Observing it from afar, you might assume the Homewood, a hotel inside a quintessential English country estate on a grand, tree-lined drive, would be a bit, well, uptight. But as soon as you enter its grounds, you'll realize that's far from the case.
The hotel's whimsical take on the refined English countryside holiday is evident in the random details that exist just to make you smile: a yellow submarine on the lawn, a bush shaped like a bear, a poodle statue named Sue.
Shelves lined with Hunter wellies in every size sit outside the entrance, just begging guests to grab a pair and get muddy on a walk past sheep, alpacas, and cottages to the adorable local pub. Inside, the furniture is bright, the walls are adorned with quirky artwork, and countless chandeliers hang from the ceilings.
It's a place where you're just clearly meant to unwind, have fun with those you love, and never take yourself too seriously.
The garden is full of decorated domes, used during the festive season for wintry afternoon tea and now for Champagne and barbecues. The barbecue dining domes come with Big Green Egg ceramic charcoal barbecues, Taittinger Champagne, wine, and a three-course meal, all handled by your barbecue butler — who will give you a turn at the grill, if you'd like. The temperature-controlled domes are meant for four to six people and are bookable for lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner seven days a week.
Another on-site dining option is Olio, a restaurant that playfully blends British and Mediterranean dishes and includes an outdoor patio with a pizza oven. Ingredients are thoughtfully sourced from nearby family-owned businesses and from the new on-site garden — chef Darren Stephens added gardener to his resume while the hospitality industry was stalled due to COVID-19. The garden is also the source of the vibrant hibiscus and other botanicals used to create the hotel brand's own Kaleidoscope Gin.
If winding down from your meal in a private hot tub with sunset views over the green countryside sounds like your type of English dream, book the hot tub suite in the main house or one of the hot tub rooms in the Mallingford Mews, the original lodge house which was recently turned into a luxurious 10-bedroom standalone extension. When you enter the mews, you'll find a selection of candies and a fridge stocked with drinks and ice cream, just another cheerful touch.
Beside the heated swimming pool, the shared hot tub has its own bucolic views, and an indoor hydrotherapy pool, sauna, and steam room come in handy when that British rain starts to kick in.
When you fall in love with Homewood's unique brand of charm — and you will — extend your trip with a visit to its sister hotel, just a 10-minute drive away in a completely different setting. Cleverly named The Bird, Bath, this urban offshoot is a cozy home base for exploring Bath, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre known for its Roman baths.
Here, owners Ian and Christa Taylor manage to replicate the same combination of English elegance and cheeky flamboyance found at the Homewood, with an emphasis on the latter. No two rooms are the same, each with its own funky artwork and design and some with luxuries like chic copper bathtubs or a garden hot tub.
Downstairs in the colorful restaurant, head chef Leon Smith pays the same attention to sourcing from local purveyors, and outside, those in the know may recognize the dining domes — because in the age of COVID (and let's be honest, probably beyond it) you can never have too many meals in a private bubble.
Nina Ruggiero is Travel + Leisure's deputy digital editor. A New Yorker living in Los Angeles, she's happiest on a beach, a cobblestone street, or in a hotel bathtub with a view. Find her on Instagram @ninamarienyc.
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