• Stephanie Drax

The Fish Hotel: We Fall Hook, Line & Sinker

Updated: Dec 9, 2018

I’m no stranger to the charms of the Farncombe Estate in the Cotswolds. It was a post-birth babymoon with husband (sans baby, and with enough expressed milk in the fridge to get Granny through two days) and I was ready to be cosseted myself for a change. Foxhill Manor – one of Farncombe’s three hotels – did just that. A supremely comfortable room, a cream tea, a movie in the cinema room and a peaceful read of the Sunday papers at breakfast was the perfect alchemy to send this mama home renewed.

Roll on a few years (and two boys) and The Fish Hotel – Farncombe’s family-friendly property – has just been revamped. I grabbed at the chance to get back there, with the children in tow this time. The first bonus is that it’s mercifully close to London. The second is that it’s ensconced in 400 acres of stunning countryside.

Our family arrives (+ Monkey) and folds itself into a cabana-style sofa on the lounge terrace. Rolling emerald hills are basking in the evening sun, and I’m thinking: this is the quintessential Cotswolds. We have a glass of rosé (or juice) before heading to The Hook for dinner.

The Hook is the main restaurant, set within a Scandi-chic lodge that contains a sitting room, terrace, bar and games room all on one level. The design throughout is elegant enough to satisfy style mavens but robust enough to handle kiddie antics. And the same can be said of the staff, who are poised and friendly no matter what questions (or foodstuffs) are being thrown at them. So, in The Hook, we scoff fancy fish and chips, and the one-year-old puts away the lot.

We sleep all together in one of the Outhouse suites, which is a charming mashup of retro, contemporary and Scandi-style. Both kids face-plant into the soft sheepskin rugs, before being relocated to their cots.

The husband and I sit outside on Adirondack chairs and watch the sunset over that picture-perfect view.

We’d have liked to sleep in one of The Fish’s flash new treehouses (see main image) but – understandably - they are fully booked. I’m hard pushed to think of a cooler place for a family to stay than these arboreal hideaways: an all-timber pod with a double bedroom and twin bunk room, ensuite bathroom, underfloor heating and a Nespresso machine to boot.

It has a private deck wrapped around an oak tree, replete with two, deep outdoor bathtubs and a hanging sofa. The architecture and design left my husband and I gobsmacked, while the smalls were most swayed by the giant jar of jelly beans in the bunk-bed room.

If Granny and Grandpa come too then you can rent The Farmhouse that sleeps up to 15 adults and children. The hotel even has an on-site activity company to organise archery, Segway rides, crossbow and axe-throwing (a little early for my two, but what a great antidote for teen angst) and there's an option to drive dirty in an All Terrain Vehicle. There's a steam train nearby (the Gloucestershire Warwickshire railway does a 26-mile loop) and a 20-minute trek across fields from The Fish delivers you to Broadway, one of this country’s most ridiculously chocolate-box-pretty villages.

There’s often a fete, and there’s definitely cake (in one the tea rooms.) If the kids are feeling particularly energetic, you can scamper up to Broadway Tower, the Cotswolds’ highest castle, that gives you a view from the top of 62 miles and 16 counties.

Back in our Outhouse suite early the next morning, and the kids are looking at us like lemurs over the edge of their cots. Time for action. The boys breakfast like little princes, with staff magically appearing things like peanut butter at their whim. As Queen Bee, naturally I indulge in Eggs Royale.

The Kids Play Zone is just opposite the lodge, up some steps made of tiny stones that, according to my 2-year-old, look like Rice Krispies.

The playground is all made from reclaimed and recycled wood taken from the estate, with old aeroplane tyre chippings for the floor – swings, a see-saw and few other bits and bobs.

It’s a good stop gap, but The Fish is 15 minutes drive from All Things Wild, which has a cornucopia of attractions to satisfy younger kids. Animals, indoor soft play, an adventure playground, helicopters, diggers, tractor rides and an awesome walk through a woodland scattered with life-size replicas of dinosaurs.

After a delectable BLT lunch at the bar in The Fish with much of it ending up on the floor (met merely with smiles by forgiving staff), the boys snooze all the way back to London.

We were all reeled in by The Fish. This back-to-nature bolthole is a special place where families can spend quality time together and get a bit dirty in the pristine Cotswold countryside.

A suite at The Fish starts from £200 per night (one double bed and one sofa bed). It's free for kids 0-3 and only £20 per child per night for kids 4-16, even during the school holidays. Treehouses start from £370 a night for up to four people, including a proper Cotswold breakfast the following morning.

The Fish; 01386 897465