My 10-year-old daughter’s favorite book is The Secret Garden, so I promised her a visit to the English countryside. Can you suggest something lovely but less intimidating than the Soho Farmhouse?
Santa Barbara, California
How very right and considerate you are to be wary. The Soho House group is a marvelous thing (and I certainly recommend the one in Berlin as the most fantastic place to stay), but I find Soho Farmhouse uncomfortable and intimidating unless you’re cool rom-com king Richard Curtis. It is for Notting Hill people who like the idea of the country but want it sanitized and, preferably, seen through a window with cocktail in hand. The horses wear leather nappies so there is no sight of offensive manure.
Splash the Cash: Go to Thyme in Southrop, Gloucestershire. Thyme is divine. Principally because it does not require you to be cool (although Kate Moss had her wedding reception in the owners’ garden). Jerry and Caryn Hibbert have created a dream village within a village: they moved to Southrop some 17 years ago and bought the Southrop Manor. Thereafter Caryn has sprinkled her fairy dust over the pub, the Swan, and several manor houses; restored the Ox Barn into a fabulous, healthy restaurant; planted vegetable and flower gardens; and created a charming spa, with a swimming pool worthy of Beverly Hills—without the vulgarity. The little houses are delicious and some have private courtyards. The garden suites have just opened, and there are whole houses you can rent with lovely kitchens (you can just look at them; no need to actually cook as there is hot-and-cold running staff), crisp bed linen, and real charm. Your daughter will love it (my Pekingese did) because there is so much to do with animals about and boating on the river. You will love it because of the Aurelia products in the spa and because it is quintessentially English and effortlessly elegant. You are poised for adventures in the Cotswolds.
Cut a Dash: Think Pig. The Pigs are the new, insider restaurants with guest rooms, a wild success: Pig on the Beach; Pig in the New Forest; Pigs in Hampshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon, and Kent. All the food is grown in their own kitchen gardens or sourced within 25 miles. The rooms are pretty and witty—you’ll be a pig in clover.
Surprise! Daylesford Farm Shop, the most exquisite such store in the world, founded by Lady Bamford, is but 32 minutes from Southrop. It is so perfect and organic, with 1,000-thread-count taste, that you will be on your knees with gratitude when handing over your AmEx. And … wait for this: you can stay in delightful farmhouse cottages with cute names like the Egg Store, the Apple Store, and the Wood Store, with roaring log fires and Aga cookers. (You don’t know about Agas? You haven’t lived. It is the ultimate English-country-house schtick.) Bliss, and rental includes a complimentary yoga, Pilates, meditation, or sound-healing session at the Haybarn Spa.
Victoria Mather is a veteran travel writer based in London