Loooooords of the Manor and a last glimpse of Upper Slaughter

Front-of-Lords-of-the-Manor

If you’re off to Old Blighty, I can highly recommend two things to get you in the mood:

1. The tv series The Tudors. If Jonathon Rhys Meyers can’t get you in the mood then you may be clinically dead; and

2. Hilary Mantel’s book “Wolf Hall”.

Lords of the Manor garden

Both deal with the same infamous period of history: the bloody, head-strewn reign of Henry VIII. The Tudors is a visually stunning (although only partly historically accurate) soap operatic portrayal of the period whereas Wolf Hall, while still a work of fiction, is a far more dense but less dramatic account told from the perspective of Henry’s advisor Thomas Cromwell.

They are both brilliant and deeply evocative and so I was pretty much beside myself when I learned that our hotel in the Costwolds, Lords of the Manor, was a former rectory that once formed part of one of Henry VIII’s properties.

It’s a charming, atmospheric building with lots of period features; exposed wooden beams, tiny casement windows, creaky floors.

View-from-bedroom-window-Lords-of-the-Manor

This is Upper Slaughter Manor which is next door and was the main building of the larger estate way back when.

Upper Slaughter Manor

Can you not imagine Henry thundering down that driveway on his horse? Looking all the while like Jonathon Rhys Meyers thanks instead of the slightly paunchy, pale fellow made famous by Hans Holbein.

Upper-Slaughter-Manor

We took these photos very early in the morning so the light really brought out the depth of colour in the lichen-splattered stone and illuminated the golden lettering.

Upper-Slaughter-manor-sign

Dinner in the Michelin starred restaurant within the hotel was a revelation. To be honest, I did not have the highest hopes because the photos I saw on their website made me think there might be a bit too much foam and tricky stuff going on. In fact, our dinner here was one of the best of my entire life. Clever but without being tricky for tricky’s sake, every single mouthful was a study in balance and flavour.

We started with canapés in the garden.

Canape-at-Lords-of-the-Manors

After that we moved inside to the restaurant proper and had dishes the highlights of which were lobster, quail, pigeon and turbot. To describe the food with just those four simple words is criminally reductive but I could never do justice to the sublimity of their taste and complexity withy mere words.

Lords of the Manor enormous trees

The cheese course was yet another highlight.  We had a choice of over 20 cheeses,  most small-batch and locally produced. Among other things we chose a Stinking Bishop. Wouldn’t have mattered if it was aged in a cow pat, there’s no way I could have gone past a cheese with a name like that. And it was stinky and delicious. The other standout was called May Hill Green, another Gloucestershire cheese, with a rind covered in chopped nettles. I’m a tad obsessed with nettles and this too was a study in balance; the mineral tang of the nettle offsetting the creamy cheese perfectly.

Lords of the Manor side front

Chamomile tea rather than a post-prandial coffee was the order of the jet-lagged day and we had that sitting out on the lavender-ringed terrace with a small and perfectly formed macaron (as if we needed anything after the cheese AND dessert) at 10pm just as  dusk began to creep in. What that meant, in keeping with general perfection of the day, was that the stone walls glowed with an amber hue, the grass and sky took on a deeper green and blue and I sighed pretty much the most enormously contented sigh of my entire life.

You can’t quite see the terrace in this shot but this is the aspect we were looking over as we sipped our tea and contemplated our great good fortune.

View-out-to-fields-from-Lords-of-the-Manor

Next morning, I rounded out my perfect English countryside experience by having kippers for breakfast (much to the chagrin of the otherwise worldly Italian water who told me he had to hold his nose as he brought them to the table).

Upper-Slaughter-church

My childhood literary experiences were littered with vignettes of  kettles boiling on the hob, mugs of hot, sweet tea brewing, kippers in the pan and toast browning slowly on a fork over the fire. So no trip back for me is ever complete without kippers. It’s a nostalgic nod to the England of my young imagination. Smothered in brown butter and chopped parsley, they were bloody delicious.

Wardens-Way-sign

The other pictures that punctuate this post are from Upper Slaughter; the church, picturesque churchyard and surrounds.

Cotswold's beer

Although the Tudors tv series features lots of shots of beautiful countryside as Henry makes his way hither and thither, if it’s a novel set in the Cotswolds you’re after then it’s hard to go past Miss Read’s Thrush Green series for evocative descriptions of a fictional but immediately recognisable Cotswold idyll. This is very much a novel from a different time and world; lots of “terribly”s, “horrid”s and tea-times interspersed with descriptions of babbling brooks, scented Spring meadows, wild rose-strewn stiles and cathedral-cool woods . It makes a charming escape.

Madonna keeping watch over grave

I know this is a long post – forgive me – I hope it hasn’t bored you and might even have brought you a speck of pleasure of the arm-chair traveller variety.  It was just SO.VERY.PERFECT.

Next stop: Bath then on to London. I’ll try to keep them shorter, I promise!

10 thoughts on “Loooooords of the Manor and a last glimpse of Upper Slaughter

  1. Am verdant with envy.

    Coincidentally, I just started reading Wolf Hall too, but trying to keep up with the cast of characters is a bit stressful! Will let you know how I progress…

    xx

    • It’s hard going at first but once you get Mantel’s rhythm it flows like reading Shakespeare. One of those rare books where the prose itself, just the sound of it on the ear, is as alluring as the story it’s telling. Stick with it!

    • Oh Eileen – that’s lovely – I am delighted to think I have given you a good start to your Sunday morning. And you are in your own little pocket of bliss there on the shores of that great lake.

  2. Awesome – and you have been so lucky with the weather! I wish you could come and see me in Kent – but I’m sure your itinerary is full to bursting. I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay and look forward to the rest of your posts! xx

    • We were SO very lucky with the weather. I would have loved to have time to visit more beautiful places – Kent is on my future list as it looks absolutely stunning. I had hoped to get to Constable Country as well but time did not permit. Unfortunately we only had 48 hours in the Cotswolds and a week in London. I know the posts make it seem we were there for 4 months! It kind of felt like we crammed 4 months -worth in! xxx

  3. Thanks for the inspiration to pick up Wolf Hall…for the third time!! Most importantly, thanks for the memories! My Cotswold memories involve my Mum and they are so very memorable…xx

    • I’ve just emailed you in a FEVER of admiration and excitement. Forgive the swearing (in the email) – BUT YOU SNOGGED HRH VIII! I do like Miss G, I like very much indeed. Hilarious.

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