In New York’s Upper East Side, they have a habit of turning the word ‘summer’ into a verb. And if you can afford an apartment in the Big Apple’s most prestigious zip code, the chances are you can also afford to summer in the Hamptons. The closest Londoners get to this is the weekly Friday night exodus from Chelsea to the Cotswolds. There’s a reason there’s one Daylesford organic farm shop on Pimlico Road and the other five minutes from Chipping Norton (the chocolate-box Gloucestershire village home to everyone from the Camerons to the Clarksons).
Thirty miles to the southwest of this tourist-trap territory is a development of lakeside homes called Watermark, which is about as close as you’ll get to the Hamptons this side of the Atlantic. Like many of its Stateside cousins, the houses at Watermark have light-timber cladding, vaulted ceilings and french doors that open onto large outdoor terraces – both waterside decks and bedroom balconies.
Of course, there’s no ocean here – instead, a porcelain blue lake that’s home to all kinds of wildlife, including a family of swans and signets which swim by on the lookout for any leftover crusts from your breakfast toast.
The development is situated in a 40-square mile area of outstanding natural beauty known as the Cotswold Water Park – a haven for both water creatures and water sports. All properties are built with eco-friendly features, such as energy-efficient heat pumps that provide filtered air heating and cooling to each home, and the houses are constructed using timber sourced from sustainably managed forests.
The houses here are available to rent or buy: we were just there for a weekend, but it’s not difficult to imagine why so many opt for a more permanent solution for their downtime – especially when you take into account that all owners at Watermark have access to the adjacent Four Pillars Hotel gym and spa as well as membership at nearby golf clubs, Wrag Barn and South Cerney.
We stayed on the aptly named Summer Lake. True to its title, it even came bathed in warm sunshine (at least, it did for most of our stay – we were still in Britain, after all). This was just as well, as the car I was driving there was one that really comes into its own when the sky is as blue as its paint job.
Watermark in The Cotswolds is a development of lakeside homes in a 40-square mile area of outstanding natural beauty
The Rolls-Royce Dawn is the latest model from the historic marque – and arguably the best looking car it’s made since the Corniche IV back in the early 1990s. The name, though, harks back to the 1950s and the original Silver Dawn – there were only 28 of these built as a drophead, cementing their legacy as one of the most exclusive Rolls-Royces created.
Beauty aside, the car’s sheer size is the first thing you’ll notice. On being delivered, my wife commented: “My God... it’s big, isn’t it?” (Sadly, not something I’m used to hearing too often.) There’s no doubt, at more than 17-feet long, this car has real presence. One of the reasons for this lengthy expanse is to ensure its 2+2 configuration allows for four fully grown adults to actually fit in.
Driving out of town with the hood down, it’s astonishing how many eyebrows were raised. As I stopped to let a lady cross the road, she paused in front of the car and simply uttered, “Golly!”. Even the profanities become posher when you’re driving a Rolls-Royce.
In traffic, you do feel somewhat exposed. On the flipside, having the roof tucked away does allow people a snapshot of some of the finest marquetry ever executed inside a car. The woodwork throughout – especially on its yacht-like rear shelf – is simply a work of art. The finish is matte instead of gloss, making it feel sharp and contemporary, rather than the walnut dash of a 1990s Rover.
Turn up the music, and you will drift into exhibitionist territory. The bass from the Roller’s bespoke sound system is beefy enough to rattle your fillings out.
But for such an unapologetic car, it’s as refined as a bottle of 1982 Chateau Lafite. With the six-layer fabric top back up, inside is as silent as the Bodleian library. It’s the most quiet convertible ever made… by anyone.
The Rolls-Royce Dawn distorts your view on the world: everything becomes so easy
The ride is exceptional: it’s less like driving, and more like being picked up and cradled by an invisible force. The Dawn also has highly intelligent technology working behind the scenes to make the ride even more effortless – including Satellite Aided Transmission where the car foretells which gear to select depending on the road layout ahead. It also has a night-time heat-detection system that picks up both human and animal heat signatures, and issues an audible warning to the driver of possible danger. It’s all so clever, it makes your head hurt.
But then you remember you’re wafting along in the most luxurious car in the world, and that nothing really hurts. Thanks to writing hunchback over a computer for much of my adult life, my entire body pretty much suffers from RSI. But after a three-hour journey in the Dawn, there wasn’t an echo of backache. Even the tyres that connect the Rolls with the road have been engineered to help conjure up this magic-carpet effect.
Although the engine talks in whispers, it doesn’t lack in grunt. The twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 powertrain packs away 563bhp – and will launch this 2.5-tonne car from 0-60mph in under five seconds. It’s a staggering feat executed with the manners of a priest.
In the most indulgent way, the Dawn distorts your view of the world: everything becomes so easy. It’s a bit like having your own on-board lifehacker.
Need to close the car door? Why would you reach over and employ actual effort when you can just press a button? It’s raining outside? You need a golf umbrella, sir – and you’ll find it in the front fender recess. There’s a bump in the road? Not for you, old bean. I shall absorb this as if your seat were made of marshmallow, and the bump were made of marshmallow – and your buttocks were also made of marshmallow. It brings a whole new dimension to ‘sweet ride’.
Even the boot space is sumptuous, clothed in a deep-pile wool carpet. If I had to be thrown in a boot – à la Goodfellas – there could definitely be worse places to end up. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the luxury accommodation on offer at the Watermark, I’d have happily slept in the Dawn. Although, I’m not sure that’s quite the image Rolls-Royce is striving for. It was far more at home lording it up over the harem of luxury cars parked up on Watermark’s neighbouring driveways.
Anyway, if this is what’s it’s like to use ‘summer’ as a verb, then sign me up.
A three-bedroom Deckhouse at Watermark costs £625,000; a five-bedroom Super Grand is £875,000. For sales information, call 01285 869 031 or visit watermarkcotswolds.com. For rentals, call 01285 869 181 or visit watermarkholidays.com For more information of the Rolls-Royce Dawn, go to rolls-roycemotorcars.com