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Friday 2 March 2012

Escape London: Luxurious Weekend Getaways

I have a good number of holidays booked this year, have started to build my summer wardrobe (and have been making autumn/winter shopping lists based on this month's catwalks), helped plan a friend's hen party and picked out my potential wedding outfits for the coming year. So what is left for me to plan.....New Year! Ok I know 10 months seems like a lot of forward planning, but believe me it isn't....

New Year 09/10 was a turning point, we decided nights out crammed into a sweaty club with overpriced drinks, cheap party hats, drunk girls crying and then waiting two frozen hours for a triple fare cab home, were a no go and we would instead plan a NY extravaganza ourselves! We got 10 of our closest friends together, rented a gorgeous house, packed our car full of M&S goodies, booze and games and had a brilliant NY to remember! We decided after such a success we would do the same again NY 10/11 with an even bigger group and it was just as amazing!

The only downside.....the planning! Hours and hours spent trawling through hundreds of sites, looking at endless houses and getting more and more frustrated! It generally goes like find one, the inital picture looks gorgeous - large grand manor houses set in acres of rambling countryside, lots of blurb about open fires and exposed beams....all sounds perfect, tick tick tick! You scroll down and BAM velour bed spreads, oceans of dark dingy wood, grotty old bathrooms, garish basically looks as if a blind granny has been into decorate! I have patiently done this numerous times now (hen parties and New Year) and every time have prayed for a condensed list of amazing houses perfect for such I thought why not be kind and put all of my painful research together into one helpful post! 

Here goes.....

New Year 09/10 : Deane Lodge

Deane Lodge is located in Winchester (approx 90 mins drive from London), from the outside it looks like a sweet family house in a pretty suburban area; nothing overly grand or out of the ordinary. However as soon as you approach the heavy wooden gate with it's 'Deane Lodge' sign proudly staring back at you, you know you are in for a special stay....

The door opens and you immediately see the beginning of the warm, enchanting tale ahead. Every detail has been added with love, care and thought for the guests....coat pegs full of scarves and hats to borrow, the fridge stocked with staples (if you call ahead they'll even take delivery of an internet supermarket shop and pack the fridge for you), a celebratory bottle of cava chilling, piles of board games waiting to cause hours of harmless bickering, thick cosy blankets draped over sofa ends to engulf it's lucky guest, handmade luxury soaps, stacks of books and magazines...the list is endless!

There are 3 double bedroom, 2 twins (with the option of an extra zed bed if required), all decorated with impeccable taste but with the same country cottage, homely twist...all stripped floorboards, Cath Kidson bedding, mismatched wooden chairs, soft lamps, old fashioned radiators, quirky toys and knick knacks and feature fireplaces.

It really is the perfect setting for great food, good wine, amazing friends and lots of fun and laughter. We filled our stay with all the above plus a local pub session, wander round the cathedral, lots of cava and endless games to bring in the New Year.

Photographs via

An added beauty of Deane Lodge is they don't hike the prices up for national holidays, school holidays etc.  It is one price all year round - something you VERY rarely see when renting properties believe me! 


7 Nights - £1965
Weekend only - £985

To Book send an email to or call on 01962 867576. You will find all necessary details and pictures on the property's website. 

New Year 10/11 : The Old Mill

This refurbished old mill is located in Stoke Ferry (approx 2 and half hours drive from London) a quiet village in Norfolk - there are lots of activities to enjoy if you so wish, however once we arrived we didn't really want to leave our magical mill. 

As soon as you approach the Old Mill there is no denying it, you are immediately impressed! It stands large, grand and unusual in beautifully kept vast gardens. We were all bubbling with excitement as it was, this only added to it and didn't disappoint in any respect.

Throughout the Mill you will find a complete mix of interiors which really is the beauty....

From the modern high spec design in the vast kitchen, becoming a social hub for cooking, breakfast and magazine flicking with cava whilst gossiping... the big comfy, squashy sofas with a huge open fire in the living room, the perfect setting for competitive game playing!

Every bathroom designed with minimalist style - roll top baths, floating centre sinks, huge rain forest showers and smart spotlights.

The dining area scored top points for me and really made our New Year dinner special.  Situated at the base of the Mill tower it's a circular room with stone floors and exposed brickwork.  Directly above the huge round table is a glass footbridge suspended between a bathroom and the spiral staircase that leads up into the tower.  Through the glass you can see the exposed cogs that would have run the mill all prettily illuminated by spotlights.  Fill this gorgeous dining room with candles, amazing food, far too much champagne and all your favourite people in the world and you have the recipe for a pretty incredible New Year's Eve.

I sound like a broken record but every bedroom was as gorgeous as the last, stripped back wooden floor boards, exposed beams, wrought iron beds, a fabulous four poster bed in the master bedroom with chic black radiators. The best you climbed the spiral staircase in the Mill Tower bedrooms were haphazedly littered as you went up, each bed with an electric blanket and when you go to sleep group conversations can be had between the tower residents (don't worry there are separate bedrooms in the main house for those who want a little more privacy)!!

Final amazing touches i must outdoor heated swimming pool, a games room with a pool table and table tennis, a big garden surrounded by open fields and a breathtaking view from the very top of the Mill tower.

It was an amazing stay, once again filled with scrumpitious food, too much drink, endless games, story telling and jokes and the addition of themed nights this year (a Mexican night with sombreros, stick on moustaches and a pinata and a Bollywood night with saris, henna and the most incredible chocolate samosas). 


7 Bedrooms, sleeps up to 15 people
3 Bathrooms
Prices vary throughout the year but 7 ngihts from £2000 and a weekend nightly rate from approx £500

You can book and find all necessary additional info and pictures via Holiday Lettings or use the direct link to the property page.

Gemma's Hen Party 2011 : Chaucer Barn

Chaucer barn is set in Gresham, north Norfolk (approx 3 hour 30 mins drive from London), it was bought by the poet Geoffery Chaucer in the 14th century. It is every bit as special as it sounds, set in 5 acres of it's own land which is kept beautifully. Hedges trimmed in perfect pyramids, miles of the greenest grass and even a maze so precise it looked as if it's maintained with nail scissors! 

We pulled up after a weary drive (top tip: do not set off out of London at rush hour!) and were met by the pretty much glass-fronted barn glowing through the darkness lit by hundreds of flickering candles. The gorgeous barn is grand but also super comfy and cosy. Lots of wood, heated stone floors, exposed beams, homely aga, huge banquet table seating 18 and more roaring open fires than I have ever seen.  Perfect!

There is a section to the barn which houses quite a few of the bedrooms and the living/games room (the glass-fronted section). The rooms here have pretty incredible views - perfect scenes of fields and woodland to wake up to! The rooms themselves are beautiful with high ceilings, sleigh beds, stripey dressing gowns for every guest, teak furniture, roll top cast iron baths with brass fittings...Luxury like I've never experienced!

We were there for Gem's hen party and we easily arranged (with the owner's help) for several beauty therapists to come to the barn for a day packed with treatments. That evening we'd arranged for an award winnning Norfolk chef came to cook us the most incredible dinner - we had three delicious courses (canapes, main meal and pudding) and the waitress even sweetly offered to make our cocktails! There are different menu options available (see website for details) however ours came in at £35 pp.


I cannot recommend this place highly enough - there is so much room to have fun, play games, relax, go for the most beautiful country walks and if you visit through the summer months even stay in teepees in the gorgeous gardens!

Oh, and don't forget your wellies!


9 bedrooms, sleeps up to 18 people
7 bathrooms
4 reception rooms

From £4330 for a week (prices vary by time of year) and from £2970 for 3 nights.

To book you can either call on 01263 577 733 or send an email to

To see endless amazing pictures of the barn or to find out any further info just go to the official website for Chaucer Barn.

There you have it - my top three picks with as many pictures as I could fit in without making it an essay...seriously I could go on forever! As soon as I have to endure the painful planning experience again I shall do a post part 2....!