Over the past few years, the staycation ecosystem has evolved with fresh ideas opening up new ways of appreciating Britain’s beautiful countryside, from pop-up glamping sites and revived country houses to smart B&Bs.
Set on a former dairy farm amidst quiet, bucolic fields near the old Roman settlement of Coddenham in Suffolk, Retreat East offers stylish accommodation in a range of barns, plus the original 16th-century farmhouse, and a small spa and restaurant, with many ingredients plucked from the kitchen garden, although guests can also self-cater.
Restored and reimagined by architect Dominic Richards, a graduate of The Prince of Wales’ Institute of Architecture, Retreat East is based around the original, timber-framed farmhouse which dates back to the 16th century and has four bedrooms – and a versatile range of 16 striking farm buildings and barns that can sleep between two and four guests.
The barns are equipped with bathrooms, kitchens, wood burners and dining spaces, as well as large private outdoor terraces. All have country views over the meadows and fields and have a rustic chic design with wood panelling, soft linen fabrics and bespoke furniture along with Smeg, Miele and Nespresso appliances. Recent additions include luxury spa barns, The Nest and The Coop, both of which have grand outdoor roll-top baths on private decks and four-poster beds.
The aim was to restore the historic farm buildings as sustainably as possible. Solar panels, responsibly sourced wood, an onsite well for water and its own sewage plant ensure that the project impacts the environment as little as possible. The kitchen garden is organic and fertilised using composted food waste. Plus, a rewilding programme for the former agricultural land is underway.
At the heart of Retreat East is the triple-height Great Barn. Here you’ll find sofas to lounge on and a centrepiece fireplace for winter, along with the bar and restaurant.
Cocktails include French Martini made with pineapple, and a Rhubarb Sour; the inventive menu draws on local and homegrown produce for dishes such as roast lamb rump with asparagus and wild garlic ketchup, day boat fish with brown shrimp and samphire, superfood salad, garden-pea risotto and starters such as Wye Valley smoked salmon, white onion and apple soup.
Set amid the peaceful rural landscape, the spa is small – with two treatment rooms – but has a holistic mindset and expert treatments are based on Traditional Five Elements, including vegan-friendly facials and Muscle Melt massages, along with reflexology.
There are also Spa Days available, costing from £115 and including a 60-minute massage, one-hour use of the spa, an hour’s use of the hot tub and a two-course lunch.
The Suffolk countryside is one of the UK’s loveliest landscapes, with ancient churches, chocolate-box villages, painterly fields and an unspoilt coastline. There are rewarding day trips to be had visiting archaeology landmark Sutton Hoo – recently spotted in Netflix film The Dig – and quaint villages such as Woodbridge, Aldeburgh and Snape Maltings.
Families will enjoy the open play areas of Easton Farm Park, Framlingham Castle and Helmingham Hall Gardens, while Shrubland Hall, with its grounds designed by Humphrey Repton, is within walking distance, and provisions can be picked up from Suffolk Food Hall.
Retreat East is close to Coddenham, which was once the site of a Roman settlement and is now a pleasant village with Suffolk’s distinctive pink-plaster traditional thatched houses.
For those travelling by train, Ipswich station is a 20-minute taxi ride away. The venue is also available for special occasions and can be rented out in its entirety for weddings, conferences and other large events. Dogs are welcome. Prices at Retreat East start from approximately £130 per night.
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