The Cotswolds are a perfect place to visit if you’re looking for a day trip from London, or a destination to spend a week or two. The region is the very essence of England and is beautiful no matter the season, and there’s nothing like spending time right out in the countryside to really make the most of your visit. We recently stayed in luxury Cotswolds cottages at Bruern Cottages, not far from Chipping Norton, and think that they make the perfect family friendly retreat in this beautiful area.
Read on for a full review of Bruern Stable Cottages!
Family friendly, luxury Cotswolds cottages
Are you looking for luxurious, family friendly accommodation set in the countryside but with quick and easy access to, well, pretty much anywhere in the Cotswolds?
Bruern Cottages are your answer. Here, you’ll find luxury Cotswolds cottages of varying sizes – there are 12 cottages in total, comprising a range of accommodation and facilities here to suit families, couples or groups of friends. The self catering cottages are perfect for a Cotswolds weekend break or a longer holiday in the Cotswolds (and after your first visit, you’ll want to come back for more). Bruern Cottages are located in an historic building and are self catering, but supply everything you need for a brilliant stay in one of my favourite areas of England. Staff in the onsite office are super helpful and friendly and will be able to assist you if you need anything.
The cottages are conveniently located close to Chipping Norton, and with easy access to the rest of the Cotswolds and other parts of the south-west of England.
Michael Paul Holidays
Bruern Cottages fall under the umbrella of Michael Paul Holidays. Michael Paul Holidays is an independent company which runs some 600 self catering luxury cottages, (like Bruern Cottages), glamping pods, eco lodges, and high end caravans. You’ll find Michael Paul properties all across the UK in some of the country’s most scenic locations. Other places you can stay include Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, the Lake District, Yorkshire and Scotland.
You can be sure of the high quality of accommodation and services if you choose a Michael Paul Holiday property. Michael Paul, the company’s founder, chooses the accommodation personally and he only adds properties with high levels of customer service to his portfolio. Of course, all the properties are beautifully presented and have outstanding facilities, too.
Booking through Michael Paul Holidays is quick and simple to do, and their booking system means that you can reserve your stay in just a couple of clicks. Click here to see more Michael Paul Holiday locations, and to book your stay.
What to expect at Bruern Cottages
About Bruern Cottages
Bruern Cottages have a long and fascinating history. The cottages belonged to Bruern Abbey which is just across the road from the cottages’ entrance. Bruern Abbey was built for Sir John Cope in the 1700s. The large building in the centre with the clock tower was the coach house and the surrounding buildings served as stables and accommodation for the grooms. Further outbuildings were used for storage. The stables date from around 1882.
Eventually Bruern Abbey and its outbuildings were bought by Nancy Astor (the first woman to sit in the Houses of Parliament) and her husband. The Astors transformed the former stables and coach house into self catering cottages. Bruern Cottages are still owned and run by the Astor family, although the Abbey itself was sold.
Today the Abbey is a private school, so sadly you won’t be able to go looking around it, but it’s a beautiful building to admire from the roadside. The Abbey is built on the same site as a former monastery, which had been there for some 400 years before being dissolved by Henry VIII, although nearly all traces of the original building have long since disappeared.
First impressions are difficult to forget, and Bruern Cottages certainly packs a punch on arrival. A driveway sweeps up to the Stable Cottages which sit nestled in their own private courtyard. Most of the cottages sit looking on to the courtyard, but several others have a separate entrance. The former coach house (now Sandown cottage) is particularly striking.
Although there are 12 cottages in the complex you don’t notice the other guests at all. When we stayed the cottages were fully booked and we hardly saw anyone else, and we definitely didn’t hear anyone at night.
You can unload your car in the turning circle but the car parks are hidden around the corner in separate areas, depending on which cottage you’re staying in.
The welcome basket at Bruern Cottages is a real treat. With sausages, bacon, eggs and more, you’ll find everything you need for a great cooked breakfast as well as plenty of other essentials for your stay.
The products are locally sourced as far as possible and are top quality. The eggs were my favourite part of the basket – I haven’t seen yolks such a golden orange before and they tasted wonderful. I scrambled them for breakfast with some of the fantastic salted butter and they were probably the best eggs I’ve had.
While I didn’t eat the bacon or sausages, I was reliably informed that they tasted like sausages used to, and that’s a good thing! The bacon crisped up well and the portions were generous.
In addition to the eggs, sausages and bacon, we also found some delicious local cheese (strong but that’s how I like it) and milk in the fridge. A large, soft farmhouse loaf was on the side and a selection of breakfast cereals, home-made marmalade and honey were also used at breakfast time. The lemon cake on the kitchen table went down particularly well with the kids.
Adults will definitely appreciate the champagne stashed away in the fridge – save it for when the kids are tucked away in bed! Another fantastic touch is that when you’re booking your room you can request bottles of wine to be waiting for you so you don’t need to worry about bringing your drink with you.
Spa and pool
At the bottom of the gardens, to your left, there’s a pool house. Inside there’s a large swimming pool and space to relax under a conservatory style glass ceiling. As the pool is under cover you can use it whatever the weather, but if you’re lucky enough to visit in the summer then there’s an outside area and an enclosed garden so you can sunbathe in relative privacy. Perfect for wearing the kids out before bedtime!
Further on in the pool building you’ll find a small gym with fitness equipment. You’re also able to get spa treatments using Neal’s Yard products – there’s quite a selection of available treatments including facials and massages. You have to book your spa treatments in advance as the therapists are not always on site.
The pool and spa are accessed using the fob on your keys to prevent kids getting in by themselves. I saw swim nappies at the entrance so don’t panic if if you forget to bring them!
The Games Room isn’t at the main stable block, instead it’s around the corner near the office. This means you’ve got to walk either through the gardens and along the path by the weir or down onto the main road and up the next turn to reach it.
This part of the property used to be storage sheds so the games room has a high vaulted ceiling but it’s single storey. Here the kids can play table football while mum and dad can show off their prowess (or lack thereof) at pool and table tennis. For the musically talented there’s a piano at the back; but many kids, especially teens, will be captivated by the large TV on the wall and the games consoles (X-Box 360, Playstation 4 and X-Box Kinect). There are several games for each console type and plenty of controllers.
On the wall there’s a large DVD collection – you can borrow these to watch back in your own cottage.
The gardens were pretty enough in December but in the spring and summer they must be magnificent. Climbing roses twist their way up the outsides of the stable cottages, and the gardens at the back are planted with seasonal flowers so that there’s almost always something of interest here. Kids will enjoy looking for wildlife – we spotted some deer bouncing away across the fields when we were down by the river. Keep an eye out for swans and their cygnets in the spring, and lots of rabbits too.
Although it was bare of leaves and flowers when we visited, if you stay at the right time in the summer the wisteria avenue is stunning. There are some twenty arches with mature wisteria covering them lining the path making a purple hued tunnel to meander through.
The main lawned part of the garden is communal, although every property here has their own private area for al fresco dining. This area is perfect for tearing about and playing football (goals and balls supplied!).
Facilities at Bruern Cottages for families with young children
I knew that Bruern Cottages were family friendly, but even so, I was impressed with the effort that the owners have gone to to ensure that kids have a great time. In addition to the gardens and the games room there are several more things for kids of all ages at Bruern Cottages – my kids tried them all out!
Behind the stable cottages, to the left of the garden is a new adventure playground with climbing equipment for kids aged about 5+. The girl had a go on a wobbly bridge and climbing a net, but the boy was a bit too small for this playground, although this didn’t stop him trying.
In front of the spa building there is a playground with equipment for younger children; a climbing frame with a slide and swings suitable for both small toddlers and older kids. The ground is covered in wood chip making it safer for little ones. The kids also found plenty of ride-on vehicles which kept them both busy for some time; they rode up and down the pathways for ages!
Wendy House and playhouse
Opposite the playground are two huts for children. One is a (tiny!) miniature house with a table and chairs and toys downstairs. Upstairs there’s a small bed and more chairs – the house is so small I couldn’t fit up here but managed to poke my head in to see what was upstairs. The girl loved this little house and stayed in here for ages. She wanted me to come in and play but it’s really for small children and I couldn’t fit!
Next door is a much larger hut, with a cosy wood panelled Scandinavian feel to the inside. This is the main play house and it’s chock full of toys. There’s a sofa for parents to relax on while they supervise smaller kids. There’s a set of tables and chairs for children, plenty of dressing up clothes and a vast range of toys, both traditional and modern. The boy was in heaven here! Both kids would have spent all day in here playing if we’d have let them.
Bruern Cottages can supply baby friendly equipment such as cots, highchairs and stairgates. They can lend you a bottle steriliser too. Although those baby days are now past us, it’s great to know that families with kids of all ages are warmly welcomed here.
A tour of Aintree Cottage
Aintree Cottage was where we stayed, so I can give you an in depth run down on Aintree’s accommodation and facilities. Aintree Cottage is especially good for kids too as it has plenty to keep kids occupied, and sleeps up to six people.
Main living area
When you open the front door to Aintree you walk straight into the main living room. This is a large, luxurious room but while it’s definitely five star, it’s relaxed rather than formal. We didn’t feel as though we had to tiptoe about and felt at home immediately. Rich oranges and terracotta colours complement the sage green of the walls and furnishings, and give the room a cosy, intimate feel despite its size.
The main feature in the living room is the wonderful fireplace which was very welcome on chilly December evenings! Don’t be afraid of lighting the fire; a huge basket of kindling and logs is next to the fireplace and firelighters and matches are on the mantelpiece. I’m no Girl Scout but even I got a roaring fire going with absolutely no trouble. We had fun showing the kids how to use the bellows and pokers to keep the fire lit. There’s a fire guard which will stop little people getting too close.
If you can tear yourselves away from staring into the fire, then there is a flatscreen TV which comes complete with Sky, Freeview and Netflix. If you need more entertainment then the cupboards in the dresser next to the kitchen door are filled with board games and toys.
Bruern Cottages are constantly being updated and redecorated but the living room at Aintree may be left as it is for a while yet. Judy Astor’s sister Jocasta Innes was a designer and author who painted the delicate fern stencilling on the walls. She died in 2014 and the stencilling is one of the only remaining pieces of her work, so you can see why the owners are reluctant to paint over it. I hope they leave it as long as they can; I love the personal touch that it gives the room.
Secret den for small children
The secret den in the living room was definitely my kids’ favourite thing about Aintree Cottage. An under-stairs cupboard has been made into a cosy little playroom filled with toys. It’s perfect for two small children to play in and my two went nuts for it. Utterly adorable.
We barely saw the kids all evening as they busied themselves with their games, hidden away from the prying eyes of meddling grown-ups. (Don’t worry; there are apertures in the door so you can supervise the kids even if the door is closed, so they’re not entirely concealed).
Toys that were there when we stayed were: small wooden cars, building blocks, a farm, train set, kitchen with lots of food, dressing up clothes, musical instruments, baby dolls and a pram. Plenty for kids with all interests to play with.
The kitchen in Aintree is separate to the living room. The warm feel of the living room flows through to the kitchen, which is also decorated in terracotta and sage. It’s a spacious area with brand new fixtures and fittings; Aintree’s kitchen is done up in a modern farmhouse style with wooden cabinets and a Belfast sink. The kitchen comes with all mod cons including an oven and hob on the worktop, and an enormous American-style fridge freezer with an ice-maker. There is also plenty of rooms for a dining area, which has a round table large enough for six adults.
It goes without saying that there’s everything you need in this kitchen – plenty of glasses, plates and cutlery, in fact, more than you’ll need. You’ll also find all the other little necessities that you could want such as an espresso machine and pods, tea, sugar, cooking oil, washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets and even torches.
The door in the kitchen leads out to a small patio framed by a wisteria-covered pergola where you can sit quietly and enjoy a glass of wine on a summer evening.
Master bedroom and ensuite
The master bedroom is upstairs and to the right, and is very spacious. There’s room for a four poster bed, nightstands, a large chest of drawers, several beautiful velvet chairs and a small table. You can easily fit a cot (or two) in the space by the wardrobe and cots can be provided.
The room is light and bright as it’s dual aspect with three windows. The curtains and blinds are made of a heavy damask fabric and don’t let the light in which helps you sleep longer!
The grand four poster bed is a real treat. The mattress is soft but firm and the sheets and duvet are great quality. A thick blanket keeps any winter chill away, and we all slept well. The fabric draping over the mahogany posts is blue and white patterned Ralph Lauren; subtle but still luxurious.
Each person is supplied with soft white towels; a large bath sheet, a smaller hand towel and a flannel. Inside the large wardrobe there are plenty of coat hangers, white towelling robes and slippers for the spa. I also saw towels for use at the pool, if you didn’t bring your own. Spare blankets are in the airing cupboard in the hallway but these weren’t needed, even in December. There’s a good hairdryer in the chest of drawers so leave yours at home.
The master bedroom is ensuite with a bathtub and power shower over the tub; loo and bidet, and marble basin with Elemis toiletries (one of my favourite brands). There’s a heated towel rail too.
Aintree Cottage has two further bedrooms. They’re both twin rooms and have lots of character too! I particularly liked the black and gold decor in one room, while the other room felt like something out of a fairytale with its delicate green patterned wallpaper and cute nightstand. Again, the Roman blinds are made of thick blackout fabric ensuring you won’t be woken early.
These rooms are ideal for children, although friends will find them extremely comfortable.
The family bathroom is ideal for small children. The shower is over the bathtub, but there is a separate shower head attached to the taps for rinsing small people. The marble vanity unit for the sink has plenty of room for all your toiletries. The bathroom has an old fashioned feel with the same green wallpaper found in the third bedroom.
Elemis toiletries (shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser) are provided, as is a shower cap, cotton wool balls and buds. Although the showers aren’t plumbed in they’re hot and the water pressure is good.
Parents with small children will be relieved to see a potty under the sink – another thing you don’t have to worry about bringing.
A door in the living area leads into the large back gardens. There’s a patio area with table and chairs and a sunshade (sadly we didn’t require use of this in December!). Parents can easily supervise children playing in the back garden from the patio area which is very convenient – you can keep an eye on the whole lawned area without having to move (or put down your wine).
Would we recommend Bruern Cottages?
We would absolutely recommend Bruern Cottages. In fact if I had my own way I’d live in Aintree. It has such a comfortable feel about it, but with a real sense of grandeur. The children cried when we left, so that’s an honest recommendation right there!
The cottages have everything you need when you arrive so you don’t have to worry about bringing tons of extras with you. You can stock up a day or two later once you’ve got your bearings. All you need to do is arrive and unpack, and tuck into the champagne.
While the accommodation, facilities and services were fantastic, what I thought was outstanding was the attention to detail for the kids. The den under the stairs was a real winner, as was the playhouse by the swimming pool.
Bruern Cottages are suitable for families, couples or groups of friends. They’re a great place to spend a holiday in the Cotswolds, or to celebrate a birthday or other occasion like Christmas. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Know before you go
How to book Bruern Cottages
You can book the cottages online at Michael Paul Holidays. Prices will depend on the season and how big a property you need. Click here to take a look at the full selection of Bruern Cottages at Michael Paul Holidays.
How to reach Bruern Cottages
The nearest train station is Kingham which has direct access to London Paddington, Oxford and Worcester. You’ll need to get a taxi from the train station to the property, and I’d advise pre-booking one.
However I would recommend driving to Bruern Cottages, unless you really want to hole up for the weekend. Public transport in the Cotswolds isn’t the best and taxis are very expensive. There are countryside walks immediately around Bruern Cottages but to get to the nearest town or any attractions you’re going to need a car.
Cotswold breaks: things to do nearby
Bruern Cottages has a great location for short breaks in the Cotswolds. You’re near to plenty of top destinations and attractions – you’re not far from Oxford and the magnificent Blenheim Palace; Stow on the Wold and Bourton on the Water are also nearby. In fact you can get pretty much anywhere in the Cotswolds in about an hour (although it may take you a little longer to reach Bath, if this lovely city is on your itinerary).
Family friendly attractions include Broadway Tower and the fantastic playground in the town itself, Hidcote Manor Gardens and Snowshill Manor. Animal lovers will enjoy Cotswold Wildlife Park and Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park.
You can read more about what to do in the Cotswolds with kids here.
Disclaimer: We were invited to stay at Bruern Cottages in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are, as always, my own.