In the heart of the pretty Roman market town of Cirencester in the Cotswolds sits the Kings Head Hotel – an elegant hotel with 45 stylish bedrooms, a fabulous restaurant and bar, heavenly spa treatments and an exceptional wine list.
It’s handsome mid-19th century façade has been well preserved, while the interiors have undergone an extensive £7 million pound refurbishment since it closed as an 80-bedroom hotel eight years ago.
The Grade II-listed building is steeped in history. You’re reminded of Cirencester’s Roman past as soon as you walk past reception, where the glass panel beneath your feet reveals a mosaic uncovered during the renovation work!
When you start digging in Cirencester, you’ll soon hit Roman artifacts – the hotel’s renovation had to stop for an impromptu archaeological dig after they hit a Roman road, and many of their discoveries shine through; walls have been taken back to the brickwork beneath, beams and ironwork from the original 17th-century hotel have been restored, and many other original features (including the uneven floorboards!) add character.
Although the Kings Head Hotel in Cirencester cherishes it’s history, it adds a contemporary country chic to its old stone walls, with exposed brickwork, wooden beams, herringbone, tweed and velvet fabrics, and a mix of contemporary and vintage furniture.
The atmosphere is welcoming, comfortable and easy-going, with plenty of sink-into comfy sofas and armchairs, open fires, and friendly staff – some who even do the odd magic trick!
When we arrived, we were shown upstairs to our (enormous!) room. A palette of greys and warm earthy tones, with accents of colour in the armchairs, headboard and tartan wool throws.
We plonked down our stuff and sank onto the big, squishy sofa. A tray had been laid out with all the ingredients for a perfect grapefruit G&T, along with some little bowls of olives, nuts and snacks.
We put our feet up and indulged whilst watching an old James Bond movie on the flatscreen TV – an afternoon well spent!
After a couple hours relaxing in our room, we felt ready to do a little exploring.
Cirencester is a pretty town of Roman heritage with medieval churches, gorgeous stone houses, plenty of independent shops and cobbled streets and courtyards.
There were so many farmers markets, gift shops, florists and interiors shops – I was in heaven!
It’s quite a small town and at the edge of it you’ll find yourself peering up the famously high, manicured yew hedge of the Bathurst estate.
Having worked up an appetite, we decided to head back for dinner, and explore some more of the hotel on the way to the restaurant!
We asked for a tour and were kindly shown around a few of the other rooms. Each of the hotel’s 45 luxurious rooms are decorated in rich earthy Farrow-and-Ball tones with quirky touches and vibrant splashes of colour. Fireplaces have been uncovered along with beams and brickwork, giving each room its own personality.
All bathrooms were huge and modern – with open rain showers, freestanding baths, his & hers sinks and products from Lubatti (sister company to Jo Malone).
One has a loft bathroom that lets you bathe in regal comfort, whilst room 103 has a gorgeous freestanding copper bath tub on a wooden floor next to the bed!
We were then shown upstairs to the roof terrace, which was lit up with fairy lights – perfect for the summer months!
Then we went down into the basement (past some historical and rather disturbing ancient torture weapons, reminiscent of the building’s past). There was a lovely spa (more on this later!) and a gym, of course…
… but the best part was the wine cellar! Beautiful and full of the most extraordinary and rare wines.
Next to it there was an atmospheric private dining space, an underground vault of brickwork lit by subdued lighting, with glass doors revealing the wine collection itself.
Then we finally arrived at the restaurant – herringbone wooden floors, velvety seats, gallery-style walls, beautiful interior stonework and an open plan bar, lounge and restaurant.
It was informal yet chic space, filled with a comfortable buzz coming from both hotel guests and locals.
The restaurant is known for their fine dining menu inspired by seasonal British and local ingredients, as well as for the impressive Robata grill that’s in full view from the restaurant. The space feels open and buzzy, benefiting from the atmosphere spilling in from the bar area.
Deciding on something from the menu was near impossible, but in the end I went for the seared diver scallops with rhubarb and endive (a surprisingly lovely and refreshing flavour combination), followed by the seared saddle of local venison with braised haunch, creamed potatoes, kale and game jus. All washed down with a light pinot noir!
Jonathan had the oak smoked pigeon breast with pickled mushrooms, a soft boiled quail’s egg and edible soil to start – the pigeon breast was tender and juicy, and the edible soil made it lovely and smoky!
Then for mains, the roasted partridge – with spiced pear, salt baked celeriac, sprout leaves and partridge jus. Yum!
The dessert definitely stole the show though, a passion fruit crème brûlée decorated with edible flowers, tropical fruits and gooey meringue.
We retreated back to our gorgeous room with very full tummies!
Breakfast was another full-on affair and they didn’t cut any corners – a great continental buffet spread, with an a-la-carte menu offering almost anything you might desire for breakfast!
We ordered the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon (which came beautifully presented like a parcel), and eggs florentine (my favourite!).
I had just enough time for a spa treatment (is there any better way to start the day?) and made my way downstairs to the spa – arched walls, ceilings and exposed brickwork in each of the four treatment rooms, a relaxation room, sauna, steam room and hot tub area. I got tempted into the very indulgent sounding 80-minute long Lubatti Pure Luxury Indulgence massage (how can you say no?!), which involved everything from a face massage and treatment, to exfoliation and a stress relieving back massage.
Afterwards, there’s a relaxation room where you can relax and unwind some more (in case an 80 minute long massage isn’t enough!) – squishy air beds covered in sheepskins, blankets and magazines that will make you linger even longer.
Book your visit: The Kings Head, 24 Market Place, Cirencester GL7 2NR (01285 700900 or www.kingshead-hotel.co.uk). Rooms from £120 Bed and Breakfast including VAT. The Kings Head is a ten-minute taxi ride from Kemble train station. For more information see www.kingshead-hotel.co.uk