Check out these barns!
We think we may have just found the most perfect place to lay your head – plus a million of your friends’ and family’s. These barns in the Cotswolds are made for big gatherings.
You’re deep, deep in the countryside here – listen… nothing to hear but the birds. But yet you’re just an hour and half from London and only 30 minutes from Oxford! Located in the massive Chimney Meadows nature reserve, birds are a big deal here, wading birds to be precise, and also wild flowers that you’ll be wanting to run through in a floaty dress. The village of Bampton is ten minutes’ drive away and is so picture perfect, it had a star turn as the eponymous village in everyone’s favourite period drama Downton Abbey.
As mentioned, this place is peaceful, which means you can bring your own noise, hurrah! And it would make the most splendiferous spot for a shindig. There are three barns, which can be hired separately, as a pair, or, why not, the whole bloomin’ lot. If you opt for the the-more-the-merrier option, you can literally sleep upwards of 30! All the rooms are incredibly flexible with doubles that turn into twins and lots of space to squeeze in extra beds and/or cots. If your jamboree isn’t on quite such a grand scale, the barns go up in size – Rose is the smallest with four bedrooms that can sleep a minimum of eight, Owl is the middle child with space for at least ten in five bedrooms, and whopper Snipe has the capacity for 12 bods and more in its six roomy bedrooms. All are decorated in pleasingly neutral colour palettes with hygge-style furniture (I spotted some familiar Ikea numbers), cavernous pitched ceilings with exposed beams and nice artwork on the walls, which together creates a kick-off-your-shoes and make-yourself-at-home vibe.
I felt like Goldilocks tearing round all the barns trying to pick my favourite room – I mean there are 15 to choose from! To be honest, they’re all pretty lovely but if I were that person who elbowed everybody out of the way on arrival to bagsie the ‘best’ room, I’d probably head for bedroom 4 in Snipe Barn with its breezy French doors into the courtyard, handy ensuite and splash of pink artwork above the bed. (Barge left as you enter the barn, run through the kitchen and sitting room with your suitcase, career around the corner and it’s the second bedroom on the left. Park yourself and then relax…)
Everything is laid on here to make you feel as comfortable, nay even more comfortable, as you would in your own home. If convenience is key to a good, chilled-out holiday, then the barns are where it’s at. Each has a utility room where you can throw muddy boots, dogs, children, then close the door and pour yourself a glass of wine. (Hounds are welcome of all shapes and sizes and with the all the fab walks on your doorstep, it would actually be animal cruelty to leave yours behind.)
The kitchens are all fitted out with ginormous fridge freezers, ovens big enough to take a large Sunday roast and all the trimmings (just had a thought, Christmas would be a-mazing here!), massive dining tables and lots of counter space to prop yourself up against as you face plant into a bottle of merlot while you keep the chef company (I always make much of my mediocre cooking skills on occasions such as these). Snipe and Rose are both on one level, so if you’re with toddlers or wobbly grandparents you don’t have to worry about anyone with poor staircase navigation, so keep popping those corks! There are wood burners in all the sitting rooms, along with loads of space to sit – Rose has three sofas and four armchairs! – and outside space is very generous, too, with each barn having enough lawn to get a good game of cricket or football going. Al fresco dining is catered for too and with a bit of warmth in the air, it would definitely feel rather Mediterranean sitting in the courtyard feasting on a T-bone cooked on the BBQ.
There’s good solid wifi as well, and tellies and DVD players in all the barns, for those who like their screens.
OUT AND ABOUT
Rather splendidly, you can walk from the barns to an extremely nice pub, The Trout at Tadpole Bridge. It’s about an hour’s stroll through bucolic countryside and when you arrive you can tuck into an epicurean feast to stoke your fires for the journey back. Other pubs to put on your radar, which are all less than half-an-hour’s drive away, are The Five Alls in Filkins, The Swan at Southrop, which is where Kate Moss and Jamie Hince were photographed the day after their wedding (were they really married that long?!) and The Bull Hotel Fairford where you can go fishing in the River Coln. I’d advise booking ahead for all of them if you’re planning to have a meal.
As mentioned you’re a quick car journey away from photogenic Bampton, which when you’ve put your camera down has a couple of pubs, a quirky antiques shop, an arts gallery, a Co-Op and a butchers and bakers. (NB Ocado delivers to the barns, hurrah!). Lechlade-on-Thames is only a quarter of an hour away and is so sublime it inspired Shelley to verse (A Summer Evening Courtyard if you want to pack the right volume). You can also hire boats and paddle down the Thames, which is what William Morris used to do from his holiday home Kelmscott Manor, though he’d row as far as his gaff in London! The manor is open to the public and is definitely worth a visit (though it may bore the offspring, but, hey, that’s tough).
Talking of offspring, you’re in the catchment area of the brilliant Kowalah babysitting service, which as well as pitching up of an evening to let the grown-ups go down the pub, can also take the kids off for the day to somewhere like Cotswold Farm Park or Crocodiles of the World while you and your besties (or other half if he must) book in for a spa day! You’re only around 40 minutes from Barnsley House which has a GORGEOUS spa.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Large groups, be it families, two or three families, hen parties or even a bunch of yogis on retreat. It’s also the ideal place for a big celebration – I’m thinking a surprise party for Mr M’s next big birthday! With all the different one-, two- and three-barn permutations, it’s as flexible as Simone Biles!
Not for: Couples searching for a cosy, romantic bolthole – you really want to make use of the space and it’d be hard to play footsie under the massive kitchen tables.
The damage: Not too crazy – for a two-night weekend Rose Barn (sleeps 8-10 people) costs from £1,060; £1,760 for a week. NB: Owl is currently only available from 30 July to 10 August.