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If your daydreams involve an escape to the country in your own Georgian manor house, then Burleigh Court is a place where – for a while – dreams can come true, says Maureen Rice
Far from the chic, chocolate-box perfection of the north Cotswolds, Burleigh Court is hidden in the depths of the wilder beauty just outside Stroud. With my husband David, we approached through quiet country lanes to arrive suddenly at this hidden-away gem: a perfect Georgian manor house set high on a hill with breathtaking views over miles of the Golden Valley of Stroud.
The house dates from 1800 and has what designers call ‘good bones’ – classical architecture, clean lines and huge windows letting in the beautiful natural light of the Golden Valley. In the last two years it has been lovingly refurbished in the quintessentially English country-chic style, with a mixture of antique and contemporary furnishings. The hotel is run almost like a private home - efficiently but warmly, in an atmosphere so relaxed that it positively invites you to daydream that it’s your own place.
Food is a priority for James and Corinna Rae, the new owners. The restaurant, a wood-panelled room overlooking the terrace, has two AA rosettes, and they are gunning for a third. At dinner, they keep things simple, with just five starters and six mains, focused on sustainable, organic foods sourced within a 30-mile radius whenever possible, with herbs and salads from the kitchen gardens. I ate goat’s cheese panna cotta with beetroot followed by mille-feuille of aubergine and courgette, while David opted for confit salmon fillet with horseradish and beetroot purée and then roasted guinea fowl with baby carrots, wild mushrooms and potatoes boulangère. The menu is carefully curated to reflect the seasons - my plant-based options were strong on visual appeal and light, delicate flavours anticipating the spring that was arriving, while David’s choices were richer, more autumnal dishes for the still-cold nights. We didn’t have afternoon tea, but it’s said to be a stunner, and the hearty breakfasts are a local legend.
The hotel is deep in some of the most beautiful countryside in England, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it: wine-tasting tours at local vineyards, horse riding and clay pigeon shooting, or foraging sessions arranged by the hotel. There’s golf at nearby Minchinhampton and miles of perfect walking country, with plenty of proper country pubs and pretty villages en route. Stroud is a couple of miles away, with its alternative vibe and farmers’ markets on Friday and Saturday mornings, while Cheltenham, with its fine restaurants, upscale shopping and beautiful architecture, is a half-hour drive.
We opted for the foraging course, and I’m so glad that we did. Led by our guide, Emmanuelle, the course opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at the natural world. Nuts, seeds and fungi, berries, leaves, flowers and roots: there is an abundant natural – and free – larder all around us if we know how to look for it. We’ve become used to looking at many plants as ‘weeds’, when they are rich sources of food, while some edible plants can also look uncannily like poisonous plants – safety is the top priority and ‘never munch on a hunch’ is Emmanuelle’s mantra. Taking things slowly, educating ourselves properly, checking multiple sources and really looking, were lessons that will stay with me.
This is proper countryside, so pack sensible clothes for the weather – walking boots are a must. Smart casual for dinner.
The foraging experience with Emmanuelle was more than just a guide to edible plants – she is so knowledgeable and quietly passionate about plants and our relationship with the natural world that she ignited the same passion in me. Guests can book a group ‘wild food foraging experience’ with lunch, or private sessions with Emmanuelle.
Book with the hotel direct to get their excellent breakfast included in the price.
Rooms start at £139 for a Classic Room and £209 for the Romantic Room category. Book direct with the hotel and breakfast is included. Visit burleighcourtcotswolds.co.uk or call 01453 883 804. Dinner in the restaurant costs from £32 per head for two courses and £45 per head for three courses. The ‘wild food foraging experience with lunch’ is priced at £69 per person or £138 for a couple. Visit burleighcourtcotswolds.co.uk/wild-foodforaging to book.