A tale of two villages in the Cotswolds

Matthew Partridge explores The Slaughters Manor House in Gloucestershire and its environs

Exterior view of The Slaughters Manor House
(Image credit: The Slaughters Manor House)

For some people the Cotswolds is a place to visit during a family outing. Others admire it for its solitude, and the sense that it is a part of the country that has been passed by in the sprawl and bustle of modern life. 

Bourton-on-the-Water and Lower Slaughter are two villages within walking distance of each other, but while the former is a favourite with coach parties and day-trippers, the latter is altogether quieter and more tranquil.

As the name suggests, Bourton-on-the-Water is located on a river, the River Windrush. Every year a game of medieval football is played in the river, which runs right through the centre of the village, cutting it in two. 

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However, these halves have been united by five charming little bridges. This has given rise to the affectionate nickname of “Venice of the Cotswolds”, and while it may lack the soaring Renaissance architecture of the original, it contains no fewer than 114 listed buildings.

Bourton-on-the-Water  w fully lives up to its family-friendly reputation by providing plenty of things do in addition to offering charming cafés and restaurants. 

These include the Cotswold Motoring and Toy Museum, The Model Village and the Hawkstone Brewery. Birdland Park and Gardens may be small, but it is home to an impressive range of wildlife, from pelicans,  cranes and parrots to a king penguin called Spike, who  was recently voted the world’s most popular penguin by Penguin International, a conservation organisation.

Calm and peaceful Lower Slaughter is easily reached from Burton-on-the Water. Its name sounds sinister, but simply derives from the muddy land that results from it being located next to the Eye Stream. 

The village boasts some striking examples of traditional Cotswolds architecture – and there’s nothing more relaxing than quietly contemplating the Old Mill, while listening to the clip-clop of horses’ hooves. The equally picturesque village of Upper Slaughter can easily be reached via a path.

The River Windrush

The River Windrush: a surprising location for a game of medieval football

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A hotel with history

Located just two minutes from Lower Slaughter, and a 20-minute walk across a field from Bourton-on-the-Water, The Slaughters Manor House is the ideal hotel for those visiting either village. The house dates back over a thousand years to before William the Conqueror, and it was a convent for over 150 years before it became the family home of the high sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1611. 

It then remained in the high sheriff’s family for over 350 years, before becoming a hotel in 1963. Just over a decade ago it became part of the Andrew Brownsword group of boutique country hotels.

The Slaughters Manor House consists of 19 guest rooms, which range from classic rooms through to special suites that come with their own garden. The room I stayed in was furnished and designed in a way that would have satisfied any country squire or grandee, from the floral wallpaper down to the gilded mirrors. 

Indeed, the four-poster bed was so large and imposing that, even though I’m 5’11’’, I was grateful for the set of small steps provided to enable me to ascend to my resting place for the night.

The Slaughters Manor House also provides facilities to keep you occupied during your stay. Those who enjoy the country air will relish exploring the five acres of gardens, which contain sculptures as well as a croquet lawn and a tennis court. 

The hotel is has a billiards table  and a lounge with leather sofas, where you can sip the many cocktails on offer from the hotel’s bar.

Dining for connoisseurs

As well as the superb accommodation and facilities, the hotel offers an excellent culinary experience. I particularly enjoyed the Cornish crab quiche, along with the Cornish cod loin I had for my main course, at the restaurant located in the orangery. 

Do bear in mind that the food is designed for connoisseurs of fine dining, so families with small children might prefer the more relaxed all-day menu, which is served in the bar between Tuesdays  and Saturdays. 

Alternatively, The Slaughters Country Inn, its sister hotel, is located a few hundred yards away and has its own restaurant and bar menu.

Matthew was a guest of The Slaughters Manor House, where rooms start from £240, based on two people sharing, including breakfast, slaughtersmanor.co.uk

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri