If you want to find the last idyllic remnants of rural England, you need only to head to postcard-pretty Broadway, in what is called “the jewel of the Cotswolds” (the corner of Worcestershire that borders Gloucestershire and Warwickshire). This is a chance to escape the slings and arrows we encounter in everyday life and instead, rest, relax and unwind in a place that has not changed a great deal since England was an amalgam of seven separate kingdoms in the 10th century, or when it made an appearance in the Domesday Book in 1086. 

    It would be wrong of me to claim that nothing much happens in Broadway; there is the Cotswolds Distillery company, places to eat and drink, old regal lodgings and festivals a plenty depending on the time of year. Broadway is only two hours from London by car straight down the M4. In this case, we made the journey in an electric Audi e-tron GT, which swallowed the mileage and arrived there with still half of its juice in the tank (or should I say “battery”?).

    Not only does it turn heads – arriving in style is always in vogue – but it clears your conscience about carbon emissions and any other concerns you may have about your contribution to helping planet Earth stay alive a bit longer. There is the option to choose artificial leather (you wouldn’t feel the difference unless you were told) and the carpets are made of nylon from recycled fishing nets.

    The 14-metre swimming pool at The Lygon Arms has a retractable roof to soak up the sun in the summer months.

    The e-tron is a futuristic rocket ship of a car. With its large single-frame grille and quattro blister flared wheel arches, the e-tron GT is an Audi design icon. Sleek and elegant on the outside, functional and utterly comfortable in the inside, with a very sporty flair, accentuated by the integrated head restraints at the front. I love its panoramic sunroof that floods the interior with light, the matrix LED headlights with Audi’s laser technology and the illuminated door still trims with aluminium inlay.

    The dashboard looks futuristic and the digital screen has instruments easy to read and plenty of real buttons. Hurrah! While Broadway has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to historic places to stay, the Lygon Arms Hotel (in the heart of the village) can lay claim to being first on the wish list. It has bags of history, (past and present), a beautiful restaurant and cocktail bar, and a high-quality spa. There are records showing that back in 1377, there was a building on the same site being called The White Hart Inn. It was a coaching inn that helped revive travellers, both horses and passengers, on the road between London and Wales.  

    Through the centuries, the inn has welcomed Royalty and commoners alike. In the midst of the English Civil War, Charles I met his supporters in person at The White Hart Inn before his campaign. Not to be outdone, Oliver Cromwell stayed at the same inn before engaging the Royalists at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. There are still two rooms – suitably named the King Charles I Suite and the Cromwell Room – that are testimony to its historic past. Although if you do stay in the royally named accommodation you will notice that the lion has been defaced on the King’s coat of arms. Cromwell’s portrait hangs in the dining room; a space that was once a courtyard, from where he addressed his troops through a window that can be seen against the back wall.

    The Cotswolds are the perfect place to pursue the rural hobbies you always had in mind…

    View of part of the gardens at Ilmington House.

    As travellers traded one horsepower for many with the motor car, the Lygon Arms continued to welcome road weary visitors. Royalty continued to stay here: Edward VII and Edward VIII (as Prince of Wales) along with commoners with varying degrees of notoriety. Politicians and the odd prime minister have resided, along with stars of stage and screen, including Mary Pickford and Sir Michael Redgrave. Gossip among the friendly bar staff is that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton sheltered at the inn at the height of their affair in 1963.

    The Lygon Arms is now owned by Iconic Luxury Hotels Ltd who have gone about restoring and greatly improving the property. Restoration is as much about preservation as it is about modernising to incorporate preferences for the modern guest. The restaurant serves contemporary English food using ingredients from local farmers and artisans. Fittingly, the signature dishes are the delicious and wonderfully indulgent Beef Wellington and Cheese Soufflé. Depending on the weather, you can enjoy a drink in the courtyard (Veuve Clicquot bar) or at the Lygon Lounges & Cocktail Bar before you dine. As any good bar should, it is well stocked with local spirits: from botanical gins to locally crafted ales and chilled champagnes. In the winter, with a roaring fire in front of you, you may feel tempted to stay on your comfy armchair and just order some food from the bar menu.

    The Cotswolds are the perfect place to pursue the rural hobbies you always had in mind, but never found the time to do. There are National Trust and English Heritage historic properties to explore, walking routes from the village to Broadway Tower Country Park and some ancient Anglo-Saxon Ridgeways that traverse the English countryside: the Cotswold Way, the Wychavon Way and the Winchcombe Way. 

    Champagne afternoon tea at The Lygon Arms can be enjoyed in their pretty courtyard. Prices start at £39 per person.

    We had the privilege to be hosted by Martin Taylor, proud owner of Ilmington Manor and one of the most charming gentlemen I’ve ever met. Part of the Historic Houses network, Ilmington Manor is a stunning and beautifully restored Elizabethan Cotswold Manor in the eponymous village in Warwickshire. Built in the 16th century, the house was originally owned by the Andrewes. In 1615, it was sold to Sir Baptist Hicks who was made a peer on May 5th, 1628, by Charles I. Ilmington Manor went through several families over the following two hundred years with its Lordship currently residing with the Cumbrian Howard of Corby family. Martin told us that he got the house from his uncle as his 39th birthday present, with the following message, “This is for you, no strings attached but no roof attached either.” A ton of money after, the roof was secured and Martin has been looking after the property ever since. It is a magical place.

    The gods were smiling upon us the afternoon of our visit, so we sat in Martin’s garden and happily drank copious amounts of his wonderful Chablis, laughing at the many stories our host shared with us, enhanced by his natural narrative flair. It was only when the sun was about to set that we realised we were about to miss our dinner reservation at The Lygon Arms. As we needed a designated driver to take us back to the hotel, I ended up in the rear cabin of the e-tron. Whereas the front cabin has plenty of leg and head room even for those over six foot in height, at the back things are a bit cosier. Never mind, the sunset was too spectacular to pay attention to anything else, with our star slowly disappearing below the horizon line, dying the sky in gold and purple hues and music by The Kings of Leon blasting through the Bang & Olufsen 3D Premium sound system. 

    Top left: Our editor Julia Pasarón poses with the new Audi e-tron GT in front of Ilmington Manor. Top right: From the upholstery to the dashboard, even the door finishes can be tailored to your preferences in the Audi e-tron GT.

    Determined to being more British than the Brits, the following morning we decided to go for a bit of sport. The concierge at The Lygon Arms is not only knowledgeable but incredibly resourceful. After being presented with half a dozen different things to do, we found ourselves hesitating between archery and clay pigeon shooting, finally deciding for the latter; and so we made our way to Ian Coley Sporting (founded by British Olympic shooting coach Ian Coley). Our Audi e-tron GT negotiated the small rural roads effortlessly, probably thanks to its adaptive air suspension, four-wheel steering system and my indisputable ability as a driver. It drives precisely and accurately, with a level of performance that won’t disappoint you. This feline machine goes from 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds. 

    Clay pigeon shooting is a way of releasing your inner desire to see things blowing up into a hundred pieces without harming anything with a pulse. Ian Coley Sporting caters to all levels of expertise, from the absolute beginner to the experienced Olympic hopeful. Clay pigeon shooting is not your usual “point and squeeze the trigger” but a mixture of aim and relaxation. You have to follow the flight of the target, take aim while moving with it and continue to do so even after you fire. In case you think this all sounds easy, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that it is not. In practice, the vagaries of the wind and the position of the clay in the trap give rise to considerable variation, not to mention the natural limitations of the shooter. I must confess that the whole thing is quite addictive, that want to produce a perfect score on your card against the elements and the “damned birds” that insist on getting away. Had I known of a centre near where I live in London, I would have signed for a whole course straight after this experience. 

    Clay pigeon shooting is a way of releasing your inner desire to see things blowing up into a hundred pieces without harming anything with a pulse…

    Our editor enjoys a shooting class at Ian Coley Sporting.

    On arriving back at The Lygon Arms, and to dissipate the stress from watching the “clays that got away”, we indulged in the serenity of the spa, a modern establishment deceivingly hidden behind the historic walls with a modern full length indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi in case you fancy a dip. Treatments range from specialist hand and feet care to full body oil massages to revive your sore limbs and joints after a day of shooting, shopping or just walking the hills with your dogs (The Lygon Arms is pet friendly and even has a hot water rinsing station on the courtyard). 

    If like us, your trusty stead is now an electric powered car, The Lygon Arms has power outlets to restore its juice to the maximum range.  We became a little excited and bought half of Broadway (we did particularly well at the Cotswolds Distillery shop and the antiques shops), so we had to fold the rear seats to make more space in the boot, despite it being pretty generous. The journey back to London, while the same distance as it was when we left, felt that little bit more arduous for leaving behind the tranquillity and calm of Broadway and the sanctuary of The Lygon Arms. General Manager Marcus O’Leary always says, “We are better than yesterday but not as good as tomorrow.” Well, to me, they are already absolutely fab but I look forward to my next visit to see to what new levels Marcus and his team have taken the hotel to. 

    Words by Julia Pasarón

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