2nd November, 2015

Here at The Carter Company, we recently celebrated our best year ever with a team trip to Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, the luxury hotel which is home to Raymond Blanc's Michelin-starred restaurant in Oxfordshire. Many of our customers stay here for a night or two on their luxury cycling holidays and walking tours; or sometimes they choose to spend an additional night here at the beginning or end of a tour if they are in the area. It has a fabulous reputation for food, a small selection of individually designed rooms, and a rather splendid garden. We were well aware of the existence of the garden, but we didn't realise quite how special it was. It was certainly a good thing we arrived early enough to explore it fully, and we would strongly recommend anyone else visiting to do the same.

The orchard, beautifully maintained and evidently pruned by a serious expert, was dripping with deliciously ripe apples ready for picking. The organic kitchen garden, which supplies the restaurant and cookery school, was bursting with a colourful array of remarkable vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. The nasturtium crop in particular was quite spectacular (and they tasted pretty good too!) The greenhouses contained some very unusual-looking squash and pumpkin specimens, as well as numerous chilli plants and other less-recognisable potted chaps... and the 'mushroom valley' is a must-see - especially if there's a gardener nearby, who can explain the quite amazing story of how they cultivate all the fungi they use for cooking in the kitchens.

The real jewel in the crown for us though, and completely unexpected, was the Japanese tea garden. Inspired by a trip to Japan, it was Raymond himself who commissioned a local architect to design a little tea house - with an English thatched-roof twist - for the space. Having visited many gardens in Japan ourselves, it really captures that same sense of serenity and contemplative calm that Japanese gardens seem to emanate.

The gorgeous English water garden is the last gem to discover on your way to the restaurant, framed by golden and red autumnal leaves, and with a rather cute old stone stairway in the far corner, leading you up to the main building.

It goes without saying that the food was fab and the rooms we looked at really impressed us, as always. If you're thinking of doing a cycling holiday or a walking trip in the Cotswolds or Oxford next year, we strongly suggest booking in a night at Le Manoir - it won't disappoint!