Words by Lesley Gillilan
After the lockdown comes the great escape – and like caged animals released into the wild, most of us are heading for the open countryside. This longing for rural experience is nothing new (think Cowshed spas, foraged food and the rise of the PIG hotel chain) but it’s certainly been accentuated by the pandemic’s limitations. Fresh air, bucolic landscapes and big skies have risen to the top of many a home-spun British bucket list. And for those who are dreaming of log fires, low beams, wildflower meadows and mooing cattle, this collection of lush rural boltholes and farm-stays will bring out your inner country bumpkin without compromising on comforts.
The Newt, Bruton, Somerset
The raw material is Hadspen House, a rambling Palladian beauty, first opened as a hotel back in 2019 and now offering the complete rural experience with café, bakery, farm shop, state-of-the-art cyder press, garden-to-table dining, Himalayan Salt Room (there is a spa), heated hydro pool and acres of orchards, woodland and walled gardens. South African owners, Koos Bekker and his wife Karen Roos (a former Elle Decoration editor) spent five years restoring the estate to create this uber-stylish, rural idyll which takes its name from a resident colony of great crested newts.
The place is more brass than muck, but you can soak up a bit of agricultural history by checking into the Farmyard, Hayloft or Granary, among other converted-outhouse rooms. The Stable Yard’s former horse boxes, for example, combine cleverly repurposed hay mangers, brick floors and tie rings with king-size beds and indulgent bathrooms. Add daily bee safaris, heritage livestock, cook-outs, collies and estate lamb.
Rates at The Newt start a £225 per night (Stable Yard rooms from £480) to include breakfast, spa treatments (when available), cyder tour and access to grounds. The hotel opens on 17 May 2021 (although the earliest availability is not until October). For more information, see thenewtinsomerset.com.
Crumplebury, Whitborne, Herefordshire
It started with the Green Cow Kitchen – a home-spun, pop-up diner in a tumbledown pigsty on the Whitborne Estate near Worcester. The guests, by all accounts, turned up in wellies and white wine in cool boxes. By 2016 it was deemed the county’s best restaurant and three years later, the pigsty has been upgraded and the fine dining restaurant (now fully licensed) is the heart and soul of a family-run farm enterprise that combines fields of livestock and fresh produce with guest rooms, a cottage to rent, events and an art gallery.
In the Farms and Coppice rooms or the Oakley Suite, you’ll find a rich palette of bold colours, monsoon showers, stone or copper roll-top tubs, dreamy beds and country views. Longfield Cottage has its own wood-fired hot tub. The place is available for exclusive use, sleeping up to 26 guests.
Rates at Crumplebury start at £185 per night. Restaurant and rooms bookable from 20 May 2021. For more information, visit crumplebury.co.uk.
Monachyle Mhor, Perthshire, Scotland
Splendid isolation underpins this lusciously remote farmhouse-cum-boutique hotel which sits within its own 2,000-acre estate in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Serving elegant dishes that make use of the farm’s own lamb, beef and pork, the estate’s venison, fresh local fish and home-grown vegetables, the restaurant alone makes Monachyle worth the journey. But the rooms are pretty cool, too.
The more traditional house rooms have the best views of Lochs Voil and Doine (see main image above), but the courtyard’s feature rooms have space and the edge: an eclectic combo of antique, designer and slightly whacky furniture (Eames chairs, cowhide rugs, milking stools, abstract prints), huge beds and fabulous bathrooms (two have personal steam rooms; one has twin slipper baths). There is also a two-bedroom family suite and – for an extra notch of wild and free – a 1950s Pilot Panther glamping wagon out in the sticks.
Rates at Monachyle Mhor start at £195 per night (Feature Rooms from £360 – or £490 with dinner). Restaurant and rooms available from 17 May 2021. For more information, visit monachylemhor.net.
Artist Residence Oxfordshire
After successful urban ventures in Brighton, Penzance and London, this quirky, ‘eccentrically English’ micro chain took the Artist Residence concept out into the sticks to do a playful take on the country inn.
Tucked away in a rural corner of the Cotswolds, a thatched farmhouse and a collection of outbuildings have been converted to create all-day dining in the Masons Arms (comfort food foraged from hedgerows, picked from the Residence’s own kitchen garden or sourced from local Oxfordshire farms) alongside eight rustic rooms (choose from Rabbit Hole, Farmhouse Loft or the gorgeous Barn Suite). Furnishings combine log fires, fine linens, beams and roll-tub bathtubs with ‘artworks and oddities’. There is also a Shepherd’s Hut in the herb garden, bikes to borrow and space for kids and dogs.
Rates at Artist Residence Oxfordshire start £285 per night (doubles, room only). For more information, visit artistresidence.co.uk.
Shepherds Huts at Kerswell Farm, South Hams, Devon
The words shepherd and hut, don’t exactly scream luxury but these modest field shelters have been dredged up from the Thomas Hardy era to become a stalwart of the ubiquitous glamping market. And they don’t get much better than these little charmers. Owners Nichola and Graham were high flyers who took a slow lane into semi-retirement, combining guest accommodation with rearing Berkshire pigs, hens and home-grown veg. Their two socially distanced huts – the Cress Well and the Three Hares – sit in a meadowy field that slopes gently down to a wooded river valley.
Like a rustic Tardis, each bespoke hut is surprisingly spacious; fitted with a Shaker-style kitchenette with fridge and wine rack, a mini bathroom with power shower, a decent double bed dressed with high-quality linens, flat-screen TV and a decked terrace with sunbeds and barbecue. True, they are compact, but the luxuries here are all about sunsets, starlit skies, wildlife, peace and restful country views. Guests are welcome to explore the 14-acre farm – and meet the Berkshires.
Rates at Kerswell Farm Shepherds Huts start £100 per night (minimum two nights at the weekend). For more information, visit kerswellfarmshepherdhuts.co.uk.
Wildhive at Callow Hall, Ashbourne Derbyshire
Opening this summer (we think August), Callow Hall is the first of a new brand of boutique hotel that set out to offer a breath of fresh air away from the madding crowd. The prototype is a Grade II listed Victorian pile, set in 35 acres of the Peak District. There is nothing particularly wild about the décor (conceived by interior designer Isabella Worsley, this is a classic country house with an extra bit of oomph thanks to art collections and splashy prints) but the concept is all about nature, landscape, wellness and sustainability. Like Callow Hall, each hotel will offer a collection of Wildhives (luxury cabins and ‘earth dens’ set in the grounds), a plant-based spa (think botanical facials) and – essential to the brand’s ethos – working beehives (15 of them in this case).
Callow has 15 rooms in the house, 11 one-bedroom Wildhives on the grounds (all with kitchenette and outdoor bathing) and two lavish woodland treehouses, plus wild picnics, yoga in the Coach House Wellness Centre and Derbyshire Oatcakes with pickled fennel and kohlrabi in the grass-roofed Garden Restaurant.
Rates at Callow Hall start at £179 per night (treehouses from £329 per night). For more information, visit wildhive.uk.