Fresh air. Green space. Al fresco meals. Simple pleasures. A few of the things many of us have been craving as we emerge from lockdown lifestyles. And if your own home doesn’t provide them, a stay in someone else’s could be the answer. We asked our friends at Unique Homestays for some staycation inspiration, all a short journey from some of our hospitality partners.
“Every property in our collection is hand-picked and unique, with interiors as beautiful as their locations,” says Unique Homestays’ Francesca Reed. “Some are simple and rustic, like a beach hut in Cornwall. Others are architectural one-offs, like a Martello tower on the Suffolk coast. Some have pools and hot tubs. One even has a bowling alley! What they all have in common is their uniqueness – there really is something different for every kind of break.”
Here are five inspiring ideas for your ideal summertime – or anytime – staycation.
1 Coastal drama
Britain’s 11,185 miles of mainland coastline means that coastal walks, swimming, sailing, crabbing, fresh fish and sandy toes are never more than around 70 miles away. The Victorians were big believers in ‘taking the waters’ for their health. And now research tells us that just being near water has beneficial effects on our wellbeing. Ride the wave…
Portwrinkle, Whitsand Bay, Cornwall, UK
Built entirely from the washed-up timber of the marooned cargo ship Kodima, The Shipwreck is all about expansive ocean views, fresh fish suppers and the gentle roar of the waves. A true escape from urban distractions, this beach house in Cornwall’s 'forgotten corner' is a place where uninterrupted time together is the ultimate luxury.
A short and pleasant drive into neighbouring Devon is historic Boringdon Hall – “the enchanted place on the hill”. Head Chef Scott Paton’s four-course signature menu draws visitors and locals to Àcléaf, Boringdon’s intimate modern British restaurant, where inventive plates feature the finest locally sourced ingredients. Awarded 3 AA Rosettes after Chef Paton joined in 2016, Àclèaf features a four-course table d’hôte menu and an English-led wine offering, including a selection from Gusbourne.
2 Family time
This year has seen more family time than ever. Breaking your home-based routines can set a new rhythm away from the pressures of work and school. Family holidays are where memories get locked in (as opposed to locked down). And where being together – exploring, talking, cooking, playing, just doing nothing – is the whole point.
Leominster, Herefordshire, UK
This luxury riverside home is a wonderland of vintage charm. Ring the old pull-string bell and open the door to ornate cornicing, wood burner and open fireplace, four-poster beds, roll-top baths, cinema room, games room and a spa-style hot tub in the lush orangery. Set up croquet on the lawn or camp on the banks of the River Arrow to enjoy private fishing rights while children play hide and seek among the topiary pyramids. And for a bit of Tudor history, walk the Black and White Trail, right from the doorstep.
Nearby Ludlow, in Shropshire, is renowned as a centre of British gastronomy, at one point boasting the UK’s biggest cluster of Michelin-starred restaurants outside London. Our friends at Old Downton Lodge have been listed in the Michelin Guide and awarded 3 AA Rosettes every year since 2015. Executive Head Chef Nick Bennett was a finalist on BBC’s Master Chef: The Professionals in 2015 and presents a six-course tasting menu alongside à la carte suggestions based on seasonal market produce. Something for everyone in the family.
3 Architectural exploration
Light, space, curves, angles, materials, textures, setting – the details of great architecture are about so much more than shelter. Getting a taste of a truly unique property can surprise and delight while you’re there and can influence how you live when you go back home.
Petworth, West Sussex, UK
A 1970s sci-fi film was the unlikely inspiration for this playful award-winning South Downs retreat. With access to Petworth House and Gardens, this architect's private home is a fine example of new English country design. Cadence's backdrop of leafy woodland contrasts with its sleek modernity: brick-wrapped concrete derived from recycled materials. Inside, rendered walls give way to secret stairwells and hidden reading nooks, calling to mind sci-fi themes of dark and light, space and height. A unique home to settle into.
For self-caterers, The Horsham Cellar stocks an impressive range of local craft beers and ciders, old and new world wines, spirits and of course English sparkling wines. Pay a visit to this charming family-owned independent wine and spirit merchant and put their wares to good use in Cadence’s kitchen. A short drive through the lush South Downs takes you to The Kennels dining room at The Goodwood Estate, a beautifully restored former dog kennels full of period details and contemporary design. The menu features Estate-reared produce served with views over Goodwood’s 12,000 acres of rolling green parkland.
4 Grand gourmet getaways
Food and culture are inextricably linked. Any travel or food writer or presenter will tell you that to truly understand a place, you should eat and drink as the locals do. Artisanal producers are everywhere, so a trip to the local farmers’ market, greengrocer and wine merchant will arm any serious foodie with all the ingredients they need to get creative with in someone else’s kitchen.
Waldron, East Sussex, UK
There’s a distinct Franco-English flavour to this unique former oast house, which now flaunts a romantic interior worthy of any chateau: intricate plaster detailing, grand chandeliers and even grander fireplaces. The great outdoors won't keep guests inside these fine-looking walls for long however. Hidden within the 10-acre private estate on the edge of the High Weald AONB, guests will find a heated swimming pool, hot tub and spa area, with rolling green views for miles around. Sway in the hammock or wander through the rose gardens, drinking in the sweet country air before retreating inside for home-cooked delights.
A visit to this part of the country demands a detour to (or delivery from) High Weald Dairy, the award-winning cheesemongers in nearby West Sussex. If lunch out beckons instead, head to The Sportsman, the Michelin-starred seaside gastropub on the coast at Seasalter near Whitstable. Or The Fordwich Arms, with views over the river Stour, where Chef Patron Daniel Smith (ex-Clove Club) and his wife, co-owner and Pastry Chef Natasha Smith oversee à la carte and tasting menus made with the freshest local, seasonal ingredients alongside an impressive – and interesting – wine list.
5 Dive into nature
Reset, recharge, restart. Let this pandemic-era mantra guide you to a place where everyday stresses melt into distant memory as you focus on some well-earned wellbeing activities. Immerse yourself in nature. Stretch body and mind with yoga, cycling, walking, hiking, golf. And drink in the silence of perfectly balanced seclusion.
The Lost Music Hall
Ipplepen, Totnes, Devon, UK
Created by a London dandy as a secret retreat at the turn of the 20th century, this intriguing home has been brought back to life as part of a restoration project connected to Devon’s ‘lost’ Italian Garden. Forgotten for for many years, the house was reclaimed by nature before being reimagined into a luxury holiday home for families. Look forward to floating in the outdoor pool, sipping cocktails and spending evenings tinkling the ivories of the baby grand piano. All within an enchanting hidden valley.
When in Devon, a visit to Dartmoor is always recommended, and nestled within the national park is the five-star Bovey Castle hotel and spa. Secluded and a bit secret, the magnificent location gives views across Dartmoor and the tranquil River Bovey from this historic country-house hotel and its championship 18-hole golf course. After an afternoon on the greens, treat yourself to a relaxing bespoke treatment at the Elan Spa or lunch at the 3 AA Rosette Great Western fine dining restaurant – with a glass of well-earned English sparkling wine in this quintessentially English destination.
When you book with Unique Homestays, selected properties include a gourmet welcome hamper stocked with local produce and a bottle of Gusbourne Brut Reserve.
Find your ideal staycation home and book direct. Visit www.uniquehomestays.com or call +44(0) 1637 881183.
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