As the owner/herder of two small children, top of my list of things I look for in a hotel is that it doesn't allow kids. So when Thyme, the hottest new hotel in the Cotswolds, asked The Pink House if we fancied a stay in its luxurious, child-free country estate, where none other than Kate Moss got married, there was only one possible answer: 'hell yes!'
Thyme is only 40 minutes drive from the other celebrity-magnet residence in the area - Soho Farmhouse - and opened around the same time, in the autumn of last year. But while Thyme and Soho Farmhouse both boast beautifully designed eating, sleeping and relaxing spaces, the vibe couldn't be more different. The Farmhouse is larger - and louder - than life; basically West London plus kids emptied into the faux countryside for the weekend. But at Thyme you enter a hidden natural world, a secret garden where you really do have time to relax; time to yourself. Time to drink cocktails.
Not only are the gardens and the estate truly idyllic (celebrity gardener Bunny Guinness is responsible for the manicured grounds), they're useful too. Owner Caryn Hibbert estimates that around 85 per cent of the sensational, seasonal food served to guests is produced on Thyme's estate, which she refers to as its 'living larder'. The few ingredients they can’t grow themselves are sourced locally and seasonally; sustainable luxury is central to everything that happens here.
After dumping our bags, we are taken for a tour of the extensive kitchen garden and farm by head gardener Sam Austin and culinary director Daryll Taylor. The pair’s enthusiasm for the land is infectious, and clearly it's not only Sam who gets her hands dirty; Daryll is a chef who loves getting involved in actually growing the stuff he cooks, so as well as creating the inventive dishes we sampled during our stay, he helps Sam in the garden, and is the self-appointed bee-keeper (Thyme makes its own honey).
After tending to the hens (one had an unfortunate health issue, but Daryll dealt with it like a culinary Bear Grylls; we won't go into details), Sam points out the curly kale, which accompanies the mouth-melting slow-cooked shepherd’s pie I eat that night at Thyme’s 17th century inn, The Swan (Kate Moss, who lives locally, is a regular). 'Come and see this!' Sam is eager to show us the first tips of asparagus pushing through the soil.
Sam and Daryll might be experts on the natural world, but they're are also a great source of local gossip. A military plane from nearby Brize Norton flies overhead, prompting Daryll to recall: 'When Kate Moss got married (at St Peter's Church on the Thyme estate) she tried to stop the military aircraft from from flying overhead,' He grins wickedly. 'But they gave her the two fingers!'
Our garden tour over, we squelch back to the house past the bees, pigs and ornamental pond for a cocktail or three.
Because it's not just the dining table that benefits from the estate’s natural riches: Thyme’s ridiculously relaxing bar, The Baa, with its Cotswold sheep seats chilling among the sofas, also takes menu inspiration from the kitchen garden. Daryll creates plant-based infusions, which are combined with premium artisanal spirits and fresh herbs by prodigal mixologist Charlotte Race. The result is cocktails such as the Hedgerow and Medlar Muddle (white rum, rosehip and medlar syrup, Sicilian lemon, sugar) and the Citrus Martini (vodka, dry vermouth, rosemary, blood orange). Despite their origins in the earth, they taste stellar. You can trust us; we sampled nearly every one on the menu just for your benefit.
While we sit on the world's most comfortable sofa enjoying our drinks, we learn more about impossibly young bartender Charlotte, who Thyme plucked straight from the European bar tending school, and who has total responsibility for coming up with the fabulous natural concoctions we are downing at an impolite rate.
We learn the must-have vodka for your home bar is by Chase (see left) - especially the marmalade variety. And if tequila's your tipple, Charlotte reckons you can't do better than Casa Noble, not only for its pure, peppery taste, but also because the bottle looks so pretty.
After a relaxed, kid-free dinner at The Swan (we could get used to this), we head to our room, using old-fashioned lanterns to light our way across the road (there are no streetlights in the tiny village of Southrop). As if our cloud-like beds and serene surroundings weren't enough, a small bottle of home-made damson vodka left in the room, along with the lack of small-person dawn chorus, makes for a great night's sleep.
The next morning we lounge with the papers in Thyme's impressive dining room, which is housed in the estate's magnificent medieval barn, enjoying a breakfast of freshly-made rhubarb compote, yoghurt and granola, followed by crispy bacon and sunshine-yolked eggs from the pigs and chickens we met yesterday.
While the decor is classically comfortable, there are contemporary twists, such as the Chris Levine artwork of The Queen with her eyes closed at one end of the hall (Levine is a friend of Thyme's owner Caryn Hibbert), and the bike in reception, which is crying out to be Instagrammed (we duty obliged). But it's in The Baa, and the estate's 17 luxurious bedrooms, where Thyme goes to town (or should that be country?) on interior design.
The man behind these beautiful rooms is BAFTA-award winning set designer and interiors whizz Roger Hall, who worked with Caryn to create a look that's sophisticated, yet quirky. In The Baa, richly-hued velvets, tweed, natural wood, and of course Those Sheep (which are actual chairs to be sat on) create a relaxed country glamour. We while away an entire morning just browsing the books and impressive magazine collection; editor Emily even got a bit of work done, such is the calm, quiet, light-sabre-battle-free environment.
We were given the opportunity to poke around some of the other bedrooms in the estate. Every room is home to striking pieces of furniture sourced from Tetbury's famed antique shops, with a nature-inspired colour palette: greens, greys and blues act as a base for pops of bright colour. Each suite is named after a herb found in the Thyme kitchen gardens, including Lemon Balm, Nepita and, unsurprisingly, Wild Thyme (below), with its freestanding berry-red bathtub.
Although Thyme only opened its doors as a hotel in September 2015 (between 2009 and 2015 it operated solely as an upmarket cookery school; cookery lessons are still a big part of the offering at Thyme), the next stage of development is due within the year. Plans are in place for a spa in the old piggery, a Bunny Guinness-designed secret garden, and an additional 10 bedrooms to add to the 17 luxurious rooms already available.
Basically, if you're looking for a break from the kids, like to meet your food before you eat it, fancy losing yourself in a velvet sofa and drinking botanical cocktails while sitting on a sheep, you NEED to visit Thyme, before Mossy bags your room.
Rates start at £260 per double room per night on a B&B basis in a double suite in Thyme House. Only children over 12 years old permitted, except in the Old Walls Cottage, Thyme’s only accommodation catering for under-12s and dogs.
Disclaimer: The Pink House stayed at Thyme as their guest, but rest assured: if we don't love it, we won't write about it