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Gluten Free Travel – The Lygon Arms Hotel, Broadway, The Cotswolds

I have been away quite a lot recently. Ten days in Seychelles on honeymoon, a week at home followed by a week in Wilmington, North Carolina with my husband while he was working. Lu, my eight year old daughter, spent the time with my mum and with her dad, who had already arranged to take her away during the Easter holidays which is when I was in America. However, it still felt like an awfully long time since I had seen her properly so I suggested a mini-break for us both, a little adventure just her and I. Oh, the excitement. I took her away to the lovely The Great House at Sonning the year before last for a night and she thoroughly enjoyed it. This time around I chose The Lygon Arms Hotel in Broadway, the Cotswolds. I have had my eye on it for months, in fact, I made enquiries about having my wedding there when it was to be a small family affair.  In the end, we went for a large wedding and held it at Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier’s old home in Buckinghamshire, Notley Abbey. Oh how I adore Gone with the Wind, I walked down the aisle to its theme music. And as my husband and I are travelling back to the Carolinas and Georgia at the end of the month I shall definitely be visiting Margaret Mitchell’s house in Atlanta.

As my health has improved (that was then, this is now…) I could now drive for more than ten minutes without becoming exhausted and putting myself out of action for days I thought somewhere further afield would be lovely and the Cotswolds was perfect. We stayed for three nights, and Lu thought it might be nice to ask my husband to stay on the third night. The hotel is child and dog-friendly. I think her request was made mainly so he would bring the dog with him as she misses our mini dachshund, Livia, when she is not around. Also, children can use the swimming pool at the hotel Spa at certain times so Lu was keen to involve as many responsible adults as possible lest I got too tired to take her. She is a very clever girl,  my 8 year old.

We arrived on a rainy Friday evening in May at about 7.30pm, later than planned after a few wrong turns on my part,  and pulled into the gravel drive at the front of the beautiful foliage covered hotel on the main avenue in Broadway. We were greeted by the most charming chap dressed in country casual jeans and blazer and having explained our tardiness for our dinner reservation and the tired 8 year old he arranged a speedy check in and then gracefully directed me to carpark behind the hotel which was just in front of our cottage.  Lu wanted to get changed first as she had packed a number of ‘evening’ outfits.  She is her mother’s daughter.

 

The dining room, The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

The dining room, The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

The dining room, The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

The dining room, The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

It was a short stroll across a lane to the main hotel. I had informed them when I booked that I was coeliac (gluten free) and they said that it would not be a problem. It had been noted on my dinner reservation and the wait staff handled it perfectly. We were looked after by a wonderful woman called Lucia, the same name as my daughter so it boded well!  I was taken through the menu and told they were happy to amend dishes if possible. There was a separate menu for children. The dining room itself is absolutely beautiful, both immense and intimate at the same time, a perfect combination.

 

 

Smoked salmon and olives for starters. The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

Smoked salmon and olives for starters.

Post dinner gluten-free fruit crumble and coffee. The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

Post dinner gluten-free fruit crumble and coffee.

Smoked salmon from the adult menu for us both to start, as well as some delicious olives. Steak (Lu) and lamb cutlets (for me) followed and we ended with fruit crumble which was already gluten-free, with ice cream, (me) and coffee (me) on one of the wonderful sofas found in the maze of lounges they have. It was all delicious and not one person suggested fruit salad as a pudding. I felt in very very safe hands. We ate in the restaurant for the following two nights also and it was just as lovely each time, the third night we were in a separate bar/dining area, as we had the dog with us but it was the same menu and service was just as lovely. As Lu is a very committed meat eater she ended up with steak from the adult menu on the third night which she devoured.

Olives, non-alcoholic cocktails and evening wear. The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

Olives, non-alcoholic cocktails and evening wear.

The cocktail list was super, and Lu and I took to having a cocktail in the bar before dinner, non-alcoholic for us both and when my husband arrived I plied him with the most amazing sounding ones on the alcohol-fuelled list. Try any of them, you really can’t go wrong.

 

Pudding on the beautiful velvet sofa, The Lygon Arms, Broadway

Pudding on the beautiful velvet sofa.

We had breakfast each morning at the Broadway Deli, which I had found before we got to Broadway, as its website mentioned that it could cater for those with a gluten allergy and as luck would have it it was opposite the hotel. Full of picture-perfect looking fresh produce, cheeses, jams, pasta and the like, we didn’t have to wait for a table and having explained to the wait staff about my allergy I was told it was the policy for management to take allergy orders which is just amazing. I enquired about the toaster arrangements – toasting gluten-free bread in a toaster that is used for gluten-filled bread renders everything not gluten free!!! – and was assured that there was a separate toaster and preparation area for gluten free orders. I had the homemade beans on toast and two excellent strong cappuccinos as Lu has woken me up at about 5.30am in her enthusiasm to not miss the childrens swimming slot at the spa that started at about 9.30am I think. She had the most amazing doorstep bacon sandwich and tea. We returned again on the following 2 mornings and was not disappointed. Toast and marmalade for me, I was concerned about the use of the same jar by those have gluten toast and they happily opened a brand new jar for me, they make there own marmaladed and conserves which I can highly recommend.

 

The Broadway Deli

The Broadway Deli.

The Broadway Deli Marmalade.

The Broadway Deli Marmalade.

The cottage itself had just been completed so there were no photos of it on the website yet but the rest of the hotel looked beautiful so I was willing to take a leap of faith. I was richly rewarded as it was a beautiful typically Cotswolds stone building, set over two floors, bedroom and huge dreamy bathroom upstairs and living area downstairs with a sofa bed, outside there was a little flagstoned patio area with table and chairs. I had originally booked a room in the main hotel for 2 nights but as it turned out it was the bank holiday weekend and Lu asked if we could stay for three nights and have Malcolm bring the dog for the third, as above. After a few emails, it turned out that I couldn’t have my original room in that combination but the cottage would be free though it was a bit more expensive and I decided to treat us. It also had two of my most favourite things that I almost require now when travelling – air conditioning and a Nespresso machine. I am not very good company without these. The coffee is necessary to take the edge off the chronic fatigue syndrome and the air conditioning is required for the horrid sweaty overheating I experience from my steroids.

The Spa, The Lygon Arms, Broadway

The Spa, The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

The Spa was lovely, though I only saw the changing facilities and the pool, there are treatments available. The pool area is beautiful, with a jacuzzi at the far end and loungers for relaxing There were other families using it when we were there but it was not too crowded, we had a lovely time but I was very grateful for my husbands arrival early on Sunday so he could take her while I read the papers in the hotel lounge. I always worry that I’ll be struck down out of nowhere with the exhaustion caused by my illness, which is how it happens, without warning, so I try my best to conserve as much energy as I can so I can enjoy as much time with Lu as possible and not overdo it too much. The grounds of the hotel were immaculately kept and other rooms faced onto the main courtyard and had little seated areas, there was also a large enclosed garden area with benches that was perfect for taking Livia for a little roam.

The Cotswold Tearoom, Moreton in Marsh

The Cotswold Tearoom, Moreton in Marsh.

Gluten-free sweetcorn fritters, The Cotswold Tearoom, Moreton in Marsh.

Gluten-free sweetcorn fritters.

Gluten-free scone, The Cotswold Tearoom, Moreton in Marsh.

The most delicious gluten-free scone.

As I spend most of my travel research looking for gluten-free places to eat I had found a lovely looking place in Moreton in March, about 15 minutes away called The Cotswold Tearoom which did gluten free cakes, my obsession. Lu and I love popped there for lunch on our first full day. Sweetcorn fritters with avocado tomato salsa for me, soup for her, all items are clearly marked gluten-free. I then had a huge gluten free scone with cream and jam. So delicious was it that we returned on our journey home for the scones and took some home with us. As well as a huge bag of cheese, olives, gluten-free crackers and condiments from the gorgeous The Cotswold Cheese Company next door.

 

Took the dog for a roam in the hotel garden before dinner time. The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

Took the dog for a roam in the hotel garden before dinner time.

Livia sleeping soundly while we ate dinner. The Lygon Arms, Broadway

Livia sleeping soundly while we ate dinner.

Whilst in the area we had a little roam around Broadway and Moreton in Marsh, as well as Blockley, another nearby village and they were just beautiful. Though I left my heart in Broadway. I haven’t spent a huge amount of time in the area but took a jaunt to Cheltenham for the Literary Festival last year. I had booked four events but illness meant I only made it to one but it was super all the same. It is also the area that my husband and I have at the top of our list for moving to as we currently still live in separate houses, separate counties. We both have school age children, it’s complicated.

I would return to The Lygon Arms in a heartbeat, we were all very sad to leave, and though it isn’t cheap it was worth every single penny. It would make an amazing treat, and if I am lucky enough to ever go again I shall go without child or dog so I can take advantage of the adult time in the Spa and maybe a lie in.

Let’s find a cozy nook Beside a babbling brook

I haven’t really wanted to write for the last few weeks. Every day brings more awful news and no words I have can do the events justice, so I have done the sensible thing and remained quiet. However, Lulu and I did have a lovely little mini break a short while ago and I wanted to write about that, particularly now as it brings me very happy memories.

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Huge deck chairs

As a single mum I am the one that makes Lu do all the boring unfun things like homework, and going to bed and brushing her tangled hair. She witnesses the mundanity of domestic life on the weekend , when we can spend time together, as I work full-time the week nights are pretty much, homework, bath, bed. However she recently asked if we could go away to a hotel, just her and me. I have no idea where the thought came from but it sounded like a great plan, a mini break for us both. Away from the distractions of boring home life.

I needed somewhere close by so the drive didn’t exhaust me, also as I won’t drive when I have taken my painkillers so I was limited distance wise. I was originally quite taken with the Cotswolds, about an hour and half from our home. Cute little villages, just right for a stroll,  a place that did good food so we didn’t have to fend for ourselves but as my online search continued I came across the The Great House at Sonning in Berkshire and the plan changed. It was perfect, on the river, beautiful looking rooms, lovely restaurant menu, a bar with loads of sofas for pre dinner cocktails and a luscious looking deck chair strewn lawn leading down to the river. I managed to nab the last room on the Saturday night I wanted and opted for the more expensive river view room (£180) as a treat for us. It is also worth noting that at the moment there is no two night minimum stay at the weekend which makes it a much more affordable option for a jaunt away. I also requested that a bouquet of flowers be left in the room for Lulu as it was our first mini break together and I wanted to spoil her, the lady on the end of the phone was incredibly helpful and indeed the bouquet from Sonning Flowers (£30) that we arrived to was perfect for a 6-year-old girl. I booked dinner for the evening and breakfast the next morning, having discussed my Coeliacs disease requirements (gluten free food). The lady I spoke with was completely unfazed by my food requirements and that is always a good sign, much better than the ‘you’re what?’. An immediate anxiety attack follows that comment.

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Lu was particularly taken the picture of the stag, there were more lining the hallways

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Bathroom of dreams…those tile though

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My favourite part of a hotel room? the air conditioning or fan

I dropped the mini sausage dog off with my partner, dogs are allowed – woohoo – but I wanted to give Lulu my undivided attention, and he gave us a lift to the hotel as I was flagging a bit. We arrived for check it at about 3.30pm, the weather was picture perfect, sunny and blue skies. Check in was painless and we took our bags up to our room which was just as lovely as the website photos and the best bit? A fan in the room. Lu was thrilled, a massive bed, the big tv, a lovely spinning desk chair, a shiny bathroom with a shower so big that lu could lie on the bottom and present to swim. There were also jars of sweets, biscuits and fresh milk in the fridge.

Lu is as impatient as I am and after admiring the room and opening the windows off we went to explore the bar. At this point I must say that out room was over what turned out to be the resultant and outside dining terrace so there wasn’t much of a river view, save a sliver in the distance if you stood up tall, and the noise of the customers kept me awake during the night as it was so hot I kept the windows open, however I was so disturbed that eventually I relented and closed them. I did mention this to reception when I checked out so do be mindful where your room is. The other half of the building over looked a second beautiful lawn leading down to the river that is used for private functions though you may run the risk of being kept awake by the tradition wedding disco.

 

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I had the very same ballet bag when I was little

The bar and restaurant is called the Coppa Club and seems to manage to be all thing to all men very well. A lovely chrome bar with stools and an amazing cocktail and wine list. Comfy sofas for lounging and there are beautiful old paper backs scattered around for you to browse. As Lu and I sat at the bar drinking lemonade and drawing in her colouring book the rest of the bar consisted of ladies lunching, people working on laptops, families and couples drinking Pimms. Lu decided we needed to move to the beautiful velvet sofas and I took the opportunity to confirm our dinner booking and my gluten free status. After a while we ventured out onto the lawn with our drinks and relaxed in the deck chairs, listening to the music playing at just the right volume for me, people watching and admiring all the dogs in attendance. There was a bar outside which  had a BBQ going should you be minded. Lu was not a fan of the deck chairs and made us move twice. I add that the place was packed, we were lucky to get seats. There was also a wedding reception taking place on the next lawn, the bride was having photos taken by the river and she looked gorgeous. Lu loves a bride, I think she is quite taken with the ‘princess’ concept. So we admired her for a while and then decided to get dinner early. The restaurant staff were utterly charming. We were seated by the open doors to the terrace with was perfect as it was still so warm. Our waitress talked me though the menu and Lu got her own menu. We both opted for streak and chips. I had a crab linguine to start, Lu went off kids menu and had broad bean and feta humus – not a hit with her. However our mains more than made up for it, they were absolutely delicious. Mine came with huge grilled mushrooms and Lu and I cleared our plates. She drank a coke, which she had been looking forward to since I had made the booking, such treat for her (mean mummy) and I had a Seedlip and Fentimans tonic. Seedlip is a delicious non alcoholic spirit, a bit like gin. It was delicious, icy cold and refreshing. A fantastic substitute for alcohol, I gave up drinking over 3 years ago, but there is only so may elderflower presses that a gal can drink.

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Outstanding food and such good prices

Pudding for Lu was ice cream and for me a butterscotch pot with salted caramel. It was sensational, Lu and I were literally fighting over the empty shot glass it had come in. I shall be asking for the recipe. Then Lu wanted a cuddle so clearly it was time to go to bed. We had a fabulous shower, with the most enormous rain shower head I have ever seen. Then into bed to watch Over the Hedge on the iPad.

After a less than restful sleep – see note above about room location – but  superbly comfortable bed we awoke to the horrible news about the Tower Bridge and Borough Market attacks. I made a few phone calls to ensure that everyone I knew in the area was ok and since it was plastered across the TV and had the great pleasure of explaining to Lu, in language that will not terrify a six-year-old, that again, after the Manchester Area ‘fire’ some people have done some very bad things and some people had been hurt. We then called nanny, who live in Greenwich to make sure she was ok and for Lu to tell her all about the incident.

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Breakfast on the terrace, we felt so sophisticated

The sun was blazing so we had breakfast on the terrace. There was no porridge which Lu had been looking forward to – though she never eats it at home – so being my child she ordered a plate of bacon and a fresh strawberry cocktail. I had a salad of watermelon with yoghurt, lime and coconut which was fantastic, and of course – coffee. The terrace was extremely comfortable, cushions, throws, anything you could want. We had let time get way from us while we were watching the news and so packed up quickly after breakfast and lazed around on the lawn again, this time on bench which Lu much preferred and waited until we were collected and whisked off of a lovely family lunch.

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Lu dressed as Dorothy. She loves a dress up outfit

The other slight disappointment, apart from the noisy room, was that the hotels website picture gallery showed children river swimming and Lu and I were rather excited by this, we even brought our swim suits. However, when I asked at reception they said they hadn’t heard of anyone swimming in the river, I had to bring up their website on my phone to show then the photos but still nothing.

 

As a complete aside, and by a very strange coincidence, I have actually been to that hotel twice before when it was in its old form, both times with my ex husband, for a huge family birthday party and then for a family wake. It had not occurred to me it was the same place until we turned not the car park, small world huh?

The Great House underwent a huge refurbishment last year and looks nothing like it did.

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One of the many cute dogs we encountered

Lulu and I had a wonderful time, all the staff were simply delightful and made us feel so welcome, we even go smiles and waves as we left the car park. I would go back and stay in a heartbeat. I am very envious of the locals, they get to pop in whoever they want. However, it does seem to be a great place to hold a wedding……

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