Cotswolds: Staying at Cowley Manor with teens


Take my advice when you visit Cowley Manor. Even if the Isamu Noguchi table in the sitting room is a little ill-placed, don’t try to move it yourself. Even when you know the freeform glass top merely rests on the swiveling wooden legs and even when you think you’re being careful and it just needs a nudge, you won’t be able to predict how the table will move and inevitably the water tumbler, the potted succulent and the whole glass shebang will tumble dramatically – and loudly – to the floor.

In a cool and stylish place like Cowley Manor, this can make you feel extremely unhip. But don’t worry. Two nice ladies from the bar ran over to help me as I tried to explain I was just trying to shimmy it this way *a little bit*. Surely I must have been one of the most uncool patrons to have committed such a hotel faux pas.

Fifteen minutes later, a man came in, sat on a sofa across the room in front of another Noguchi table…and did the exact same thing. This time I helped along with the two ladies from the bar.

But nevermind.

While the hotel certainly doesn’t recommend this little manoeuvre, it’s the kind of place that oozes style and ease while still allowing for that bit of chaos that comes with kids…or slightly clumsy parents.


Cowley Manor Hotel


Papier Mache head at Cowley Manor Hotel


wellies at Cowley Manor


A retreat not just for young families

Cowley Manor is not a secret –it’s a favourite country house retreat for families looking for a pastroal getaway that’s stylish and off-beat. Ever since my daughter was born, fellow parents have recommended staying there with young children. But thinking of it only as a place for young families misses its appeal for tweens and teens too.

The former dilapidated 19th-century manor, set in 55 acres of land with a Grade II listed garden, eschews the traditional approach of chintz and Chesterfields. The wellies lined up outside the front door are a crayon-box of colour. The original art is modern. The bright colours offset the Cotswold stone fireplaces, arched doorways, pastoral views. The furniture is modern, the textiles British, the vibe fresh.

For the kids, the things that interest are the play areas with croquet, blocks, hammocks, the funky slide on the lawn, the games room, the pools at the C-side spa. Our two 12-year-olds made a beeline for the pool table, covered in brilliant blue baize, before we’d even checked in.


Billard table at Cowley Manor Hotel


treats in the room Cowley Manor

Treats in the room

Our suite

In the room, the two tweens were all oohs and ahhs, from the moment we unlocked the door. “Why don’t we always stay here?” they asked. As soon as we walked in, they stepped outside again. “I have to show Hannah how this works,” my daughter said, closing the door so they could open it themselves with novel electronic key.

We stayed in room 8 in the Stable Block. My husband and I slept in the main room, with an upstairs bathroom cantilevered dramatically over the bed. The bathroom is host to both a tub and a shower, as well as the spa’s Green & Spring toiletries. The girls swooned at the smell of them.

Just off our room was the girls’ nook. A mid-century style sofa had been very cleverly flipped, lifted and locked to make two single bunk beds. A large sliding glass door led to the stable courtyard, with a serene view of a few young trees and some colourful plastic bottles scattered around. “What are those for?” the girls mused. You can lead a tween to a modern art installation….

The room was its own self-contained if small unit. They had their own TV and – crucially for family happiness – their own loo.


bed at Cowley Manor Hotel

The master bed. The bottom of the cantilevered bathroom is visible above the bed



The view of room from the courtyard



A view of the bathroom



A view to the courtyard from the girls’ room


What teens will love

The pools

The indoor and outdoor pools have family swimming times both morning & afternoon, which means you can splash around without worrying about being “those people”, annoying everyone else. Both pools are heated year-round. Children under-16 must be supervised. I found that wasn’t a problem as I was drafted in to judge the underwater handstand contest.

Lounging here is no hardship, with the fieldstone and slate design.

The gardens

“The gardens are so big – you can really explore,” my daughter says. With younger children, you’ll need to watch them near the stream that runs past the back of the house. Older kids can be left to roam. They’ll roll themselves up in hammocks, knock around a croquet ball and venture amid the award-winning sculpture in the gardens.



The indoor pool with lounge seating



A moment from the underwater handstand contest



Playing chess in the Sitting Room


The games

Naturally there’s a games cabinet filled with the usual assortment of half-complete board games. Better to nab a seat at the chess board and test your strategy. The beautiful blue pool table is a joy to play on and even with plenty of families around you’ll be able to claim a slot. The hotel also organises kids’ activities such as learning workshops and animal experiences.

The food

The Malt restaurant is fancy enough to make eating there as a family an occasion, but casual enough, with a Scandi-design feel, that you won’t feel out-of-place with the kids along. We ate in the dining room on the evening of our stay, ending our meal with a bombe that melted under a stream of hot chocolate poured from a jug. The next morning we ate the breakfast buffet on the sunny terrace, a vista of the water and rolling hills racing out in front of us.


Facts to know before you go

  • There are 2 dog-friendly rooms
  • For children under 12, stays include complimentary breakfast and dinner from kids menu
  • The Hambledon shop, a miniature version of the gifts, homewares and accessories boutique in Winchester, is a great place to pick up cute items like vintage games, funky tattoos (I loved the robot one), delicious-smelling toiletries and more


Cowley Manor
GL53 9NL
01242 870900


Have you visited Cowley Manor with your young children or teens? Tell me what you thought!



I’m a journalist and blogger. Previously I was The Times’s online lifestyle editor and Alpha Mummy blogger. Now I’m co-founder of BritMums and BritMums Live! – our annual blogging conference that draws hundreds. Follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Google+.



  1. Tula Karras
    December 1, 2016 / 11:27 am

    Wow, looks and sounds beautiful. Would love to take my 12-year-old niece here! Or just go solo as an adult sans kids. Is there a spa? The girls are in spa robes…

    • December 1, 2016 / 6:40 pm

      There is a fabulous spa. Only over 16s are allowed at the spa unsupervised but the pools are a dream!

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