A quiet weekend away in the Cotswolds
I’m back again preaching about holidays in our own backyard and this time I’m in Stroud, a market town in the Cotswolds.
A Victorian mansion in the heart of Stroud
I was invited to visit Stroud by Michael Paul Holidays and stay in the company’s 5 Valleys Aparthotel – a former Victorian mansion that has been converted into 15 self-catering apartments (a mix of open plan and 1-2 bedrooms).
This building has had quite a life, so when the currently owner, Simon, took over, it was a big task to refurbish it and I think he’s done a great job. Each room has a different layout (which I’m sure makes for fun planning) and they have been decorated to a high standard with modern furnishings simple colours.
A good night’s sleep
When I’m looking for a hotel, one of my key criteria is a comfortable bed. I’m happy to report that the 5 Valleys Aparthotel fulfils my need for a good night’s sleep. It can be made up as a double bed if you’re a couple or two single beds if you’re travelling with friends. And, if ordered advance, you can get a trundle bed for a third guest.
The bedroom is a well designed, tranquil space – comfortable bed, a spot for your luggage, a place to sit while you put on your socks and shoes, somewhere to hang your coats. Now, I know this all sounds pretty obvious, but not everywhere I’ve stayed has some of these basic things.
My only complaint would be the exit light, right in front of the bed, which can make it hard to drop off to sleep. However, since it’s a legal requirement, there isn’t much to be done. And in all honesty, it’s a small gripe.
Modern amenities at 5 Valleys Aparthotel
Of course, given the recent refurbishment, everything is new and modern. And mostly well thought out.
The bathroom is clean, there’s space for my toiletries and the towel rack is heated (which is really great in those cold months of the year). Importantly, the shower pressure is amazing.
As a self-catering apartment, the kitchen is well equipped. In fact, there are more utensils and workspace than some – much larger – self-catering apartments I’ve stayed in back home in Australia. The only thing it’s missing is an oven, but there are plenty of things you can do with a stove-top and microwave. Oh, and how adorable is the mini dishwasher?!
The kitchen is open plan, so you can curl up on the couch in front of the television. Plus, if you’re not one for a ‘tv dinner’, you can use the dining table.
Lastly (and possibly very importantly), some of the rooms are dog-friendly, so if you like a weekend away with a furry friend or two, they’re welcome here.
My favourite features of the 5 Valleys Aparthotel
My favourite part of the 5 Valleys Aparthotel was the lack of reception. Now, I know that kind of sounds counterintuitive…Who will greet me? How will I get into the room? What if I need to ask questions?
And yes, accommodation without a reception isn’t for everyone, but it’s most definitely for me.
The day before arriving, guests receive an email with details on how to enter their room, including a pin number for the door. I assumed it was just to get into the main building, but actually, each apartment has a keypad.
There aren’t keys or a card to get in, so you can just close the door on the way out without worrying about potentially losing your only entry back in. You don’t have to have an awkward conversation with a receptionist whose dinner you just interrupted because you got stuck in traffic and arrived at 8pm. Genius!
As for questions – the owner, Simon is just a text or a phone call away and it’s as simple as that.
I also have a thing about hotel user experience and in particular, finding somewhere to charge my phone. We’ve all been there – you search everywhere to find an outlet and the only one is across the room and you need to unplug something to get to it. I liked the modern touch of not only having an outlet easily accessible on both sides of the bed, but they were also dual plug and USB. It’s such a simple thing, but it really shows that thought went into the design of the room.
How to book
The apartments are available to book through Michael Paul Holidays, who offer high-quality self-catering accommodation across the UK. All their properties have been personally vetted for service and quality by Michael Paul himself. Prices for the 5 Valleys Aparthotel vary depending on the apartment, season and time of week but as an example, a Friday/Saturday low season break booked through Michael Paul Holidays starts from £200 (2 nights) or around £600 (7 nights).
What to do while you’re in Stroud
Stroud is a lovely town in the Cotswolds. It’s on the larger side, so you can get the train from London and there’s plenty of things to do close by. If you’re driving though, it’s not far off the M5 and it’s a great base to travel a bit further out.
A wander along the canals
To get into the centre of Stroud from the 5 Valleys Aparthotel, you could drive or – and this is the better option – you could walk along Stroud’s canals.
The Stroudwater Canal is tranquil. You’ll cross paths with locals on their daily run or walking their dogs, but you won’t hear the busy roads.
It’s an easy, flat walk and nature lovers will likely spot a few ducks, swans, dragonflies and – if you’re lucky – perhaps a kingfisher or a deer.
My favourite part about my walk along the canal was the signage. As you walk, you’ll come across signs detailing the history of various sections of the waterway and even the local wildlife. My friend Heather goes into a bit more detail on her blog, so if a leisurely walk is your thing, take a look.
I recommend having a look at the Visit the Cotswolds website for plenty of links to useful resources that will help you make the most of a walk along the canals in Stroud.
The award-winning Stroud Farmers’ Market
I love a good market. A friend in Stroud and a friend just outside raved about the Stroud Farmers’ Market. Not that I needed much arm-twisting to go, I was glad to finally make it earlier this year (and again while staying at the 5 Valleys Aparthotel).
Farm to table is not a new movement and it’s certainly an important aspect of moving towards long-term food sustainability. By buying from the smallholders and producers at markets like the one in Stroud, you’re supporting a local business, you’re eating sustainably (and usually ethically), and you’re likely to get better quality produce (which tastes better and lasts longer).
At the Stroud Farmers’ Market, you’ll find local cheese and meat, locally baked bread, and vegetables from just down the road. Food stalls also dish up ready to eat options, for scoffing right there and then, from fresh falafels to local bacon sandwiches and doughnuts (yes, doughnuts and custard tarts are completely fine for breakfast!).
Every Saturday 9am-2 pm, Cornhill Market Place & surrounding streets, Stroud GL5 2HH.
Painswick Rococo Garden
Even in early spring (I visited in March earlier this year), the Rococo Garden in Painswick – five miles from Stroud – was beautiful. To my delight, daffodils and hellebores could be found everywhere and I loved exploring the various follies. It feels almost magical. I was sure that just walking into one of the buildings, I’d be transported to Narnia or some other fantastical place.
The Garden was designed in the 1740s as a pleasure garden for the owner and his guests. As you walk around, you can just imagine well-dressed ladies and gentlemen walking along the paths and taking in the stunning countryside.
I can highly recommend a visit, particularly in high season so you can see the Kitchen Garden and other parts of the garden in full bloom. It’s a good place for a romantic walk or a few hours out with the family.
Admission: 5 for adults and free for members of Historic Houses Association and the Royal Horticultural Society.
Food: There is a café on-site with some tasty options.
5 Valleys Aparthotel in the heart of Stroud
The 5 Valleys Aparthotel is an excellent base for a quiet weekend in Stroud. You have the option of enjoying the apartment and relaxing or wandering out into the town.
Disclaimer: I was an invited guest of Michael Paul Holidays – I was provided with one night of accommodation at the 5 Valleys Aparthotel, but the above review is my honest opinion.