Why a former blacksmith's home in the Cotswolds is an irresistible destination for a break in the heart of England
In the late 17th century The Smithy, a Grade II listed detached house in the village of Broadwell in Gloucestershire, was the home of the neighbourhood blacksmith.
Outside, things have barely changed, from the mullioned windows and limestone walls to the old workshop that stands next door untouched.
But it's definitely unlikely that, after a hard day spent forging metal and making horseshoes, the former resident stepped inside to enjoy a roll-top bath, three comfortable bedrooms, a plush sitting-room and an enviably well-equipped kitchen. That's how The Smithy presents itself these days, however - a place of toil has become a leisurely haven.
Broadwell, near Moreton-in-Marsh and Stow-on-the-Wold, sits in the Cotswolds and epitomises the type of communities found in this particularly special part of the British countryside, all picture-perfect cottages, centuries-old churches and cosy pubs set around well-kept village greens.
While The Smithy is tricky to find - it's accessed down a blink-and-you-miss-it driveway - Broadwell isn't in the middle of nowhere; those without a car can get the train to Moreton close by.
And guests get a lot of space. The large lawn is ideal for families, or is just a tranquil spot for anyone to sit in the sunshine and unwind; city life can cause anyone to forget the pleasure of true quietness.
Not that there isn't plenty to see and do. JCB shareholder Lady Bamford's Daylesford Organic Farm, five miles from The Smithy, is arguably the most famous of its kind in the country, offering exceedingly tasteful shops and a cafe - the Smithy guidebook's wry description of the farm as 'the Yuppie centre of the Cotswolds' is 100 per cent accurate.
A short drive away, Batsford Arboretum is home to the UK's largest private collection of trees. Spread across 56 acres, it provides an opportunity for beautiful walks at any time of year. The location is also good for visiting Stratford-Upon-Avon - Shakespeare's birthplace - while the regency spa town Cheltenham can be reached in less than an hour.
Broadwell has its own wonderfully atmospheric country pub, The Fox Inn, maintained by the independent Donnington Brewery, a Cotswolds business. Traditional fare looms large on the menu - the roasts are popular - while the meat and fish is all locally-sourced and vegetables are grown on the owners' allotment. The Wild Rabbit, in Kingham around the corner from Daylesford, takes things up a notch; another Bamford venture, it aims high but - intriguingly - managed to gain and lose a Michelin star between 2017 and 2018.
Famously, ex-Prime Minister David Cameron was fond of 'chillaxing' in the Cotswolds. His choice of words was cringeworthy but the location certainly wasn't. It's an irresistible destination for a short - or long - break in the heart of England.
The Smithy sleeps six in three bedrooms, has two bathrooms and is pet-friendly. Off-road parking is provided. The nearest railway station is Moreton-in-Marsh. Prices for a three-night break start from £614 (correct at time of writing). Visit www.sykescottages.co.uk to book - The Smithy is part of The Manor Collection, a portfolio of more than 250 carefully-selected high-quality properties.