Last week, I took a relaxing jaunt to the Cotswolds for a girls trip filled with Christmas shopping, spa treatments and plenty of indulgence. The Kings Head, in the Roman town of Cirencester, was our homely abode for two nights and to call it a high end pub hotel would be an understatement.
Opened in October last year, the Kings Head is a country-chic bolthole right in the centre of historic Cirencester. It was once an ancient coach inn and more recently a tired old boozer, but now the hotel is a hot spot for well-heeled couples weekending in the Cotswold from London and afar. It even won the Smith Hotel Award for Best Newcomer 2015, so you know it’s going to be special.
The Kings Head features an impressive 45 individually-designed rooms and boasts a fantastic restaurant, spa with treatments by Lubatti and a warren of stunning meeting and event spaces.
My Feature Space Suite on the second floor was an absolute dream and I immediately felt at home there. A few stairs lead up to the most enormous room with a king-size bed, comfortable seating area, an executive desk, Samsung flat-screen TV and double wardrobe. There’s even an outdoor terrace with decking and a bench, where you can enjoy breakfast al fresco in the warmer months.
I adored the rustic, natural colour palette of olive green and slate grey luxurious tweed and wool furnishings. Best of all was the plush bed covered in sumptuous linen and the thoughtful welcome gift of everything you need to make a cracking G&T – Sibling Triple Distilled Gin, Fever-Tree Tonic Water, little pots of green olives and pink grapefruit, plus a full bucket of ice.
Other generous features include a Nespresso machine with plenty of capsules, a kettle with a selection of Twinings teas, a minibar filled with fresh milk and complimentary mini bottles of San Pellegrino sparkling and still water and of course, free wifi.
The large bathroom is designed in the minimal, monochrome style you’d expect to find in a Lower East Side NYC hotel rather than the Cotswolds – and I loved it! All of the facilities feel brand new and well-appointed – there’s a deep soaking tub, walk-in shower, double sink, cosy bathrobes, extra-wide towels and two full sets of Lubatti bathroom products. What more could you want for a relaxing, luxury stay?
Dining at the Kings Head is a real delight for foodies. On arrival, we enjoyed a Cotswolds Afternoon Tea around the fireplace in the elegant lounge. We grazed on tasty sandwiches, warm scones with jam and clotted cream, followed by mini mince pies, spiced ginger cake and lemon posset verrines.
Dinner in The Restaurant was also memorable, with top notch food and a warm atmosphere. The menu is a mix of comforting pub classics, innovative dishes and locally-sourced meats cooked on the robata grill.
On the first night, I enjoyed a juicy, smoky Cider and mustard pork chop, confit plum tomato, flat mushroom, focaccia and thyme crumb, chips and spiced apple chutney. I followed with the most incredible dessert that must not be missed – Croissant and dark chocolate pudding, kumquat marmalade and Greek yoghurt ice cream.
On the second night, we were some of the first to try the new Christmas menu and almost all of us plumped for the Roasted Norfolk Bronze turkey with chestnut stuffing and braised leg with all of the trimmings. It was the perfect start to the festive season, with Michael Bublé’s Christmas album on repeat, pretty Christmas trees and a full belly from the indulgent Sticky toffee pudding.
Breakfast is also a real treat, with a number of tempting dishes such as French toast, Eggs Benedict and double cream porridge on the menu. The self-serve Continental breakfast is high quality and plentiful with croissants, cereal, yoghurt with granola, charcuterie and cheese, but it could be expanded to include some waffles, crepes, pancakes or a wider range of pastries. I went light and healthy on the first morning, but indulged in a scrumptious Bacon sandwich before taking the train back to London.
Spending a few hours unwinding in the subterranean Vaulted Cellar Spa with its steam room and whirlpool is an absolute must. A highlight of my stay was the glorious Lubatti Pure Luxury Indulgence body treatment (80 mins/£90). It was a calming, holistic treatment, beginning with an effective back massage, followed by a facial cleanse, tone and massage, nourishing eye and lip treatment and hand and foot exfoliation using Lubatti caramel body polish, ending with a light body lotion. I felt like I was floating on air and drifted off more than a few times. Happily, we had an afternoon of free time, so I lounged in the Relaxation Room and rolled upstairs for a quick nap – pure bliss!
So, apart from eating and relaxing, what is there to do on a festive break in the Cotswolds? Take a 30-minute journey out of town to see the Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum. Follow the trail through the arboretum to see the majestic trees illuminated in colourful lights, with disco balls, lights shows, installations and plenty of surprises. It’s great for walking off that indulgent Cotswolds Afternoon Tea.
Cirencester is a treasure trove for finding unique Christmas gifts. Next door to The Kings Head is the Corn Hall – a modern shopping arcade filled with designer shops including Sue Parkinson that stocks a well-edited selection of brands such as Mulberry, Anya Hindmarch and Neom.
It’s also home to the wonderful restaurant and deli, Made by Bob – a popular and cosmopolitan spot for a tasty lunch. After exploring Cirencester, we visited for a quick refuel before our spa treatments. I warmed up with the Sweet potato soup with harissa crème fraîche while the rest of the table went for the Heirloom tomato salad with burrata, rocket, pesto and grilled focaccia – so yummy!
Some of our favourite boutiques in Cirencester were m.a.d.e for hand-crafted lifestyle products by UK designers and Parlane for stylish homewares. Also look out for Octavia Bookshop, Lola, Keith’s Coffee Shop and French Grey Interiors.
If you still have time after shopping, discover the history of Cirencester at the Corinium Museum with relics including mosaic floors, jewellery and ancient weapons, as well as some rather life-like models and interactive learning games.
My first visit to Cirencester at Christmas time was everything I could have hoped for and I highly recommend the Kings Head for a stylish weekend break.
Rooms at the Kings Head Cirencester start from £120 per room per night on a bed and breakfast basis. For more information and booking, visit: www.kingshead-hotel.co.uk
Chérie City was a guest of Kings Head Cirencester
Photos by Chérie City and Kings Head Cirencester