Nestled deep in the Cotswolds countryside, former surgeon Caryn Hibbert has spent the last 12 years gradually buying up the 14th Southrop Manor and surrounding farm buildings to create an idyllic home away from home – first for her family and then for us, the lucky public. The result is Thyme hotel with its own working farm, pub and a top class cookery school. Perfect for lazy weekends spent indulging in comforting homegrown food and burning it off on long strolls around the 150-acre estate.
Thyme is in the picture perfect village of Southrop (of Kate Moss fame – the church where the supermodel married The Kills rocker Jamie Hince is on the estate) in Lechlade, Gloucestershire. A Southwestern train from London Paddington to Swindon takes about an hour followed by a half-hour taxi ride.
Thyme has 15 rooms spread across the estate, which has been available for individual bookings since September. The biggest building is Thyme House, comprising eight double bedrooms, each designed with an eclectic mix of English and French vintage furniture and named after different herbs grown on the estate.
Thyme’s chefs Daryll Taylor and Marjorie Lang (a Masterchef winner) will take you on a walk through the gardens to see where the vegetables are grown and to collect ingredients ahead of the classes, which vary from bread-making to learning how to make bouillabaisse or Indian curry. Cooking classes last from two to six hours and include lunch.
Meddlers. This elusive fruit, native to Iran and Turkey, looks a lot like a small apple, but in fact it is part of the rosehip family. It has a dry and slightly sour taste but is delicious when coooked. They have to be eaten when bletted – a term that describes the process of being left until almost rotten. Thyme has harvested hundreds of the fruit and is even supplying London restaurants, including Quovadis, with their homemade meddler pickle.
Take a short stroll down the road from your cottage to The Swan, Thyme’s 17th century village pub, for a drink with the locals at the bar before tucking into a hearty seasonal meal in the restaurant. We recommend the game and prune terrine to start followed by the roast partridge, served with Thyme’s homegrown borlotti beans, pumpkin puree and cavolo nero. Then it’s back to Thyme’s bar called the Baaa (after its resident shaggy-haired bronze-cast sheep) for a quince cosmopolitan or another of Thyme’s botanical concoctions made with herbs rustled up from the garden.
NEED TO KNOW:
Thyme’s two hour morning cooking masterclass costs £145. The signature class, The Instinctive Cook, from 10am until 4pm costs £185. A double room at Thyme starts at £260 per night including breakfast. Visit thyme.co.uk or call 01367 850174.
A new spa, 10 more rooms and a restaurant inside the old stable building, which holds the (unofficial) record for the longest beams made from a single tree in the UK.