A honey-coloured stone cottage tucked into the pretty Cotswolds’ village of Shilton. Fresh herbs grow by the kitchen door, and the garden’s scattered with nooks for reading books, spots to catch the sun, places to dream, and space to play.
The only thing that could possibly make Chestnut Cottage more perfect, would be an old fashioned duckpond nearby, and possibly, a cosy traditional little pub just a few steps away. Well, prepare to surrender your heart completely, because those delightful details are all in place here too.
How sweetly romantic it sounds, and it is, right down to log fires in winter and goose down quilts on snuggly feather beds. But it’s more a storybook illustration type of romance, rather than couples-only.
Because, in spite of its undeniable charm, Chestnut Cottage is actually a lovely family home, and all the more delightful because it’s bright, light and airy inside.
Think Scandinavian cool and not a hint of chintz. The flagstone floors are practical and underfloor heating is one of those subtle luxuries it takes about a minute to decide you can’t live without, ever again.
The cottage sleeps eight, and each of the four bedrooms, with a master and smaller room on each side of the building, giving the privacy you all so often loose in a cottage.
If Chestnut had a theme, it probably would be, thoughtful. Local area guides are regularly updated, sorted by category and neatly filed in smart binders. Interesting books line the shelves, along with recent magazines, and a good selection of new and classic DVDs. There’s original artwork on the walls and you’re even welcomed with vases of fresh flowers when you arrive.
Highchairs, stairgates, cots and handy ‘tot boxes’ packed with essentials like bibs, beakers and changing mats, should dispel any notion that somewhere as graceful as Chestnut Cottage isn’t child-friendly.
Have a look at the adoring reviews of Chestnut Cottage and it’s easy to understand why feeding ducks or stepping across the road to the local pub is enough for most families.
But since the cottage sits right on the edge of The Cotswolds Area of Natural Beauty, and less than an hour from historic towns, sweet little villages, legendary castles, wildlife parks and ancient Roman cities, it seems a shame not to venture further than Shilton, at least once or twice.
Cotswold Wildlife Park, just 10 minutes drive from Shilton, is the first UK zoo to successfully breed wolverines. Set in 160 acres of gorgeous parkland, the park’s open all year round, has lots of fun kids’ activities, and, apart from wolverine, there are dozens of other wild residents, including lions, zebra, camels, meerkat, lemurs, and red pandas.
Burford, 10 minutes drive north of Shilton
William Morris called Bibury, ‘the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds’; car magnate, Henry Ford, loved it so much, he tried to ship it back to Michigan; and if you feel déjà-vu, blame movies like Bridget Jones Diary. Bibury’s every bit as enchanting as they say, and the local trout farm restaurant is a good place for lunch.
Bibury, 20 minutes drive west of Shilton
One of England’s most impressive stately homes, Blenheim also has the world’s largest symbolic hedge maze and the gardens are by Capability Brown. If that sounds too highbrow for your kids, rest easy; the palace is also famous for family events and dazzling celebrations, and the informal grounds are plenty exciting to explore.
Blenheim Palace, 30 minutes drive east of Shilton
Cheltenham’s famous for its racecourse, but kids will probably prefer to go see the astonishing 45 foot tall Wishing Fish Clock in the Regent Arcade in the city centre; a perfect excuse to check out the fifth best shopping streets in the UK too. There’s also Leisure at Cheltenham for swimming pools, a huge Cineworld with IMAX and Mr Mulligan’s, a fantastic indoor, 36 hole miniature golf course.
Cheltenham, 40 minutes drive north of Shilton
Ethelred the Unready is the least famous of imposing Sudeley’s royal connections. The castle has links to almost all Henry VIII’s unfortunate queens; its famous knot garden was a homage to Elizabeth I; and one of the chambers has bed hangings designed to hold Marie Antoinette’s beer mug. If that oddity doesn’t pique your interest, there’s also a pheasant farm and a fun adventure playground for kids.
Sudeley Castle, 40 minutes drive north of Shilton
The ancient Roman capital of The Cotswolds is a charming, traditional market town, pretty much undiscovered by tourists, but loved by locals for interesting indie shops, excellent restaurants, and grand Cirencester Park. Walk round the Roman amphitheatre, then go and see the amazing Corinium Museum. Younger kids will like Abbey Home Organic Farm on the outskirts of town, there’s always something fun happening, and the farm café and shop are worth a visit alone.
Cirencester, 40 minutes drive west of Shilton
Kids may not be awed by Oxford’s dreaming spires, but it’s a tough young audience that doesn’t like the mummies and shrunken heads in the city’s chill-rich Pitt Rivers Museum. Oxford Castle is another gory delight for little historians, and may earn you an hour’s grace to admire the wonderful New Ashmolean. But, even if you do nothing but wander around, Oxford’s a fascinating experience.
Oxford, 45 minutes drive east of Shilton
Chestnut Cottage family holidays, and short breaks, are available all year round through Premier Cottages, from £172 per night, as part of a seven night stay, or look out for special offers throughout the year.