November 28, 2023

It’s Oh So Quiet

From quaint period cottages to charming barn conversions, renting a home-away-from-home means you can reconnect with friends and family, or simply have a break from the hubbub of the holidays. We’ve picked the best places, not too far afield, to snuggle up in this season.

Historic Haven

Bloom Stays, Farriers Cottage, West Malling, Kent
With its exposed beams and inglenook fireplaces, it’s like stepping back in time in this Grade II-listed cottage. Found in the picturesque village of West Malling (a 45-minute drive from Epsom), Farriers Cottage is perfect for spending time with loved ones over the holiday season. Sleeping seven guests, the house is packed with characterful features, including a freestanding slipper bath, log burners and a barista-style coffee machine. 

Nearby is the 52-acre Manor Park, a picturesque country estate with woodland, lakes and meadows – ideal for winter walks to blow away the cobwebs. Back at the house, a formal dining room with an antique dining table means you can turn every meal into a celebratory occasion. To really get into the festive spirit, you can request Christmas decorations for a bauble-bedecked party.

From £1,315 for seven nights in November, sleeps seven,

Secret Stay

Kate and Tom’s, The Spy’s House, Guildford, Surrey 

Tucked away in the Surrey Hills, once you discover this beautifully-designed house, you’ll want to keep it a secret (even before you know who once owned it) – dubbed The Spy’s House, it was once the former home of the head of the MI5. 

The house is large enough for 14 guests to spread out, with five reception rooms and seven bedrooms. Keeping all ages entertained, there’s a playroom, wood-fired Skargards hot tub and even a gym, stocked with weights and an exercise bike (perfect to assuage any guilt if you’ve over-indulged the night before). 

You can cook up a roast on the Aga, or simply escape to one of the pubs on the doorstep. The March Hare (it does a mean beef and ale pie) is found close to Guildford Castle and near where Lewis Carroll wrote Alice Through The Looking Glass. 

From £2,500 for a two-night weekend break, sleeps 14,

Sweet dreams

Cabins and Castles, The Hay Stay, Grayswood, Surrey 

A double-height living room with wood-burner and original beams mean that this converted barn feels like the ultimate rural escape. Perfect for a couple, or young family, it sleeps four with a cute bedroom in the eaves and a comfy sofa bed downstairs. Pull on your wellies and go exploring – the barn has private, gated access to National Trust woodland and is just a short drive to West Sussex’s coastline.  

If the weather turns, the barn is stocked with books and board games to pass the time. Make sure you’ve stocked up on provisions in nearby Haslemere, which has a thriving collection of independent shops, including Seabright’s Butchers, for locally-produced meat, Bread of Heaven for artisan cakes and bread and Haslemere Cellar for fine wines and cheese. 

From £180 per night, two-night minimum stay, sleeps four,

Heritage home

Classic Cottages, Challens Yard, West Sussex 

One of the cottages found on the historic Cowdray Estate, renowned for its early Tudor manor house, this Grade II-listed cottage is also loaded with history in its own right. Once a wheelwrights shop – similar to a blacksmiths – it has tons of period features but has been restored sensitively to offer spacious, modern living. There are four bedrooms, with kilim rugs underfoot and wrought-iron bedsteads dressed with patchwork quilts. Best of all, is the snug sitting room where you can light a fire to escape the cold winter nights. A local pub is in walking distance as is the pretty town of Midhurst. Guests can also tap into the workshops and experiences on offer at Cowdray, including yoga, foraging walks and star gazing.

From £1,552 for three nights, sleeps eight,

Fit for a king

Sand & Stone, Fox Hollow Cottage, Windsor, Surrey
The red-brick Fox Hollow Cottage may date back to the reign of Henry VIII, but inside it has been cleverly reimagined as a boutique-style, two-bedroom hideaway. Found on the cusp of Windsor Great Park, its egg-shell-blue front door and picket fence is an inviting first hello. Inside, stylish features include Crittall-style French doors, vintage furniture and local artwork. Bedrooms are painted in Farrow & Ball muted shades, with statement wallpapers and adjoining marble bathrooms.

Handy for those who want to down tools and abscond from cooking duties, the cottage is found next to a gastro pub, The Bailiwick, which serves gourmet dishes and Windsor Great Park’s own sparkling wine. Just the thing for raising a glass to the new year ahead.

From £175 per night, sleeps four,

Eclectic Escape

Kip Hideaways, Waterside Cabin, Ripley, Surrey 

Built in the 1930s, this one-bedroom cabin, found on the River Wey is the perfect retreat for a couple who want to find some peace and quiet. Owned by an antiques expert, it is filled with curios from her collection, including tiles by French potter Roger Capron, Arts & Crafts stained glass and reclaimed oak flooring.

Reached through a water meadow, the cabin immerses you within a nature reserve. You can watch the comings and goings on the water, or take the row boat out yourself. Evenings are for outdoor fire pits and playing vintage board games around the log burner. For those looking to explore the area, RHS Wisley is close by as is Silent Pool Lake and its nearby distillery, where guests can stock up on Silent Pool gin.

From £110 per night, sleeps two and a child,

Hop to it

Bloom Stays, Bedgebury Oast, Goudhurst, Kent

It doesn’t get much more idyllic than a stay in this traditional house, located on the Bedgebury Estate with stunning views over the Kent countryside. There’s room for ten, so gather all your special people together to create memories in the loveliest of settings. 

Originally built for drying the hops harvested across the picturesque Weald of Kent to make traditional British beers, it’s been modernised but still retains its charm with lofty ceilings, original beams and
quirky corners.

From £1,200 for seven nights, sleeps 10,

Words: Angelina Villa-Clarke

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