The Fish Hotel: A Quirkier Kind of Cotswolds Getaway
Overlooking rolling hills and post-card pretty towns, The Fish is a classic Cotswolds escape an unconventional edge. Mixing the charm and character of a quintessentially English countryside retreat with a more contemporary ‘back to nature’ approach, it puts a welcome twist on the type of beauty-laden bolt-hole British holidaymakers have come to expect from properties in this fabled staycation destination.
Surrounded by 400 acres of glorious rolling Cotswolds hills, The Fish is part of the Farncombe Estate. Although you’ll feel a world away from day to day life at this secluded location, honey-hued Broadway town is just a 10 minute drive away and a 30-minute walk downhill. It’s just a 2 hours’ drive from London too, making it an ideal weekend getaway from the city.
The Farncombe Estate has been privately owned by the same family for over 40 years, initially a training centre for an international security company before recently being flooded with millions of pounds of investment. Home also to the Dormy House and Foxhill Manor, marginally more cliquish ventures, The Fish brings balance to the Estate – a contrasting vision that compliments, rather than conflicts, with its esteemed neighbours. The hotel’s unusual name owes its roots to a nearby monastery that, in the distant past, used cool caves beneath their abbey to store fish. No chips though, I’m told.
As if it were designed with the Goldilocks principle in mind, The Fish hits the sweet spot in several ways – retaining sophistication without self-importance and prices that won’t make you whoop or (more importantly) wince. It’s very much treehouse over teahouse here, with an air of unconventionality and innovation that encourages the sort of fun frequenters of more smutty estates may feel is beneath them. The trade-off between the rustic surroundings and modern design flourishes is finely poised, helping maintain a familiar, welcoming atmosphere.
This one was a family affair. Lockdown called for a much needed staycation. It did not disappoint.
Standard rooms located in The Stables and Farmhouse start from £180 per night. The Huts start from £250 per night and The Treehouses will set you back £400 a night.
Where You’ll Stay
An old coach house; a farmhouse; treehouse hideaways; stables; revive and repurpose is the name of the game here, with 63 rooms and five shepherd’s huts laid out in the style of a traditional Cotswolds village. The hotel fans out across an impressively large area – several of the properties overlook the Vale of Evesham from atop a steep hill whilst others are based near a small lake, some way away from each other. Don’t worry though, the views are great wherever you are.
On that hillside are the Hilly or Hideaway Huts – quaint little cabins which have been stylishly converted, complete with wood burners and outdoor tubs. There’s even one made for honeymooners called “Boaty McBoatface”, which comes with its own paddle boat, private lake and private island.
If you’re the adventurous sort, stay in one of the treehouses; wooden pods on stilts wrapped around large oak trees, nestled in the woodlands. Sleeping up to 4 guests, they come with an expansive deck with outdoor twin tubs. There’s really something for everyone.
Eager to experience the novelty of sleeping in the woods, we stayed in the ‘Fairy’ Hideaway Hut for a night. If you stay here, be fully prepared to hear absolutely nothing but the sweet sounds of birds and the crackling of your own fire.
As you enter, you’ll be greeted by a cosy living area, complete with an L-shaped sofa, faux sheepskin pillows and of course, the wood-burning fire. ‘Back to nature’ is the unwritten motto at The Fish, but the hut is still kitted out with all the mod cons you can imagine.
Sink into the cosy double bed and marvel at the skylight window directly above, or bathe alfresco in the cleverly positioned (for full privacy) wood-stove heated outdoor bath. There is also a roll top tub and separate shower room indoors. How clean can one be? In a global pandemic, I guess the sky’s the limit.
Complete with underfloor heating, the huts really are all-weather, evergreen accommodations, just as welcoming in rainy autumn as it would be at any other time of the year. Bright and warm with neutral shades and oak interiors, the huts décor is inspired by ‘hygge’, the Scandinavian term to describe the feeling of cosy contentment that comes with enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
The hive of the hotel is the Lodge, a central communal space and activity hub where the bar, dining facilities and lounge are all situated. Filled with cosy nooks and plush armchairs that flank a quite spectacular 360° fireplace, it’s decked out with exposed wooden frames and warm pastel tones. Very hygge, I must say (I promise I haven’t just learnt that word).
As the evening rolls in, the bar becomes a place for everyone – cuddle up by the fire with a hot chocolate, laze on a sofa or sit sipping a Cotswolds-brewed beer in one of the seating areas.
The Hook, a seafood restaurant that serves up sustainably sourced fish fresh on a daily basis, is worth a visit. During the warmer summer months, you can also take advantage of the outdoor dining experience Feasting on the Deck; an alfresco barbecue with exciting dishes ranging from curried lamb koftas, spicy bean burgers to aubergine wedges.
There is a fitness suite, yoga studio and archery for the more actively inclined – but with grounds this stunning, however, it’s all about roaming the vast acres of countryside on your doorstep. Left your wellington boots at home? The Fish has you covered. The Boot Room, courtesy of The Muck Boot Company, has lendable wellies, rain Macs, as well as a selection of maps for some great local walks.
There’s also a little cinema room and children’s play zone created using recycled wood from the estate, and a games room complete with a pool table, foosball and stacks of board games.
What I loved
Pooches are welcome at The Fish and are looked after on a par with the hotel’s human guests – there’s a ‘dunk your dog’ wash tub with luxury doggie shampoo and warm water, an eight-obstacle canine agility course and a special afternoon tea featuring (wait for it) dog friendly ‘Pawsecco’, cakes from the ‘Barking Bakery’ and a toy to take home. Our spoilt little tyke will never be the same again.
The Fish is the perfect base to explore the idyllic villages of North Cotswolds, with the famous B’s of Broadway, Burford, Bibury, and Bourton-on-the-Water not far away – if you’re able to tear yourself away from the room’s wood burner, that is.
Sustainability is at the heart of Farncombe Estate. The staff take advantage of a fleet of electric vehicles to get around the estate, 80% of the estate uses LED lighting, 60% of the estate’s waste is recycled and ground source heat pumps are used in the Stables.
Things To Know
Not all of the bedrooms at The Fish are dog-friendly, though most of the rooms and suites in the Farmhouse and Stables are. Best to check with the hotel before booking.
Sadly there is no spa at The Fish Hotel, but if you’re craving a little TLC, book a day package at Dormy House next-door.
Pay a visit to the local village of Broadway for its antique shops and tea rooms. Stocking up on Cotswolds honey from Broadway Deli is not to be missed.
Individuals who wear collars, chase postmen and love nothing more than bounding after tennis balls. I’m not kidding – it’s a pooch paradise out here. Thankfully, it’s also great for humans, especially families who’ve grown tired of the mundanity and monotony of typical English countryside escapes or, alternatively, people who enjoy refreshing takes traditional vacation paradigms. The Fish is ideal for someone who’s committed to escaping from the digital world for a weekend, but would quite like the Wi-Fi password just in case, and those that enjoy heated family discussions about which countryside walks would be the most picturesque. You’d be right at home here.
The Fish is a charming and playfully innovative property. With show-stopping luxury treehouses, afternoon tea for dogs and a range of outdoor activities and an expanse of lush countryside, it’s a wonderful place to enjoy the great outdoors, but equally, to relax with your feet by the roaring fire, sipping on some Early Grey tea.
about the author
Hi! I’m Maz, born and raised in London. After working in finance for 5 years, I was left craving a life with more meaning and less monotony - so I decided to set up my hotel reviewing business, something I'd always dreamt of doing. Now I am always in search of beautiful spaces which inspire people and create memorable experiences.