I love the idea of leaving the car behind for a weekend – not only is it less stressful, it also feels eco and carefree to be car-free. Sawday’s has also spotted the trend for travelling by train to escape the Big Smoke and has just launched a collection of properties dedicated to ditching the wheels – here are a few of my favourites.
A potting shed in Kent
There’s something about a potting shed and this one is exceptional. In the prettiest part of Kent, it stands in the former kitchen garden of Benenden Grange where plantsman Collingwood Ingram once lived. Largely open plan, on three floors, you’ve a sitting room, a natty little kitchen and a double bed up on the mezzanine. Tour the topiary garden, stroll to the idyllic village pub, visit sweet villages and gardens; Sissinghurst and Great Dixter (two of my absolute favourites) are close. Take the train to Headcorn and bus or taxi to Benenden.
The Potting Shed , Benenden, Kent, from £264 for a 4 night stay (sleeps 2), www.sawdays.co.uk / 01580 240 308
Step out onto the beach in Sussex
Miles of white sand and shoreline are yours. Rooms are sprinkled with wrought-iron candlesticks, portholes and shells. Awe inspiring to be so close to the sea, as dramatic views encircle the driftwood bed.
The beach is an extension of the living room and the neutral palette does not compete with those views. Indulge in a spot of pampering: book a massage or reiki session. Take a train to Rye and a bus or taxi to Camber.
Seascape, Camber, Sussex, from £125 per night (sleeps 3), www.sawdays.co.uk / 01797 224754
Sleep at tree level in Hertfordshire
While looking out at lofty pines, imagine Henry VIII thundering by… This whole area was part of the hunting estate of nearby Hatfield House. An attractive, white-tiled, living area awaits through the stable door and there’s a small pitch-ceilinged sitting area with Velux window, L-shaped sofa, faux fur throw and magazines to relax with. Look into birds’ nests, and watch deer forage below! Take the train to Ware and hop on the bus to Essendon.
The Treehouse, Essendon, Hertfordshire, from £495 per week (sleeps 2), www.sawdays.co.uk / 01707271794
Canalside in the North Wessex Downs
This classic inn sits in a stunning spot at the junction of the Kennet river and Kennet & Avon Canal. Check out the papers by the log fire in the Library, a civilised space with leather wing chairs, or have a drink in the modern-traditional bar before tucking into a pork sharing-board, local game pie or whole baked sea bass. Comfortable bedrooms open to gorgeous riverside terraces.Take the train direct to Kintbury and you’re just a stroll away.
The Dundas Arms, Kintbury, Berkshire, from £110 per night, www.sawdays.co.uk / 01488 658263
Beautiful barn stay on the South Downs
This 17th-century barn is contemporary with leather sofas, beautiful sculpture and cow hide rugs. Upstairs, there’s an honesty bar, then a library for books and maps, playing cards and poker chips!
Chic rooms spiral around a pretty courtyard with boarded floors, blond wood furniture, smart fabrics and the odd exposed beam. Great walks from the door and Petworth and Goodwood are close. Take the train to Haselmere and bus to Lurgashall.
The Barn at Roundhurst, Lurgashall, Sussex, from £130 per night, www.sawdays.co.uk / 01428 642535
Cotswolds country idyll
In this big stylish house, guests can relax in one of two super sitting rooms and take their pick from three immaculate, sunny bedrooms. Wake up to local produce, homemade bread, jams and juices from the orchard. The garden leads to pasture and horses, the countryside is dreamy in every season and footpaths radiate from the door. Take a train to Kingham and bus / taxi to Holwell.
Fox House, Burford, Oxfordshire, from £100 per night, www.sawdays.co.uk / 01993 823409
Listed wooden coach house
This listed brick Coach House is rather special: light and airy with pale beams, oatmeal carpets and merry gingham blinds. Downstairs is a private entrance hall; upstairs a generous open-plan bedroom/living area with a queen-sized bed and en suite bathroom. Find two cream sofas that open into double beds and a balcony with stunning views across the Colne Valley. Take the train to Chappel and Wakes Colne, changing at Marks Tey.
Colchester Hill House, Colchester, Essex, from £95 per night, www.sawdays.co.uk / 01787221561
Kent village meets Provencal style
A stylish Georgian town house with an airy loft apartment on two floors.
The vast bedroom/sitting room has French antique quirky pieces (owner, Sophie, has an antique shop next door), a painted black and white diamond floor, a sink-into sofa and a very comfortable big bed with a colourful cover.
Waterlock House, Wingham, Canterbury, Kent, £120 per night, www.sawdays.co.uk / 01227 721792
If you must have wheels, borrow better ones
Four charming flint barns hug a candle-lit courtyard, each has been stylishly restored for a relaxed, pampering stay; two have kitchens and living rooms; all are decorated in warm whites, with splashes of colour and vintage pieces.
Al-fresco heaven with a rustic table under a rose-covered pergola, and a twinkling outdoor fireplace in the evenings. If you simply must have wheels, hire the stunning 1966 Triumph Spitfire MK1 to cruise the country lanes. Take a train direct to Lewes and walk / taxi to the barns.
Blue Door Barns, Lewes, Sussex, from £110 per night, www.sawdays.co.uk / 01273 858893
- 42Yes folks, we did it. Last week, we went camping en famille - after the rain and thunder had passed on Tuesday, that is. At midday on Wednesday, with the car packed and an hour to till we were due to set off, we still didn't know where we were heading…