ONCE UPON A THYME
Text by Uracha Chaiyapinunt
Waking up at Thyme, a luxury bed-and-breakfast hotel in Southrop, is like waking up in a fairytale. Built around a pebbled courtyard with its own organic garden, cookery school, a beautifully restored medieval barn and a renovated farmhouse, Thyme is quintessential Cotswolds. Its cluster of honey-stone properties and meandering streams sit in a postcard setting where the population barely reaches 300 people.
“We took time to make Thyme,” Caryn Hibbert, the founder and creative director writes. “Working with the historic buildings and the land that surrounds them, we have created a thoughtful place with love and attention lavished on every detail.”
The estate dates back to Roman times, but is first clearly defined in the Domesday Book of 1086. Since then, it has changed ownership many times, including three centuries with a French baronial family, the church and Elizabeth I’s Secretary of State. Its rich history has caused Hibbert to be even more mindful with the restoration. Even with all the upgrades and refurbishing, Hibbert wants to make sure the spirit of the various buildings is truly honored.
Guests will find that it only takes a quick glance at the 150-acre estate to know that no expenses were spared in the revival of the property. The Ox Barn, Thyme’s café and restaurant, for example, pays homage to its original structure’s agricultural heritage. In the mid-19th century, Thyme’s present-day restaurant was built to house the farm’s oxen, and it served that purpose well for more than a century. The construction, which used 53-foot beams, each one from an individual redwood tree brought over from Canada in 1820, was state of the art. When Hibbert planned to transform the building, she knew for certain she wanted to conserve its charm. The process is described by the hotelier as a “painstaking labor of great love” in her blog. Today, the Ox Barn boasts an impressive, grand and beautifully finished space: The interiors have been left almost untouched. Even the original herringbone ceiling has been preserved.
The love and care that goes into the making of Thyme can be felt by all visitors. As Hibbert once said, “[Thyme is] more than just a place, something greater than the sum of its parts, a philosophy and a lifestyle involving family, friends and the journey ahead.”
Facilities here are first-class, from the eight treatment rooms at the Meadow Spa to the topiary-studded gardens, heated spring water pool and the renowned cookery school that has been outfitted with none other than bulthaup’s b3 kitchen. And while Thyme’s location makes day trips around the Cotswolds a breeze, it’s difficult to actually want to leave once you check in. This is the perfect place to unplug and be present. Join the other guests at the communal table for a delightful breakfast. Pull on your wellies and go for a walk. Greet the resident pigs, sheep, geese, pheasants and hens on your stroll to River Leach. Or stay in and join Thyme’s famous cooking courses, using produce that’s been sourced from the countryside that surrounds you. Enjoy a game of tennis on the property and watch the sunset with a botanical cocktail at The Baa.
However you choose to spend your time, guests and passersby should make sure not to miss a meal at The Swan. Sat in the town center next to the village green, The Swan was a local establishment that the Hibberts subsequently acquired. Though the outside looks like any other typical village pub, you’ll find smart modern décor, a fine cast of craft ales and a selection of naturally fermented wines inside the 17th century coaching inn. It’s the perfect spot for a hearty Sunday Roast, with roaring open fire places, low wooden beams and plenty of outdoor seating. Who knows, you might even run into a celebrity or two there, in true Thyme fashion.