Six of the best: Cotswolds retreats

LOWER SLAUGHTER MANOR

Call it getting slaughtered - the rhapsody experienced by first-time visitors to Upper and Lower Slaughter, two of the area's prettiest villages. Full of 16th and 17th-century sandstone houses and mercifully free of shops, tea houses and tour buses, both villages are perfect for strolling. It is hard to choose between the two, but Lower Slaughter does win points for this gorgeous hotel, where the extravagantly romantic garden rooms feature private gardens and twin roll-top baths. The staff are also great at organising unusual activities, from rock climbing to duck herding. Yes, apparently it's a thing. Rooms from £195 ($370).

See lowerslaughter.co.uk.

COWLEY MANOR

Not everyone who heads to the Cotswolds is looking to live out their Downton Abbey fantasy. Even hip young things aren't immune to the charm of the country and it's this crowd that Cowley Manor has in its sights. The classic Italianate exterior betrays no sign of the funky interiors. The designer's brief was clearly to avoid the expected at all costs - even the pool table is covered in blue baize. If you are planning a surprise romantic getaway, be aware of the truth-in-advertising policy: room categories are good, better, great and exceptional. If you haven't booked the room called The Best, you may have some explaining to do. Rooms from £195.

See cowleymanor.com.

BROADWAY MANOR COTTAGES

The pretty village of Broadway has entranced visitors for centuries, including painters such as John Singer Sargent. For those who find it hard to tear themselves away, the good folk at Broadway Manor Cottages have five sandstone cottages scattered in and around Broadway, available to rent for periods of three nights or more. Each of the cottages sleeps between two and four people, has a fully equipped kitchen, and features little luxuries such as super-king beds (inside) and tennis courts (outside), as well as free Wi-Fi. We're particularly partial to the storybook sweetness of the one-bedroom Sheldon Cottage.

Cottages from £275 for three nights.

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See broadwaymanor.co.uk.

CALCOT MANOR

At Calcot Manor, they cater for both kinds of guests: those with and those without children. If you have brought the children, check into one of the family-friendly rooms in the converted barn, which come equipped with sterilisers, bottle warmers and changing mats. Wear the children out with almost five kilometres of cycle paths around the manor (bikes provided), or just hand them over: there is both a creche for the littlies and, for those eight and older, The Mez, which has game consoles and its own cinema. You can hear about their day over dinner at the resort's gastro pub. If you are travelling a deux, you will want to opt for the main house, the Conservatory restaurant, and some serious spa time. Rooms from £280.

See calcotmanor.co.uk.

LORDS OF THE MANOR

Lords of the Manor, a 17th-century rectory set in three hectares of walled gardens, does old-school English to a tee. Head for a ramble through the rolling hills, before coming back and enjoying a gin and tonic in one of the many cosy nooks and crannies before dinner. Speaking of dinner, that's about the only thing that's not traditional about this place. The Michelin-starred restaurant is a stodge-free zone. The chef serves exquisite combinations such as quail accompanied by cannelloni of onion, sage and gruyere, and port-marinated foie gras with pear, sweet wine jelly and gingerbread puree. Rooms from £199. See lordsofthemanor.com.

THE MONTPELLIER CHAPTER

Since the Cotswolds is famous for its postcard-perfect towns and villages, why are most hotels located in the country? It's strange, isn't it? Clearly the owners of The Montpellier Chapter thought so too, because they set up their lodgings in the elegant Regency town of Cheltenham, home to a fine selection of restaurants and a roster of festivals ranging from jazz to literature to fashion. They also opted to take a different approach to interiors, choosing clean, modern pieces to set off those elegant Georgian lines. In short, it's the Cotswolds version of city chic, tucked into a boutique hotel - nice work.

Rooms from £125. See themontpellierchapterhotel.com.

The writer travelled courtesy of Qantas Airways and Visit Britain.

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