The Fleece is a 5 star, grade II listed coaching inn set in the heart of the Cotswolds. The property’s history stretches as far back as 1651.
Following defeat at the Battle of Worcester in the same year, King Charles II is believed to have used the building as a hiding place when he was forced to flee from Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army. Fast forward to 2017, the hotel underwent a major refurbishment combining 17th century architecture with 21st century luxury.
The Fleece is located in the charming market town of Cirencester, Gloucestershire an hour from both Bath and Oxford and two hours from central London.
For those visiting the area by public transport, the nearest rail station is at Kemble, six miles away.
Arrival and check-in:
The historic coaching inn overlooks the town’s market place so we drew up outside and unloaded the luggage whilst my husband moved the car to the Waterloo long stay car park just a four minute walk away. The car park is free from 6.00 p.m. to 8.00 a.m. and all day Sunday making it quite reasonable.
Unlike some inns we have stayed at where check-in takes place at the bar, The Fleece has a separate reception desk where we were greeted by Tim who speedily checked us in confirming our dinner and breakfast reservations. He then helped us with our luggage up to the room on the first floor. We were booked into one of the hotel’s four feature rooms so I was excited to unlock the door and step inside.
I just loved everything about our spacious room from its original fireplace, super-king size bed with the most comfortable of deep mattresses to its padded leather chesterfield settee and pair of matching armchairs.
Three windows looked out onto the market place below and despite not visiting on market day, it was still lovely to be able to gaze out and watch the world go by. There was very little traffic and even sleeping with the windows wide open we enjoyed a good’s night sleep, not waking until my phone alarm went off at 8.00 a.m. On one of the bedside tables a large bladeless fan had been positioned and as it was so warm we left this switched on all night as it operated silently.
Settled on the cosy settee we relaxed watching television on the large wall mounted screen whilst enjoying a pot of tea from the well stocked hospitality tray. This comprised an espresso machine, kettle, a varied selection of teas, hot chocolate and coffee pods not to mention packets of delicious home made biscuits. There was fresh milk and bottles of chilled water in the fridge, how I love hotels that supply fresh milk, it makes all the difference.
Our feature room felt more like a suite as between the bedroom and bathroom there was a small dressing room with a large wardrobe containing fluffy bathrobes, spare pillows, an iron and ironing board plus plenty of hanging and storage space.
Moving into the bathroom this got a big thumbs up from me as it was tastefully styled befitting the age of the building and contained both a free standing slipper bath and a walk-in shower with a powerful shower head. Before dinner, I luxuriated in the bath utilising the complimentary fragrant White Company toiletries provided. The high quality hairdryer dried my hair in minutes and I was soon ready to enjoy the evening ahead.
The Fleece has a total of 28 rooms, all gorgeous as I managed to get a sneak peek into several of them. They are all individually designed and along with feature rooms, guests can also choose from Character and Signature styles.
Dinner: Meals are served in the attractively styled restaurant, snug and bar lounge. We opted for the main dining room with its delightfully upholstered chairs surrounding well spaced tables overlooking the courtyard.
Service was just as I like it, friendly yet organised and efficient. Over glasses of Sauvignon Blanc we perused the menu and after much deliberating I settled on tempura tiger prawns with a chilli dipping sauce whilst across the table Mr. C. chose the shredded duck pancakes. These both arrived beautifully presented and tasted just as good as they looked. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten such large juicy prawns before and with their light batter coating they were mouth-wateringly delicious.
For mains, my husband was more than happy with his seafood linguine whilst my sirloin steak was cooked just as I like it accompanied with fries, mushroom, tomato and my choice of a blue cheese sauce. With portions being of such a generous size we didn’t really need a dessert but with the cuisine being of such a high standard it was impossible to refuse. I adore summer puddings so plumped for one of those which was lovely and light oozing fresh raspberries and served with chantilly cream. One of my husband’s favourite desserts was on the menu too and he declared his sticky toffee pudding as up with the best.
For a change of scene, we sipped our coffees in the cosy bar just managing to find one free table as it’s a popular spot both with locals and hotel guests alike. There was an adorable miniature schnauzer poking his head out from under one of the tables so it was good to learn that our four legged friends are welcome into the bar area too.
Breakfast: We’d arranged to take breakfast at 8.30 a.m. to make the best of the day. The inn just needed to know a time and we were able to choose what we wanted at breakfast rather than the night before.
This was especially welcome for us as we’d dined so well the previous evening neither of us had big appetites. I started with a bowl of Greek yoghurt, granola and fresh berries then tucked into eggs florentine which was light and flavoursome. The couple on a nearby table were both enjoying a full English and I think everyone was having a good start to the day.
The inn’s restaurant and bar serves food throughout the day and is open to non-residents to enjoy meals, bar snacks, the finest Thwaites cask ales and an array of other tempting tipples. To the rear of the property is a secluded courtyard, just perfect for a pre-dinner drink.
The Fleece has strong Wi-Fi that is easy to connect to with all rooms having USB sockets and work spaces.
Out and About:
Cirencester is a delightful small town and being based at The Fleece we couldn’t have been better placed for exploring the centre on foot.
The Parish Church – a wonderful backdrop to the market place is the cathedral like Parish Church of St. John the Baptist which was funded by wool merchants with their crests adorning the pillars. The church is free to visit (donations welcome) with tower top tours available at certain times. Cirencester Church Tower Top Tours.
The town crier was stood outside the church so he let me ring his bell which was much heavier than I expected it to be. I left the ‘crying’ to him though as I doubt my voice would carry very far.
Abbey Grounds – enjoy a walk through the gardens, the site of the Augustinian Abbey of St. Mary which grew rich in medieval times through the wool trade. There’s a bandstand, small lake and the only remains of exposed Roman wall ruins in Cirencester.
The Corinium Museum – Corinium was the Roman name for Cirencester and this was the second largest town outside London and the major Roman administrative centre in the south west.
The museum contains one of the most extensive collections of Roman artefacts including some of the best preserved mosaics in the country ranging from the 2nd to the 4th centuries. In 1971 a Roman hare mosaic was unearthed and this is also now on display in the museum. Corinium Museum
Cirencester Park – owned by the Earl & Countess of Bathurst, visitors are able to enjoy walking or horse riding through the park which is said to be one of the most beautiful privately owned estates in the country and a regular venue for polo matches. Entrance free.
Roman Amphitheatre – located on the outskirts of the town but within walking distance are the massive earthwork remains of one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in Britain which was built to hold up to 8,000 spectators.
Shopping – from the market place on Dyer Street and along Sheep and Castle Streets there are numerous independent retailers as well as many quality high street names including Waterstones, Joules and Crew Clothing. Our visit didn’t coincide with a market day which take place each Monday and Friday but the town was still bustling with activity nonetheless.
Further afield: Cirencester is known as the capital of the Cotswolds and is an excellent base for visiting picture perfect villages including Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water and Broadway.
I was impressed with everything about The Fleece from its charming façade to its stylish interior which blends old and new beautifully for the needs of today’s discerning traveller. Our room was gorgeous, dining superb and all the staff we came into contact with were well trained, efficient and very friendly.
Details: The Fleece, Market Place, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 2NZ.
We were guests of The Fleece and as always, all views and opinions are my own.
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