“ Address: High Street / Chipping Campden / Gloucestershire / GL55 6AT / UK / Tel: +44 1386 840317 „
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Back in the summer my husband and I took a week's holiday from work and - unusually for us - we didn't go away or at least I should say more accurately, we didn't go abroad. Instead, with our National Trust membership cards burning a hole in our pockets, we decided to spend some time seeing what entertainment we could find in our home country. We spent a couple of days in Cheshire, a couple in York and then rounded off the week with a visit to the Cotswolds. I know the area pretty well after spending a lot of time in Chipping Campden for work so I went looking for a bargain on Lastminute.com, checking out the deals to be had on their so-called "secret hotels". I'm not one to gamble with most things but I do like a good deal and so I often take advantage of the secret hotel offers. These offer accommodation at much lower than normal prices but the catch is that the site doesn't actually tell you which hotel you are booking until you've committed to the booking. Obviously it helps if you know the area well and for me it didn't take me long to work out that the place on offer was most likely the Noel Arms but could possibly have been the Lygon Arms. Both are nice hotels so to be honest I wouldn't have mind either way but my money was on the Noel Arms. I'd often stayed directly across the road from the Noel and was interested to see how it was to stay there so with my fingers crossed I clicked the 'buy' button and whooped with satisfaction to see I'd just got myself a room for £59 for the two of us. The regular rate is £130 for a double or twin room. ~Location - It's as Good as You Can Get~ The Noel Arms is right in the middle of Chipping Campden, across the street from the town hall and the main car park. It's a lovely old building in the typical local Cotswold honey-coloured stone. Chipping Campden is a long thin town, with almost everything laid out on either side of the central street. The Noel Arms is pretty much in the middle so everything that's on offer is within easy reach.When you enter the building there's a bar to the left and the reception sits to the right side. I explained who we were, signed the registration card and that was all that was needed. The room was pre-paid so I wasn't even asked for my credit card. It would have been nice to have been in the old historic building but we weren't disappointed to discover our room was out the back in a more modern annexe at the end of the car park. A room with a bit of history would have been nice but I had a good idea that being out the back was going to protect us from the noise of the main road. Mind you this is the Cotswolds so 'noisy main road' is a very relative term. The room we had was number 25 and it was the first one through the door at ground level. The Room Our room was classically decorated in yellow and blue with nice old furniture that had a bit of age to it rather than the typical 'chain hotel furniture' that's so common these days. There were three windows so we would have had lots of natural light if my husband hadn't felt a little 'exposed' by all the windows and pulled down all the blinds. It was not the biggest of rooms and the space around the bed was limited but it didn't feel cramped. The carpet was green and unpatterned. The walls were yellow. The curtains had a blue background with a Chinese pattern in yellows and greens and were pulled back with hefty yellow tiebacks. The bed was made up of two singles pushed together with old dark-wood headboards fixed to the wall at spacing that suggested they're more usually set out as twin beds. Above the bed was a fancy canopy with curtains draped down to the floor. Two dark framed prints in shades of pink were mounted over the beds along with an old plate which really didn't go with anything else in the room. Other furniture included just one side table by the bed with a blue and yellow Chinese lamp and the telephone. Hubby's a creature of habit and always sleeps on that side but I'm the reader so I was a bit peeved that he got the light and the table although the window sill on my side was within reach. There was a pleasant desk with another Chinese lamp and a wall mounted mirror. The flat screen TV was about 24 inch in size and stood on another pleasant little set of drawers in dark oak. The kettle and tea things sat on top of a tiny old oak drop leaf table and there was a tub-style arm chair to one side of the tea things. The wardrobe was built in and had a set of rather ugly modern drawers inside and lots of hangers, including some pretty satin padded hangers. There was a trouser press tucked beside the door. The bathroom was clean and white with a toilet, sink and a bath with a rainshower head above. The toiletries provided were Gilchrist and Soames and the towels were draped on a heated towel rail. The most bizarre thing about the room was the lighting. We both spent ten or fifteen minutes switching every switch in the room trying to get the lamps to come on. One of the bulbs was blown which didn't help and my husband headed off to reception to ask for a replacement. Wi-fi in theory should be available but our room was too far from the transmitter although the receptionist said there was plenty of access in the main building. The other problem we spotted was some serious wall-paper peel in the area around the door with massive pieces not actually stuck to the wall at all. The window area also had some problems suggesting a bit of time with a bucket of glue wouldn't have gone amiss. ~Public Areas~ The Noel Arms' main building was built in the 16th Century and it started life as a coaching inn. I rather like the sense of continuity that this gives to a hotel; more than four centuries of hospitality is not to be sneezed at. It's a place of beautiful dark wood panelling, gorgeous old stained glass inserts, and lovely old stone floors. It's also home to one of Chipping Campden's few coffee bar chains and houses the local Costa Coffee or maybe it's Cafe Nero - I forget precisely which it was. There's a large area of sofas and comfy chairs, a long conservatory building with lots of tables where we had a coffee and cake breakfast (having booked room only) and there's a very pleasant outdoor terrace that's beautiful when the weather allows you to take advantage of it. Residents can book spa treatments at the hotel's sister property over the road - the much more fancy and highly priced Cotswold House which also has one of the fanciest restaurants in the town. Mind you the Noel Arms doesn't do badly on that front either and has won awards for its chef and the restaurant. We didn't eat in the restaurant because I woke up after an afternoon nap with a raging hunger for a curry and went out on a mission to track down something spicy but from what I saw of the menu, the prices seemed reasonable and the range of dishes was interesting. ~Parking~ Strange as it might sound, the car park is quite a selling point for the Noel Arms. In high season the demand for space is high and finding somewhere can be frustrating. Most of the Chipping Campden hotel car parks are small and tricky to negotiate. By contrast the Noel Arms has a very spacious and easily manoeuvred lay out. We hadn't realised though and we'd parked out on the street outside because we didn't fancy the look of the tight turning to get into the car park. Recommendation A couple of years ago my recommendation on staying in Chipping Campden would have been a no-brainer. I'd have said stay at the Kings and forget everything else. Unfortunately the management on the Kings has changed and the playing field has been levelled. I wouldn't pay £130 a night to stay at the Noel Arms but for the £59 that we paid for room only, it was a very good deal and great value for money. The only hiccup we had was that the receptionist charged my credit card when we checked out because she wasn't sure if Lastminute had already taken the payment. As soon as I spotted the double charge on my credit card a week later, I called and they reversed this quickly and with a genuine apology.