Thyme is a bucolic, but plugged-in Cotswolds hotel for a quintessentially English country wedding, a pre-wedding rebalance or a pampering farm-to-fork and spa-focused honeymoon.
Thyme hotel is for couples looking for an elegantly low-key, unstuffy spin on the traditional English countryside getaway – where locality, seasonality, sustainability, beauty, nature and heritage permeate every menu, room, therapy and outdoorsy activity.
Set the scene
A cluster of Cotswold-stone buildings in the postcard-pretty village of Southrop, Thyme has a home-from-home feel, with no vast hotel lobby or brash signage in sight. And that’s exactly what Caryn Hibbert, Founder and Creative Director of Thyme, had in mind during the meticulous restoration of the 17th century buildings. Ensuring the the pastoral character of the manor house and its surrounding buildings endured.
This includes the Ox Barn restaurant, situated at the heart of Thyme and formerly home to the farm’s working oxen, whose soaring archways, original Cotswold stone rubble walls and boarded herringbone ceiling have been beautifully preserved. Suede green chairs spread out throughout this vast, airy space and clever lighting draws eyes up to a host of old gnarled beams. Large glass windows peel back views of the glorious south facing Bunny Guinness-designed terrace and gardens.
Hotel rooms and suites now spread across the barns, cottages and farmhouses that the family have slowly acquired along the restoration journey. These all convene around the Meadow spa, outdoor swimming pool, tennis court, Orchid House, cookery school and the Baa Bar. Set in former lambing sheds, featuring ‘sheep seats’, the brooding, inky blue bar is well stocked with cordials, shrubs and infusions which, together with fresh flowers and herbs from the garden, form an imaginative botanical cocktail menu. The impressive Tithe barn sets a rustic-chic backdrop for weddings, while the village’s cherished The Swan pub, connected to Thyme, offers a more low key pub lunch or cosy candlelit supper. All these unique locations create a relaxing and non-gimmicky hamlet feel throughout the hotel.
For all the relaxing atmosphere and seemingly effortless vibe – the attention to detail is second-to-none. Photogenic flower arrangements line tables and dressers from Thyme’s cutting garden; restaurant menus are beautifully illustrated by Caryn herself, while her husband Jerry is responsible for the quirky maps of Thyme in the rooms, alongside the personalised welcome baskets filled with homemade cookies, cheese straws and a pre-mixed Negroni.
Of the 32 botanically-inspired rooms, six enjoy their own private garden. These are found along gravel pathways lined by cedar trees and perfectly pruned hedges and shrubs. All individually designed, the Elegant rooms (located in the Farmhouse and Lodge) are our favourite. Our room was characterised by original aged beams, old exposed walls, a roll-top bath, and a beautiful matching burnt orange bedspread and curtains, setting a classic country tone.
For the ultimate honeymoon hideaway, book the Pear Tree Cottage, with its cosy sitting room and light-filled kitchen that leads onto its own private garden. Upstairs, a spacious bedroom is painted in green and pink strokes, with floral accents and antique furniture. We particularly love the window seat – a privileged perch above the pretty gardens below.
If you’re considering Thyme as a wedding venue, the hotel does have a wedding licence with a couple of romantic spaces that lend themselves perfectly to a very bijou, intimate affair (with full venue takeover also on offer). Our suggestion would be to book the Tallet, a deceptively large property with four double rooms, a large entertaining and living space which wraps around a beautiful private courtyard garden. Each room is elegantly decorated with old stone walls and the sitting room’s wood burner is a lovely rustic touch on chilly nights.
Food and drink
The stylishly low-key Ox Barn cleverly adapts throughout the day for a smart-casual lunch, cosy afternoon tea, as a coffee space, and later, a more sophisticated dinner setting,
Caryn’s son and Head Chef Charlie Hibbert has been at the culinary helm of Thyme since 2018, having trained at the formidable Ballymaloe before cutting his culinary teeth at the exclusive Soho haunt Quo Vadis. Now settled back home, he plays a seminal role in the family business, sitting at the very centre of Thyme’s farm-to-fork food philosophy.
The food, if labelled, would be referred to as modern seasonal British and is largely based on spoils from the surrounding farm, land, herb & vegetable gardens and the fruit and nut orchards. It’s inventive and ingredient-led, with seasonality a guiding force. A selection of hearty salad plates are a popular lunch choice – the malfatti dumplings, peas, ricotta, mint, parmesan & artichoke salad, or perhaps, the kohlrabi, fennel & hazelnut. These typically end on a sweet note:a slice of almond and orange cake with coffee.
Pre-dinner make sure you sample a botanical cocktail or two in the Baa Bar. The ‘Bergamot Margarita’ with italicus and lemon is a fresh jolt, well balanced with a light bitter and floral spice. The hotel’s signature cocktail ‘Take Thyme’ is the ultimate aperitivo – a finely-tuned concoction of sapling vodka, lemon thyme and plum sake.
Ease into dinner by sampling the ever-changing crostini – the courgette, mint & salted ricotta are particularly delicious. For starters, expect plates such as grilled squid in a buttery chilli sauce with green beans, and perfectly-ripe roast peach with tomato and goat’s curd. Generously sized mains are a gastronomic whip around the English countryside – roast pork, served with baby leeks and sweet and sticky apple sauce, a rack of perfectly pink lamb with coco beans, lardo and anchovy fried rosemary sauce.
For something more low-key and informal, hop across the road to The Swan pub for gastro-pub delights such as the juicy Swan burger and chips or a classic chicken pie and creamy mash potato.
Thyme’s cooking school’s classes centre on top-notch produce and aim to inspire seasonal creativity in cooking – make sure you check out the schedule on the website and book into some fun (and incredibly useful) classes à deux.
Thyme began its life as a cookery school in 2014, with an ambition to grow (as organically as its surrounding farms) into an authentic village-style spot that preserves and protects the surrounding natural splendour and rural rhythms. Thyme is still family-owned and run, led by Caryn Hibbert alongside her husband Jerry, with her eldest son Charlie Head-Chef, and daughter, Camilla (Milly) General Manager.
The original mission and purpose of Thyme is keenly felt throughout the hotel today, with the quietly efficient and totally charming team very much in tune with the emphasis on nature, heritage and the riches of the land.
While welcoming children over 12, Thyme is an unapologetically grown-up destination (music to most honeymooners ears). There is an option for younger children to stay in Old Walls cottage, where they are welcome to lunch at the Ox Barn but must have dinner at The Swan.
The Meadow Spa is a haven of restorative pastoral calm. Opt for the signature treatments such as the Thyme Body Ritual – a full body massage and scalp treatment using Aurelia London oils, incorporating body brushing and hot stones. Aurelia London, was one of the first brands to pioneer the use of probiotics in skincare, gelling neatly with Thyme’s nature-first philosophy.
Make sure you spend some time wallowing in the spring water swimming pool, set in an old walled garden and jacuzzi, gazing up at the parkland-style trees as you float. The sedum roof of the newly renovated Orchid House is covered with native orchids, attracting a kaleidoscope of butterflies and honey bees, while offering an ethereal spot for a time out. The spa’s simple menu offers light-lunch style salads and fresh garden juices (as well as rosé and bubbles). This is a beautifully tranquil enclave to dissolve any pre-wedding nerves or soak into for a cast-adrift style minimoon.
Throughout Thyme’s evolution, thoughtful and conscious living has been at the forefront of every decision, from the building projects to the sourcing of produce and products.
Sustainability is at the heart of the kitchen’s modus operandi – there is a rigorous composting, reuse and recycle policy in place and all staff are working to achieve ‘no-waste kitchens’, with prep and plate waste sent for anaerobic digestion where it is converted into fertiliser. Thyme works with Bertioli (proud member of 1% for the Planet, a global membership of businesses which gives back to the environment with every sale) for on the ground initiatives that protect wild spaces, reinstate nature and reconnect people with the land.
The outdoor pool is heated through a clever solar system that doesn’t waste energy and even uses a state-of-the-art filtration system, maintaining a chlorine-free environment. No eco-stone is left unturned at Thyme.
Thyme is surrounded by rolling, idyllic English countryside steeped in history, while under just two hours from London. Kate Moss chose picture-postcard pretty Southrop for her wedding and lives in a neighbouring village to this day. Guests can take a map and head out on long romps through the surrounding countryside or hop on the hotel bicycles to explore neighbouring chocolate box villages and towns. If you are looking for something a little more adventurous or historical, some of the country’s most beautiful private gardens and houses – Blenheim Palace, Hidcote Manor, Rousham House and the Cotswold Wildlife Park – are all within close driving distance.
Room rates start at £400 (midweek) / £450 (Friday and Saturday) per night. NB. Two nights’ minimum stay.
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