I am married. Hooray! No more wedding planning. No more worrying if the 'Best Day of My Life' will actually be the best day of my life. So, with all the stress and strains behind me, my new husband and I set off on our three-night honeymoon. This was the only task my husband had been entrusted with, and I secretly knew that if he didn't nail it, there would be BIG trouble. And so I breathe a huge sign of relief as we pull up to Barnsley House – a stunning boutique hotel sitting on the rise of an immaculate lawn and covered in a warm, welcoming ivy blanket. Just looking at it makes me start to unwind.
A Grade II-listed building, Barnsley House is set in the lush, green rolling hills of the Cotswolds and hosts 18 bedrooms, each one classic yet fashionable, sporting all the latest funky gadgets. Built in 1679 as the family home of legendary gardener Rosemary Verey and her architect husband, the hotel has recently undergone a refurbishment centred around Mrs Verey's book Making of a Garden. The source of inspiration is clearly evident: the stunning garden and hotel seem to flow from one into the other. The gardens are impressive and span more than 11 acres, which includes a kitchen garden, meadows and a paddock.
From our bedroom window we have a magnificent view of the grounds – and what a joy it is to wake up to every morning. It's a perfect mix of well-designed and haphazard, manicured and wild, aesthetic and welcoming – the kind of garden you can admire while enjoying afternoon tea and the next day run wild in before falling asleep under a tree. You can almost hear a Jane Austin character frolicking in the garden before a jolly good game of tennis.
The refurb by interior designers Fox Linton is definitely a success. Each room is calming and elegant: a perfect reflection of the garden. Our bedroom is a beautiful blend of cream, beige, and white with beautiful exposed beams, but is by no means dull: the disco ball and modern chandelier add a cheeky twist of fabulousness. All room have their own home cinema surround sound hi-fi system, a widescreen television and access to an extensive DVD library. But the real excitement is the bathroom. As big as the main bedroom, the space is pure luxury. The huge whirlpool bath dominates the space. I am in that bath with a glass of Champagne watching a film on the huge TV — yes, a TV in the bathroom — faster than you can say 'I do'.
Moving on to my favourite subject: food. Just to set the scene, I have been living on rabbit food for the past three months in a bid to get into my unforgivably small wedding dress, so I am pretty excited by the thought of buttery, carb-heavy deliciousness. Our first heavenly dinner begins with an amuse bouche of ham hock bruschetta with puréed pea and crème fraiche, delicately garnished with a pea shoot. It is the perfect reintroduction to culinary indulgence. I then have the vincisgrassi — the house speciality and one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten — a combination of baked pasta, parma ham, porcini mushrooms and truffles. A pasta lover's dream. This is followed by a hearty but well-balanced chicken casserole and then finished with a delicate almond financier. I go to bed high on the joys of delectableness.
But the delights are not over. The next day I try out the hotel's spa, and it is a little bit magical. Like when a child hunts for fairies at the bottom of the garden, I make my way along a wild and winding garden path. At the end is a small but perfectly formed spa where I indulge in a full body massage followed by a dip in the heated outdoor whirlpool bath. After this comes another three-course meal and a trip to the on-site cinema. We have the place to ourselves, interrupted only by one of the young but attentive staff bringing us gin and tonics.
After three days of deep sleep, spa treatments, beautiful food and countryside calm, I feel myself again. I had been warned that my honeymoon would be an anti-climax after the huge excitement of the wedding day, but I'm not at all disappointed. Instead, my only concern is how to find another excuse to visit Barnsley House. Soon.
Barnsley House, Barnsley, Cirencester GL7 5EE (+ 44 (0)1285 740900; barnsleyhouse.com). Rooms start at £275 per room, per night including breakfast and use of the spa.
Read Juliet Kinsman's review of the Barnsley House spa.