Swallows and Amazons Stays
Beach holidays in Britain always come with that anxious niggle at the back of your head – will it tank down for the whole week? Well, how about an inland lake or river holiday as an alternative? The Muddy editors who happen go to be landlocked (*sob**) have scoured their counties for some stonking rental properties with their own little piece of liquid heaven to tempt you throughout spring and summer. Tempted?
STAY IN… BERKSHIRE
River Arts Club, Maidenhead
Who needs the coast when you can have the mighty Thames? Messing about on the river is part of the Berkshire DNA, so if you looking for a riverside escape, then the River Arts Club should top your list. Nestled on the waterside, this Grade II listed Victorian mansion is an aristocratic B&B-come-gallery space. Its 13 rooms are an eclectic mix of colour, pattern, antique furniture and quality art with works by Latin American artists Felix Perdomo, Roberto Valentin and Aisar Jalil hanging from the walls. Within throwing distance of Berkshire’s mighty Michelin star restaurants and just 30 mins from London, you can do as much or as little as you want here. Or simply lie back with a glass of fizz in Ophelia, the River Art Club’s a private launch, and drift downstream in a tipsy haze. It’s a gem.
The Dundas Arms, Kintbury
Wake up to the hypnotic sound of water at The Dundas Arms in Kintbury. Perched next to the Kennet & Avon Canal, this Grade II listed Georgian Inn is a beaut. The pub’s been reviving hungry travellers since the end of the 18th century. Today you’ll find a cosy destination pub serving excellent food with lovely walks in the bucolic countryside. The five River Rooms (named after the river’s freshwater fishy friends) are tucked away in the old stable block where the barge horses were originally housed. You get your own private terrace overlooking the river where you can dine in romantic seclusion if you fancy a quiet night. Rooms from £95, including a full English breakfast. Furry friends are welcome for a small extra charge, but a toasty bed and treats will be provided for your pampered pooch,
STAY IN… BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
The Old Rectory, Hartwell House, near Aylesbury
When we say ‘cottage’ we actually mean elegant, opulent Georgian manor house – 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.
Spring Cottage, Cliveden House, Taplow
You say Berkshire, I say Buckinghamshire – it’s right on the border, people! But what is indisputable is that self-catering rarely comes fancier or more luxurious than this gorgeous 19th century cottage in the grounds of Cliveden House. Apparently both Paul McCartney and Britney Spears have previously stayed there – although, um, presumably not together. Set on the banks of the Thames, it comes with its own private boat mooring, three bedrooms (two double, 1 twin), and – good news, water fans – a small lake in the private back garden. And if messing about on the river gets too much, you can loll around on a velvet sofa or watch TV from the roll-top bath.
STAY IN… CAMBRIDGESHIRE
River Nene Cottages, Peterborough
Impossible to believe you’re minutes from the A1 when you drive through the beautiful stone village of Water Newton – it has Cotswolds stamped all over it but it’s only a few miles west of Peterborough. Tucked down a road leading directly to the river you’ll discover the peaceful retreat called River Nene Cottages. Three Grade II listed cottages have been beautifully renovated – think designer wallpapers, stripped beams, contemporary bathrooms and the odd cut glass decanter (bring your own gin though). The cottages are arranged so that the larger two each sleep four people and one flat sleeps 2 – two cot beds are available for younger children. With a stunning garden that stretches down to the river, a summer house on the waters edge just begging for a sundowner, an outdoor heated swimming pool plus all the activities that a river provides this is a slice of England at its best – better still you won’t be clearing sand out of your car for the next 3 months.
Lake Lodge, Peterborough
This cottage is for those that don’t want to pile the car high with holiday toot – you can leave the kitchen sink behind. Hidden away in 30 acres of private lakes, gardens and mature woodland, near the village of Maxey south of Market Deeping on the Lincolnshire border is this super equipped holiday cottage. A perfect spot for those looking for action – the owners provide kayaks, rowing boats (life jackets are provided), open water swimming, a tennis court with a football post and a netball hoop, carp fishing and private footpaths that link to public ones – anyone knackered just reading that sentence? The house sleeps 8-10 people in four double bedrooms, and two travel cots can also be provided. If you’re planning a family house party there’s the option for extra guests to camp in the garden- with access to an outside bathroom. Young kids are covered too – stairgates, bottle sterilisers and heaps of other essential clobber are all provided. Who’s for a game of Swallows and Amazons?
STAY IN… GLOUCESTERSHIRE
Monks Hall, Wye Valley
If the name of this cottage in the village of Brockweir deep in the Forest of Dean and just steps away from the River Wye makes you think of an ascetic retreat, then think again. For while it offers a gloriously bucolic escape from the daily grind, it’s fitted out with the kind of luxe home comforts that would have rendered its former religious occupants speechless (if they hadn’t already taken a vow of silence, that is). The 12th-century Monks Hall originally belonged to the brothers from nearby Tintern Abbey, but today has been transformed into a magical, riverside hideaway for up to four people plus an infant. It’s arranged over three floors with a big and very well-equipped kitchen, a stunning drawing room (lounge ain’t a posh enough word for this room), two bedrooms, two bathrooms, one cloakroom and a garden with its own Roman-style pizza oven (blink and you’re in Tuscany!). There’s walking and wild swimming on your doorstep, and canoes, bikes and horses to hire nearby. The village pub is only a short walk away if you want to eat out and/or have a bevvie or two without worrying about driving. Or, you can step it up a culinary notch at the Michelin-starred Whitbrook Restaurant, a short five minutes’ drive away. And for a ‘big town’ day out, Monmouth is only 20 minutes by car.
Log House on the Lake, Cirencester
A happy mash-up of Swallows and Amazons meets Little House on the Prairie, Log House Holidays’ eight lakeside cottages set in a 130-acre private nature reserve near Cirencester are a dreamy escape from, well everywhere and everyone depending on your whim. Sleeping from four to 11 people, each Finnish log cabin sits in its own secluded spot with a private beach, lake-view hot tub, outdoor fire pit, private pier with rowing boat and all the indoor creature comforts you’d expect from a five-star hotel, including wood burners if the weather gets nippy. You can also transform your cabin into a private spa if you so desire (yes please!) with the help of the peripatetic spa company My Personal Sanctuary. The cabins all have topnotch eco-friendly credentials and are equally perfect for a romantic break or family holiday. And if you really wanted to, er, push the boat out, Mayo Landing, the largest property sleeping 11, would be great for a special celebration, located as it is on its own private island with a lit-up pool heated to 30˚C all year round, a roomy log sauna and a sunken garden with plane trees and hanging candles. I want to move in!!
STAY IN… NORTHANTS
If I’m near a canal, I have a sense of complete serenity (must have been a narrow boat lass in a former life), so step forward The Retreat Bed and Breakfast. A warm welcoming accommodation set in the heart of the Northamptonshire village of Crick. Once a former cycle shop and now renovated to a small B&B, it has relaxing décor, immaculate bathrooms and a super hearty breakfast. The peaceful village of Crick is home to a lovely marina on The Grand Union Canal. Crick Marina has 270 narrow boat moorings and is also host to the Crick Boat Show and Waterways Festival in May, so loads to do! It’s within strolling distance of pubs, restaurants and shops and is conveniently located close to all major routes through Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Leicestershire. There are loads of attractions close by too, Muddy fave, Althorp House, Canons Ashby, Holdenby House, Stanford Hall, Cottesbrooke Hall and Gardens, Lamport Hall, The Kilworth House & Theatre, Kelmarsh Hall and Coton Gardens (phew, you may never want to leave).
Built about 160 years ago in the centre of the picturesque canal village, these two lovely millworkers’ cottages in Stoke Bruerne stand overlooking the canal and the locks (I mean, right next to the water). No traffic will pass your door other than colourful narrow boats on their way up and down the flight of seven locks. You can choose to enjoy the peace and quiet of the waterway (local pub anyone?) or explore its historic canal heritage in the Canal Museum, which is housed in an old steam driven corn mill (originally the house of the millworkers). The comfortable self-catering cottages (think farmhouse-style kitchen and winding stair cases) are a perfect base to see local sights or simply pull up a pew and just be absorbed by the comings and goings of this bustling canal community.
STAY IN… OXFORDSHIRE
Soho Farmhouse cabins, Great Tew
The good news is you don’t have to be a member to stay in one of Soho Farmhouse’s 40 rustic-yet-sleek lakeside wooden cabins (from studio to 3 bed0, set in 100 acres of Oxfordshire countryside. More good news? They are ridiculously beautiful, with a chic Scandi vibe – all exposed beams, wood-burning stoves, sheepskin rugs and mid-century modern furniture. Where’s the water though, I hear you cry. Well, there’s a bucolic (totally man-made) stream trickling past every cabin – go on, open the doors to your private balcony and you can see for yourself. There’s a larger boating lake nearby and the famous indoor/outdoor heated pool, framed by sun loungers, which should ensure that all your watery needs are catered for. Soho Farmhouse is all about creating a rural idyll for those with la-di-da London tastes – sound like anyone else you know (*cough*)?
The Coach House, Swinbrook
An idyllic English village straight out of Central Casting? That’s Swinbrook in the Cotswolds, with its stone bridge over the River Windrush, clutch of honey-coloured cottages, cricket pitch and charming church (where the notorious Mitford sisters are buried, fact fans). Here amid the chocolate box-prettiness you’ll find the spacious, light-filled Coach House, a two bedroom converted barn with vaulted ceilings, cream-washed brick walls and an open fire, which is less than a five minute stroll from the water’s edge. Talking of walks, there are loads of lovely ones you can do from here, including jaunts along the Windrush Valley or to neighbouring town Burford. The cottage sleeps 2-4 and accepts pets but isn’t suitable for children under the age of 6.
STAY IN… SURREY
Eucala, East Molesey
Waterfront properties don’t get much more ‘waterfront’ than this beauty. ‘Eucala’ is a luxury heated French motor yacht moored on the River Thames in East Molesey, just a stone’s throw (or water skim if you have the skill) from Henry VIII’s old gaff Hampton Court Palace, and Bushy Park where over 300 deer roam. ‘Eucala’ has three ensuite cabins, sleeping a total of six, and comes with a fully fitted kitchen including a dishwasher and all cooking facilities. There are two separate living areas, and three different outside areas for soaking up the rays on a sunny day. There is a BBQ on the rear deck, and access to private gardens including a floating garden, free use of kayaks and an electric boat. It’s kid-friendly, but you’ll have to leave you’re pooch at home. There’s also free wifi, plus Netflix, Spotify and a PS3. Heating keeps it cosy in the colder months, and there’s air-con for the summer. Charters and cruises can be arranged on request.
Riverside 17, Sunbury
This bright and modern cottage is on the banks of the river Thames in Sunbury-upon-Thames. There are three double bedrooms plus a sofa bed in the living room, and extra single beds can be added if you’ve got an extra large family, the extended family in tow, or a just lots of friends. Outside, there’s a deck area leading to the river from where you can feed the swans, although there’s a warning to be careful as the swans can become very protective of their young. The garden is sheltered and south facing, so it’s gorgeous on a sunny day. There’s wifi, and all the mod cons you’d expect including a washing machine. And the owners keep the cottage stocked with basic kitchen and bathroom essentials. If it’s chilly, there’s a cosy log burner in the living room, with a supply of wood in a store area under the garage. Thorpe Park and Kempton Park Racecourse are both nearby, and Hampton Court Palace, Windsor, Wimbledon and Twickenham Stadium are all within easy reach.
STAY IN… WARWICKSHIRE
Lake View Cottage, Atherstone
This newly converted farm cottage overlooks a fishing lake and is surrounded by fields of stunning delphiniums – the petals of which are harvested to produce natural colourful confetti for the owner’s Confetti Petals business. It sleeps up to four in 1 double room, and 1 double bed settee in the lounge area. There’s an open plan lounge/kitchen with bright yellow retro bar stools, a luxury bathroom and outside seating with lake view. Tranquil Lake View is one of three one-bedroom farm cottages set in 23 acres of farmland, just a short drive from the M42 and the Midlands motorway network and family-friendly attractions including Twycross Zoo in Atherstone, Drayton Manor Theme Park with its roller coasters, zoo and Thomas Land, as well as indoor real snow slope SnowDome, Tamworth. The Genting Arena (formerly the NEC), Birmingham Airport, Birmingham Coventry and new entertainment complex, Resorts World are also a short drive away.
Tudor Cottage, Bidford on Avon
The Grade II listed Tudor Cottage was built in Shakespeare’s time and the large private back garden stretches down to the River Avon, so you can watch the boats go by on the far side. Seasonal fishing is available – you could catch your own tea here! Regular visitors return year-after-year for the large Barbel that frequent the river – last year the largest topped the scales at 13.5lb.
Tudor Cottage is one of the oldest houses in the hamlet. With its original timber beams and wattle and daub exterior it exudes old world charm, but is homely inside, with a surprisingly spacious lounge, kitchen/diner and downstairs shower room with toilet and basin. Upstairs there are two beamed bedrooms – one with a double bed and the second, which interconnects, has twin divan beds, good if you’re travelling with children. Nearby pub the Cottage of Content serves real ale and home-cooked food or you can walk a pleasant half mile along the river to nearby Bidford-on-Avon, which has a good selection of pubs, restaurants and takeaways. Stratford-upon-Avon wth its many attractions, including the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, is only 7 miles away while the Cotswolds and Vale of Evesham are just a short drive away.