It was past midnight in the quaint Gloucestershire village of Northleach. The moon was full and doing it’s best impression of a ghostly galleon, tossed upon stormy seas. Poet Arthur Noyes would have been proud. A black cat stalked down the middle of the quiet street, confident in his nocturnal domain as he sought out some supper. The north-easterly wind was picking up but he ignored the ruffling of his fur, not even glancing at the creaking sign swinging high above in the ivy clad façade of the nearby pub.
The Wheatsheaf Inn at Northleach
Inside the cosy Wheatsheaf Inn in Northleach the sash windows rattled gently in their panes, but the heat of the summer day lingered on in the thick wooden floorboards and old stone walls. The guests were all snuggled up in their sumptuous beds, dreaming of quaint Cotswold cottages and babbling brooks.
All except one.
Subdued lighting crept from beneath the door to one of the suites, and the scent of rose and lavender accosted the sleepy senses in a most pleasing fashion.
I was having a bath.
It had been a long day, beginning in a dodgy service station motel that smelt of wet dog and had a well used mattress. After picking mum up from the train station we then continued on to Ladies Day at Royal Ascot down in Berkshire, before finally ending up in the cute little village of Northleach in the Cotswolds for the night. I’ve never been one for staying put for long, but the day’s itinerary had been ridiculous even for me!
So I was shattered, and since Hubbie wasn’t around to raise his eyebrows at the ‘impractical’ bath set up, I was jolly well going to have a princess moment all to myself.
Feeling indulgent and needing to pamper my tired feet after a day spent in high heels, I liberally poured in some of the heavenly scented bubble bath from local Cotswolds company 1oo Acres. Turning my back for a few moments to unpack, hang up my dress and scout around for biscuits, I didn’t realise the tub would fill up so quickly. Or that I had been a little too generous with the bubbles.
Like something out of a slap stick comedy (a far cry from the regal composure I’d been aiming for) I waded through bubbles, cursing my bath inexperience, and lunged for the taps. A few more minutes and it would have been oozing along the corridors.
I finally treated myself to the highly anticipated and much needed soak, not caring that it was now past 1 a.m. That’s just how we roll in the Conversant Traveller world! I have to say the tub was actually incredibly comfortable, and I could easily have fallen asleep if I didn’t have one gigantic bed waiting for me.
Sometimes I don’t mind leaving Hubbie at home. It means I get to sleep like a star fish and not have to contend with the consequences in the morning.
Dining at the Wheatsheaf Inn at Northleach
We arrived quite late thanks to staying for the last race at Ascot. I wanted to see if I could win some money back. Although I failed miserably, mum actually came away in profit, which meant dinner was on her! It was after 9 p.m. yet the staff kindly said we still had time to eat. Their policy is that if the kitchen is still serving pudding to other tables, then they’ll do their best to feed you! I felt kinda guilty that the chefs were probably wanting to wind up for the night, but they assured us it wasn’t a problem. Another big tick for the Wheatsheaf Inn!
The menu was rustic, imaginative and locally sourced, and portions were very generous and full of flavour. I’ve never had roasted duck leg in noodle broth before, but it worked really well! Breakfast was decent too, with a small but good quality continental spread (complete with cheeses so posh I didn’t know what they were!), and a cooked option (not included in the price) for the extra peckish. That was the only slight negative. I felt for the price there could at least have been our choice of eggs included in the room rate.
The Wheatsheaf Inn staff
The Wheatsheaf Inn is stylish, cosy and comfortable. All of which would tempt me back for a return visit. Yet what really makes this place stand out is the staff. They were without fail friendly and courteous, with an air of slick sophistication but without any of the pretension we had expected to come across in this neck of the woods.
Nothing was too much trouble. Our waiter bantered back admirably under the torrent of our jovial quick wit, and even managed to produce some Pimms despite it not being on the menu. We were trying to eke out Ladies Day until the bitter end. Mum wasn’t happy with her ground floor room. The communal areas downstairs are locked at night which meant she was shut off from where I was upstairs, and as there was no mobile phone signal at the inn she would have felt isolated. There was a spare room next to mine which hadn’t been serviced, but the staff said it wasn’t a problem and went off to clean and get it ready at 11.30 p.m. so mum would be happier. She was!
Exploring the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are cute, there’s no doubt about it. Every village we passed was lined with quaint stone cottages, gardens full of rambling roses and poppy carpeted meadows. We only had a day so did a whistle stop tour of some of the most picturesque places.
I really liked Northleach. It isn’t one of the most famous Cotswolds villages and as a consequence isn’t full of selfie stick sporting tourists. In fact we felt like we had it to ourselves. It’s a pleasant spot to stroll through, admiring the centuries old traditional buildings along the high street, and discovering quirky little gems like the Dolls House shop, and the Mechanical Music Museum. The latter is an extraordinary collection of self-playing musical instruments, and you can tour the workshop with a guide who will show you how they all work.
You can’t visit the Cotswolds and not stop at Bibury. Probably the most famous Cotswolds village, Bibury is home to Arlington Row, a much photographed line of 16th Century cottages with steeply sloping roofs. Now owned by the National Trust, they overlook a water meadow, through which a footpath follows the gently flowing river into the heart of the village.
There’s also Bibury Trout Farm, one of the oldest in the country, if fish are your thing. They even do beginners fishing lessons in the summer. Bibury is a beautiful village, and should definitely make the shortlist on any Cotswolds villages tour. I just wouldn’t want to live there and have to suffer all the tourists taking photographs of my house!
My favourite village has to be Lower Slaughter. It’s exactly what I imagined a Cotswold village would be like, and it was peaceful and devoid of tourists, probably because there isn’t much to do except stroll along the river and visit the old mill. It’s the sort of place that would be perfect to stay, and use as a base whilst visiting the rest of the Cotswolds during the day. There are a couple of options including the high end Lower Slaughter Manor which looks ideal for a special occasion.
With such an fun-sounding name, we just had to stop here. It’s an intriguing village, built along the River Windrush and famous for it’s bridges, honey coloured houses, and tea rooms. Bourton-on-the-Water felt a lot bigger and busier than the other villages, and whilst it is the perfect place for eating, drinking and visiting (with lots of things for children to do), I probably wouldn’t choose to stay the night if I wanted any peace.
Lodge Park and the Sherborne Estate
A bit of a spontaneous stop, we stumbled across Lodge Park whilst we were idling down country lanes looking for flowers. It’s a 17th Century grandstand and Cotswold country estate, built to fulfil the owner’s passions for deer coursing, banqueting, gambling and entertaining.
Today it is owned by the National Trust, and has several walking routes as well as wide reaching views from the roof of the grandstand. Definitely worth a stop if you have half an hour to spare.
Tips for staying at the Wheatsheaf Inn
Rooms: There are 3 categories of room at the Wheatsheaf Inn at Northleach: ‘Good Rooms’, ‘Very Good Rooms’ and ‘Excellent Rooms’. I opted for the middle range ‘Very Good Room’ which was perfect for a romantic weekend away, with the sexy bath area and amazingly comfortable bed. I thought it was bang on the money. Mum opted for the ‘Good Room’ which was a bit cheaper and a lot smaller, and we both agreed my room was better value.
Breakfast: Continental breakfast is included, but the cooked options are extra.
Mobile Phones: there is no reception in the Wheatsheaf Inn, which may be an issue for some people.
Parking: Free parking is available behind the inn for guests, but space is limited so you might end up having to park on the road instead. Which isn’t a problem, and actually closer to the door for carrying your luggage.