The Lakes by Yoo: A chic stay at ‘the Hamptons of the Cotswolds'

(The Lakes by Yoo)

The founder, Olympia London developer John Hitchcox, puts it best himself: “it’s essentially a posh commune,” he tells me of his 800-acre Cotswolds estate, The Lakes by Yoo, as his son dangles from his shoulders, eager to hop on their electric bikes and get started on the zip wire.

The property mogul has just flown in from St Tropez but given the guest list at his “polished ghetto” near Lechlade, he may as well still be in the south of France. Sky News presenter Kay Burley owns a house here, as do countless footballers and heads of industry, and everyone from Philippe Starck to Elle McPherson and Kate Moss have been asked to help design the growing portfolio of millionaire lakeside properties.

Hitchcox bought the estate – formerly a quarry – 20 years ago after growing frustrated with weekends in the country where he didn’t know anyone locally. Since then he’s transformed it into a community of 165 multi-million pound homes set around ten lakes (seven he built from scratch) and compares its current feel to the Hamptons.

Most of the (second) homeowners here are rich, successful Londoners looking for an escape from the madness of the big smoke at weekends – or more often than that, thanks to the pandemic’s working from home revolution. Many top CEOs have “essentially run their businesses from here”, I’m told on a Range Rover tour of the site’s collection of 135 private houses (and counting). It’s hardly a surprise: why slog over Slack from London when you can work from your own private beach and paddleboard to a friend’s house on your lunchbreak? The feel at The Lakes is discreet and exclusive, but low-key – at the relaxed on-site tepee restaurant, Lynwood Café, executives can often be heard exchanging stories over a salad or woodfired pizza.

(The Lakes by Yoo)

Clearly, Yoo isn’t for just any family or couple looking for a wholesome escape from the capital. It’s predominantly built for the super-rich, with the security of a gated community and a five-star concierge service offering £100 Bamford facials and £72-an-hour private mixologists. Large detached homes here cost anywhere between £2.5 million and £7 million and even the smaller lakeside cabins and apartments start at £1.1 million.

Happily, rentals are available too, for anyone who wants a taste of Yoo’s magic (if you’ve got at least £1,000-a-night to burn – prices are as much as £40,000 for a week for some of the largest properties). Options range from a 14-bedroom pool house to luxury lakeside cabins for a long weekend.

(The Lakes by Yoo)

So what’s it actually like to stay? From rolling meadows, woodland and pristine waters to private dining with your own personal bartender, this is everything you need to know about life at The Lakes.

Where is it?

Right in the heart of Gloucestershire on the edge of the Cotswolds, between the towns of Fairford and Lechlade-on-Thames. Both towns make for a quaint visit, with riverside walks, cute shops and their own Lynwood & Co café for coffee and pastries.

(AFP via Getty Images)

Other local highlights include Bourton-on-the-Water and Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds and Diddly Squat Farm Shop, featured in new Amazon Prime series Clarkson’s Farm. The market town of Cirencester is a 40-minute drive away, Blenheim Palace is the smae distance, as is Oxford – a nice pitstop on the drive back to London.

Style

You won’t get traditional Cotswolds stone but you will get plush modern interiors, state-of-the-art facilities and vistas of the lakes and surrounding woodland straight from bed. There’s a sophisticated design throughout, from sleek sliding doors onto your own private balcony to plush modern kitchens for hosting the whole extended family. Even on a grey day, the homes feel bright and airy, with skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows.

(The Lakes by Yoo)

Each home is different – owners design them bespoke with the help of Yoo’s in-house architect – so you can choose your vibe, from rustic log burners and moody blue bathrooms in the new four-person cabins to a twelve-person, three-storey modern lodge, The Tardis, with its own infinity pool right on Bowmoor Lake.

Which house?

All rental properties come with kitchens, en-suites, luxury bathrooms with Bamford products and views over at least one of the lakes, but each has its own character, depending on your group size and chosen feel.

(The Lakes by Yoo)

The Glass House has been created to feel like you’re living outdoors, The Pool Lodge features its own indoor fire pit and a private beach, while the Lakeside Villa comes with a top floor solarium, a banquette dining snug and a home cinema. Check out the full list of rental properties available here – prices range between £12,000 and £40,000 a week for most of the larger properties.

Ask for one of Yoo’s new six-person, £1,100-a-night Lakeside Apartments if you’re booking in for a short day. Each has a minimum three-night stay and comes with log burners, sliding balcony doors, timber flooring and optional fire pits.

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For a romantic stay, choose one of the Lakeside Cabins, with prices from £1,000 a night. The cabins sleep four people but are cosy enough for two, with cute rustic kitchens that fold away into a dresser, double-height ceilings, colourful rustic furnishings, a free-standing bath and log fire.

Food and drink

Guests don’t come to the Lakes for high-end dining but that is it’s magic – the on-site café and restaurant, Lynwood and Co, isn’t pretentious or smart, but serves as a welcoming hub for meeting other guests and home owners and enjoying a glass of wine under the tepee’s twinkling lights.

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Friday is pizza night, Saturday is burger night and there’s a hearty selection of farm coffee, freshly baked pastries, daily salads and house-bottled cocktails throughout the week. Daily essentials including Lynwood’s famous sourdough bread and breakfast hampers are also available to pickup at any time.

If you do fancy luxury dining, Yoo also offers a seasonal private dining menu, perfect for long lunches or evening celebrations, and there are plenty of brilliant gastropubs on its doorstep if you fancy a night off cooking.

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The Riverside in nearby Lechlade serves food and drink right on the river (there are paddleboards and rowing boats for hire next door) while The Red Lion Castle Eaton has an authentic village pub feel, with log fires, a dining patio and a boho safari tent with festoon lighting, sheepskin chairs and blankets for when the the temperature drops.

Facilities

If guests don’t come for the food and drink, they certainly come for the facilities. Yoo’s USP is its impressive range of activities – and it’s more than just watersports. Alongside paddleboarding, kayaking, rowing, fishing and sailing (many homes come with their own jetty or beach so you can paddle straight from the house), there’s also tennis, zip-wiring, beekeeping and bike and e-bike rental for getting around the estate.

(The Lakes by Yoo)

Other facilities include a 17-metre heated indoor pool, spa, state-of-the-art gym, personal training sessions, sailing club, rolling meadows and farmland – keep an eye out for the friendly pigs.

For Hitchcox and his team, it’s all about being as family-friendly as possible – big group holidays with the grandparents are popular. Activities available to book include bushcraft, air-rifle shooting, boat fishing and tennis coaching, plus there’s a fun-filled daily kids club from Sharky & George during the summer holidays.

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Highlights include pottery, graffiti and willow-craft workshops, kayak racing, sailing lessons and special visits from Gloucester Rugby Club.

What to Instagram

The sunrise from your veranda – book into almost any of the lakeside homes or apartments and you can snap the pink skies or mist rising off the water straight from bed.

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Best for

Well-off families and couples looking for a secluded escape from London. According to Hitchcox, Yoo is particularly popular for big multi-generation family holidays, active corporate weeks away and romantic countryside couples retreats. Think of it as a (very) high-end Centre Parcs, minus the rapids and the ten pin bowling.

How to get there

Take the train to Swindon, just 50 minutes from Paddington and an easy 30-minute taxi at the other end. You’d hardly know it’s there from the road but once you’re past security at the main gates, it’s an entirely different world.

(The Lakes by Yoo)

Yoo has car parking facilities if you drive – having a car is handy for quick trips to the shops and pub, especially if you’re at one of the more secluded properties further from the main gate.

When should I go?

Book a stay in the next month to capitalise on the warm autumn hues – the estate is surrounded by woodland so it’s worth it for the reflections of red, yellow and green in the lakes alone.

(The Lakes by Yoo)

But the best thing about the Cotswolds is it’s an all-year-round crowd-pleaser: cosy pubs with warm open fires in the winter, bright Springtime tables and blossoming summer retreats – the lakes are sheltered and secluded so unlike a seaside escape, it’s safe and comfortable for watersports like paddleboarding and kayaking all year-round.

Rooms from £1,000 a night. High Street, Lechlade GL7 3DT, thelakesbyyoo.com

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