Living in London can cause what I call "concrete jungle madness." One becomes overwhelmed by the walls built up around them. The polluted air filling our lungs and the mad rush of day to day activities becomes cumbersome. An escape is required. Therein lies the reason that the masses retreat to the country as often as physically possible. And over the past decade, the luxury industry has listened as Londoners look for a place to renew themselves with quick weekend breaks. Country estates are being revamped, posh hotels are springing up here, there and everywhere, and the business of the country has in fact become quite the "business." There is truly something for everyone, with every price range imaginable. This weekend I found myself exploring a venue that is not only beautiful, but also quite the learning experience. Enter Thyme. And, no, you aren't mistaken in thinking of the herb. This is a location that is famous for its farm to table cooking - its own farm to be exact. One's entire experience at Thyme in the Cotswolds is actually built around food, so it would make sense that the name of the establishment, as well as the names of the cottages and rooms, all take inspiration from the garden.
Over the weekend I spent a great deal of time taking in the country air, enjoying the fresh food and speaking with the Hibbert Family- the lovely people behind the development of the Thyme property. The project itself has been 12 years in the making, beginning with the purchase of the 17th century English pub The Swan (which I will speak more about later). If you're scratching your head and wondering why you might have heard of the Swan in the Cotswolds before, let's just say that the regulars list reads like a red carpet attendance for the BAFTAs. This is most definitely a favorite, and with good reason. Yes, one could safely say that coming for the food alone is well worth the trek from London to Thyme, but it's only the start. The property is dotted with Cotswold stone barns, all restored to perfection and ready for the defeated Londoner looking to restore their faith in the world (at least that's how I felt upon arrival), and is surrounded by acres and acres of green rolling hills all waiting to be discovered.
My 24 hour stay at Thyme looked a little something like this - an itinerary I will now stick to religiously upon visiting:
- It all kicked off with unwinding at The Baa. Yes, this is sheep speak for the place in which alcohol is served. I sat down for one of the most delightful twists on a contemporary Cosmopolitan and I rested upon a sheep. Now, hold on. They don't actually have real sheep in The Baa. These seating arrangements are the brainchild of Caryn Hibbert. She created sheepskin furniture that is quite simply addictive. If I wasn't sitting on it, I was stroking it. If I wasn't talking about it, I was dreaming about it. And if it all wasn't bad enough, I've actually told Caryn I'll be buying two of them for my London home. Yes, you can purchase them! (see pics below).
- Next on the agenda is dinner at The Swan. Again, this gets it's own special mention in the coming days. But for now, I'll say that while you're resting on your London laurels with The Baa sheep, you can order your courses for dinner at The Swan. There's a delightful stroll over to the pub, with a lantern in hand, and dinner is ready and waiting when you want it to be.
- Sleep! Retreat to your room and go to bed early. Upon arrival in your room you'll find a very sweet treat to help you snooze. My night involved the sweet treat in question, a hot bath and a bit of "Netflix and chill." Yes, they have wifi and it works fabulously. I know - we all get panic attacks about being connected these days, don't we?
- Hooray! It's daytime and the great British countryside awaits. Start your day with breakfast at the Chef's Table in the Tithe Barn. Tuck into Thyme's special granola, freshly baked pastries, homemade jams and more. If you're more in the mood for a full cooked breakfast, indulge in a feast that's come completely from the land upon which you sit - from eggs to sausage, it's all sourced there at Thyme.
- Now pull on your wellies, don the Barbour jacket and zip up tight as you experience the cleansing chill in the winter air of the Cotswolds. We had quite the tour around the grounds of Thyme (which I imagine are spectacular in the spring/summer season). We were shown the vegtable gardens, the pig pens, the hen house and much much more. The Hibbert family is quite proud of their farm to table experience, and so they should be. It is not often that you find yourself at a luxury hotel that is able to claim that nearly every single ingredient on the menu is sourced from the backyard.
- You will have worked up quite the appetite while out and about on your walks around the grounds. I know I certainly did. The best recipe is a quick defrost, feet in front of the fire and cup of tea in hand, back in your room. Following on from that, I'd say it's time to enjoy yet another go at The Swan. The menu is begging for discovery.
While I've been back in London a few days now, I still feel as if I'm floating on country charm. Thyme is most definitely a countryside retreat to be discovered and enjoyed. Oh, and for the fashionable amongst us - a wee bit of a tip here. If you think the area looks familiar, you aren't imagining things. Some scenes my jog your memory as the supermodel Kate Moss was married here in the village church. Not something that the Hibbert family shout about, but easily distinguishable from the aerial photographs of Moss's wedding (oh you naughty paparazzi).
Rates start at £260 per double room on a B&B basis in a double room suite at Thyme House.
Thyme is located less than two hours from London and 45 minutes from Oxford. I took the train from London to Swindon and grabbed a taxi from the station, which took a further 25 minutes. So, for me, exactly two hours from door to door from West London.
Thyme, Southrop Manor Estate, Lechlade, Gloucestershire, GL7 3NX
Contact: +44 (0)1367 850174
Fashion Foie Gras was a guest for one night at Thyme.