Roger St Pierre enjoys Cotswold House and Noel Arms in Chipping CampdenDial it up on your sat-nav and you will find that Chipping Campden is a seemingly remote little place, tucked away in a web of narrow country lanes, deep in the Cotswold Hills.
When you get there though you’ll find a bustling little town – or should that be large village? – that somehow feels as if it is, at least for that moment, at the centre of the known universe.
“Thoroughly civilised” is a good way to describe it. There are cute shops, boutiques and tea-rooms and decent traditional pubs and most of the amenities you might need, plus the location is almost at the centre of England and less than half an hour’s drive from several key spurs of the national motorway network.
It is, then, a perfect location for a discreet board meeting or a long weekend incentive when getting your people back to work on Monday morning is a key consideration. As Conrad Hilton once famously said, ‘Location, location, location’ are the three key components for success in any business. It’s what makes Chipping Campden a great venue for smaller events.
Set right on the high street, adjacent to the picturesque medieval covered market, the elegant Cotswold House Hotel & Spa takes full advantage of its positioning. And this ultra-comfortable 4-star property offers a bonus in being just across the street from its less grand but perfectly adequate three-star sister, the Noel Arms. Built of honeyed local stone, Cotswold House has classic Georgian townhouse styling outside but boasts a lavishly decorated and furnished interior that sympathetically embraces both the 18thC and 21stC idioms.
Bedrooms are spacious, with a relaxing ambience, super-size beds and quality en-suite services, while the Regency-styled dining room is appropriately grand, with wonderful high ceilings. It opens via huge French windows onto a large, sun-trap terrace that offers the enticement of al fresco dining, with the back-drop of a seemingly endless, gloriously lush and superbly tended landscape garden.
With natural light flooding in, the dining room can host a party of up to 50 while the Montrose Suite is licensed for 80 banqueting and 100 theatre-style. It can be partitioned to accommodate 26 and 18 guests respectively. Smaller private areas are available for breakouts and syndicates. All the meeting spaces are fully air-conditioned.
Across the street, the Noel Arms has an ace up its sleeve in the presence of super talented Indunil Upatisa as master chef in residence. This Sri Lankan-born culinary star is not just the only person to have won ‘The Pub Curry Chef of the Year’ award three times but has thoroughly mastered contemporary French and British cuisine to create his own East-meets-West hybrid cooking style, with an emphasis on fresh local produce, clean flavours, artistically pretty presentation and subtle use of herbs and spices.
For leisure moments Cotswold House has an award-winning spa facility whilst a short stroll down the tree-lined street brings you to an interesting museum of local history. In the other direction there’s a watermill that has been turned into an arts and crafts centre where you can watch glassblowers and jewellery makers at work alongside a gallery of locally produced artworks. The town has a French bakery run by a Frenchman, an old-fashioned fruit and veg shop that stocks otherwise hard-to-find English varieties, numerous gift shops and a proper post office. The Noel Arms has a tea shop-cum-patisserie should delegates get the munchies at breakout time.
Close by are such Cotswold gems as Stow-on-the-Wold, Burford, Moreton-in-the-Marsh, Bourton-on-the-Water and Broadway, famed for its antique shops and galleries lining its main street.
Also in easy reach are sophisticated Cheltenham, the spires of Oxford and, with riverside Stratford-upon-Avon at its epicentre, the beautiful region now known as Shakespeare Country.