Spa Review: Barnsley House in The Cotswolds
Words by Kaspar Chambers
It’s one of those damp, incessant winter days when we visit Barnsley house for a spa day in the Cotswolds. The rain beating steadily down on the 17th Century country manor was somehow iconic, and the roaring fires within couldn’t have been more enticing.
Tucked away down a garden path, piles of steam rise up from the outdoor heated hydrotherapy pool, an atmospheric firepit adding to the Scandi atmosphere. The modern, glass-fronted spa clashes magically with the main Grade II listed house, while bringing elements of the gardens and grounds inside: wooden beams, warm candles and Cotswold stone stop it from feeling too sparse.
A lovely chill out zone overlooks the rolling countryside below, with magazines and herbal tea on offer as you snuggle up in your fluffy robe and switch off. A sauna, steam room and excellent array of massages and treatments are on offer, and the spa feels at once cosy but luxurious, a warm oasis you never want to leave. As suspected, nipping into the artic weather outside before plunging into the hot hydrotherapy pool was a highlight. There are powerful massage jets to pummel you from above, and just enough space to swim around and wallow when it gets too much.
Just as nourishing as the spa is the little Potager restaurant in the main house. De-robed and feeling utterly revitalised after a morning padding around the spa, we tuck into a hearty lunch grown in the kitchen garden.
Even in the deep midwinter, when the kitchen garden is at its most bare, the eponymous Potager restaurant is full of delicious, home-grown goodness. Rainbow Chard, winter beets, blue-greyish Crown Prince Squash and Jerusalem artichokes are in season at the moment, worked into the menu alongside hearty game dishes and wintery classics. Our lovely waitress Ayla tells us they’ve a glut of celeriac at the moment, and are putting it on the menu wherever possible.
The presentation excels this country dwelling, and the pigeon breast, red wine poached pears & honeycomb salad was divine. Equally delicious was a brandy snap basket for pudding, filled with mixed winter berries and ricotta cream. At once vintage and creative, it suited the place perfectly. Little details like sprigs of rosemary on the napkins and fresh mint tea bring the botanical atmosphere to life.
After lunch, the rain paused just long enough for a quick stroll around the historic gardens. Even on the greyest of days, the grounds are the stuff of period drama fantasies, with snickets and archways weaving their way to ornamental fountains and follies. And it’s no wonder; the 11-acre gardens were designed by legendary gardener, designer and writer Rosemary Verey, who owned the place in the 1950s.
A very happy day can be spent padding around Barnsley House spa, and in the main hotel we spy cosy armchairs perfect for a quiet afternoon engrossed in a book, as well as an honesty bar with all sorts of local gins. It’s a fine line to balance a gorgeous crumbling manor with swish hydro-spa, but they’ve got it just right.
Address: Barnsley, Cirencester GL7 5EE
Phone: 01285 740000