If you’re planning a visit to the idyllic Oxfordshire town of Woodstock and the resplendent Blenheim Palace, nowhere beats The Feathers.
The delightful small town of Woodstock may or may not be in the Cotswolds, depending who you ask, but many of the characteristics of that most charming of areas can be found here. The honey-coloured stone; the excellent range of antique shops, the independent bookshops and the characterful cafes; and one of Oxfordshire’s finest boutique hotels. The Feathers has a deserved reputation for offering understated luxury in a stylish and laid-back setting. While it might be quintessentially English in its location and style, there’s also a quiet subversiveness here, not least in the world’s largest collection of gins – but more on that in a moment.
A selection of rooms range from the cosy to the opulent. We stayed in a feature suite with a large sitting room and reading area, as well as an enormous (and enormously comfortable) bed – all decorated in stylishly muted Farrow & Ball tones. The dual bathrooms make it feel as though you had your very own sizeable flat within this historic hotel, while the complimentary water, directly from Blenheim’s own spring less than a mile away, was a welcome touch.
Food and drink
Although we visited when the two AA-rosette winning restaurant was closed, we certainly didn’t miss out when it came to our repast. The cosy bar space has a splendid selection of light snacks at lunchtime and more considerable meals in the evening, meaning that a three-course dinner of smoked salmon, delicious lamb confit and chocolate ganache is perfectly possible – as is something lighter. The wine list has a decently priced selection by the glass, but the real highlight is the gin bar. Virtually every kind of gin imaginable is stocked, resulting in a Guinness Book of Records award, and the knowledgeable bar manager is only too happy to recommend one to suit all tastes and budgets. Our selection was a magnificent rhubarb gin, which tasted halfway between a liqueur and a sweet wine; we were told not to adulterate it by adding tonic, which proved to be the very best advice.
Woodstock has many charming places to visit, but no visitor should leave without heading over to nearby Blenheim Palace. Set in some of the country’s loveliest Capability Brown-designed gardens, it is the perfect location for either a beautiful walk round lakes and fields, or, if you are a history buff, a tour of the palace itself. The rich history that encompasses everyone from the Duke of Marlborough to Winston Churchill is beautifully explained through a series of enthralling exhibitions, and even the gift shop – so often a grasping let-down in places like this – offers the sort of beautiful items that you’d would want to take home.
In a nutshell
A beautiful hotel, in a beautiful setting, where the mixture of historical and architectural charm and myriad shopping opportunities makes it the perfect spot for a winter – or summer – weekend away, and its close proximity to Oxford engenders the perfect trip.