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If you’re into star gazing, then this county is definitely the place to go. (Think of it as like a southern version of The Trip but without the accents, Steve Coogan or Rob Brydon.) Start at Whatley Manor on the outskirts of Malmesbury, a luxury manor house and spa with more than a touch of Swiss about it, for the ultimate in Michelin dining experiences (it’s got two stars, don’t you know?). The main dining room is classical French with a modern twist, but there is also Le Mazot Brasserie if you don’t fancy foie gras every night of your stay – here you can have classics like moules and hot-stone steak. The bar is worth a visit too, as it’s got air balloon lighting from Kevin McCloud and racing green ostrich-skin leather on the walls (did we mention that the décor here is far from the usual Cotswold uniform?). Book in for a two-night midweek stay, which includes a three-course dinner in Le Mazot and The Dining Room, full use of the spa, a glass of Champagne and breakfast, from £845 for two up to £1,645 for a grand suite. Drive down to Castle Combe, ideally in a little vintage number,

and compete for automotive growl with its famous racing circuit, before heading through the prestigious and tranquil gates of The Manor House Hotel and Golf Club. The restaurant here is under the leadership of Richard Davies (him off Great British Menu), and is one Michelin starred and has three AA Rosettes. There’s a kitchen garden (free tours on Sunday after lunch), pigs, a brood of ginger nut chickens, quails and two beehives, too. Coincide the visit with the Family and Food Festival at the hotel on 27 July, which will see demos, market stalls, fairground rides, etc, or book onto one of the gourmet getaways, which start at £300 for a seven-course tasting menu, breakfast and an overnight stay for two on Sundays. The village itself is worth a gander for its chocolate box cottages, walks (which at this time of year are heady with the scent of wild garlic), and the pub. There’s also Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa over in Colerne.

Fellow Welshie Hywel Jones has held his Michelin star here since 2006. Poke your head inside the old Vinery, a historic

greenhouse which has more than 30 different types of produce trying to burst through 120 tons of soil, from alpine strawberries and rhubarb through to runner and broad beans, edible fl owers and brassicas. Last year the manor house also opened a separate cookery school on site. Book onto one of the four different gourmet packages, which could include dinner in the restaurant, brasserie or perhaps a course at the school, or just visit for the day. We’re big fans of head tutor Kesh at the school, who specializes in Indian cuisine, and are particularly excited by his new curry supper club for only £35pp (the next one is on 28 May). Otherwise, you can catch us at the Chef’s Table experience at the school on 11 June and 24 September, where Hywel will prepare fi ve courses in front of you for £150pp with Champagne and matched wine. If you prefer a less formal setting for your Michelin stars, try

Going clockwise: Hywel Jones of Lucknam Park, Portland Crab at The Manor House, the quirky bar at Whatley Manor, Lucknam Park, and that view at Howard’s House Hotel near Salisbury

the thatched pub, Red Lion Freehouse, in East Chisenbury. It’s a favourite haunt of chefs, the food is that good. Kick things off with a Negroni, then how does English asparagus with fresh morels with roasted polenta, poached pheasant eggs, radishes and sweet cicely sound? Bored of stars? Really? Fine, you can still eat good food here,

and drink top ales too. Sample the 74 beers on offer at Cricklade’s gastro pub and microbrewery, The Red Lion Inn, or head to the Good Pub Guide’s ‘dining pub of the year for 2013’ (and Bath Life editor’s “fave pub in the world”) The Beckford Arms in Fonthill Gifford. This is simple pub food done well (think beef and marrow burgers, locally caught trout smoked in the pub garden and homemade piccalilli with locally shot game pies). There are rather chic rooms too, starting at a very reasonable £95 B&B. Finally, want somewhere to propose and eat? Try Howard’s

House Hotel in Teffont Evias near Salisbury. You can organize a picnic hamper or hiker’s knapsack if you want to walk somewhere special, or relax on the intimate terrace, which holds just one table, with a view of the gardens and early evening light bouncing off the church spire down the lane…

Crumbs disclaimer. Firstly, we will not be told otherwise about the scone debate. No matter what the majority of you claim on Twitter. #teamcreamfi rst. Secondly, this is obviously not a comprehensive guide to the South West. We only have one (okay, two; one’s for dessert) stomach. So, if you have been somewhere INCREDIBLE that we should know about, feel free to send answers on a postcard, or email, or tweet. Or check out our restaurant and hotel directories at for more suggestions.



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