What: A weekend in French Castles Where: Loire Valley, France…
What: Soho Farmhouse, Private Memberclub and Hotel
Where: Oxfordshire, England
Life in the big city can sometimes be quite exhausting. And the longing for peace, green and rural life is growing: many metropolitan residents want only one thing on the weekend: Get out of the noisy din. Nick Jones, British hotel entrepreneur and founder of Soho Houses, recognized the needs of the troubled urban man years ago when he opened his first country hotel, the Babington House, in the east of London in 1998. Three years ago, another country retreat was added to the Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, a 90-minute drive northwest of London, in the romantic Cotswolds countryside. Here, the big city-battered experiences country life by joining, touching or just diving in.
I’m not the fan of British left-hand traffic and opt for the convenient arrival on the regional train GWR, which stops from London Paddington in an hour and twenty minutes at the station of the idyllic village Charlbury. From here, another 15 minutes by taxi through the hilly landscape of Oxfordshire, which even in January is lit up in green. In addition a bright blue sky – which is not natural for local weather conditions. Almost a shameless luck!
Past the stately, (currently still visible) property of football star David Beckham and fashion-creating wife Victoria, I get to the hidden grounds of Soho Farmhouse. Nick Jones, visionary and inventor of private Soho House membership clubs, is opening his 22nd Soho House in Amsterdam this year. The self-made man operates outlets worldwide, for example in Berlin, Los Angeles or Istanbul. Many of them with an attached hotel, in which also non-members can check in. With the Soho Farmhouse, Jones created a resort in the country according to his ideas: the centerpiece is an 18th-century farmhouse that sits amid 50 acres of land. In between, cultured stream courses and small lakes with 40 cozy, wooded cabins situated in the landscape.
The so-called “cabins” are of different sizes, some with separate living room and several bedrooms. Wood-paneled walls, gnarled floors, inviting linen couches and cuddly velvet armchairs make each of the cabins comfortable. Including a large bathroom stocked with a rich selection of personal care products from their own brand “Cowshed”. Some cabins have a zinc outdoor bathtub, which can be used in this cold season. But you can warm up after by your own stove and pattering fire wonderfully. Or you can make a tea in your own kitchenette before the comfortable XXL bed, equipped with seven pillows, invites you to take a nap.
In the afternoon I explore the surroundings with its picturesque landscape. In good weather, rowboats invite you to take a round on the lake. A personal butler, who is called “Farmhand” here, asks me if he can book me a massage appointment in the “Cowshed Spa”. He could also reserve a small round of golf, a riding or tennis lesson or trapshooting. I opt for yoga at the gym and then swim a few laps in the heated outdoor pool. For accompanying children there is an adventure playground and hourly child care. The ponies and chickens are just another attraction for city kids, so that the farmhouse enjoys great popularity even among young families – with the associated noise level. If you like it a little quieter, I recommend a stay during the week.
Tip Soho Farmhouse: Avoid weekends!
It is the small details that make the Soho Farmhouse so special: Infront of the door of each cottage, the guest will find his personal bicycle for the duration of the stay. Right next to it some gumboots, because it usually rains pitchforks here. Of course, in the right shoe size, which was previously requested by email. Every morning fresh milk in glass bottles is stored on the veranda. And on request, the breakfast comes to bed – by a mobile cooking bus, the so-called “float”.
Those who prefer to eat in the restaurant can do so either in the “Main Barn”, serving Soho House classics like wood-fired pizzas, giant burgers or grilled chicken. At lunchtime I like to sit in the bright “Pen Yen” restaurant overlooking the outdoor pool and terrace. There are delicious sashimi and sushi variations here. In the evening, the sleeker “Fancy Farm” restaurant offers additional seats. A nightcap in the “Mill Room” is always a good idea. I look into the crackling fire of the large, open fireplace, try a whiskey from the area and think: It could stay that way. BvH
How to get to Soho Farmhouse:
Arrival in London Heathrow: Take the Heathrow Express (£ 25) to London Paddington (taking 15 minutes). Hourly regional trains of the Great Western Railway (GWR) to Charlbury (16 £), travel time 80 minutes. It takes 15 minutes by taxi and 25 pounds to the Soho Farmhouse. A taxi ride from Heathrow to the Soho Farmhouse costs around £ 130. The Soho Farmhouse also has a helicopter landing pad. Room rates in Soho Farmhouse from about 400 Euro per night.
Contact Soho Farmhouse: