In the heart of picture-perfect Broadway, gateway to the Cotswolds, the Lygon Arms has been a favourite getaway for centuries. James Elwes finds out why.
There is something indefinably comforting about Cotswold stone, like wrapping yourself up in an old-but-immaculate camel coat with a thick and delicious lining. It’s this feeling that rolls over me as we pull up outside the Lygon Arms in Broadway, Worcestershire.
It’s a town with a great artistic heritage and has an extraordinary roster of residents, from Elgar and Vaughan Williams to Sargent, William Morris and J. M. Barrie. It’s even said to have provided the inspiration for E. F. Benson’s fictional Riseholme (home of arch enemies Mapp and Lucia). To explore such rich history, the Lygon is the perfect base; and while it’s centuries old, it’s full of modern comfort with rooms that are luxuriously and freshly appointed.
An unseasonable chill meant that an enormous crackling fire greeted us as we entered – it should really have been licking a freshly hunted wild hog. History is everywhere at the Lygon, notched in its ancient wooden beams and hand-hewn stonework. Past guests include Charles I and Oliver Cromwell (not at the same time) plus various royalists and parliamentarians’ pre and post battle. Edward VII used to drive down to stay at the Lygon and by the 1960s it became a hideaway for Hollywood stars such as Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
There is no better time to visit Broadway than cooling late summer, and for those keen to delve a little deeper into Cotswolds history the Lygon is holding an event on September 5 that’s worth a mention. The writer Emily Rhodes is hosting a literary walk to discuss local history and Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie. It sounds a lovely way to soak up the landscape that informed this evocative childhood memoir before heading back for afternoon tea.
Double rooms at the Lygon Arms from £235 including breakfast; the Emily Rhodes event is priced at £354 per double for a deluxe room including breakfast, afternoon tea, refreshments and a copy of the book. Visit www.lygonarmshotel.co.uk
Food and drink
The Lygon Arms kitchen has an enviable reputation, serving up meat and vegetables that are locally sourced — the Birlingham asparagus and Waghorn Beef were particularly palatable in a menu focusing on traditional English favourites with a contemporary twist. Plates do not stand on ceremony; they are generously made and a three-course dinner from the grill will leave a glutton with a smile and happy glow.
If you’re taking a picnic into the hills then a trip to John Barleycorn is essential for fresh fruit, jams and tinned Italian delicacies. A trip for gifts and tasters at the Cotswolds Distillery shop is also advised. The distillery is renowned for its outstanding natural spirits and has just started to host masterclasses in gin and whisky making on a monthly basis.
Things to do
The Lygon Arms spa
Yes, a centuries-old inn with its own spa — and it’s outstanding, with a striking galleried pool area. There are a number of tempting treatments are on offer with lotions and potions from Oskia and Elemis, and if you’re not staying here you can come in for the day. If you’re feeling more active there’s also a state-of-the-art gym with personal trainers.
J. B. Priestley’s description of the Cotswolds rings true today; it really is ‘the most English and least spoiled of all our countrysides’ and there are walks aplenty to enjoy it — Broadway and the Lygon is an excellent base of operations.
A brisk uphill gallop away is Broadway Tower, a folly built by Capability Brown that’s set at one of the highest points in the Cotswolds — apparently on a clear day one can espy 16 counties from its summit. It was used as a holiday home for William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones and before that housed a printing press belonging to the collector Sir Thomas Phillips.
The Gordon Russell Design Museum
This museum celebrates the life and work of the furniture designer, calligrapher and educator, sitting on a site that was once his workshop on Broadway’s main thoroughfare, a five-minute walk from the hotel.
Shops and galleries
There are several art galleries specialising in Modern British and contemporary art, plus antique shops to further sate your cultural yearnings, not to mention shops and cafes of consistently good quality. OKA has taken on a whole Georgian high-street townhouse as a showroom, creating a homely and pleasant retail experience.
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