With a name like Thyme and a Cotswolds address, you’d be justified in thinking you had the concept of this new destination sussed pretty quickly.
But Thyme is more than just an interior lover’s dream and founder Caryn Hibbert is a woman on a mission to create the next big leisure brand. And she is well on her way. The flamboyant ex-obstetrician, gynaecologist and mother of three left London 15 years ago for a new style of living, but little did she know she would be working harder than ever before.
Between Swindon and Burford and under two hours from London lies Southrop, widely thought to be one of Gloucestershire’s prettiest villages – Kate Moss was married in its church. Next door is Hibbert’s manor house and there an array of barns that once held ponies until they were rehoused to make way for a cookery school in 2009.
Today the cookery school is at the heart of the hotel but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit this boutique hotspot if cooking isn’t at the centre of yours. We booked in for a leisurely two-hour Asian course with a mixed group, some in pairs, some not (one guy’s husband was in the sitting room with the papers all morning) and watched the charismatic co-Head Chef (MasterChef winner Marjorie Lang is the other) show us how to make a Malay Laksa before we were let loose to create our own. It was very civilised, light-hearted and all-round fun, especially sitting down to eat it at a big long table in one of its idyllic barns with a glass or two of wine afterwards. During the week the classes are bit more full on – "it’s when the pros come down to explore the kitchen garden and get serious," Hibbert told us, and there is everything from Bread Making to Seasonal Forage to choose from.
The rooms at Thyme (there are several cottages too) are not quite as contrived as some other destinations at this end of the market. There are Farrow & Ball paint colours aplenty, but they are combined with generous draped curtains akin to those you’d come across in a big country house and the odd eccentric painting here and there.
Thyme doesn’t have its own restaurant on site yet but that is work in progress, as is a spa that will carry out treatments in shepherd huts. In the meantime guests are sent to The Swan pub (which has the same owners as Thyme) 100 yards away for seriously good pub grub that has enough game for those that like hearty but isn’t too gamey for those that don’t. The starters were so tempting we could have ordered three each and the fish cakes and hake totally hit the spot for a Saturday night supper in the Cotswolds.
Last but not least is the hotel’s bar. And we say that because you will not want to leave. Cosy but luxe, it is an absolute haven and the Pisco Sours aren’t too shabby either.
Double rooms from £260 per night.