A couple of unspoilt Cotswolds rural idylls from the 14th and 17th centuries, a rare luxury hotel in Champagne with a touch of the contemporary, and the best place to stay in medieval Heidelberg, LUX recommends four historic country hotels to visit post-lockdown
The Lygon Arms, Cotswolds
Broadway is a Cotswold village straight out of central casting. This includes the tourists wandering down the exquisite High Street lined with low buildings of local stone, with the Cotswold Hills rising beyond. The colour palette of nature and history is a perfect sand yellow/deep English green.
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The Lygon Arms looks like a combination of coaching inn and hotel. You expect a ruddy-faced local, fresh out of the local country estate, to appear and help you with your bags, and that is exactly what we got. Parts of the structure of the hotel date back to the 14th century, and the feeling of a cosy history, lovingly recreated by its current owners, is all around you.
Our room, the Charles I suite with a four-poster bed, was swathed in Tudor dark wood. We ate dinner in the courtyard at the Lygon Bar and Grill: the grilled chicken with chestnut mushrooms and tarragon was highly satisfying. The achievement of The Lygon Arms? To offer true history, nicely updated with casual contemporary service and simple high-quality food.
A 20-minute walk from the end of the High Street and up a hillside takes you to the Broadway Tower, from where you can view the invading Welsh armies swarming across the Severn River Valley. Behind the tower stretch the sweeping green uplands of the Cotswolds proper, with exquisite nature walks.
Book your stay: lygonarmshotel.co.uk
Le 25bis by Leclerc Briant, Champagne
It’s long been a matter of bemusement that you can spend your day being serenaded by a major champagne house in Épernay and then find yourself in a disappointing, generic hotel. Le 25bis, owned by a champagne house and refurbished in a luxurious modern style, promises to change that.
There is nothing quite like driving along the avenue de Champagne which radiates from the town centre. Le 25bis is fronted by a delightful courtyard with a few tables and as you walk to the reception desk, you walk past a couple enjoying a champagne tasting, a perfect scene setter.
Le 25bis belongs to a well regarded boutique champagne house, Leclerc-Briant, which has a shop at the front of the house. After a long day of visiting champagne houses, there’s nothing quite like tasting the champagne made by your hotel. There are only five rooms, which are huge and have clearly been refurbished with little regard for budget, with pale contemporary furnishings with antique twists, aesthetic floral arrangements, intricate wallpapers and beautiful vintage-style (but very modern) bathrooms.
Make time to visit the Leclerc Briant house itself, and when buying from the shop at the hotel (our preferred cuvée was the eponymous entry-level cuvée, and the rosé was also delicious) make sure you buy in magnum. It is always better.
Book your stay: le25bis.com
Lords of the Manor, Cotswolds
If The Lygon Arms is in the low Cotswolds, Lords of the Manor is in the high Cotswolds. To get there, you wind slowly through Lower Slaughter (probably Britain’s prettiest village, and that’s saying something), past an estate and into the hamlet of Upper Slaughter. Down a drive, there is a manor house with gardens dropping to a lake, and meadows and woods beyond. This view hasn’t changed much since Shakespeare’s time.
Walking into the wood-lined great hall feels like arriving at a friend’s country house. You are taken to your room up a suitably creaking staircase. Ours looked out over the drive, lawn and lake, and was decorated in lavish country house style. All around was silence.
Crunching through the grounds you feel like there is nothing more you would need from your English country estate. A walk across a little wooden bridge leads to a path alongside a stream taking you to Lower Slaughter, where you can slake the thirst in an inn. The dining experience at Lords of the Manor is very proper and British: venison and foie gras pithivier with creamed butternut squash and brandy sauce.
You could explore the many sites of this glorious region, but we wager you’ll stroll from the hotel on the secluded walks, and chill out on the hotel’s terrace with a glass of champagne, looking at the grounds, and do nothing else.
Book your stay: lordsofthemanor.com
Grand Hotel Europäischer Hof, Heidelberg
Heidelberg, one of the world’s oldest university towns, lies at the edge of the Rhine river plain at the point at which it rises up sharply into the mountains of the northern Black Forest. It’s one of Europe’s prettiest towns, and also infused with a feeling of intellectual history – and current intellectual power.
The hotel, the city’s only five-star property, is located on the edge of the old town, making it easy to get to when arriving by car or train. The family-owned luxury property is big and relatively modern. You turn into a grand driveway and are greeted by a uniformed doorman, and taken up some steps into the reception hall that leads to a jazz bar on the left and around the corner into a U-shape into a formal restaurant, the Kurfürstenstube.
The hotel is grand and generously proportioned, as was our Executive Suite, which was light and airy with high ceilings, baroque-style furnishing in creams and beiges and rustic golds. While parts of the hotel are old, much of it has been built recently, including the large spa area. You will inevitably use the hotel as a base for visiting Heidelberg and beyond.
The hotel’s delightful concierge’s recommendations are now ours: the Kulturbrauerei, a centuries-old dining hallcum-beer hall with hearty, meaty cuisine and its own beer; and a walk down from the Königstuhl mountain, reached by a funicular.
Book your stay: europaeischerhof.com
Note: All reviews were carried out prior to the global lockdown
This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.