Exploring the Farncombe Estate, the Cotswolds

Of all the picturesque parts of the green patchwork of English countryside, the biscuit-hued villages and undulating landscapes of the Cotswolds are probably some of the most enchanting, and Farncombe Estate – a clutch of three luxe hotels scattered around 500-acres of land – exhibits its best assets. Owned by the Philip-Sørensen family for the past 40 years, the care for the families who visit is clear – from the ‘home-away-from-home’ style check-in that sees guests simply meander in as if entertaining a friends to the departure goody bags (filled with refreshments for the car journey home) and everything in between. Dormy House (with its well-known and respected spa), Foxhill Manor (a Grade II-listed manor house with eight bedrooms and a complimentary-snack-filled kitchen where you can come and go as you please) and The Fish, which underwent a  £4 million facelift back in 2019, each offer their own unique take on hygge and hospitality. 

We based ourselves at Dormy House, with its batch of cosy lounges leading through the characterful manor house, leading back toward the locally-loved (and very recently revamped) spa. The bedrooms sit under the eaves of the upper floors and spill out into the courtyards, where duplex suites and rooms offer some extra intimacy away from the main house. Every communal space here holds its own distinctive fireplace, with the fires within crackling seemingly around the clock, enveloping the entire hotel in a cosy ambience, while the flagstone flooring harps back to the 17th-century heart of the property. In fact, no other hotel in the area exemplifies countryside chic as much as delightful Dormy does.  

Upstairs, we checked into The Studio – the hotel’s largest suite – with its own dining room, lounge (complete with drum kit, naturally), large ensuite bedroom and what we began to affectionately call the ‘music nook’, complete with a record player and ample selection of records. In fact, the entire room was a mix of the comfortable – predominantly the melt-in-the-middle of bed – and playful – like the switch that turned the room’s lighting multicoloured a la 80’s nightclub. 

Back downstairs, a glass-fronted infinity pool is the centrepiece of the multiple award-winning, Temple Spa-stocked spa, which then leads out to a jacuzzi and – in true Dormy style – its own fireplace, set against a wall of greenery. Behind the pool, a brand new thermal suite with enlivening fire and ice environments. A mix of hot and cold experiences – from the forest mist steam room and the striking Himalayan salt sauna to the snow shower – are not only intriguing but leave their mark on you long after you have derobed and redressed for the day. We felt lighter and brighter, our skin felt smoother and our energy levels topped up. In fact, if we lived nearby, we imagine the experience and its after effects would become rather addictive. 

We ate primarily in the Back Garden, one of three of the hotel’s dining spaces (though we heard wonderful things about MO, which offers an upscale tasting menu for just 12 guests at a time), which looked out over a pretty vegetable garden. We tucked into Comté soufflé with Sauternes poached apricot & thyme cream, a deep fried hen’s egg with parmesan, Jerusalem artichoke & truffle and a silky rib-eye steak among other delights, while the staff catered to our seven-month old’s needs (of which there were many) with care, ease and tact – a feat never underappreciated by a perpetually-frazzled new mum. 

In fact, the only thing that sweetened the idea of leaving was the knowledge that we would be visiting The Fish – reached via a long, tree-lined drive through the estate, peppered with shepherd’s huts, treehouses and cabins. At the centre of this mélange of accommodations, many with their own outdoor hot tubs, is Hook, a seafood inspired restaurant with several lounge spaces and a bar jutting off from the central area. It’s rustic, spacious and welcoming, always with the hum of chatter and an ideal spot for people watching. Lunch is a series of small plates or sourdough pizzas, while Cornish mussels and Porthilly Oysters are favourites among the dinner options. 

Here again, the same warm hospitality as Dormy House was extended, staff only too happy to engage in our daughter’s new favourite hobby with her: clapping enthusiastically for no reason. 

Outside of relaxing among the treetops and dining beside open fires, Farncombe Estate also offers a wide range of activities, from archery and clay pigeon shooting to hovercrafting and falconry, for anyone who can peel themselves away from the scandi-chic guestrooms. While the honey-hued villages of Broadway and Moreton-in-Marsh, as well as a handful of others, are all just a short drive away, and offer a chocolate box experience of their own. 

In short, for any wearied urban soul, it is truly paradise.