The Urban Guide to the Countryside
Berkshire Edition

Big and beautiful

11 Apr 2017

Looking for a gorgeous holiday stop for families or larger groups? Hang on, I’ll just get out my magician’s hat and wand and, er… abracadabra!  The best rental properties across 18 counties, conjured up by your in-the-know Muddy editors.

STAY IN…BERKSHIRE

The Coach House, Ascot 

Pass me a kaftan and a glass of fizz (make that a bottle), I feel the need to waft. This stunning 7-bed house in Ascot is probably the most glamorous pad I’ve ever seen. It’s been refurbished to a super-duper high spec with loads of entertaining space, outdoor jacuzzi and bar, cinema room and a music system that pumps out wherever you are in the house and garden. If you need a pad for Ascot Race, it’s 5 mins away, 10 mins to Wentworth gold course and 45 mins from London. Rates are from £800 and all-inclusive hen parties can be arranged.

Home Farmhouse, Wasing Park, Aldermaston

Looking for a party house where you bang out the choons without annoying the neighbours? Home Farmhouse on the 100-acre Wasing Estate in Aldermaston is the answer. A lovely 6-bed house near Reading, and just 45 miles from London, it has a stunning garden perfect for barbecues, family games and croquet battles on the lawn. You’re also in the stunning grounds of Wasing Park, so make the most of the setting and enjoy magical walks through the ancient woodland. From £1,000 per night.

STAY IN…BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

The Old Rectory, Hartwell House, near Aylesbury

Say hello to The Old Rectory, a self-catering property in the grounds of Hartwell House & Spa, complete with a river weaving through its bucolic, extensive 18th century gardens. The Old Rectory has four-bedrooms, all with en suites, with the master boasting a four-poster bed. Then there’s the drawing room with French windows leading out onto 2 acres of private gardens and views across to the Gothic chapel in the Hartwell estate, plus an outdoor pool and croquet lawn. Who wouldn’t want to be lady of the manor here for a few days? It’s worth noting, though, only children over the age of 6 are allowed to dine in Hartwell House itself.

STAY IN…CAMBRIDGESHIRE

The Cedar House, Castor

It almost feels French from the outside but the stunning The Cedar House is actually located in the pretty village of Castor, a few miles west of Peterborough. There’s a feeling of grandeur about this property from the moment that you step through the front door with its imposing entrance hall and carved oak staircase. It’s stacked with period features and has been beautifully restored with roll top baths, a country kitchen with an AGA and open fires.  Wind your way through the house and you’ll discover 10 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 2 sitting rooms, a play room and a dining room big enough to squeeze everyone in – it’s just cooing for some form of celebration.  It’s large – it’ll sleep a whopping 20, 21 if you include the dog (yes the pooches can come too, up to 4 if you’ve got a pack), and they’re happy for you to squeeze a cot or two in for tiddlers. The garden is a reasonable size and there’s a climbing frame and a Wendy house for the younger members of the house party.  There’s a pub less than a mile away, great walks and cycle routes and the lovely market town of Stamford is nearby if you feel so inclined – but why bother?

Stapleford, Cambridge

Situated on the top of the Gog Magog Hills, this hilltop property sits in 4 acres of grounds and is a haven of tranquility only 10 mins from the bustle of Cambridge. It’s an eclectic mix of an original agricultural cottage adjoining converted outbuildings and the end result is an excellent all-year round entertaining space. It sleeps 12 (5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms), and indoors you’ll find vaulted ceilings, contemporary log burners and oak flooring.  Step outside and there’s a choice of a patio or decked area, a pond and a 7-person hot tub (available all year). The garden’s vast – you could play a test match on the lawn or build camps in the woodland and it’s all enclosed, so no fear of losing anyone.  With a pool table and table tennis table too, there’s something for everyone.  The Gog Magog Hills are a range of low chalk hills southeast of Cambridge.  Locally you’ll find an award winning farm shop and café and take your pick from various pubs located nearby.  Wandlebury Country Park is also close if 4 acres just isn’t enough.

STAY IN…CORNWALL

Fairfax, Rock 

Rock is a waterside village on the Camel Estuary, in an especially charmed part of Cornwall. It’s popular for good reason and is perfect for families, with various beaches, restaurants and beautiful coastal walks on its doorstep. This spacious, modern house is minutes from the beach and is perfectly set up for large groups, with great social spaces and a large enclosed garden. Nathan Outlaw’s pub The Mariner’s is just down the road and Padstow, with all its foodie temptations, is a ferry ride away.

Polpier & Penpol, Mevagissey

For a wedding, party or big-old family reunion, you’d be pushed to find a lovelier location than this beautiful estate overlooking Mevagissey. The larger house, Polpier, was designed in 1892 by Cornish architect Silvanus Trevail and has been luxuriously restored, with spacious, comfortable bedrooms and multiple, stylish shared spaces, including a large lounge room, with a Bose cinema system and a fabulous airy kitchen. Outside, you’ll be wowed by the beautiful terraced gardens, heated pool, tennis court and outdoor dining area. The more modern Penpol (which sleeps 10) can be rented separately or as part of the entire estate.

STAY IN…DEVON

Higher Westcott Farm, Nr Moretonhampstead, Dartmoor

If you’re looking for a hideaway in peaceful seclusion to get together and catch up over copious bottles of red (or fall out over who won Trivial Pursuit), then you’ll love Higher Westcott Farm.  It’s a three hundred year-old granite, thatched Devon longhouse surrounded by ancient woodland and rolling hills.  Inside is packed with original features, but with all the twenty-first century comfort that you’d hope for; put it this way, you’ll have a pretty healthy Instagram page after a stay here.  The living area is cosy but spacious with a wood burner making winters especially lovely; and upstairs there are six bedrooms stretching into the loft, with plenty of options for configuring to fit cots and kids’ beds.  Speaking of which, there is a play room and outside is a dream for little ones and grown-ups, as you can sit on the terrace watching them run around and explore quirks like ancient bee boles in the stone walls.  Moretonhampstead itself is a busy village known as the gateway to Dartmoor, so you’re perfectly placed for stretching the legs and falling into decent country pubs after.  It’s an all-the-year-round winner.

West Charleton Grange, nr Kingsbridge

Sometimes it’s nice to have everybody in one place, but still have your own front door to lock at the end of the day, right?  We’re not sure there is anywhere better catered to large groups and families in Devon than West Charleton Grange, a cluster of gorgeous cottages of different sizes, all within shouting distance of each other and with all the facilities to keep kids and grown-ups entertained and smiling for days.  The setting is an absolute stunner, the toys are plentiful and there is a gorgeous heated indoor swimming pool for splashing about and lounging.  There is a definite feel of luxury here, with Ren goodies, locally sourced treats on arrival and options for catering if you can’t be bothered to cook.  And being close to the south Devon coast, you’re only a short drive from some of the best spots, like Bantham beach, Salcombe and the estuary town of Kingsbridge, full of chi-chi boutiques and deli’s.  If you can bag yourself a break here, give yourself a pat on the back and then revel in the praise that the rest of the gang will bestow upon you for having such excellent taste!

STAY IN…GLOUCESTERSHIRE

The Pinetum Lodge, nr Gloucester

This Victorian hunting lodge, tucked away in 13 acres of beautiful woodland garden just west of Gloucester, is the perfect spot for a large get-together – with its 11 beds that can be set up in various combinations of singles and doubles (and two nearby cabins that can sleep a further four) – you’d easily squeeze in two families, maybe even three. Or you could keep it grown-ups only and throw a monumental weekend party à la The Shooting Party, with or without the bed swapping (no judging here!). There’s a roomy kitchen complete with AGA and a huge sitting room with a massive dining table and open fires at either end, so you’ll stay toasty if you’re staying in winter (or if the English spring/summer weather is being particularly unkind). There are loads of walks on the doorstep which stretch into neighbouring Highnam Wood, and you’re also on the edge of a 500 acre RSPB reserve and very near the Forest of Dean with all its outward-bound activities (Go Ape, riding, canoeing, climbing, diving). Or, if that sounds a bit too strenuous, there’s a heated outdoor pool which is open between May and October, which you can dip in and out of and then dry off on the patio with a G&T and admire the stunning gardens.

The Old Chapel, Slad

With its wild flowered meadows, ancient woodland and rolling hills, the Slad Valley, immortalized by Laurie Lee in Cider With Rosie, must be one of the most beautiful spots in the Cotswolds. And this 1865 converted chapel must be one of the most magical places you can stay in in the area. A happy marriage of period features with contemporary interiors, this four-bedroom gem sleeps 10 making it ideal for two sharing families. There’s a large modern kitchen with a double oven and reclaimed church pews around a wooden dining table; a grown-ups sitting room with comfy sofas, chairs, telly and wood-burning stove; and a separate children’s room furnished with bean bags and a Playstation. Outside you’ll find a large, wrap-around terrace, another elevated terrace (from where you can really appreciate the view) and an enclosed trampoline. Which means, people, that inside and outside, you can keep the kids occupied and out of your hair. You’re within spitting (or staggering) distance of the bohemian local pub, The Woolpack, which was Laurie Lee’s favourite and still retains an air of creative je ne sais quoi, walks are aplenty and Stroud, with its vintage shops, famous Saturday farmers’ market (loved by Jasper Conran and the late fashion critic Isabella Blow) and fab takeaway pizza joint Fat Toni’s (the 20-inch sourdough pizzas are legendary) is only a five-minute drive away.

STAY IN…HAMPSHIRE

Ploughman’s Cottage, The New Forest

If like me you were raised on The Famous Five — Enid Blyton’s hazy hymn to childhood freedom, rugged exploration and sandy sandwiches, then you need to know about Ploughman’s Cottage. No. 2 in The Times Travel’s Best Family Self-Catering, it’s a Victorian idyll deep in The New Forest and consciously set-up for families in a way that only parents catering for parents can understand. Under-5’s and Grandparents are welcomed with wide-open arms, there are two downstairs bedrooms, stair-gates in place at all times and baby-kit, including highchairs, cots, bouncers and toys for all ages. The sprawling garden brims with forest ferns, foxgloves, birdsong and wisteria; and willow dens: the perfect hide-out for elves, fairies and naughty rabbits cowering from Mr McGregor. In the centre of the lawn, two giant teacups and Coco the mobile, gypsy caravan, her walls dedicated to small-hand scribbles. Inside, the space is clean and airy: a warm, sundrenched, open-plan kitchen with french-doors and expansive windows. Upstairs, wooden beams and contemporary chic — I particularly love the wallpaper with life-size trees and the forest at sun up. The beach is mere minutes away, as is the pretty harbour town of Lymington. Guests also have a discount at nearby Limewood’s delicious Herb House Spa, if child-free time is on the cards. The house is managed by New Forest Escapes, a group of lovely mothers who combine special properties with an emphasis on quirky, outdoors fun. Love, love, love.

Riverside Cottage, Bransbury, Winchester

We’re deep in Hampshire here, with a chalkstream clear as Mother’s ruin across the road. Think weeping willows, speckled trout, dragonfly and swan; a rare malachite flash of Kingfisher and the calm chorus of warblers and river water… yet London is an easy hour away and buzzy Winchester, just ten minutes down the road (with the best farmer’s market in the country according to Rick Stein, you heard it from Muddy first). This one’s a goodie – a thatched cottage with that squat, red-brick charm unique to home-counties villages, all flagstone floors, wooden-beams, a wood burner and AGA to gather round post-children’s bedtime for wine, chats and hot chocolate. Sensitive refurbishment means that, unlike your traditional country dwelling, the space is flooded with light with a large conservatory to boot. In summer, eat fresh croissants and Hampshire honey on the outdoor breakfast terrace then plunge into the pool (protected with an electronic safety cover when not in use). Days are filled with dreamy lazing, piles of books, long leg-stretches, BBQs by the lavender and, if you so wish, yoga, pilates and art classes at the yurt cafe next door. The 5-acre, fenced lawn is ripe for picnics — spread out your gingham, crack open the homemade lemonade and order a ‘Posh Picnic’ from wonderful local caterers The Little Kitchen Company whilst the children run amok in total safety.

STAY IN…HERTFORDSHIRE

Lordship Barns, Ware

If you fancy getting your mates together for a game of rounders in 600 acres of farmland just one hour from London, Lordship Barns is just the ticket. Ten minutes from Ware, and renovated a couple of years ago, the Granary, Wagon House and Vineyard will accommodate up to 14 people. You can book each one separately, but if you want to have the run of the place for your very own house party in a the rolling hills of Hertfordshire, it’s best to book all three. Lordship Barns have been transformed with love and care by Sasha Josey – they’re on her parents’ family farm – and everything is of a standard to suit the Muddy barn dweller, from Neal’s Yard toiletries to under floor heating. If you fancy a trip out, then Perry Green is on your doorstep, where there is yet more open space studded with sheep and Henry Moore bronzes. Hertford and Cambridge are also not that far away. Weekend rentals run from Friday to Monday and the price for 14 people starts at £1400.

STAY IN…KENT

Great Higham Barn, Doddington

Have a big birthday coming up or an epic family celebration? Then you’ll want to know about Great Higham Barn, in the stunning Kent Downs area of Donnington, near the cute market town of Faversham. This gorgeously designed holiday barn has an all-important super spacious kitchen for entertaining, loads of pockets of formal and informal seating areas and sofas dotted around, a galleried play area, terrace and the shared use of a heated swimming pool and tennis courts. There’s an annexe which can be used as part of the barn (it has an inter-connecting staircase) or separately with its own front door – ideal for members of the party who perhaps are looking for a little privacy (yeah, I’m talking to you Christian Grey). Even better, if it’s a stonkingly big bash you’re planning you can combine your booking with the other barns in the complex to take over the whole site, which will sleep up to 44 in total.

Medley Court, Hever Castle

If it’s a more *cough* grown up get away you’re after then Medley Court cottage would make a weekend escape with a difference for you and a group of friends. Sleeping up to 8 in total this luxurious four bed property (recently awarded a ‘five-star gold’ rating by Quality in Tourism) is attached to the Astor Wing of Hever Castle. You’ll remember of course that this was once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn (and off with your head, if you didn’t!). I’ve seen around the cottage myself  – well I am practically royalty – and while there’s no mistaking it’s period-inspired furnishings (modern minimalists might steer clear) it has the seriously warm, relaxed feel of a family home. Guests also have the unique opportunity of access to the gardens and grounds during times when they are closed to the public and will be presented with a ‘Castle Kitchen’ welcome hamper on arrival. A right royal romp, this one.

STAY IN…NORFOLK

Marshgate House, North Walsham

Imagine a cottage so flexible that your family – no matter how large or small – can fit perfectly without Uncle Albert having to sleep on a pull out (it’s his back, you see). Allow me to introduce you to Marshgate House – a three cottages-in-one type set up nestled in the rambling grounds of Marshgate House. Select the one-bed Dairy (sleeps two), the two-bed Coach House (sleeps four) or the two-bed Stable Cottage (sleeps four) – or two of them, or all three – and hop from cottage-to-cottage to be sociable, retreating to your own space when the family gets a bit much (because, let’s face it…). Cosy lounges; open-plan, fully-equipped kitchens; double bedrooms; modern bathrooms; south-facing gardens; plenty of parking; and all the character you can muster – think beamed ceilings and stripped wood floors – awaits. Even your pooches are welcome. Ideally located in a quiet location a 10-minute walk from the centre of the bustling market town of North Walsham – with its dog-friendly cafe and country pubs – Marshgate House sits equidistant from beautiful Norfolk beaches and The Norfolk Broads, making it ideal for exploring.

Hall Farm Cottages, Horning

Essentially nine (yes nine!) charming barn conversions in one – with the added bonus of a meadow, a fishing lake, and a conference and games room – Hall Farm can sleep a whopping 46 guests (extending to 54 if eight children are happy to sleep on Z-beds) in one, one-bedroom; two, two-bedroom; and six, three-bedroom barn conversions. Large groups of multi-generational families will love the flexibility and disabled access (all of the cottages, bar the one-bedded loft apartment, offer a downstairs bedroom and wet room), while groups of friends with babies and toddlers will love the security – open the French doors of your cottage and let the kids play safely together in the large garden.  Hall Farm’s cottages are located in the picturesque surroundings of the Norfolk Broads, and are within walking distance of the local pubs along the riverbank, where fishing is also available. There are shops nearby for you to buy a few gifts from, stunning churches to visit and the award-winning outdoor adventure park Bewilderwood for those children that need to let off a bit of steam.

STAY IN…NORTHAMPTONSHIRE 

Brampton Grange, Chapel Brampton

Zipping around the county on Muddy adventures I often come across little (or in this case big) gems off the beaten path. Brampton Grange House is one of them. It’s around 400 years old and built of Northamptonshire sandstone, so will probably withstand anything your party of up to 15 throws at it (not literally of course, we’re very cultured around here). It was purchased by the Spencer Family (Althorp Estate) in 1825, but for the past 15 years the estate has been privately owned and operated as a wedding venue, conference centre and luxury accommodation. It’s the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a stay with family and friends either on a self catering or bed and breakfast basis. It retains its charming features of old like stone floors, fireplaces and timber beams, and it’s set over three floors, so you won’t all be on top of each other (ahem). There are 8 en-suite bedrooms (no fighting for bathrooms) and guests also have access to the tennis courts and swimming pool in the private walled garden. Skinny dip anyone?

Griffin Hall, Nr Wellingborough

More stately home than cottage, the exclusive hire Griffin Hall is sophistication personified! A grade II listed manor, set in 11 acres of breathtaking grounds, it’s the ideal venue for a large party, with plenty of space (it sleeps 14 – six reception rooms, 7 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms). I’ve been around dear Mudsters, as you know, and this is Luxe with a capital L. The blurb says ‘surround yourself in Jacobean elegance and be transported into the glittering world of English aristocracy and Victorian romance.’ YES PLEASE (now where did I put my Great Gatsby jewelled frock..?). And it’s not far from Wellingborough, which is incidentally where Muddy Northants resides (it was meant to be)! With tennis court, small football pitch, trampoline, basketball net, picturesque lake AND rowing boat, you might not need the optional hot tub hire, but who doesn’t love an evening under the starts with Champagne (*packs bikini anyway*)

STAY IN…OXFORDSHIRE

Bruern Cottages, The Cotswolds

I stayed here with my daughter a few years back and I still remember her rampaging around in sheer delight at the luxury (and the fact she’d finally ditched her two brothers for a night). Bruern Luxury Cottages nestle in the stunningly picturesque hamlet of Bruern in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, just around the corner from the Astor’s family gaff if you fancy dropping in for a spot of tea (the cottages were, in fact developed into holiday cottages by Judy Astor herself so use that as your opening gambit). The cottages come in various sizes, with the biggest, ‘Weir House’, holding 10 and ‘Newmarket’ sleeping 8. Wherever you stay, you share some lovely outdoor play spaces, an indoor swimming pool, a small spa, a Wendy house, indoor games room and a selection of bikes and toys to entertain. The design is quintessentially English – expect no trendy Scandi touches here, it’s all about the heritage. The welcome hamper is welcome indeed, with champers and local produce to keep the wolf from the door, plus a fully-stocked log basket for your evening fire. In the summer months there’s a barbeque for al fresco burning of the meat and if cooking seems too much of a hassle, you can order pre-prepared ready meals created by local chefs. Bliss!

Pear Tree Cottage, Upper Oddington, nr Stow

Fancy a jaunt into the Cotswolds? Pear Tree Cottage is a grand contemporary house in a whopper location – five minutes from Stow-on-the-wold, and a leisurely walk from the organic loveliness of Daylesford (bring your wallet and brush your hair before entry). Sleeping 8 in 4 bedrooms, this property features a kitchen that’s been designed for 80 (well, nearly). There’s a six gas burner stove, three ovens – THREE! -, an American fridge freezer with ice maker and separate wine fridge and a coffee machine *breathe*. Living areas are all about open fires and log burning stoves (yup, logs are provided), chaise longues and techno-gadgetry, but the star of the show for bookings over the next six months is the garden – a main terrace area with rattan furniture and loungers, an outside gas fire, bar area with stools, two butlers sinks, a large  drinks cooler and a gas BBQ. Boot the little people into touch on the large lawn complete with trampoline, goal  posts, fold-and-roll-away table tennis table and mix yourself another Hendriks (*clink*). Short Breaks from £1,625.

STAY IN…SOMERSET

Coat Barn, Coat, nr Martock

A Grade II hamstone barn in the tiny hamlet of Coat in south Somerset has been transformed into a huge, light and airy holiday home sleeping 18. There’s everything for the keen cook in the swanky, all-mod cons kitchen (although they can organise a chef if you prefer) and the dining room table is long enough to seat 20. No need to squash up when you’re watching the enormous curved screen TV: the modular style sofa runs around three sides of the living room. Each of the eight bedrooms is en suite. There’s plenty to keep everyone of all ages busy – a private indoor swimming pool, a games room with table tennis and table football, a trampoline, children’s swings and a BBQ – but easy trips out include mystical Glastonbury, England’s smallest city of Wells, Kilver Court Designer Village and Dorset’s Jurassic coast.

Cross Tree House, Lopen, nr Ilminster

You could almost imagine this 17th century thatched farmhouse in the village of Lopen is the family pile. Full of character, the house is spread over three – slightly wonky – floors and stuffed with vintage furniture, original artworks, books and games. Persian rugs lie over flagstones and floorboards. There’s an Aga in an inglenook, as well as a modern range, and long wooden refectory tables for dining – although you’re within a mile of one of Somerset’s best gastropubs, The Lord Poulett Arms, and the popular Railway Carriage café. The house sleeps 14-22 guests in seven bedrooms (there are singles, doubles and even a quadruple for the kids) and four more in an optional annex. Outside in the pretty walled garden, you can relax in the hot tub with a glass of fizz while someone else sorts out the BBQ and the kids play in the orchard behind.

STAY IN…SURREY

Ridge Farm, Capel near Dorking

Music fans are going to love Ridge Farm at Capel, near Dorking, and its colourful history. This 16th century farmhouse was one of the UK’s first residential recording studios hosting musicians and producers from all over the world. Roxy Music, The Smiths, Queen, Oasis, Ozzy Osbourne, Pearl Jam, Muse and Supergrass are just some of the artists who hid out here to record albums over a 25 year period from the mid 1970s to the early 2000s. Now it’s a luxury self-catering farmhouse for up to 24 people with 10 bedrooms, two kitchens, a dining room with a huge oak circular table, plus a large living room with a log fire and doors leading to an outside terrace. The hire includes exclusive use of the 16 acres of grounds, an indoor heated swimming pool, sauna and hot tub, and a flood-lit tennis court. There’s also a separate cottage, the Granary, available for rent, which is separate from the main house and sleeps an additional two or three guests.

Bovey Cottage, Betchworth

If it’s a village setting you’re after with the beautiful North Downs and Box Hill just a stone’s throw away, Bovey Cottage in Betchworth is a great option for groups of friends or family. It’s a B&B with four ensuite suite bedrooms, but the whole house is available with a fifth bedroom for exclusive-use or catered house parties with room for 10 adults. You’ll get breakfast freshly cooked by Mike the in-house chef, who can also serve evening meals if they’re ordered in advance. There’s a heated swimming pool for guests’ use during the summer months, as well an outdoor hot tub for use all year round. If you’re planning a cycle in the Box Hill area, there are also lock-up facilities for bikes.

STAY IN…SUSSEX

Wilmington Priory, Wilmington, nr Eastbourne

This historic six-sleeper, beautifully resorted by the Landmark Trust charity, is part of a monastic site and dates back to 1215. Alterations have taken place in almost every century since, so you’ll find a medieval site with vaulted entrance porch, stair turrets and ruins of a Great Chamber, along with comfortable living rooms improved by the Georgians. But fear not, there are also reassuring mod-cons like a dishwasher and microwave. I had a mooch round one open day and thought the large 17th century farmhouse kitchen would be a wonderful space for gatherings of family and friends. There’s also competitive fun to be had at a table tennis table. Dogs are welcome. Wilmington Priory sits just under the chalk landmark Long Man Of Wilmington, with the sea a few miles away. You can also walk in the South Downs, visit the Bloomsbury group’s Charleston House, the pretty village of Alfriston and popular family attraction Drusillas Park, or enjoy opera at Glyndebourne, all within easy range.

Moonrakers, Camber

Close to one of the best beaches in Sussex – Camber Sands – is this stylish four-bedroom house that sleeps up to eight. The hub is an open plan kitchen/diner with folding doors that open onto a deck and large garden with barbecue. Come the evening, you can keep both adults and kids happy in the cosy lounge with woodburner and adjoining children’s playroom stocked with toys, book and games and with its own TV and DVD player. A nursery with cot and change table off the master bedroom is helpful if there’s a baby in your party. Other practical touches include a washing machine and ample parking and as three of the bedrooms are on the ground floor it’s handy for less mobile grandparents. Looking for days out beyond the beach? The cobbled streets of historic Rye are a 15 min drive away.

STAY IN…WARWICKSHIRE

Talton Barn Lodge & Talton House, Newbold-on-Stour

This converted rustic 18th Century barn accommodates 6 and has high ceilings and exposed beams. Much has been retained. But now it’s cosy, open plan and well-equipped with its wood-burning stove, table large enough for 12, comfortable seating, Tom Hammick tapestries, Wi-Fi, and an HD projector. Upstairs has an open plan sleeping space with one double bed and four singles nestling in 5 niches made by the beams. There’s 2 toilets and a large free-standing bath/shower from where you can see the swallows darting about in the unconverted part of the barn.  For larger groups Talton Lodge sleeps up to 30 around a Victorian kitchen garden with a tree-boathouse, orchard wagon, two yurts, 1 Northern American tipi. So, that’s 22 additional beds in six places. It’s located in the grounds of Talton House, a lovely Queen Anne property with history and charm set among lawns, gardens, a large ornamental pond, tennis court, games room and dressing-up cupboard, which can also be rented out and sleeps up to 23.

Knight’s Village Lodge, Warwick Castle

Kids will love pretending they’re King Arthur or Princess Merida while glamping mediaeval style in the Knight’s Village or staying in a Woodland lodge. Only the accommodation is much better equipped than in the old days. Tents sleep 4 and have wooden floors, comfy beds, power sockets, an oak storage chest and Wi-Fi!  There’s even a all-pink fairy-tale Princess tent (I kid you not!) and a Kings Luxury tent decked out like a castle chamber with a four-poster bed, rich tapestry curtains, cosy sheepskin rugs and two thrones. An overnight Glamping package includes a sleepover at a Mediaeval tent, free second day castle tickets, VIP parking and evening parking with free have-a-go archery, Jester’s School and Knight’s School. A mezzanine style themed Woodland Lodges sleep up to 7 plus a cot, has an upstairs, open plan lounge, cable TV, a wet room and shower, terrace and includes a Mediaeval themed experience.

STAY IN…WILTSHIRE

Bradley House, Maiden Bradley, Nr Warminster

If we’re gonna go big, let’s go massive. This one is a beaut – 12 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, a 22-seater dining room, drawing room, library, coach house, 50 acres of private Wiltshire countryside to romp about in at this historic family seat of the Dukes of Somerset…shall I go on? You can even sleep in Henry VIII’s four-poster bed (not the real one sadly, the one used in Wolf Hall, but still…) OK, I’m thinking more milestone birthday party (if you’ve got the cash to splash) rather than casual jaunt with the kids but hey, if you can afford it, why not? Butler, I’ll have that Hendricks now.

Scudamore, Upton Scudamore

Channel your inner Jane Austen at this splendiferous Grade II-listed manor house. Luxurious style dances with historical grandeur here and I’m told there are more mysterious stone circles, ancient barrows (anyone?) and processional avenues in the rolling fields beyond than anywhere else in Britain. The house sleeps 12, is stylish but deliciously quirky with a 17th century oak staircase and minstrels gallery (careful, I say, after a glass or three) and best of all, they’ll send a chef over if you want. No fixing kids’ tea here, then. The following morning enjoy luxury treatments in your dressing gown before stumbling a mere 200 yards to the local for lunch. There’s an adventure forest playground at nearby Brokers Wood for the kids and even a mini gym for the grownups but honestly, with all this going on, who’s going to bother?

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside -
Berkshire Edition