under-Edge, South Gloucestershire GL12 8HH. Tel: 01454 263000. Website: tortworth-court-hotel.four-pillars.co.uk Email: tortworth@four-pillars.co.uk

There are a whole host of rates and special offers available at Tortworth, but, by way of an example, two nights for two people next September, say Friday and Saturday, September 21 and 22, coming back from the Cornwall holiday (above) would be: room only from £198, bed and breakfast from £238, and dinner, bed and breakfast from £314.