A charming oasis right in the heart of the Cotswolds
Once, many years ago, I managed to bag a discounted spa break on the Yorkshire coast through one of those group deals websites.
It ended up being a salient reminder that you get what you pay for: the town-centre hotel's 'spa' turned out to be a fusty-smelling swimming pool in the basement and an out-of-order sauna clumsily tacked onto the side.
The experience left me with a deep suspicion of old hotels in the heart of busy tourist destinations that also claim to have ultra-modern spa facilities.
It was a memory that played on my mind as my companion and I arrived for a spa weekend in the ridiculously picturesque Cotswolds town of Chipping Campdenand spotted our hotel, an imposing building in prime position on the high street.
I needn't have worried. The welcoming staff behind the front desk at the Cotswolds House Hotel whisked us out of the main building and it soon became apparent that a little oasis of calm lay behind it.
First was an adorable row of small stone cottages, one of which was our suite for the weekend.
The path past the cottages led through a garden, then the hotel's private car park, and finally to a dedicated spa building. No shoehorning in the facilities here.
The atmospheric spa, free to use for all guests, consisted of a small hydrotherapy pool with bubble jets, as well as a steam room and seven treatment rooms.
I treated myself to back-to-back deep tissue and head massages, for a total of £130. The therapist was keen to ask plenty of questions so the level of firmness would be just right (for me, that's being pummelled like a particularly tough steak).
The pet-friendly Cotswolds House Hotel has 28 rooms and suites across the main building and the garden cottages, including two suites which come with their own hot tubs.
Our suite, named after famed local arts and crafts designer Charles Robert Ashbee, consisted of a huge bedroom with beamed ceiling, a landing with chaise longue and a bathroom that was bigger than some of the bedrooms in my house.
Rooms are stocked with welcome little touches of luxury: Orla Kiely smellies and chunky chocolate cookies in mason jars as well as ground coffee and cafetières.
Dinner in the hotel's fine dining restaurant, Fig, is another masterclass in hospitality.
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Chef Pasquale Russo prepares meals as either a two-course option at £39 per person, or three courses for £48.50.
The menu notes that the three-course dinner “is designed to satisfy you perfectly” - a nod to the fact that the beautifully presented dishes look at first glance a little on the small side.
We didn't leave hungry, although guests ravenous after a day of trekking in the nearby countryside would probably want to add in side dishes, offered at a very reasonable £4 each.
Our menu choices were of outstanding quality, particularly an excellent cheese board with tomato chutney and fig jelly.
The town of Chipping Campden itself is a picture-postcard delight, with honey-coloured stone buildings as far as the eye can see.
The high street boasts at least three delicatessens offering everything from Blue Monday, the cheese produced by Blur star Alex James, to freshly-made pies.
The tucked-away Campden Coffee Company also offers a large selection of vegetarian, vegan and free-from menu options as well as the usual teas and coffees.
We explored the countryside by day and pubs by night, before stumbling back over the cobbles to our cosy cottage.
A bustling town and a tranquil hideaway: it's a spot that really offers the best of both worlds.
Claire was a guest of the Cotswold House Hotel Chipping Campden.
It has 28 bedrooms and suites as well as two restaurants, the Fig for fine dining and the casual dining Bistro.
Bed-and-breakfast rates are from £140 in winter and £180 in summer.