Where exactly is it? In a sleepy village called Cottered in bucolic East Herts. Think thatched cottages, white weatherboarding and local pubs that don’t open until 615pm. Nearest conurbation is the county’s smallest town, the charming Buntingford (see below).
And what’s the offer? The two very classy purpose-built dark-clad retreats are for adults only (ie no kids allowed), cunningly named after the two London areas that the owners, a couple, originate from: Bethnal Green and Tooting Bec.
In a nutshell? They each have private terraces with aromatic – even in winter – rosemary bushes, sun loungers, hot tubs and gardens overlooking the gently rolling Hertfordshire countryside; look closely and there’s a windmill on the horizon. Don’t miss the barn to the right, filled with haystacks, more loungers and Moroccan lighting: we could only imagine how lovely it must be in the summer months.
The interior and vibes? Hip boutique hotel in Barcelona or Berlin, as carefully curated as a movie set. Step into the quirky plywood hall and access the keysafe: once inside, you’re met with a tempting 1970s-style sideboard of spirits, records and turntable, before it opens out into a large industrial-style studio area, with polished concrete floors. Above the kingsize is a velvet patterned oversize headboard, and the room boasts vintage furniture, houseplants, a stylish log burner and sheepskin rugs, which our old Jack Russell immediately claimed.
How did the stay pan out? A personal welcome awaits you in lights at the carport – a nice touch. Despite the cold weather, we made straight for the outdoor hot tub, just as the apocalyptic winter rain eased, the sun starting to peak through the clouds. Watching the sky deepen dark blue and then flame orange-gold, while the warm bubbles and jets did their thing, was highly memorable. Back inside, waffle bathrobes on, we poured some red wine, lit the log-burner and read magazines until dinner.
The bathroom? Heavenly. It’s a double slate rainforest-style shower with room for at least half the rugby team in there (ahem). A velux window offers natural light, industrial pipes add authenticity. The separate tub, in the corner of the main studio room, boasts postbox-sized window views over the paddock; as you bathe, you’ll be looked down on by kitsch pictures of the Queen on her coronation day.
What else was good about the rooms? A clear manual lays out the law, and it’s worth sitting down with a cup of tea and studying it for a moment; key facilities like log burner and hot tub are both happily ready to go. The bed is super comfy, the kitchen well-stocked, although be careful to note what is complimentary (small carafes of gin and whisky, as well as cooking essentials) and what you need to pay extra for via the honesty bar. An antique wooden pantry is filled with tempting snacks and bathtime luxuries for owners and their pets (all at a supplement).
Anything on the snagging list? A couple of minor issues, but this was probably our own incompetence. We didn’t manage to pair the Bluetooth speaker with the record player despite repeated attempts; and the foldaway kitchen table felt a little flimsy. Perhaps a small dining area would work better.
Speaking of which, let’s talk food. You can eat at the local pub, but it’s really all about staying in here. There are various pre-orderable options, from posh burgers, pizzas or BBQ, to a private chef. We opted for the steak package (£26), locally sourced from less than ten miles away, which came with a heady spice rub of paprika, cumin, chilli and garlic. It proved meltingly tender medium-rare – a solid griddle pan lending the meat a nicely charred exterior – while a side of sweet potato fries added crunch, too.
Breakfast? This is also included: choose from local eggs, bacon, tomatoes and ciabatta. We hoovered it up after a morning session in the hot tub.
Any other facilities? The team can provide one-on-one yoga sessions in the comfort of the retreat, as well as a list of therapists who can pop by for massages, facials, manicures and pedicures.
Don’t miss: A trip to Buntingford. This attractive historic market town’s high street is lined with medieval buildings that now house independent shops and cafes. Try a smooth espresso at converted pub the Buntingford Coffee Shop, before a visit to the award-winning Cheese Plate, which we we learnt had just been shortlisted as one of the top five in the country. We bought a trio of both firm and gooey British gems to end our meal with in front of the woodburner. Bliss.
Any pub tips? Our essential must-do is the Sword Inn Hand in nearby Westmill, a picture-postcard country village which dates back to the 14th century. Within its terracotta red walls we enjoyed a lunch of scotch eggs, buttermilk chicken and mackerel and crab bruschetta. The nearest local, geographically speaking, is The Bull, less than ten minutes’ walk, but watch opening times as it closes between afternoon and early evening. A couple of miles away in Ardeley is Church Farm, its organic farm shop café and neighbouring pub the Jolly Waggoners, all worth a visit too.
Anything else? You’re in Hertfordshire, so there are dozens of muddy doggy walks, as well as famous attractions like Knebworth House and the Imperial War Museum, all within a short drive. But seriously, you won’t want to leave the retreat. We sure didn’t.
Weekendr stayed as guests of Bethnal & Bec. If you would like to be considered for our Stay Here section please email firstname.lastname@example.org