Down on the Farm and Beyond

Last Summer, for a well overdue social with good friends, Mrs E and I decided to go for a la-de-da weekend to the celeb haunt Soho Farmhouse in the Cotswolds. As a relatively new Soho House member, I was itching to revisit it, having experienced many years ago for a friends big birthday celebration. I joined the members club with hope and aspirations to utilise some of their event spaces, around the world, restricted to members only. Plus, I wanted to have a bit of social fun despite being one of the older members in this mostly young, cool and trendy crowd!

The Farmhouse weekend reignited my interest in the Cotswolds. With London hotel rates for events, especially in the luxury sector, skyrocketing, I’ve been keen to explore and discover some great spaces and venues out of town and to see how much further client budgets would go with a bit of country lux living.

Invited by the lovely people at Mason Rose to visit and overnight at their Farncombe Estates’ The Fish, now was my chance to explore and discover a few gems with event possibilities.

Soho Farmhouse

So, first stop en route around the glorious Cotswolds, I made a quick visit to Soho Farmhouse to have a quick coffee stop and show-around of the event spaces for a client event in March.

I won’t lie. It’s remains a bit of a showstopper. A private members’ club in 100 acres of Oxfordshire countryside. Since becoming a member of Soho House, this remains one of the the most exciting Houses in their portfolio and the one most members want to retreat to. If you can get availability!

It’s the most beautifully contrived farmhouse where style and coolness is slouching around fire pits with a hot choc or cocktail, visiting the Cowshed spa and just eating, drinking, walking … and people watching!

Event spaces at Soho Houses are super laid-back locations that blend into the casual vibe of the houses. Here at Soho Farmhouse, they can host anything from intimate dinners, meetings to parties up to 120 Guests.

Key spaces include:

Barwell Barn 10 – 90 Seated / 120 Standing
The Glasshouse 10 – 60 Seated
The Farmhouse 7 Bedrooms / 14 Guests / Dining up to 20 persons
Pen Yen Dining Room 10 – 20 Persons
The Electric Barn Cinema Up to 50 persons with drinks and nibbles
Fancy Farm & Terrace 10 – 40 – Mezzanine in the Main Barn

Bedroom wise, their newer Piglet rooms, whilst cosy and the smallest rooms on the Farm, they are perfectly well equipped as the larger huts and cabins with generous amenities – and are the mostly likely offering for small groups as they are more plentiful and allow one night stays unlike the larger lakeside cabins which require min night stays.

Being a private members club, all the event spaces are only available to members (as in the booking and having to host). So you’ll have to make me your new BFF, take me along and you could be hanging out with stage and screen, in your wellies, after a long day of sipping ‘Picantes’ in the Clubhouse, lounging or swimming at the Boat House, tucking into great food at their Pen Yen signature Japanese restaurant or one of many country pursuits offered by their events team.

I tucked down a quick sandwich for lunch in their Blakes Kitchen Bakery, overlooking their central hub and Farm Yard, before heading off to the next stop … The Fish.

Images © Soho House / Soho Farmhouse

Farncombe Estate

The Farncombe Estate is located approx. 45 minute drive from Soho Farmhouse. I naively thought all these places would be five minutes apart … just around the corner he thinks. Call me an event planner! Oblivious to how wide an area the Cotswolds covers.

Thanks to the lovely team at Mason Rose, a special invite to an industry gathering to spotlight the three main properties on the estate with a dinner and overnight at one, namely The Fish.

The 500-acre estate, located high above the stunning village of Broadway in the Cotswolds. Farncombe features three hotels, restaurants, a spa, holiday cottages, outdoor activities and a wellbeing centre.

The Fish

You might call it a country hotel, you might call it a collection of quirky hotel rooms, suites, huts and treehouses all nestled in a hillside within a 500-acre private estate. With views overlooking the Cotswolds and beyond, The Fish is all about getting back to nature. It hosted us for a terrific private fondue and BBQ grill / open wood fire dinner in their intimate ‘Feasting on the Deck’ pop up restaurant.

Foxhill Manor

This is one I’ve had the treat of experiencing and staying at many years ago with my former agency. Refreshed and revitalised. A private manor house hotel in a country home, Foxhill Manor brings visitors the character of a boutique-hotel hideaway combined with an easy-going at-home atmosphere. The manor has five bedrooms and three suites, all with their own unique style within the Grade II listed Arts and Crafts country home. Stunning rooms with great details. This is definitely the plushest product on the estate – shame it didn’t have more rooms!! Perfect for a top management retreat.

The Dormy House Hotel & Spa

My first event many years ago was at The Dormy House. So great to return and see it looking great.

High above the village of Broadway and commanding panoramic views of the estate is Dormy House, made up of charming cosy corners and nooks, bubbles on tap and a newly renovated spa. Dormy has three accommodation types: rooms, suites, and hot tub suites, each located across the Courtyard and the main Farmhouse. Designed with comfort in mind, each room has Scandi-inspired features, clean lines and natural materials. The hotel also has numerous dining options, including Dormy’s main dining space – The Back Garden restaurant.

So after a great nights sleep, an early breakfast, it was time to defrost the car in Antarctic like temperatures but on the bluest of days to forward on to the next and final stop …. Estelle Manor.

Images © Farncombe Estate

Daylesford Organic

Well, one more additional stop! I couldn’t resist re-routing via the fantastic Daylesford Organic. It was never going to be a stale club sandwich from the BP garage. Shopping for food in Daylesford Organic is a sublime experience for a foodie. Combined with its beautiful home and lifestyle departments, spas, restaurants – it’s a destination! With a cooking school and the Bamford Wellness Spa, it offers terrific event programme possibilities coupled with some terrific event spaces. The Glasshouse (40 seated), The Trough & Legbar (70 seated) with an open kitchen and the latest addition of Heritage House with numerous event possibilities … its top class.

Bamford products make for perfect room gifts for a Cotswolds event.

Great minds. I bumped into fellow guests from last nights Fish event. After a cup of cha with the lovely Kym from Mason Rose, a quick whiz for a few treats from the deli – it was back in the car and onwards. Estelle, I’m coming.

Estelle Manor

I didn’t see this place coming. Never heard of the place …. then bang! All I kept hearing about was Estelle Manor. A luxury country house hotel and private members club in a Grade II listed house set in 60 acres. With their very clever appointment of the super delightful hotel marketeer, Janine Glasspole, this hotel is super serious on being mighty fine and super exclusive.

With the Cotswolds hardly being just around the corner from my Herts/Essex border home town, I had resisted a few invites. But then an opportunity for a client countryside incentive in the making, my Fish stay, it was now time to hit on Estelle and the aforementioned competitors.

It is beautiful. I arrived on the clearest, bluest, iciest of days. Security at the estate gates struggled to find my name on the list (I think they all do this to make you sweat about not getting in).

I wanted to like it as I get super excited about new hotel openings and eager to share excitement with clients. No disappointment. Whilst I awaited my meeting, I couldn’t resist sneaking off to have a preview before the official tour. I walked the grounds with the heated outdoor pool steaming in the frostiest but brightest of days, I could imagine the magic of this place in high Summer with cocktails and al fresco events.

Stunning suites and rooms of all shapes and sizes within the Main House and beautifully designed new rooms in Walled Garden and Stable rooms. The Orangery (30 seated) is great for a lunch or dinner. A Manor Boardroom (12 persons) and The Potting Shed (30 theatre/24 boardroom) and The Glasshouse (70 seated). Their restaurants The Billiards Room offers a Chinese cuisine and can be taken for exclusive use for up to 44 persons with their Library offering space for 50 for a standing reception.

After an extensive tour of rooms, event spaces and the grounds, I had built sufficient appetite for lunch (I didn’t eat at Daylesford, just for the record!). A wonderful light lunch was engulfed in The Glasshouse before hitting the road for home.

Needless to say, I was smitten and now excited to be signing my first event at Estelle in the next few days (fingers crossed).

Images © Estelle Manor

Lygon Arms

The Lygon Arms has been hosting meetings and events for much of its 600-year history; an historical coaching inn.

Today, The Lygon Arms offers an atmospheric, cosy retreat for meetings and events. The Lygon sits in the heart of the chocolate box, the quintessentially English village of Broadway – considered the jewel of the Cotswolds. Dining menus by James Martin.

Sadly I missed The Lygon Arms on this trip. But I feel compelled to include it for two reasons. One, this place put The Cotswolds on the map for me many years ago in my younger days as an incentive planner when it was part of The Savoy Group of hotels. Now part of the glorious collection of Iconic Luxury Hotels with Cliveden, Chewton Glen amongst others and finely represented by another queen of hotel marketing, Lisa Lernoux-Dock, it’s a classic. Revamped and revitalised it will be on the schedule when I next return.

Images © Lygon Arms

The Cotswolds is undoubtedly beautiful, accessible, classic but increasingly cool. Whilst some of the venues shared in this blog are at the high end luxury level, compared to five star Central London rates, you could be left with spare change to add a Bamford candle as room gift, upgrade your wine selections and add some fun country pursuits to the programme. A stunning couple of days rewarding your team or hosting a management retreat.

So get out your wellies or walking boots, take a big breath and become ‘Posh in Boots’ for a few days and soak up a quintessentially gorgeous time in a magical slice of England.