Back in 1948, chef Francis Coulson opened a hotel in a converted mansion on Ullswater in England’s Lake District and to describe his new venture coined the phrase “country house hotel.” The genre has undergone many mutations over the subsequent 71 years, but the appeal of living, if only for a day or so, in aristocratic rural splendor has endured.
Thyme is an innovation because it is much more than just a stately pile surrounded by spreading acres. The main house, Southrop Manor, is the private home of the hotel’s owners, Caryn and Jerry Hibbert. Caryn has been the driving force behind the project, and her first step was to restore a derelict tithe barn and set up a cookery school. Subsequently, she bought an adjacent farmhouse, the village rectory, the village pub and a number of 17th-century cottages.
These have now evolved into a village within a village and include two restaurants and a spa. The principal restaurant, Ox Barn, is overseen by Caryn’s son, Charlie, and nearly all the ingredients are sourced locally, many of them coming from the manor’s 150-acre farm. The local pub, The Swan, serves a more casual blackboard menu and is renowned for its substantial Sunday lunches, which feature traditional roast beef and roast lamb from animals reared on the estate. The Meadow Spa offers eight treatment rooms and a heated springwater swimming pool. And the cookery school continues to offer classes, demonstrations, tastings, talks, garden tours and foraging expeditions.