I wasn't quite sure what to expect from my stay at The Rectory. The words rough-luxe and shabby-chic and London tainted style trends watered down the social media descriptions and with me as i drove into the provincial heartlands of this beautiful part of Wiltshire.
Arriving up the gravel drive the house makes an immediate impression and the view of the quaint village church would have Bill Bryson sparring with Wordsmith to paint in words a picture perfect English country scene. The church bell even tolling for that truly authentic English experience.
The hotel itself really does feel like you are staying at your rich Aunt's country pad. The receptionists seem to live in a boot cupboard and check in took all of about 20 seconds. No fancy computers, no trace of any modernity. Instead there are some green hunter wellingtons, cricket bats and croquet mallets in wicker baskets.
Unlike say Cliveden or more upmarket stately home hotels, The Rectory has no pretension about it, it is a take it as you find it place- warts and all. If you come in expecting a refined, impeccable hand on foot service and a general air of decaying stuffiness look elsewhere. And more fool you.
Let's get some of the possible negatives out of the way, like your such Aunt's house in the country the house has it's share of idiosyncrasies- my room on the 1st floor was called Sudeley- it was large, airy with a huge bathroom- yet there were a few (literal cobwebs) and yes as some others have commented maybe it could do with a small touch up here and there. There were also the inevitable flies that flew around the room a little disconcertingly at times.
Yet, and here is the thing, quibbling over these details seems to be missing the point of this place. In in it's favour the hotel is put together and run (by a small number of seemingly endlessly multi-tasking staff) in a way that offers a pretty unique and unforgettable experience.
I stayed for three days and felt I had the house to myself, the breakfast was sublime, the view over the gardens in the morning sunshine a wonderful start to the day, then out to the pool- which reminded me more of a boho-chic school pool (the sort you would find at a rather well endowed prep school in Norfolk but left on it's own to mature for a year) than a luxury spa, slightly frayed round the edges- but again it was heated and there was a hammock to one side where I lay and read a book (laid out for guests on each floor to borrow). It was charming- truly. You can order drinks from one of the hard working invisible elves, who bring it to your hammock.
For the three days I was here felt I was having the house, pool and grounds to myself whilst my rich aunt was away on her holidays- looked after by people who seemed to have one purpose of making my life a bit easier.
To explain the sort of service you can expect, I was working in the evenings at the theatre in Swindon and back late- each night the chef (or no doubt one those hard working (did I mentioned smartly dressed) elves) left me a sandwich and bottle of beer in the fridge on the landing. It was nice sandwich and a cold beer- after a hot day dancing on the stage of The Swindon theatre- neither has tasted better.
I had some of my friends from the theatre to come and enjoy the place as my Aunt still had not returned, the elves were fine with this and happily furnished us with a jug of Pimms filled with fresh fruit and served on the Croquet lawn.
You have a lovely bottle of water served each day next to the joys of a Roberts digital radio and a view over the gardens which can be enjoyed in my particular room- with a his and hers window seat.
The pub opposite run by the owners of the hotel is also a great place for lunch, super food, lovely ales and lots of quirky gins- you can put it all on your room as well. Which I did. I spent more this way as well, so it's win win all round.
In short you are left to your own devices to make the most of The Rectory, extend your imagination and you will have a stay you will never forget, you make your own trip up as you go along. If you start complaining about the cobwebs you should just walk out and leave and take your money with you as you are depriving someone else of something that little bit special. Go and stay at the Hilton outside Swindon by the M4.
I wish only I had the chance to eat in their restaurant and have a drink in the quaint hotel bar- but these will have to wait until the chance for a return visit…which I will try and time for another time when my rich Aunt is away on her holidays again.
- Also Known As:
- Rectory Hotel Crudwell, Wiltshire