A country retreat is all well and good if you like everything to do with, well, the country. That often means muddy boots, horsey smells and floral wallpaper old enough to have been around the block twice and become trendy again. But what if there was another way to escape the city - one that offers log fires, fresh air and rosy cheeks without going full bumpkin?
Enter Dormy House, a boutique hotel set on the northwesterly edge of England's Cotswolds, which offers a fresh take on the country retreat. The interiors set the tone here. Dormy's Danish owners have imbued a 17th-century farmhouse with touches of Scandinavian style. Think mid-century velvet sofas and bare-bulb light fixtures; walls splashed in jewel colours with geometric patterns and botanical prints. It's not achingly cool though, with plenty of original wooden beams and flagstone floors to bring the rural home.
It's Dormy's state-of the-art spa that steals the show. There are two gyms and a thermal suite made up of lavender and junipers saunas, a salt-infusion therapy room, swimming pool and outdoor hot tub. Sweat, steam, soak and repeat, before checking in for a massage or manicure at the Veuve Clicquot nail bar.
The food is mighty good too. The Garden Room's five-course tasting menu (£65) offers ingenious flavour combinations like roast scallops with lemon purée, pork cheek with confit fennel and rice-pudding soufflé. It all comes served in front of greener-than-green views over the Farncombe Estate. That's our kind of country.
There are 38 of them, and all are individually designed to suit the building's higgedly-piggeldy structure. We bedded down in The Attic, which is tucked away in the eaves. Here oak beams frame a behemoth of a bed, which is backed by pink wallpaper and a velvet loveseat.
What's for breakfast?
Each morning there's a continental buffet laid out in The Garden Room, which includes pastries, fruits and cereals. Eggs, pancakes, and the rest of the works can be ordered à la carte.
How about lunch and dinner?
Chef Sam Browser, who cut his teeth in the kitchens of Raymond Blanc and Michel Roux Jnr, is at the helm of the upscale Garden Room restaurant. He makes use of ingredients that have been farmed and foraged locally to create the restaurant's signature tasting five and seven-course menus (as well as a killer Sunday lunch). The Potting Shed is an altogether more relaxed choice - expect wholesome dishes like steaks and risottos. Don't want to leave the spa? No need. The Greenhouse café offers salads, light lunches and, importantly, champagne by the glass.
Is there a bar?
Yes, have a drink or two at The Potting Shed which - with geometric tiles and leather-clad bar - has the feel of a freshened-up country pub.
The spa is the real show stealer, with its thermal suite, swimming pool and treatment rooms. Activities like clay-pigeon shooting and quad biking can be arranged on the Farncombe Estate. Staff send you off with a bag of refreshments for your journey home.
Things you should know
Dormy House doesn't feel that far from civilisation, so those in want of a real off-grid experience might want to go deeper.
The spa gets busy at weekends, so be sure to book treatments well in advance.
Within a short walk you can find...
Dormy House is on the doorstep of Broadway, a quintessentially Cotswolds village. Spend the morning wandering through honey-hued streets (artists John Singer Sargent once lived here) and stop for tea at The Lygon Arms.