We arrive at Sunday lunchtime to find a vision of Cotswolds ease and prosperity. The car park is full of Aston Martins and Porsches. Smartly dressed families wander towards the 17th-century stone farmhouse that is the heart of the hotel. Inside, grandmothers are being treated to preprandial glasses of sherry by the fireside while grandchildren run around on the lawn. There’s a happy buzz so often missing from smart hotels.
We are led through a wood-panelled corridor and over flagstones polished by generations of feet, to arrive in a modern dining room, one wall entirely of glass. We settle in for a long lunch (wonderful home-smoked cod, followed by perfect roast lamb) and eavesdrop on the animated diners around us. All are talking about the same thing – Dormy House’s transformation.
The hotel opened in 1977, though it had been used long before that as accommodation for visitors to the adjacent golf course. It closed in March to undergo a major renovation and expansion, to be completed in phases. The two restaurants and first 19 bedrooms reopened last month, and more rooms will be gradually added until January 2014, when a brand new spa, swimming pool and gym complex is also due to open.
The results – as the guests around us at lunch seem to agree – are impressive. The cosy old farmhouse, with its low beams and exposed stone walls, opens at the rear into a succession of airy, light-filled rooms. Seventies-style ceramic lamps sit on antique tables, a modern velvet sofa beside retro leather seats. It’s part English country house, part funky Scandinavian apartment but the effect is homely and characterful, the opposite of a chain hotel.
The hotel calls it “farmhouse chic” and it is the work of Todhunter Earle, a London practice known for private houses as much as hotels, though the Scandinavian feel may be a nod to the owners. Dormy House was established by Jörgen Philip-Sørensen, the Swedish founder of the security company Group 4, and it has remained in the family ever since.
Apart from 10 more modern rooms in the “Danish court” wing, all the bedrooms have been individually designed. They are a slick blend of pretty floral fabrics and high-tech equipment (Krups coffee machines, Ruark stereos, a tablet computer on which to order room service). It’s all extremely tasteful but it’s clear no expense has been spared.
In total, the project will cost £10m, and the number of bedrooms has actually been reduced, from 43 to 40. So that’s £250,000 per room, a budget that must make rivals throw up their hands in despair.
They might be jealous of the location too. After lunch we walk down the hill to Broadway, one of the Cotswolds’ most photographed villages. Here ice-cream sellers wear white uniforms and straw boaters, and the furniture shop is owned by the prime minister’s mother-in-law. A horse grazes in a field on the high street. A few doors down, an art gallery sells work for £500,000. It’s the English countryside given a glossy makeover, and Dormy House is the perfect fit.
Willersey Hill, Broadway, Worcestershire, WR12 7LF; 01386 852711; www.dormyhouse.co.uk. Doubles from £210
Dormy House is a mile from the village of Broadway, and seven miles from the station at Moreton-in-Marsh. Trains from there to London Paddington take an hour and 33 minutes
Hot holidays: Oktoberfest alternatives
Stuttgart Folk Festival
Munich’s Oktoberfest, the world’s most famous beer festival, gets under way next weekend. More than six million visitors are expected but there are smaller alternatives. Stuttgart’s Cannstatter Volksfest, running since 1818, features bands playing in huge beer tents, fairground rides and traditional food stands. September 27-October 13; www.cannstatter-volksfest.de
Cumbria Beer and Cider Festival
Cumbria has a strong brewing culture, with more than 30 breweries in the area. Together they will offer 75 ales at this festival in Cockermouth, on the northwest side of the Lake District. It’s part of the Taste Cumbria event, which will see Cockermouth taken over with food stalls, cookery demonstrations and talks from celebrity chefs. September 29-30; www.tastecumbria.com
Bruges Beer Festival
Far smaller and less hectic than Oktoberfest, this weekend offers the chance to learn about Belgium’s huge variety of beer in one of Europe’s best-preserved cities. More than 300 varieties will be available, including lambic, dubbel, tripel and gueuze styles, many brewed by Trappist and other monks. Exercise caution – many are 10 per cent alcohol or more. February 1-2 2014; www.brugsbierfestival.be