WWW's review of Oak House at The Big Cottage Co in the Cotswolds(5 Posts)
Sorry it's so long, scroll to the end if you just want a summary!
When we pulled up outside the unprepossessing single level building in the Cotswolds we wondered if Oak House at the Big Cottage Company was going to be as nice as it looks on their website. But once we got in we realised the photographs don't really do it justice: it's a beautifully designed house with much more space and style than they convey.
In fact, one of the great things about Oak House is that although it's safe for small children (there are fences and gates surrounding the house and gardens so children are completely safe and enclosed once you're in) it's large enough that adults and children alike can go off and do their own thing, which makes it relaxing for everyone. As does the fact that there are no clocks, quite rightly, because when somewhere's this nice, who cares what time it is?
We don't have babies any more but there was a travel cot and baby monitor in the walk in wardrobe in our room and I'm sure a high chair would have been provided had we needed it. We felt incredibly welcome from the moment Michael showed us around and even more so when we discovered the welcome pack, which was my kind of welcome: 2 loaves of bread; 2 pints of milk; local butter; strawberry jam made with only strawberries, lemon juice and sugar; a bowl of satsumas; some fair trade proper coffee; a bottle of cold sparkling Pinot Grigio and one of red wine and, the piece de resistance: a cake with NO hydrogenated oil! It's a welcome pack fit for the mumsnet food police and I consider myself a paid up member.
There are two enormous living areas. The first one, where assorted children spent a lot of time, has numerous sofas, soft sheepskin rugs, a wooden dolls house, a pirate ship, a box of Lego, lots of good quality children's books, DVDs to suit all ages and a huge television with DVD player, surround sound and full Sky package.
The cupboards in this room are full of toys and family games like Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble and there's a selection of books and DVDs for adults too. I'd brought my own books but didn't get around to reading them because other people's expensive coffee table collections - havens and hideaways was the one I picked one lazy afternoon - are much more compelling. This room has floor to ceiling windows and overlooks the valley on one side and a small enclosed garden quad of grass and small trees on the other.
A corridor (with loo number 5 off it) leads to the other open plan living area, with a log burning fire, more sofas and chairs, a table seating 12, and the gorgeous kitchen. I loved the kitchen, it's a fantastic and well equipped cooking space with a gas oven and an electric oven, a gas hob, 2 dishwashers, a large fridge, a freezer, a wine fridge, a central island workspace and all the equipment you could possibly need. Except egg cups bizzarely, we couldn't find any of those, or a steamer. But otherwise everything was superb, from the Dualit toaster to the Roberts radio to the drawers of gleaming cutlery and utensils.
I know I'm going on a bit here and I haven't even got to the other corridor with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the enclosed garden. There are 4 sumptuous bedrooms off it and at night it's gently lit (if you want it to be) because there are blue lit glass bricks like this set into the walls at foot level.
After we'd spent a lovely evening eating and drinking on our first night we went to bed. Oh my god, the beds. Ours was enormous and softly comfortable with a goose down duvet and hundreds of pillows. All the bedrooms have dark heavy curtains so you could sleep all day if your children let you. Although on the first morning my lovely 9yo ds got up with all three smaller children to give us a lie in until 9am, which was a result. And even though at first we could hear the children happily playing in the kitchen as soon as one of the adults got up and shut the door we suddenly couldn't hear anything at all because the door was SO sturdy and thick.
If I ever design my own house I will include these thick doors, the corridor lighting, the underfloor heating, the thick glass bricks high up in 2 of the bathrooms to let in light, the ipod docking station, the 5 loos and 4 bathrooms, the hot tub, and the outdoor playground with trampolines, playhouse, swings and slide in my wish list. There's a shed with a snooker table and fussball table in it too although it's not attached to the house and might be a bit cold in winter but dh and ds liked it all the same.
And although we didn't use the table and chairs or the barbeque on the patio it's a great outdoor summer space and includes a hot tub, which the children all loved. There's a heavy cover to prevent stray small children falling in when it's not in use too. The playground area is through the gate and on the other side of the drive which is fine for older children but means you might want to accompany littler ones, which is a pita if you don't want to leave the house but I admit to being a lazy cow on this front and to hating standing around in parks. Especially when there's a lovely house very nearby. There's a swimming pool too, shared with the house next door, although it's not open in the winter, which was fine by me.
Dh was especially impressed with the drawer action on the kitchen cupboards and although I thought he was geeky for noticing I agree, they are cool, as are a lot of things about this house. And although it's child friendly it's stylish and adult too - you would happily stay there without children.
There are only a couple of downsides. One is the price, which from what I can see on the website is £3k for 3 days, which works out at £250 per room per night. Although this is 5 star hotel pricing imo it's probably better than a hotel in a lot of ways because of the space and freedom you get for your money. Whilst I love expensive hotels I'm not sure I could bring myself to pay this, even if we split it with another couple, not for 3 days. I think I could justify £1.5k for a week for this sort of place but 3 days? Hmmm.
I have three points of constructive criticism. The first, and most serious in my view, is that on the second afternoon dh was lazing in bed, my friend and the children and I were lounging in the tv room when suddenly from behind us, in the private garden was a woman loudly mowing the lawn. She hadn't knocked on the front door or any other door to ask if it was ok first. Now, although dh and I were not having wild sex in our room (which overlooked this lawn) with the curtains open we might have been for all she knew. And although we didn't have a small baby sleeping anywhere we might have done. And although I won this break in a mumsnet competition and wasn't paying for it it's beside the point imo: if you have people staying in self catering accommodation with a private garden it's not on to go into that garden and mow the lawn without asking. When my friend looked out of the window the lawn mower woman mouthed 'is this bothering you?' to which my friend's answer was a nod so the woman stopped mowing and went away. But she shouldn't have been there in the first place.
The second point is that everyone (one night a couple, the other 2 nights a single friend) who slept in the second double bedroom was kept awake by noise from the boiler. Had we realised I guess we could have switched off the heating at night to stop it bothering people but we hadn't done so as the TV room was cold on the last night (when we watched Mission Impossible on the enormous tv). Although this could have been because we hadn't worked out the heating in that room properly, as dh is technically competent I'd be surprised if that was the case but maybe it just doesn't retain the heat that much because there are full length windows either side with no curtains. There's a case for no curtains because of the great view but it doesn't make for a warm room.
My third point may seem petty but we have stayed with other luxury self catering companies who offered to put away our Tesco shop before we arrived. The Big Cottage Company doesn't offer this and I think they should - on other holidays it's been wonderful to arrive to a kitchen fully stocked with groceries we ordered online before we arrived.
We didn't look around the area, partly because the house is so wonderful we didn't want to leave it and partly because we were only there for 3 nights and 2 full days, but I know the Cotswolds and there are plenty of places to visit if you stayed longer. The Big Cottage Company sent us a list of places to eat and visit and days out with children before we arrived.
Checkout time is 10am which felt too early but only because we didn't want to leave: I could happily have stayed for weeks.
It is a fabulous place and despite my minor criticisms I think it would suit an awful lot of mumsnetters - especially those who wanted to go away with another family - down to the ground. And you absolutely wouldn't need to cart any toys or home comforts with you because everything you need is here.
So thank you to mumsnet, to Michael of the Big Cottage Company and to the mumsnetter who is his wife (who are you on here? Please tell me!) for this competition prize, it was a fantastic country break.
Sorry this is so long but I felt I ought to try to do it justice.
If you want to see what I posted in the links you'll have to look at the other thread, sorry, they haven't pasted properly and I can't be arsed to correct it here!
yes this is the one, thanks cod
<snorts again at cost>
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