In Review

Thyme review: the Cotswolds, perfected

_dsc2680.jpg

Half a century ago, the Cotswolds was declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), whose 800 square miles across five counties are littered with stately homes, gently rolling hills and beautifully quintessential English villages.

“The glorious, honey-coloured towns and villages of the Cotswolds look as if they have strayed into the 21st century from another era,” says The Daily Telegraph's Harriet O'Brien. “The sheep-shaped past here is appealingly evident in striking wool churches and manor houses built by wealthy textile merchants. Flourishes of later heritage include a fine legacy of the Arts and Crafts movement.”

Amid all that bucolic beauty is a newcomer, a recently completed development that captures the very best of the region and packages it into a perfect weekender: Thyme.

Location and character

Thyme is located in the pretty village of Southrop, which is around eight miles from Burford, and a two-hour drive from London.

Thyme was devised as a mini "village within a village", says owner Caryn Hibbert, complete with a former rectory, an old farmhouse, a collection of cottages and a couple of large barns, where most of the dining and entertaining happens.

The conversion is a new one, and not yet entirely finished, but the transformation from its former state as abandoned farm infrastructure is already profound.

What was a broken-down barn and lambing shed has been converted into a series of multi-use spaces at the centre of the development, including a homely bar serving excellent cocktails, a restaurant and a massive event space.

Next door sits the cookery school - which was where the whole project began, and then just beyond that a collection of cottages, the village's former rectory and the town pub, which were all purchased and resuscitated by Hibbert and her husband Jerry over the years.

Rooms

Thyme offers a range of different types of accommodation. The Week Portfolio stayed in the Rivermint room, a converted loft with a bedroom as you enter, then a long lounge through the centre of the space and a generously sized bathroom at the end.

Decoration is elegant, if slightly safe, with wonderfully soft sheepskin rugs underfoot (as well as a silky sheepskin beanbag to recline on), antlers acting as coat hangers, a free-standing bath and large windows which stream light throughout the room. 

Mattresses are soft and welcoming with crisp white linen, bathrobes fantastically fleecy and all toiletries from True Grace – made by hand in Wiltshire.

There is a definite sense here that no expense has been spared. Everything is finished impeccably, with superb attention to detail right down to the fresh flasks of milk that sit beside the in-room Nespresso machines.

On the mezzanine, one flight down from our room is a kitchen, which offers drinks from an honesty bar as well as homemade biscuits, which, if you arrive at the right moment, are still warm from the oven.

Other rooms are equally lavishly appointed - Pinewood was formerly a film room and is now decorated with 1930s furnishings as well as a cinema screen and projector, while the enormous English Rose room is all gentle pinks and antique furniture, plus a twinkling chandelier in the bathroom.

Restaurant

Thyme is a great basecamp for a foodie weekend break, located just a short stroll from several charming villages which each have great eating and drinking options, including high-end restaurants and authentic local pubs.

But the quality of the on-site Ox Barn restaurant makes leaving Thyme in search of food an entirely redundant proposition.

The menu at Ox Barn is simple, with only five starters, five mains and a handful of desserts from which to choose, though the selection changes daily in response, largely, to what’s available from Thyme's extensive vegetable gardens. 

The whole operation is overseen by Hibbert’s son Charlie formerly of trendy Quo Vadis in London's Soho, and the quality of cooking is immediately apparent.

Highlights from our evening were a beautifully elegant watercress and spinach soup – light yet substantial – and a fresh-as-you-like tomato, radicchio, wild garlic and ricotta starter, almost all plucked straight from the plot outside.

My partner's hake for main was a subtle delight, while my roast pork with artichoke, asparagus and baby grelot onions was rather more substantial, which I felt I had earned after a day of tromping through the surrounding fields.

Breakfast is served in the same space, but it is transformed by the sunlight – its vaulted ceilings seem higher and more airy somehow.

Newspapers lie around the room for the taking, and a stack of freshly baked croissants sits in the centre of the room.

The breakfast menu is also short, with only a few options to select from – and the plates that arrive are not massive portions, but the quality, like dinner the night before, is very high.

Bottom line

Thyme offers the ultimate Cotswolds experience: the best food, prepared with the most local ingredients; the best-appointed accommodation hewn from the husks of historical barns and cottages; the most quintessential local villages nestled in archetypal rolling hills, ready to be explored in Rockfish wellies that can be loaned in every size. 

For some people it might be slightly too well observed, like a Disneyfied version of the English countryside, but for a weekender away from the Big Smoke, it is nigh on perfect, and it is hard to criticise a place for getting everything exactly right.

Rooms from £325 including breakfast, thyme.co.uk

Recommended

27 of the best hotels to discover in 2022
Spa at The Retreat at Elcot Park
In Focus

27 of the best hotels to discover in 2022

The timeless charm of Poland’s Lower Silesia
Colourful buildings
The big trip

The timeless charm of Poland’s Lower Silesia

BodyHoliday review: gain without pain in Saint Lucia
Yoga overlooking the ocean
The big trip

BodyHoliday review: gain without pain in Saint Lucia

Hard Rock Hotel New York review
Hard Rock Hotel New York lobby
The big trip

Hard Rock Hotel New York review

Popular articles

Are we heading for World War Three?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Are we heading for World War Three?

What happened to Logan Mwangi?
Tributes left to Logan Mwangi
Today’s big question

What happened to Logan Mwangi?

Nato vs. Russia: who would win in a war?
Nato troops
Today’s big question

Nato vs. Russia: who would win in a war?

The Week Footer Banner