For true escapism, there’s nothing like jetting off to a far-flung and exotic destination once winter sets in. But there’s also something to be said for enjoying crisp winter days and cosy nights in with a little sojourn closer to home.
It might be branded the Garden of England, but Kent is not the first place that comes to mind when thinking about a winter’s break. Kenya, maybe. Kent, not so much. On a mission to change this perception is Mulberry Cottages – a boutique holiday-home company – which offers a curated collection of properties throughout the county.
Tucked away in the centre of the historic town of Sandwich are Sandi Lodge and Sandi Cottage, two of the company’s flagship properties, which can be hired together for large groups, and which turn the stereotype of musty cottage rentals on its head.
Given the fact that Sandwich is one of the best preserved Medieval towns in England, and one of the country’s ancient Cinque Ports, you might think that any home-from-home rentals here would be carved out of old-fashioned, chintz-filled houses. But, while Sandwich offers scenes straight out of a bygone England, with meandering streets lined with Tudor houses, timber-framed buildings and crooked inns, Sandi Lodge, the largest of the two properties, is far removed from a tumble-down cottage you might have otherwise expected.
Perfect for celebrations en famille, or with a group of friends, the house is large enough for eight guests, and, with its modern-industrial décor, gives the wow factor in spades. Perfect for nights in, there isa roaring fire – but it is straight out of Architectural Digest, rather than a scene from the front of a chocolate box. The circular, black metal feature gives the huge living room a unique focal point, and the space is further ramped-up stylistically with an oversized L-shaped sofa (big enough for ten) and a cinema-screen-sized Smart TV. The downstairs living space, being open-plan and stylishly conceived, is spacious enough for convivial gatherings and is comfortable enough for grandparents as well as being cool enough for teens. The contemporary-barn-like feel is further accentuated with double-height ceilings with black steel roof trusses, burnished cast-iron radiators and a matt-black feature wall.
In smaller properties the dramatic décor could easily be too imposing, but Sandi Lodge is so sprawling that it all works in unison to emphasise the space rather than darken it. By day, the downstairs living room is flooded with light, due to its bi-fold doors opening out to the garden, and a glass roof over the dining table.
Leading off the living space, there’s a state-of-the-art kitchen with American fridge and super-modern appliances – ideal for cooking en masse or raising a glass or two in good company. For special occasions, you can concentrate on the latter, rather than doing the cooking yourself, as Mulberry Cottages has partnered with the genius Dine Indulge service, which offers a private chef to conjure up restaurant-standard cuisine served in the chic dining room.
As well as a downstairs bedroom, upstairs, via a limestone staircase, are three more guest-rooms, plus a modern bathroom, complete with egg-shaped tub. Décor here is softer with with velvet headboards, knitted throws, textural cushions and hexagonal-printed rugs. Black-out blinds and fine linens will give you the best night’s sleep ever, while pleasing aesthetic touches include modern art, depicting the UK’s coastline, bronze feature lighting and classical arched windows.
Best of all, the Lodge can be hired with a second property, called Sandi Cottage, which is linked via a gate in adjoining walled gardens. Allowing two families or groups of friends to holiday together, the Cottage is like the older, ‘wiser sister’ property, perfect for those wanting a little more of Sandwich’s age-old character.
The three-bedroom Cottage also boasts plenty of up-to-the-minute touches, including a light-filled, conservatory-style dining room, an all-black kitchen and sleek bathrooms. Country ambiance is added, however, with a charming snug – just the place for afternoon reading with one of the books from the bulging bookcases. There’s also a low-ceilinged living room with open-fireplace, plus cosy sofas and soft throws to huddle under. Meanwhile, bedrooms have traditional iron bedsteads, faux-fur rugs and jaunty, coastal-striped blinds.
While Sandi Lodge is the place to gather for celebrations and noisy games evenings, Sandi Cottage is best suited for quiet nights in after blustery days spent on the beach. Talking of which, Sandwich is perfectly placed to explore Kent’s coastline – including Deal with its antique shops, Broadstairs, which has a traditional seaside feel, and Margate, which is having a renaissance with its art scene, following the opening of the Turner Contemporary gallery.
Nearby is also Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve, from which you can access the New All England Coast Path, which runs through it, for blustery walks to clear the head. It’s also renowned for its diverse bird population, attracted to the saltmarsh. You may not spot a parrot but a Peregrine Falcon is just as good. After all, who needs a private island idyll when Kent and all its charms beckon?
Mulberry Cottages is an independent agency specialising in luxury breaks away. As well as holiday houses, it can also help to arrange catering, babysitting, group activities and full celebration solutions. Three nights rental at Sandi Lodge and Sandi Cottage start from £1,650.To book, visit mulberrycottages.com or call 01227 464 958.
*This article is also published with The Arbuturian