I was sitting in the sauna of Gulliver’s Hall, the immaculate party house in Gloucestershire, with my old friend Jack, when suddenly the conversation turned serious. A few moments ago we’d been catching up on what had been going on in our lives over the past couple of years, but now the conversation had taken a turn.
“You’d tell me wouldn’t you?”, he said to me, looking deep into my eyes. “Can I trust that you’re faithful?”
No, he wasn’t being over-protective of my husband. We were in the middle of an intensely enjoyable game of mafia, the dinner party game that popular BBC TV series The Traitors is based on. The game had been taking place all day in the many spaces of the rambling Cotswolds house we’d rented for the weekend.
I quizzed my friend Carla during a game of croquet, tried to work out if Nic was lying to me while we soaked in the hot tub and decided Alice was telling the truth as we pushed our children on the rope swing.
My friends and I first played mafia together nearly 20 years ago when we were all in the same class at the Oxford School of Drama. For those who haven’t watched The Traitors, it’s a slightly more complicated version of wink murder, where players are assigned the role of either villagers or mafia – or faithful or traitors, as they’re known in the TV game. The faithful must work out who the traitors are by paying close attention to everyone’s behaviour and body language, while the traitors have to blatantly lie to their friends – which is why our drama school favoured it as an acting game.
Read more on UK travel:
We timed our weekend reunion with the final of The Traitors last Friday, 26 January, driving from our various bases around the UK and convening in the large country kitchen of the seven-bedroom farmhouse. The giant table, which had been created from an oak tree that fell in the grounds 50 years ago, easily accommodated our tribe of 19 people for a welcome meal cooked by the couple who had the least distance to travel. Eleven kids at one end and eight adults at the other.
We then the fire in the medieval stone fireplace of the large the sitting room and draped ourselves over the various armchairs and sofas to watch the final episode, while the children excitedly hunted for ghosts in the bedrooms (they decided the master bedroom with the four-poster bed was definitely haunted).
Next morning my 11-year-old daughter, Zayla, donned a black “Claudia Winkleman” wig and borrowed my black eyeliner, and after a noisy breakfast the younger children were herded off to watch a film in the snug, while the adults (and my 10-year-old son, Ziggy) very seriously took their places around the kitchen table and the roles were drawn. I was assigned the role of faithful and went full pelt in trying to guess who the traitors were –drawing unwelcome attention to myself.
We decided to reconvene for a “round table” each hour (during which one player gets banished by the faithful, and one gets murdered by the traitors), and the rest of the time we were free to enjoy the property as we would on any other weekend away. The traitors discovered a secret door in the bookcase of the library, which was the perfect place for secret meetings.
Across from the main building is a three-room pool house, making the rental 10 rooms in total, and ideal for a party of our size. Outside is a walled swimming pool and sunken hot tub, while inside is a sauna and steam room and games room with projector and full-size ping pong table. Several of my friends braved the icy water of the pool, which is heated from April until October, after stepping from the sauna.
The pool house has two kitchens, one inside, one outside. The latter is home to a wood-fired pizza oven, and so the game continued while my friend Mary helped the kids make pizza dough. I thought she wasn’t interested enough in finding out who the traitors were, which made her my prime suspect – but it turned out she was just distracted by cooking and I voted out a faithful.
The final round-table happened in the pool house when all the pizza had been consumed and there were just four players left in the game. It turned out that Jack, who had been so intently quizzing me on whether I was faithful back in the sauna, and thus removing my suspicion, had been a traitor all along.
Other party houses to satisfy your Traitors itch
For a has-it-all Cotswolds escape: The Marlings, Cotswolds
Sleeps 25; from £5,850 for a short break (three-night weekend breaks or four-night mid-week break), £7,795 per week
For a chic countryside getaway with room for everyone: The Milk Wood, Wales
Sleeps 25; from £5,745 per short break, £7,600 per week
For a sprawling Cheshire estate: Scarlet Hall, Cheshire
Sleeps 22; from £5,495 per short break, £7,695 per week
For a glitz and glamour country house: Huntlington House, Worcestershire
Sleeps 14; from £6,495 per short break, £8,250 per week
For your very own Traitors castle: Florin, Wales
Sleeps 14; from £2,895 per short break, £3,850 per week
For a showstopping hall for grand gatherings: Orpheus, Suffolk
Sleeps 14from £7,495 per short break, £9,995 per week
For a beach house made for summer parties: Senara, Cornwall
Sleeps 12; from £3,495 per short break, £4,650 per week
Read more on the best hotels in the UK