A spa seekers paradise, romantic hideaway, and wedding venue of dreams, Barnsley House is set to make waves as the premier wedding venue of the Cotswolds. Bottle of bubbly in hand, Debby Donnelly-Addison checks out this opulent hidden gem.
The sleet pelted down on the window as I slid deeper down into the bubbles, watching the carefully curated lawns of the walled garden turn from spruce green to frosted white. All my worries slipped away as I sipped my champage and laid back in the huge stone bathtub of the Secret Garden suite at Barnsley House, watching a robin bounce across the loungers on the patio outside. The perfect ending to the perfect weekend, I could understand why this is arguably the most romantic retreat in the Cotswolds.
Featuring an abundance of splendorous rooms and suites, each boasting sumptuous, butter soft beds and enchanting views of the meadows beyond, Barnsley House is nothing short of a dream. The accommodations are spread around the main house, some are tucked away down leafy passageways through the magnificent gardens, and there’s also Home Farm Cottage, which sleeps an extra six people. Generous in size and equipped with seriously Insta-worthy bathrooms, you will never want to leave.
Open to the public as a hotel and available for private hire for weddings, the ebullient and considerate staff at Barnsley House are conscious of respecting each of their clientele in equal measure. “We don’t want the hotel to become a wedding factory, we have our regulars and our locals and we want everyone to be able to enjoy our venue” Emma, the wedding coordinator informed me. It doesn’t matter if you’re spending £400 or £40,000, you will receive the same warm hospitality regardless.
It’s easy to see why Barnsley House is so popular for weddings. The enchanting gardens created by Rosemary Verey are packed with wonderous nooks and crannies, perfect for capturing many magical photos of your big day. The ornate lawns, immaculate terraces and knot gardens provide an idyllic backdrop at any time of year. Weather permitting, you can even get married outdoors on the lawn. There is no traffic noise here, so you’ll be reciting your vows over nothing but birdsong and the odd rustling of leaves a rabbit hops through the hedges.
After the whoops and cheers of your loved ones as you make things official, you can hold a reception for up to 70 people in the hotel’s Potager Restaurant, or there’s the meadow marquee for a larger affair. You can drink and dance the night away under the famous Cotswolds sunset before retreating to your room for a blissful night’s sleep.
Of course, you don’t have to be getting married to stay here. Barnsley House is perfect for a romantic retreat, weekend with friends or family, or a solo stay in this wonderous part of the world. Whilst the Cotswolds has a lot to offer, you simply cannot stay here without experiencing dinner at the Potager Restaurant. Set in an elegant dining room overlooking the gardens and led by head chef Francesco Volgo, the food here has a heavy local influence with a European edge and flourish of Italian flair.
Much of the fresh produce, herbs and salads are grown in the gardens here and picked fresh on the day of serving (even the vegetable gardens here are beautifully structured). Regardless of meal type or time of day, the service is friendly, efficient and knowledgeable. For my evening meal I had the fluffiest cheese souffle imaginable, which proved to be quite the hit in the dining room (most of our group ordered and devoured it), followed by a perfectly seared steak and golden chunky chips. The bread, nutty and light, had been freshly baked that day and was a welcome change from the usual dry offerings you experience in most hotels. For dessert, I had a melting chocolate pudding topped with honeycomb and a salted caramel ice cream that was to die for. The restaurant staff are attentive, yet not imposing, ensuring that drinks were topped up, plates were stealthily cleared away, and course were dishes up promptly and without fuss. No awkward waiting around or talking over a messy table. the stellar service meant we could enjoy our food and company without issue.
After dinner, we followed a lantern lit pathway through the gardens to the private cinema. Yes, Barnsley House has it’s own private cinema across from the main house. Seating 30 and equipped with a fabulously retro popcorn machine, the cinema boasts cosy pink sofas and fluffy blankets, so you can snuggle up and enjoy a movie with your loved ones. The scent of popcorn, comfortable surroundings and sense of exclusivity makes this a pretty special experience.
If you fancy something a little special before bedtime (or any time of day, for that matter) then a visit to the spa is a must. With a heated outdoor pool (no “gasp” moments as you step into cold water), a herbivarium containing a sauna and steam room, and 5 individual treatment rooms for massage, facials, and all manner of gorgeousness,
you cannot help but fall into a state of deep relaxation here. I was fortunate enough to indulge in a dip in the pool just as the sun started to set. With the heady scent of crackling wood fires in the air and the cleansing steam of the pool jets as the sky started to turn lavender, the experience was one of utter bliss. I bundled myself up in one of the spa’s super fluffy robes and relaxed in the sumptuous lounge overlooking the fields beyond whilst enjoying a glass of water infused with fresh herbs from the garden. As with the main house, it’s the small, considerate details that make this experience so special. The spa and rooms are furnished with fresh fruit and water. There are newspapers and board games should you wish to unplug from social media for the weekend. You feel cared for, cocooned. Barnsley House swaddles you up and leaves you to rest and relax, a world away from noisy roads, social media, and the plethora of distractions in day to day life.
Come bedtime, whilst your pillowy bed will no doubt be calling your name, you must have a dip in your beautifully appointed bathroom. With some rooms featuring twin tubs, roll top baths and flat screen televisions, the bathrooms are equipped with mood lighting akin to candlelight. Despite the winter chill outside, I filled my tub with steaming water infused with some of the complimentary bath salts, flung the windows open, and enjoyed the evening song as a blackbird took centre stage in the tree outside my room. Feeling more relaxed than I can ever remember, I floated over to my four poster bed and fell into a slumber so deep that I slept through my alarm. I do advise that you take up their kind offer of a wake up call, you will be so relaxed and deep in sleep that you will no doubt need it. Collecting the complimentary newspaper from outside of my room, I enjoyed a cup of Tea Pigs breakfast tea on the window seat overlooking the garden before heading down to breakfast.
As with dinner, breakfast is a quality affair. With a decadent selection of continental offerings, the kitchen will also whip up a hot breakfast should you feel like something a little more hearty. I had a creamy eggs benedict made with local eggs and more of their beautiful fresh bread. With free flowing coffee and views towards the wedding ceremony lawn, breakfast here is a relaxed, friendly affair. As always, the ingredients are locally sourced, and it shows. The quality of produce and care in which it has been prepared is evident, making this a meal to be celebrated rather than a quick bite at the start of the day. If you cannot contemplate climbing out of your cosy bed (and who can blame you), you can enjoy a continental breakfast in the comfort of your room. You’re the focus here, and if you’d rather enjoy a flaky croissant and hot coffee in bed, the staff here will make it happen. Nothing is too much.
The beauty of Barnsley House is, despite it’s grand exterior and decadent furnishings, it still feels like a home from home. On returning from the cinema, I instinctively went to remove my shoes when stepping inside (there is no requirement to do this, I just felt so at ease). The staff treat you like family, professional, yet warm. It’s a particularly special, borderline magical combination that is rare and only usually found in boutique locations such as this. If this is how I am treated as a weekend guest, I am both excited and thrilled for anyone who choses Barnsley House as their wedding venue. An absolute dream and living up to their reputation as a “Pride of Britain Hotel”, Barnsley House has to be one of the most romantic, decadent hotels the UK has to offer.
I left Barnsley House relaxed, renewed, and most certainly planning to visit again in the near future. If you’re looking for quality, care, and next level hospitality in an area of outstanding beauty, a visit to Barnsley House is a must.
Bookings for Barnsley House can be made online directly at https://www.prideofbritainhotels.com/hotels/barnsley-house/ I couldn’t possibly recommend one particular room or suite as they are all exceptional, but the Secret Garden Suite is a must for anyone wanting a seriously luxurious romantic break.
Weddings at Barnsley House start at around £25,000 Off Peak one night midweek based on 70 guests. This includes accommodation, food, wine, venue hire. Peak two night weekend based on 70 guests cost around £43,000, including accommodation, food, wine, venue hire. Contact Emma for more details at [email protected]