Carrie Bradshaw said: “When men attempt bold gestures, it’s considered romantic. When women do, it’s considered desperate.” Or possibly psycho. Whatever, when people are planning on being bold/desperate/psycho and it involves a weekend away and they ask me where to go, Barnsley House, above, in the Cotswolds always figures pretty high on the list.
It’s a very special, effortlessly Jane Austen, sort of place. There are only 18 rooms (nothing kills the mood like a conference delegation), the decor is grown-up glamour, that’s Room One above, the restaurant offers laidback luxe and the service is charming. But for me, it’s winning asset is its wonderful cottage garden, designed by one of the UK’s greatest horticulturalists Rosemary Verey. They are so utterly romantic I’d fall in love with Sir Les Patterson if he took me round the herbacious borders… it’s going to take ages to get rid of that image.
I visited again recently and loved the whole experience (you can even hire out the cinema to watch “your” movie) but I did feel the spa needed a bit of TLC. It has beautiful relaxation areas, left, a lovely al fresco hydrotherapy pool, below, and a suitably pampering ambience (it’s where Liz Hurley had her hen do) but it lacked punch on the treatment menu. The good news is, this month, that’s being addressed. The spa is introducing a second natural skincare option, Rodial. I’ve never tried Rodial but have heard good things – especially about its dragon’s blood facials, which it claims are a natural alternative to fillers. Rodial fans number everyone from Victoria Beckham to Mumsnet – I doubt they get mentioned in the same sentence very often so lets pause in honour of the fact. Bringing in a range renowned for facials makes sense because the spa’s existing brand Aromatherapy Associates is great but it’s built its reputation on creating superior massage oils and body treatments rather than effective facials.
The spa is also introducing CACI, aka the non-surgical facelift, which uses a tiny micro current to tone facial muscles. Basically, it’s like taking your jowls to the gym. I have tried CACI and can confirm it works – although you need to have a course of treatments so this service is more for those who live in the area than weekenders. The spa will also run sleep retreats over the summer with Tej Samani of SleepEasy who has helped celebrities, politicians and athletes into the land of nod (three or four sentences from George Osborne always works for me).
The only “improvement” I don’t approve of is that the spa has linked up with a company to provide injectables, fillers and peels. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think you can call yourself holistic (as Barnsley House does) and provide these invasive treatments. And, you know, I’m not sure how that will play out in the romantic stakes either. “Darling, I’ve booked us a weekend away… so you can get those crow’s feet and turkey neck sorted out.” Now that’s what I call bold.