I have visited the Cotswolds on several occasions. It is a delightful area to visit at any time of the year. Its rolling hills and woodlands give shelter to chocolate – box stone-built villages, fine looking historical towns, outstanding churches, stately homes and stunning gardens. The distinctive Cotswold honey – coloured Jurassic limestone helps create many unique features across the region.
Embracing an area which includes six counties, most notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, the Cotswolds includes many beautiful small towns & villages such as Bourton-on-the-Water, Broadway, Burford, Chipping Norton, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold and my favourite, Chipping Campden.
Chipping Campden is situated in some of the country’s most stunning countryside. The Cotswolds was nominated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966.
The exceptional High Street curves in a shallow arc, lined with a string of ancient houses and honey-coloured limestone buildings, boasting a wealth of fine architecture. The High Street and much of the town was officially designated a conservation area almost forty years ago. Mellow hues of gold & grey sandstone dominate the buildings which include an abundance of intriguing features such as sundials, carved dates, leaded windows and stone porches amongst many others. It is such a pleasure to stroll along the High street taking in these sights.
At the historic Noel Arms Hotel, you can walk in the footsteps of Charles II who it is said rested here after his defeat by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester. The fine stone facade of the Noel Arms Hotel with its proud coat of arms has been part of the High street for centuries. The hotel’s Regency portico leads visitors into a grand stone hall with antique furniture standing on the flagstone floors, much of it is as old as the hotel.
The Noel Arms was built in the 16th century as a coaching hotel for the sheep & wool traders who regularly visited the 400-year-old famous market hall located adjacent to the Hotel. The Inn was originally called The George, but it soon changed its name to The Noel Arms in 1819 after the notable Noel family of the area.
There are numerous walks and guided tours available in the town, including the 110-mile Cotswold Way which ends or starts, outside the front of the Noel Arms.
You can dine at the Noel Arms or their sister hotel, Cotswold House, directly opposite which also has a Spa. The beautiful gardens and Pavilion Terraces of the Cotswold House are also open to guests from the Noel Arms, a comfortable place in which to relax, enjoy a drink and food when the weather is good.
The Dover`s Bar is a very pleasant area in which to relax for pre or post – dinner drinks which is what my wife and I did. Before going into the conservatory for our evening meal, my wife and I were invited to a beer tasting in the bar. Assistant Manager Carlos made an excellent presentation describing the qualities of each beer, where the breweries were located, and which foods would be best suited to each ale.
The three beers were.
Old Hooky (ABV 4.6%) Hook Norton Brewery: Brewed to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. I was already quite familiar with this brew. It is a beautifully balanced beer, fruity by nature, with a well-rounded body.
Wicked Lady (ABV4.0%) – Clavell and Hind: A modern amber ale. Smooth and refined. Brewed with English hops and roasted malt to give the perfect bitter/ sweet balance with a delicious malt finish. My wife preferred the Wicked Lady!
Shag Weaver (ABV 4.5%) – North Cotswold Brewery: A golden hoppy bitter brewed with a blend of three New Zealand hops. This bitter would appeal to both ale and lager drinkers. As I soon discovered it is the perfect ale when eating spicy food or a fine curry! My favourite of the three ales, though I must say all three beers were wonderful and would be perfect with any of the menu choices on offer.
Whilst in the bar I noticed several people coming in off the street, not only to eat in the restaurant but to sit and enjoy a drink with friends. It is obviously still very much a local for the community as well as a Hotel bar for resident guests.
The Dining Room
A pleasant surprise later in the evening after we had eaten was some live music performed by a group of four musicians playing a fiddle, Bodhrán Drum, Whistle and Guitar called Brimstone playing a range of traditional and contemporary folk music. Vocalist & guitarist Sarah Edwards produced a simply stunning version of a Kate Rusby song with some exquisite guitar playing and a sublime lilting voice. Brimstone have a regular monthly gig at the Noel Arms Hotel.
Live Folk Music in the Dover`s Bar
Besides the bar there is also a popular coffee shop where locals and visitors come in off the street to enjoy a wide range of pastries, biscuits, homemade cakes or cream teas. It is the perfect place in which to relax with a newspaper or check up on your emails whilst enjoying a hot cappuccino, latte, espresso, pot of tea or a mug of hot chocolate.
The Coffee Shop
I was pleased to see that there was a small car park at the back of the Hotel through the ancient archway off the High street. The hotel reception was just inside the entrance door to the right. As we arrived, we were greeted with smiles from the young receptionist.
Check in was prompt and professional and our luggage was taken from us as we walked through the busy Dover`s Bar & across the ancient courtyard to where our room, number 28 was situated.
Looking at old photographs of the courtyard over a hundred years ago illustrates how very little has changed over that time. The courtyard was then full of stables and barns, but I could still pick out the entrance to our room next to an ancient flight of stone steps. During the mid – 1900`s a brewery also occupied one of the outbuildings.
Each of the 28 en suite bedrooms at the Noel Arms Hotel comes complete with antique furnishings and stylish but simple decoration. My classic double room had sheep & hare prints decorating the walls and two comfortable armchairs.
The Hare appears in many forms across the town on paintings, sculptures, prints and bric-a-brac, an iconic image of the Cotswolds? The king – size bed was very comfortable complete with plenty of large soft pillows. A small table, complimentary tea & coffee making facilities and much appreciated biscuits! The large wardrobe had plenty of space for hanging clothes.
A writing desk, bedside tables & lamps, television, writing desk completed the pieces of furniture in the bedroom. The room was decorated in pastel shades with a dusty pink carpet. Two large mirrors, one in the bedroom and another in the bedroom were very useful particularly as we dressed for the evening. We also had a huge bathroom with a roll top bath and a shower, large fluffy towels and heated towel rack & a selection of bath, body and hair shampoos.
The hotel is smoke – free but I was also pleased to see written in the room manual that E – cigarettes were not permitted. The reasons for the exclusion were clearly explained which I was very supportive of. Free Wi-Fi was available in all areas, a very important feature in the technological mobile era.
Food at The Noel Arms is traditional but with many international influences and is prepared from the best local produce available.The hotel chefs & kitchen team try to source as much of the fresh produce they use from local producers whenever possible.
The Noel Arms Head Chef, Indunil Upatissa has been awarded the Great British Pub Awards for Best Curry Chef on three occasions, so there was no way I was going to visit the Noel Arms without tasting one of his curries! The spacious modern conservatory is where we enjoyed our evening meal.
Root Vegetable Samosa, Kachumber salad, mango sauce, minted yogurt
Rosemary & Garlic Baked Mini – Camembert with Olive Oil, Herb Crostini/grapes & Walnut Chutney/Baby Gem
Award Winning Sri Lankan Black Lamb and Pilau Rice
Slow Cooked Cotswold Lamb Shank with Mash Potato, Red Cabbage, Baby Carrots & Red Wine Jus
Brioche Bread & Butter pudding, Ice Cream & Home-made Custard & Raspberries
Treacle Tart, Ice Cream & Blueberries
The three samosas looked and tasted fantastic sitting on a tasty kachumber salad and fine tasty mint & mango sauce spread finely across the shallow basin. They were beautifully presented and were the perfect appetiser for the curry to come. The Sri Lankan lamb curry was given three `strength` spices on the menu, but for me it was probably more of a two, but hot enough! A very tasty curry with plenty of tender lamb pieces. The Shagweaver also went down very well with the curry, a perfect choice of beer to compliment the food.
The Market Hall
The homemade walnut chutney & crispy bread with the Brie was a real positive according to my wife. She said the lamb dropped off the shank easily and tasted delightful. The vegetables of soft mash Potato, Red Cabbage and Baby Carrots were perfectly cooked and the perfect accompaniment.
I must admit to trying some of my wife’s meal and both dishes were beautifully cooked and presented to table. Our meal in the Noel Arms was superb, not least because of the staff who were all very professional, organised and helpful with a touch of humour. The Award-winning food combined with the personal and attentive service helped create a wonderful dining experience.
Breakfast which was served in the main restaurant was well worth getting up for. Served buffet style there was a wide selection of cereal, fresh fruit, conserves, pain au chocolate and toasts as well as the traditional full English, cooked fresh to order from the kitchen, which is what my wife & I opted for.
The staff were exceptional particularly Michelle who waited on our table and Carlos who was informative and friendly, particularly at the beer tasting. All the staff engaged my wife and I in genuine conversation, attentive at the table but never obtrusive.
Overall my visit to the Noel Arms was comfortable, relaxing and enjoyable. The staff, whether on reception, serving at table or at the bar presented a smart, professional and efficient service. We both enjoyed an excellent evening of fine beer, excellent food and comfortable surroundings. Our room had buckets of character and was warm, clean and restful.
Noel Arms Hotel
Tel: 01386 840317
Disclosure: My stay was courtesy of The Noel Arms Hotel & Bespoke Hotels. The views and comments expressed are as usual my own.