My wishlist for our stay in the Cotswolds wasn’t too extensive: romantic, self-catered accommodation; situated in peaceful countryside; comfortable size; a nice kitchen; a cosy bed; space to relax; a parking space; a price tag within my not-enormous budget… Okay, I wanted a pretty luxurious weekend for a non-luxurious amount, in a really desirable location – not the easiest set of requirements by anyone’s standards. I thought it was going to be difficult to find, but the moment I landed on The Hayloft by Character Cottages I knew I’d struck gold.
Location and access
The Hayloft ticked off my wishlist and gave us more besides. Located in the adorable little village of Cold Aston, about ten minutes away from Stow-on-the-Wold and even closer to Bourton-on-the-Water, it was amazingly situated to explore the northern Cotswolds and more besides. Both a Co-Op and a Tesco were within easy reach by car. The roads around Cold Aston are largely single-track with passing places, and it’s definitely easier reached by car, but there are buses from Cirencester and Cheltenham; more information here. Cold Aston itself is incredibly picturesque, and is home to a highly-regarded pub. We did consider eating here but it was a little out of our budget to do so (though the guestbook gave it broadly very positive reviews!).
The Hayloft itself is situated above a gorgeous Grade II listed barn conversion, which is owned privately. To enter, you first pass through an electronic gate and head round towards the back. There’s one allocated parking space for Hayloft guests; the apartment is limited to a maximum of two adults and one baby. Children are not permitted, and nor are pets.
The front door is accessed up a flight of stone stairs on the side of the private house, so it’s entirely self-contained. These steps are the only way to reach the property, so it’s not suitable for anyone with access requirements in this respect. There is an automated light above the door but this is only triggered towards the top of the stairs, so it could be a bit precarious climbing the steps in the dark. Outside the apartment is a small seating area and table for guests to dine at, but it being early December we didn’t make use of this!
Rooms and amenities
First off: The Hayloft is an utterly beautiful apartment. I was absolutely blown away by the attention to detail in its design, the gorgeous, 200-year-old beams, and the stunning exposed Cotswolds brickwork on the far wall of the living room. It had also been lit really thoughtfully, with subtle-yet-bright ceiling lights, and carefully chosen lamps all linked up to central switches in each room. Every inch was simply beautiful.
Straight ahead of the entrance was the living room, which was much more spacious than I’d anticipated, and included two two-seater sofas, a coffee table which could split in half, and a dining table for two, as well as the television and some storage. Here we also found a folder of useful information about the property and the local area. To the left of the front door was the kitchen, which was quite long and narrow, and stocked with pretty much anything you might need for your stay with plenty of surface space.
The bathroom was lovely and spacious; towels and even dressing gowns had been provided. Finally, to the right of the entrance was the bedroom, its ceiling so sloped it was reminiscent of an old canvas tent. There was a small built-in wardrobe, bedside tables with plenty of storage, and a chair in the corner too. The bed itself was perfect; huge, luxurious, and outrageously comfortable. My favourite detail was the skylight and its little curtain, both for the natural light it let in first thing in the morning, and for the sound the rain made pattering against it at nighttime.
What we loved
You can probably tell already, but there was loads to love about The Hayloft. Alongside its beauty and thoughtful design, what really stood out to me was how quiet and peaceful it was. Even though it’s technically the top floor of a house, we heard absolutely nothing from the rest of the building; it really felt like a bubble that was only for the two of us, which was so relaxing. The location was a real perk, and the information provided was really helpful, including loads of different recommendations of places to go, and useful guides to unfamiliar systems like what items were allowed in each bin (!). We didn’t meet the owners, but felt taken care of; the glass bottle of milk left for us in the fridge was a particularly welcoming touch.
More than anything else, though, it was just a really lovely place to spend time in. I think on holiday, especially a short weekend break, there can be a tendency to spend as little time as possible in your accommodation, even though that might well have been the largest expense of the whole trip. We didn’t have the biggest budget in the world, so we decided in the end to stay in and cook for all three nights of our time away, and that was one of the best decisions we made; it gave us time to really appreciate where we were and just slow down. Our second full day was super busy; we toured a number of different chocolate-box towns and villages, and in the evening went out again to Westonbirt Arboretum’s An Enchanted Christmas. In between, we stayed in The Hayloft for a few hours just to have a break, and it was an absolutely perfect space for reading, writing, photo-editing, and resting.
What could have been improved
As mentioned, The Hayloft is part of a Grade II-listed building, and that means that despite great efforts, it’s not the warmest place in the world. Buildings of that age are hard to insulate, and we found it could get a little chilly. All is not lost, though; you’re fully in charge of the thermostat and can set it to a temperature that works for you at any time at no additional cost (though, of course, the owners do ask that you are considerate in these choices). Cosy blankets are also provided, and the bedding was really warm.
We found that the shower temperature fluctuated a lot and it was difficult to find the perfect setting as it could jump around a bit. The pressure was perfect though, and the bath was lovely. The low-hanging beams in the bathroom and around the apartment did cause us a bit of trouble too – when you’re not used to them it’s very easy to forget they’re there and hit your head! We also had some issues with the WiFi not working properly in the living room, but in fairness we could have got this sorted by reaching out to the property’s managers; instead we just found that it didn’t really matter too much, and used the kitchen, bedroom, or hallway to get online.
Finally, some people might find the kitchen a little small if you’re used to a bigger space, particularly as it is quite narrow. For us, though, it was much more spacious than what we’re used to, so this definitely wasn’t a personal gripe!
Booking The Hayloft, Cold Aston
I initially found The Hayloft on AirBnB but when I went direct to the Character Cottages website I saved about £30 off the amount listed on AirBnB. I was amazed at its availability (I booked less than six weeks in advance for the first weekend in December) and even more so at the price; for our three-night stay I paid just over £260, around £87 per night. This was less than I’d been looking elsewhere for properties of a lower standard, so it was an easy decision.
The booking process was super straightforward and I was kept really well-informed throughout. I received an email letting me know the payment had gone through, and was told that I’d receive further information about the property about two weeks in advance of our visit. This information arrived punctually by email, and was really thorough; it explained clearly how to get to and access the property, when to arrive and leave, who to contact in case of any problems, and so on.
All in all…
We loved our stay at The Hayloft; it really was everything we were after and more at a great price. It’s definitely best for those who are coming to the region by car, and who want peaceful, out-of-the-way accommodation. I’d really recommend it for a couple looking for a romantic, restful break in a beautiful area, and were we to return to the Cotswolds I’d definitely consider staying there again.
Find more from the Cotswolds here!