Hillside Hangouts: The last word in luxury Cotswold holiday rentals

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What would you give Hillside Hangouts out of 10? “300!” declares my son. “When are we coming back?” pipes up his little sister from the back seat of the car. Turns out we needn’t bother with the expense of flying somewhere hot; if you’re five or three years old, heaven is in fact a ‘holiday house’ with hot tub and music room.

Within minutes of arriving at Hillside, the children have dipped their feet in the hot tub, wide-eyed, unearthed the fluffiest child-sized dressing gowns and danced like little dervishes under the disco ball. Needless to say, they are delighted to be ensconced in The Nook for a couple of nights (and the small one sheds a dramatic tear when we leave, mournfully waving goodbye to the hot tub).

hillside hangouts the nook

While The Nook is the smallest of Hillside Hangouts’ three short-stay properties, it has plenty of space for our family of four and is capable of sleeping up to six adults and two children. Forget a flight of any length: for a relaxing weekend break, especially with young kids, nothing beats being able to chuck everything in the car (wellies, oversized cuddly toys that *cannot* be left behind, bags of favourite food, drinks and snacks etc) and driving less than two hours into the Cotswolds. A massive bonus is that The Nook has an electric car charging point which eliminates the range anxiety that still comes with trips to the country.

hillside hangouts the nook

Downstairs there’s an open-plan kitchen and dining area, which opens onto a terrace with hot tub and barbecue. The immaculate kitchen, complete with large island and double fridge, has everything we could possibly need (save a whisk, which I am sure will be duly added). Welcome goodies come in the form of milk, butter, jam, apples, biscuits, sourdough bread, tea, coffee and sugar; in short, enough to keep you going if you need to pop out for supplies.

When you do, head straight to nearby Broadway: a quintessentially delightful Cotswolds village absolutely worth visiting. We browse trinkets, treats and treasures aplenty in its numerous gift stores; there’s a great toy shop, Rikki Tikki, and old-fashioned sweet and chocolate shop. It’s also home to a far bigger adventure playground than you’d expect from a village of its size, with equipment suitable for kids of all ages, and our two while away a happy hour before we head to The Swan at Broadway for sustenance – a lovely family-friendly pub. Broadway is also home to The Lygon Arms and very close to other local gems, including Chipping Norton (18 miles), Bourton-on-the-Water (12 miles) and Cheltenham (16 miles).

The drive back to The Nook takes us up the steep, meandering Fish Hill, past fields of sheep and gasping cyclists. My husband neglected to bring his bike and enviously notes them as we pass. Upon return, there is only one thing for it. There just aren’t enough superlatives to describe a water-loving child’s joy at discovering a hot tub for the first time. Mine love it so much our whole schedule is arranged around when the next dip is happening which, as far as they’re concerned, is never soon enough.

hillside hangouts cotswolds

Post-dip, we snuggle up in dressing gowns with steaming mugs of tea (for us), milk (for them) and biscuits for some Bluey in the cosy living room. It’s designed to be snuggly above all – a big sofa, ample cushions and throws, lots of lamps and a wood burner to light if you so wish. If you have any trouble connecting to the Chromecast, which allows you to play your own Netflix etc, call Dormy House nearby. Saturday afternoon heaven. Really, is there anything more exciting for a child than going straight from a hot tub to a pyjama disco before bedtime?

But bedtime it is for the kids and up the main staircase are two generously-sized bedrooms – the master and another double – with big, hotel-standard bathrooms featuring underfloor heating, spacious showers, honey-hued Cotswold-stone walls and gorgeous metallic baths. Another double is up a separate flight of stairs and the claiming combination of bucolic wallpaper, views of countryside greenery and soft, plush furnishings mean our children fall asleep, in double beds for the first time, without issue. Time, then, for the adults’ supper, drinks and downtime. And – yes – one more dip in the hot tub.

The Nook is made for lazy PJ starts to the morning, even if small kids don’t buy into weekend lie-ins. My husband and kids, after pancakes, drop me off at Cameo Studio on the Farncombe Estate for a yoga class. It’s open to guests across the estate’s three rental houses and three hotels (Foxhill Manor, Dormy House and The Fish) and also locals. My ‘Strong’ class is run by Barney, a familiar face to most of the attendees, and after a great, energising workout, I’m regaled by the family with feedback about The Fish’s playground. My husband, when he manages to get a word in, adds that it’s all made from reclaimed wood and shredded airplane tires; rustic, lovely, no garish plastic frames in sight.

Playground assessed, my daughter and I retreat into The Fish’s Lodge for scones while my son and husband head off to the Adventure Field for an hour-long Falconry Experience – he handles an American kestrel, an English barn owl and a Harris hawk, and absolutely loves it from start to finish (it’s £30pp, for age 4+). Also available are activities such as tennis, cocktail making, buggy driving and clay pigeon shooting, plus the rather more unusual axe-throwing and learning to pilot a hovercraft.

hillside hangouts elsker house

Elsker house

If you are a bigger group than six adults and two children, look no further than The Hoot (seven bedrooms) or Elsker (eight) which are just minutes away – driving past, it’s easy to see that Elsker’s secluded grounds are particularly spectacular: The Nook is nearer a road, although very quiet, without the sweeping Cotswolds views afforded by Elsker’s hillside location. Not that that matters to my childer: if they have any say on the matter, we’ll be back.

Elsker, up to 16 guests, from £4,670; The Hoot, up to 15 guests, from £3,410; The Nook, up to 8 guests, from £1,950; all prices for exclusive use, three-night stays. To book visit hillsidehangouts.co.uk.

Read more: The best luxury home rentals in the Peak District

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