For my birthday, my husband took me to Thyme, in Southrop. Thyme is a luxury Cotswolds hotel that describes itself as a ‘village within a village’. It is family owned and started life as a cookery school in 2007. Over the next 10 years it was developed, buildings were restored and Thyme was born in 2020.
Situated in the sleepy village of Southrop, Thyme is a collection of houses and cottages, which make up their 31 bedrooms. There is also the Ox Barn restaurant, the Baa Bar, the cookery school, Meadow spa, a boutique shop and the Tithe Barn exhibition and event space.
Thyme also owns The Swan, which is the village pub and is opposite the hotel. However, the pub has not reopened since the first lockdown. This is a real shame as there is absolutely nothing else in the village so if you want to eat – or drink – outside of the Hotel you need to travel to the next village.
The hotel is big on sustainability, which is great, however it means that their spring water pool and hot tub is not open from October to April. The pool I can totally understand being closed during Winter months but the hot tub? Surely the best time to enjoy a hot tub is when it’s cold? Also their website only says the pool is open from April-October and makes no mention that the hot tub is closed from November-April so we were disappointed to learn that it wasn’t available.
We stayed in one of the Divine bedrooms – Angelica – in The Lodge. Our bedroom was on the ground floor and had natural light from the windows. It’s a fairly large room with a bath tub in the bedroom itself.
To be honest, there were a few issues with the room. The first was that the cupboard area was tiny and couldn’t fit our suitcase (we had one fairly large one). The layout of the room meant that there was nowhere really to put it so it stayed on the floor in front of an armchair – not ideal. The second issue was there was no mini fridge in the room. We had to go out of our room and walk up a flight of stairs to a little kitchen where there was only still bottled water, ice and milk for tea and coffee (no sparkling water option). There were two small bottles of soda water in a welcome basket, with some cheese straws and cookies, but these were not replenished.
Inside the room, however, there is a little mini bar (not free) where you can have gin, whiskey etc but there are no mixers… so you’d have to call reception for tonic water, for example. So I don’t really see the point of offering this in the room if there is no fridge to store the mixers… Surely the little chest of drawers could have been replaced with a little fridge? And what if we just fancied a soft drink?
Another issue we had was the temperature in the room. The thermostat on the wall said it was 22 degrees, which was far too warm for us. Although we seemed to be able to set it, there was no air conditioning unit in the room nor any vents. I called reception and they said they could set it on their side so I asked for it to be set to 19 degrees. It didn’t seem to change at all. On the second night it had gone up to 23 degrees so I called reception again. Within an hour it still hadn’t dropped so we left the window wide open when we went for dinner and thankfully when we got back, the thermostat said it was 18 degrees. Much better!
Those issues aside, the positives were that the bed was large and comfy and the linen luxurious.
The shower was large, the hot water was hot and the bathroom was stocked with their own Bertioli products, which smelled amazing. I also liked how they weren’t small plastic bottles, but rather big glass bottles that were refilled – much better for the environment.
Ox Barn restaurant
The Ox Barn is where breakfast, lunch and dinner is served. It was, as the name suggests, formerly the barn for the ox. It is a stunning space, with high ceilings, gorgeous lighting, beautiful beams and lovely decor.
The open kitchen area is set slightly off from the dining area, however there are some tables by the kitchen should you choose to sit there. There’s also a bit of a lounge area where you can have a drink. And there’s also a bar counter.
The kitchen is headed up by Charlie Hibbert, part of the family who own Thyme. We had dinner both nights at the restaurant and the food is really excellent. The setting in the evening is lovely too, with soft lighting. The service was also great.
The menu had some interesting dishes, such as panisse with goats cheese – which were absolutely delicious! They are made of chickpea flour and reminded me a bit of the panelle we had in San Vito Lo Capo. We ordered these both nights!
My husband had the steak as his main dish on both nights. I had the lamb on the first night and then the steak on the second. Our meat was cooked to perfection. And the chips were so good – crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.
Whilst dinner both nights was fabulous, unfortunately breakfast on the first morning was an utter disaster. My husband wanted to sleep in so I went on my own. There were only two members of staff and it was pretty packed. I was seated next to a table that hadn’t been cleared and wasn’t offered anything to drink when I sat down. It took me about 15 mins to get a coffee. The table never got cleared, nor did the one on the other side of me when that couple left. When my food arrived I asked for another coffee. 15 mins later it still hadn’t arrived and I just gave up as I’d been there for around 40 mins in total.
I immediately asked to speak with the manager to ask if this was a normal occurrence or if they were short staffed and was told that two people had called in sick at the last minute. Whilst I sympathise, it was honestly the worst hotel breakfast I’d ever had and when you’re paying a LOT of money, it stings even more. The manager did apologise profusely and offered to take some money off our bill – which he did. I’m happy to say there were no issues on the Sunday at breakfast.
The Baa Bar
The Baa Bar is a lovely area where you can relax and play board games during the day or have a drink before or after dinner. It’s called the Baa Bar because it was the old lambing shed. It also draws inspiration from the Cotswolds’s wool trade and sheep industry. Throughout the hotel you’ll find bespoke ‘sheep seats’, which have been designed by owner, Caryn Hibbert. They are so cute!
How to get there
Ideally if you’re visiting the Cotswolds, it’s best to have a car. For those of you, like us, who don’t own a car, the nearest stations are either Swindon or Oxford. We arrived in to Swindon and got a taxi to Thyme, which took around 30 mins and cost close to £50. A top tip is to book your taxis in advance – especially local ones to Thyme – because there aren’t a lot of them!
The train journey took less than an hour to London Paddington.
Thoughts on our stay
Whilst the hotel is lovely, and we did really enjoy our stay, I think the rooms are overpriced. We had a much bigger room, and access to a heated outdoor pool, at Barnsley House and Spa in the Cotswolds. In fact, the room had a completely separate lounge and was around £200 cheaper per night.
It was a real shame that their pub wasn’t open. Since we ate at the Ox Barn both nights, we wanted somewhere different for lunch so we got a taxi to The Double Red Duke – but this cost us £50 there and back.
When my husband booked, he said it was my birthday. When we checked in we were asked if we were celebrating anything and again my husband mentioned it was my birthday. But nothing at all was done to acknowledge that during our stay. I would’ve expected at the least a ‘happy birthday’ in chocolate on a plate with a little treat during one of our dinners. So not sure if it was an oversight as why ask if you don’t actually then do anything to mark the occasion?
What I did love, and haven’t had at other Cotswolds hotels, was the ability to borrow a bicycle and cycle to the next village – that was a real highlight! I also love their commitment to sustainability.
Would we stay again? Perhaps…. but most likely in a cheaper room as we don’t feel the one we had was worth the room rate. If you are in the area though, I highly recommend the Ox Barn – it was really good!