Legend has it that the Devil likes to keep everything exactly as it has always been in Painswick. The story goes that only 99 immaculately clipped yew trees can ever grow in the garden of the Cotswold town’s 14th Century St Mary’s Church, or Lucifer will personally topple the 100th. He’d likely approve of the rest of Painswick’s tranquil old-world loveliness then, with its maze of narrow lanes criss-crossing the hillside and cottages built of honey-coloured stone from nearby Painswick Beacon. Once a prosperous wool town with 30 mills, Painswick is now best known for the 18th Century Rococo Gardens, a must-visit each spring for its fairytale carpet of snowdrops. Stroud and its outstanding Saturday farmers’ market is ten minutes away, elegant Cheltenham is 30. Painswick is a paradise for walkers too, set halfway along the 102-mile Cotswold Way from Chipping Campden to Bath, with hills in every direction – meaning that drivers will need nerves of steel to tackle the steep single-track incline on their way to The Painswick. The Grade II listed mansion, once the town’s vicarage, was bought and transformed from top to toe by upmarket hotel group The Calcot Collection in 2015, styled as a cosier, more informal alternative to its luxury properties. Now it feels more like a friend’s house than a 17-room hotel, despite its grand 18th Century exterior. There’s no reception desk but an entrance hall with a stash of books to borrow and Polaroid photos of the staff pegged on string. Other homely touches include a pile of raincoats and wellies to grab if the weather turns, rattan sofas on the lawn surrounded by lavender and wood-burning stoves made for winter afternoons. The rooms are ideal for hunkering down, with chocolate-chip cookies, luxury Ren products and a proper teapot and jug of fresh milk for a decent cup of tea. Be aware that there’s no lift and plenty of stairs. Rooms in the garden wing are smaller and more modern but have the best views along Painswick Valley. By day, guests are largely left to their own devices. There’s no lunch served here so fortysomething couples escaping their kids back home lounge with the papers before rural rambles, while older, well-heeled locals drop by for the exquisite afternoon tea Dinner is the main event, with a small, ambitious menu from head chef Jamie McCallum – formerly of Gary Rhodes’s Rhodes 24 – served in a candlelit, panelled dining room. Have a drink first on the secluded balcony, where there are just two tables that overlook the valley below. Serious foodies can tuck into adventurous starters including pig’s head fritter, smoked eel and pickled onion. Even classics such as roast rib of beef are given a twist and served with BBQ mushroom, hispi cabbage and spicy XO sauce.