Having grown up in the Home Counties, I was lucky enough to have a wealth of greenbelt land on my doorstep as a child. However, as with almost every small pleasure of life, you only fully begin to appreciate these niceties as an adult. Cue a weekend away in the Cotswolds; an area of Jurassic bedrock which spans from the meadows of the upper Thames to the plains near the Severn Valley. Just two hours’ drive from London, this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is characterised by it’s limestone cottages and picturesque views.
Our destination on the Friday night drive was Bruern, and our home for the two nights was to be Wychwood; one of the twelve cottages managed by Bruern Cottages. While I’m not averse to staying in a luxurious hotel, there’s something very homely about self-catered accomodation. Even more so when you are greeted with fresh farm eggs, bacon, sausages and a bottle of champagne upon your arrival after a substantial drive on single-track roads. I can’t always sacrifice the luxuries every time, after all.
The accomodation itself was excellent; a cosy cottage with the most incredible farmhouse kitchen, complete with a butcher’s block, Belfast sink and a dishwasher. Living in London, and with Katie slightly allergic to dirty dishes, it’s these small touches that are a luxury to me. Next door, a cosy sitting room with a TV and fire provided the perfect place to escape the driving rain outside, while upstairs the two ensuite bedrooms would be more than ample for a four-person family. Once the rain had stopped, we had the chance to explore the grounds outside; the immaculately manicures lawns perfectly complimenting the beautiful Cotswolds stonework.
As it was a weekend getaway, we only had one full day in Oxfordshire and so decided to make the most of it. After a quick stop in nearby Burford for a scenic photoshoot, we drove to the Maytime Inn in Asthall for lunch. Set amongst open fields and accessible over a small stone bridge, the village of Asthall wouldn’t look out of place in a 19th Century period drama. The Inn itself blended perfectly into the surroundings; the 17th Century exterior was as photogenic and warming as the interior.
Inside, we were greeted by very friendly staff and were immediately introduced to the very comprehensive menu of speciality gins and fine wines imported from across the globe. My choice of a South African Pinot Noir did not disappoint and Katie’s large glass of botanical gin was perfectly harmonised with it’s tonic mixer. As we chatted in the company of locals, tourists and a wide variety of excitable dogs, we soaked in the atmosphere and made our choices from the a la carte menu.
Within minutes, our food arrived. The salad starters were both beautifully prepared and presented; the Warm Goat’s Cheese Salad being the standout dish. It’s a little tricky trying to warm goat’s cheese when you make this at home, so I always appreciate a well-prepared version of this dish. For mains, it was all about the meat. The Loin of Local Venison was perfectly seared with the accompanying vegetables cutting through the deep flavours. Likewise, the Duck Breast dish was a well-balanced meal with a generous helping of meat. Both filled us up to the brim, but there is always room for desert, and the Brioche Sticky Toffee Pudding rounded off a very hearty meal.
With our bellies full, we headed back to Wychwood on a scenic tour home through neighbouring villages. While the darkness did approach earlier than we would have liked, it did give us the perfect excuse to light the fire and cosy up for the night. It was great to also spend some quality time in the farmhouse kitchen; it’s always been the hub of activity in my family home but our London flat just doesn’t have the capacity. With the stove on and the wine flowing, it was refreshing not to be glued to the TV for once. It really was fun playing house in the Cotswolds.
The next day, we headed back to London via nearby Bicester Village. As we left the greenery of Oxfordshire, the skyline of the city soon came into view on the M1. Bruern had given us another small taste of country life and, as it is within two hours’ drive of the capital, it is somewhere we will definitely try and head back to next year. With larger cottages also available from a large selection of accomodation, we might even bring our friends and family next time. Especially when it is just on our doorstep.