An ancient British stone building

Exterior of The Lygon Arms Hotel

The Arrival

Halfway down the high street, no, make that pretty much the only street, in a village on the western edge of England’s Cotswold Hills, the Lygon Arms makes you feel like you have arrived in the 15th century. But in the nicest way. Broadway, the village, is light and open, set on a slope leading up to the highest ridge of this area, beloved by writers, nobles and more recently politicians and celebrities, for centuries. Opposite the Lygon’s little driveway is a village store selling everything from soy cappuccinos to focaccia (it’s not really the 15th century here) and beyond you see the outline of hills and woodland. Beautiful.

A dinner table set by a fire with tartan chairs

Private dining room

Walk inside the arched entrance and you have a coaching inn that has been refreshed by England’s most upmarket country hotel group: low ceilings, worn stone floors and gentle lighting are all there, but so are zippy, eager staff and a bar bristling with very 21st-century cocktails.

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The In-Room Experience

No two rooms are the same in this ancient hostelry, and we are grateful the latest owners didn’t decide to hire some Paris-based super-interior-architect to turn the interior all generic rich person chic. Our room consisted of three separate areas, an entrance lobby, mini-reception area and bedroom, all in a long line, followed by the bathroom.

A room with a white bed and sofa leading to a courtyard

The Courtyard Suite

The windows looked out over the courtyard at the centre of the hotel, which has been converted by the most recent owners from a car park to a garden-cum-terrace. A view of vintage Astons and Bentleys, not without its virtues, has been replaced by people-watching from up high: in the courtyard were a mix of hipster English couples, multicoloured American groups, and Belgian and French families undeterred by Brexit and its resultant border bureaucracy.

red and white wooden bedroom

Master Suite

But just because the Lygon has retained its authenticity and hasn’t had its corridors turned black and uplit (thank goodness), don’t start thinking you’re in for the less good aspects of the traditional British country experience, namely beds you can feel the springs through and bathrooms with a dribble of warm water. The bed was huge and luscious, the bathroom beautifully appointed. A copy of The Mistresses of Cliveden by Natalie Livingstone was on the writing desk, and (full disclosure) LUX is also usually in the rooms alongside their in-house publication.

The Out-of-Room Experience

You walk out of the front door into the middle of possibly the prettiest village in Britain, which probably makes it the prettiest village in the world. Turn left and, beyond a very scenic adventure playground for adults and children, is a good walk up to the Broadway Tower, a 300-year-old folly with a view across to Wales. Castles, Roman ruins, the Cotswolds Way walk, villages, and highly fortified estates owned by oligarchs are within a few minutes’ drive. Isn’t that enough? In case it’s not, the hotel itself has more tricks up its sleeve than you might expect from what seems from the outside like a coaching inn.

A large swimming pool

The indoor swimming pool

The central courtyard restaurant, for starters. This is now a restaurant and we had a fabulous long lunch here. The menu is a California-style, healthy take on country food: poached turbot with salsa verde, charred cauliflower steak with romanesco (fabulous), sort of idea. Margaritas were so punchy that one member of our group had to sober up with some berry cordial, bought from a local store, in the garden after lunch. Behind the hotel is a quite extensive garden, invisible from the hotel itself: croquet and tennis are available, and we hear there will be more activities opening for next summer.

A berry crumble in a pan with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top

Homemade crumble

What we liked the most was the staff. British country hotels seem to think they have a binary choice: formal, removed and (because this is Britain) a bit spluttering and Fawlty Towers; or chummy, inclusive and Soho House-ish, which can get a bit tiring if a) it’s not actually Soho House and b) you don’t want a long chat with your server about the latest music, you just want to be served.

The Lygon Arms seems to have found a happy medium. The staff are there to serve, not to be your friends, but they’re also not glaring at you like hawks. Very nice.

Read more: Chef Rasmus Kofoed: The Vegetable King

Drawbacks

a cosy lounge

The Lygon Lounge

Although it’s in one of the loveliest locations in Britain, if not the world, the Lygon Arms is a village hotel, not a full-on country house in its own grounds. If you have children or animals or indeed humans who need a lot of space to run around and sweeping vistas, you should try somewhere else – including another hotel in the same group, the magnificent Cliveden, across the other side of the Cotswolds towards London. There, you’re also likely to see all the classic cars that can no longer lodge in the courtyard at the Lygon Arms.

Rates: From £230 average per night (approx. €275/$280)

Book your stay: lygonarmshotel.co.uk

Darius Sanai