The Malt House: A picture-perfect country escape

Published in The Independent on Sunday on January 18, 2015

Tucked in the heart of the Cotswolds, the Malt House matches its picture-book surroundings. Built in the classic buttery yellow stone of the region, with three acres of gardens and orchard behind it, the long, lean Grade II-listed building dates back in parts to the 17th century, with more added in 1905.

The Malt House has long been hosting guests, but since last year, when new owner June Denton took it on, a complete overhaul has turned it into something special. While keeping an English country olde-worlde air – think exposed wooden beams, stone window seats, and vintage furniture – the restoration has happily brought the plumbing and heating into the 21st century, as well as sprinkling little modern luxuries throughout.

In addition to the seven rooms across the main house and the accessible garden annexe, a wooden shepherd’s hut is soon to be opened – just in front of a replanted cherry orchard, which promises to be blooming lovely in the spring.

 The bed

All rooms are spacious, en suite, and have been charmingly furnished for maximum relaxation. Beds are deep and inviting, with thick, creamy Egyptian cotton linen; white towels, bathrobes, and even the carpets match, the latter encouraging you to pad about barefoot for maximum sink-your-feet-in enjoyment.

I stayed in the Windrush room, which has a pale, painted wooden four-poster, toile de jouy wallpaper and curtains, and a cavernous bathtub lined with White Company toiletries. Hand-picked trinkets lend a personal touch, and there are lovely views over the grounds through period diamond-patterned leaded windows.

Rooms all come with proper tea and coffee making facilities: cafetiere, teapot, and bone china cups that match your room’s decor, naturally. There’s wi-fi throughout, and a small TV in the room. Although there’s virtually no mobile phone signal, the Malt House team are happy to book local restaurants and cabs for you.

The breakfast

I was told people stay here just for the hugely fluffy blueberry pancakes made by June’s son, Paul, and I could believe it. Other cooked options include a full English or smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, but I was most enchanted by the buffet; as well as toast, croissants, yoghurts and home-made cereals, there’s an impressive array of fruit: fresh berries, poached rhubarb, baked peaches and plums steaming straight from the oven. In summer, these are largely harvested from their own gardens, too.

 The hosts

A friendly family operation, the Malt House is run by June with the help of her sons, Paul and Peter. Having previously worked in philanthropy in London, she fulfilled a dream of moving to her favourite part of the world when she found a B&B in Broad Campden. With experience of architectural projects, she was undaunted by the restoration work, and picking the decor was all part of the fun – finding homes for family furniture as well as her collections of Russian dolls and delicate silverware, on display in the guest lounge.

 The weekend

Broad Campden is gorgeous, but tiny; a gentle walk across the fields leads to Chipping Campden, one of the most charming market towns in the Cotswolds. Fans of thatched cottages, pretty churchyards and afternoon tea will swoon.

Stratford-upon-Avon is a half-hour drive away – immerse yourself in Shakespeare country by visiting the touristy birthplace cottage (; from £14) or his grave at the Holy Trinity church. And take in a show, of course, by the Royal Shakespeare Company (

 The pit-stops

The Bakers Arms (01386 840515;, just around the corner in Broad Campden, promises good, honest pub grub. Do book for Sunday lunch – my plans to eat there were thwarted due to its popularity. In Chipping Campden, The Kings Hotel (01386 840256; kings does bar food and more formal dining. It has unusually cosy and characterful rooms for a hotel restaurant, and the food is delicious and inventive, if a little fussy.

You’re also very near a local institution: the Pudding Club. At weekly meetings at Three Ways House Hotel in Mickleton (01386 438429;, seven traditional British puddings are presented with much pomp, circumstance – and custard … try them all, then vote for your favourite.

 The essentials

The Malt House, Broad Campden, Gloucestershire GL55 6UU (01386 840 295; Doubles from £130 per night, including breakfast.

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