Staying in a small, boutique hotel rather than one with dozens of rooms turns a hotel into more of a home-from-home experience and so it turned out with my stay at Burleigh Court hotel in Stroud, in the western end of the Cotswolds area of outstanding natural beauty.
With just 18 bedrooms – including some pet-friendly rooms with dog-themed wallpaper in the coach house next to the main building – and three acres of landscaped gardens with stunning views across the Stroud valley, Burleigh Court feels like a relaxing retreat away from the real world, where you can pad downstairs to read a book or have afternoon tea by one of several open fires, have a drink or two in the cosy bar or retreat upstairs to enjoy the view from your bedroom window.
Arriving at Burleigh Court Stroud
Burleigh Court is just a few minutes drive up a steep hill up Brimscombe Hill from the main road between Circencester and Stroud, making it located in the wilder parts of the Cotswolds: less of the gentle undulating hills near Broadway and Burford and more of the rugged, wilder beauty of nearby Minchinhampton Common and the Slad Valley.
Guests can park directly next to the hotel and can sit on the hotel’s front terrace and enjoy views across the other side of the valley. At the rear of the hotel there’s even an outdoor Art Deco plunge pool, open between mid-June and September, which was created by Sir Clough Williams Ellis and which would be a perfect spot for a cooling dip in the height of summer. My visit was during early Spring which meant swimming was out of the question, but long country walks, warm fires and hot baths were more in order.
Bedrooms at Burleigh Court
The 18 bedrooms at Burleigh Court range from classic and cosy to superior and noteworthy, and are currently being refurbished into a more modern style. We spent the first night in room 5 on the first floor, one of those which had been recently renovated, and enjoyed the corner views, the smart four-poster bed and its small but smart ensuite bathroom (not all of the rooms have baths so do check in advance if that’s a must-have). The room was equipped with a TV, storage, a kettle and some retro touches such as old-fashioned bedside telephones.
The next night – to get the full experience – we relocated to room 9, one floor higher and at the rear of the hotel, which meant views of the gardens and fields at the back of the hotel. This was one of the rooms yet to be modernised and yet it was my favourite, with tonnes of space, decorated in a traditional but welcoming style, with lovely bay windows and window seats, armchairs, fireplace and was the kind of room you could happily spend a couple of days in if the weather was on the wintry side (the only downside to this room was a small bathroom with room for a small shower only).
Exploring the rest of Burleigh Court hotel
Downstairs the hotel manages to pack a lot into the available space: there’s a recently refurbished restaurant, the Oak Room, which has gained a skylight and more tables in its new layout and whose huge windows made the most of the views from the front of the building.
The large and comfortable lounge had an open fire which was lit just after breakfast and made for a warm and relaxing room, and was furnished with a variety of chairs and sofas and decorated with care, including an old gramophone record player. During our stay this room was used variously by people working on their laptops, enjoying afternoon tea, having morning coffee and, in the middle of our stay, by a newly-married couple enjoying fizz and canapés in their wedding finery. The reception area has another open fire and there’s a small but well-stocked bar with a couple of seats for a nightcap.
The first night we arrived just too late for food so instead we headed for the Stroud Brewery which was just a few minutes’ drive away. While all the buildings looked closed on arrival, we perservered in our search for beer and food and found the excellent tap room at the back of the complex, open until 11pm. The brewery served wood-fire pizzas until 9pm and judging by the various notices on the walls, seems to host a variety of events from yoga and political meet-up to jazz nights, and was a great find on our first night in Stroud.
Breakfast at Burleigh Court
Breakfast on both days of our stay was excellent, particularly on the first morning where a charming lady looked after her as if we were members of her own family, making sure we had everything we needed, from cereals and pastries, coffee and juice, to utterly delicious honey provided by Burleigh Court’s own beehives in the garden. The cooked options on the breakfast menu were divided up in themes ranging from The Scots (porridge) and The English (full English) via The French (French toast with bacon and maple syrup) to The Garden – either avocado with poached eggs on sourdough toast, or truffled scrambled eggs on toast – or The Sea, which was a choice of poached haddock and eggs or smoked salmon with scrambled egg.
Having two breakfasts was a real treat and so were the excellently-cooked breakfasts themselves, from the deliciously light and tasty truffled eggs to the smoked salmon and the full English – great starts to both days.
Foraging at Burleigh Court
Burleigh Court has an admirable ambition to be more than just a hotel to sleep and eat in, and is working hard on providing some memorable experiences for its guests. Staff are on hand to advise on local walks, mountain biking and nearby activities on offer including wine-tasting, horse-riding, shopping and family-friendly experiences and the hotel is also running a series of wild food foraging trips with its local kitchen gardener and foraging expert Emanuelle Paulson (see end of review for dates and prices). Emanuelle grew up in the local area and works hard on growing herbs, salads, and vegetables in the Burleigh grounds for its restaurant and bar.
My partner and I were lucky to spend the morning with Emanuelle learning all about the wildflowers and plants which grew in Burleigh Court’s gardens and in the nearby hedgerows and beside the lanes surrounding the hotel and we both found it fascinating – not only to discover just how many different types of plants and flowers you could find in a relatively small area but how you could soon start to distinguish them from one another. We discovered everything from wild garlic and hazelnuts to cow parsley, common sorrel and the toxic Lords and Ladies plant and were expertly advised throughout by Emanuelle whose love for nature shines through her enthusiasm for the natural world. We sniffed and sampled as we went along, while being warned ‘Don’t munch on a hunch’ and I would highly recommend this foraging tour if you have time during your stay at Burleigh Court.
Exploring the area around Burleigh Court
Burleigh Court is ideally situated for a lovely tour around the the west Cotswolds, and we were determined to do it the leisurely way, leaving no picturesque country pub unvisited. Thus we drove north through the Slad Valley to the village of Slad itself, made famous by Laurie Lee and his book Cider with Rosie, and had a pleasant drink in his old local, the Woolpack, with traditional interiors and stunning views of the valley.
From Slad it was a lovely amble along country lanes to Sheepscombe and the Butchers Arms pub, which served us an excellent lunch of fish goujons and homemade pate, and finally we ended up in the lovely and very sought-after village of Painswick. I stayed at The Painswick hotel a few years previously and it was lovely to explore Painswick’s narrow winding streets again and its impressive churchyard with its 99 yew trees, and enjoy a final drink by the roaring open fire at the charming low-ceiling’d pub, The Oak. After all that exploring it was a delight to return to Burleigh Court and raid its collection of quizzes and board games before dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.
Dining at Burleigh Court
Starting off dinner with a cocktail in the lounge was a great start to dinner and the menu looked very promising, with five starters and six mains to choose from, sourced mainly from local, seasonal produce. Sadly the meal didn’t live up to the expectations set by the rest of the hotel, but there are plans to improve the restaurant up to 3 AA star status, which will hopefully iron out any lingering issues.
We both decided to have two courses at £32 (three courses is £45) and so Stephen’s starter was sous-vide pig’s cheek, with ham hock bonbon and burnt apple puree, which was on the small side but quite tasty. For my main course I had the salted and oven-roasted skrie cod with braised fennel, samphire and chorizo, which sadly was extremely over-salted, while Stephen had the 32-day dry aged Longhorn beef loin which had a £5 supplement.
When it arrived, it was the tiniest portion of beef I think ever to be served in a restaurant – it was the size of the accompanying single tortellini – but the staff kindly agreed that it was far too small for main course, and arranged to some more to be added, with meant I finished my super-salty cod way before the replacement meal arrived. On the upside, the service was excellent, the restaurant and garden outside very romantically-lit at night and we finished off by taking our cheeseboard desert up to our room.
We ended our stay at Burleigh Court with another lovely walk around the gardens – where we bumped into Emanuelle, who was planning her next round of planting – and purchased several jars of the delicious honey before heading home.
Hotel information and how to book Burleigh Court
Foraging tour dates
Contact Burleigh Court for group foraging dates. Individual tours also available on request. Foraging is available year-round. Depending on when guests visit and enjoy a foraging tour, they may find wild strawberries, lime trees leaves, nettles, rosehips and sweet chestnuts.
If you love exploring the Cotswolds, then here are some other excellent places to stay in the Cotswolds: Luxury in the Cotswolds at Lygon Arms, Broadway; Whatley Manor hotel and spa, a true Cotswolds gem; Relaxing in grand style at The Hare and Hounds near Tetbury; A classic English estate at Bowood hotel, spa and golf; The Greenway hotel and spa, Cheltenham – luxury with the fizz factor; A picture-perfect stay at The Manor House, Castle Combe; Cosy Cotswolds charm at the award-winning Painswick hotel; Snug Cotswolds luxury at Dormy House, Broadway; Calcot Manor, family-friendly luxury in the Cotswolds; Barnsley House, a wonderfully cosy Cotswolds retreat; A traditional Cotswolds pub stay at the Kings Head, Bledington