Melksham’s the kind of word that should have Lord before it, or Manor after it. In reality, this is Melksham Court, and it’s just not stuffy enough for that. This is a house that wears slippers and a dressing gown as it stokes the wood burner. If it could potter its own ten acres of rolling Cotswold magnificence, it probably would.
Melksham Court comes steeped in history, yet immersed in 21st-century convenience. It’s a miniature Gatcombe nestled into a wooded escarpment close to sleepy Stinchcombe. It stands ready to help families and hens stay, play and party beneath its oak beams and in front of its roaring fires.
Cook on the range cooker in the country kitchen complete with 120-foot well, or let our chefs loose while you tackle a tipple. Eat around the giant dining table, go al-fresco on the terrace, or dine in outdoor style in the loggia. Sleep deeply to the sound of the wind in the woodlands and the splash of birds landing on the lake.
Wander the 40-acre woodlands, potter through the parklands. Follow the dizzying array of walkways, terraces, cobbles, pergolas, planters and planting to find the putting green. Bag a bench and watch the world go by a while. Kids can find the rope swing and play Tarzan while you wander up to the woods and set up the picnic.
It’s all set against and sheltered by a dramatic stage set of wooded hills, with the honeyed Cotswold stone buildings peppered around the central lake. Dotted around the boughs and bushes are shaded seating spots, covered outdoor dining and secret hiding places begging to be discovered by excited youngsters.
Swim in the heated indoor pool, relax in the steam room, jump into the Jacuzzi, then dry off, fling open the French doors and take tea on the terrace tables or on the lawn. There’s a treatment room, too – just say the word and be manicured, pedicured and pampered to your heart’s content.
Everywhere you go in Melksham Court there’s a space more convivial than the last, with a burning log fire at its heart and a soft sofa on the old oak floors. Off the kitchen, a cosy snug with roaring fire’s the perfect place to escape to turn a few pages and turn off the world awhile.
The sitting room comes with yawning inglenook fireplace. Feed the fire with logs and get together for board games or multi-channel TV. Next door, a more-formal panelled drawing room offers a stone insert wood burner and the chance to chill. Open the French doors for birdsong and a breeze.
Living spaces here might date from times past but there’s nothing Tudor-like about the nine flatscreen TVs in the main house, the ten in the outbuildings, or the high-speed BT wifi that connects you to the wider world.
Escape the main house to find the gentlemen’s stable block, for a beer at the fully-functioning bar – or chalk up and sink a few reds on the stunning three quarter size snooker table. At the other end, you can get competitive over console games or gather round for the big match on the wall TV.
The country-style kitchen’s huge and handcrafted, with a Cotswold stone floor and range cooker that needs its own postcode. You’ll find your inner Jamie Oliver. But if you’d rather take it easy while we take on the cooking duties, just say the word. The team from Berry Blue Catering will bring over their seasonal, local touch.
Eat in the kitchen around the 120-foot, 13th-century well and the French-style table for ten, or in the Jacobean-panelled dining room with ornate Tudor fireplace, seating 16. Up for a little al-fresco? Eat out on the sunny terrace or in the covered loggia with its oak tables and long benches.
For a beer and a bite to eat, head out to Calcot Manor in the Gumstall, where copper pans hang over the roaring fire and ham hock and Wye Valley salmon await. Or try the Falcon Steakhouse in Wotton-under-Edge for the finest cuts of 28-day-hung beef from the family farm.
Restaurants? Try Ronnie’s at Thornbury for adventurous European cooking made using seasonal, local produce and served in an elegant cottage, or the Black Horse Inn at Nibley for Moroccan shoulder of lamb or Gloucester chicken breast. The Hog at Horsley is good for a fine wine, a real ale and a spot of live music.
The main house sleeps 19 in soft-cottoned luxury. Four first-floor bedrooms are all en-suite: bedrooms one and two come with kingsize beds, while bedrooms three and four are superkings, with the fourth also offering a single day bed.
On the second floor, a fun kids’ room sleeps up to nine with TV and Playstation. (Good luck with that one.) Keep an eye on things with the en-suite master bedroom on the same floor with its dressing room, which can be shut off from the master to provide an extra bedroom that shares a bathroom with the kids’ room.
Still on the second floor, bedrooms six and seven offer kingsize beds, and seven comes with an en-suite. Three outbuildings complete the picture. The Cottage sleeps four in a kingsize bedroom and two singles, while The Mill sleeps four in a superking and two singles. The Stables sleeps three in a kingsize and a single bed.
For a cosy couples’ experience, bag The Folly. Once an artist’s studio perched above a Victorian cascade, it’s set in a private wooded area of the grounds. Bathrooms here have a timeless grace and a classical feel for the ultimate rural romantic escape.