Stylist editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski finds Alpine charm at Knotting Hill Barn House in the Leicestershire countryside.
There was a time when the nearest you got to the rustic appeal of a European mountain hut was an executive lodge at your local Center Parcs. But ever since Soho Farmhouse burst onto the luxury travel scene in 2015 with a crop of designer cabins in the Cotswolds, a new benchmark was set in UK cabin porn.
Knotting Hill Barn House, in Ashby Pastures woods in a remote part of Leicestershire, is a new addition to the cabin scene, and is about as luxurious as a rural getaway can be. Set in 11 acres of woodland, the first clue to the comfort that awaits comes in the form of a large, fire-heated hot tub at the edge of the fairy-lit clearing, alongside a wood-burning pizza oven.
Inside the Tardis-like barn we find four luxurious bedrooms (it sleeps eight), two on a spectacular glass-fronted mezzanine level, huge plush beds blanketed in fur throws and, for maximum hygge, furry bean bags, piles of cushions and cosy-covered hot water bottles to snuggle up to at night.
The central lounge area opens into the eaves of the barn, with a wood-burning stove at the heart of the room. Bifold doors on both sides mean the entire barn opens out onto decked terraces and woods in the summer, but in winter the heavy curtains, warm lamp lights and glow from the fire cocoon you from the elements.
A surprisingly generous kitchen, deluxe bathrooms and a wifi network that runs off a local wind turbine (the barn’s energy is predominantly supplied by solar panels on the roof, but there is a back-up generator for the times when they need a helping hand) means that everything you could possibly need is on hand in this remote and peaceful location.
The change of pace in life at the barn means that you may not want to do much more during your stay other than sip wine on your terrace, curl up in front of the fire, lounge in the hot tub or stroll around the grounds – but a walk through the local woods and country lanes is a must, not least because at the edge of the barn’s clearing is your own private lake, complete with kayaks, and we loved paddling through the weeping willows.
More ambitious hikers are spoilt for choice: there’s a seven- mile walk via three local pubs, a simple 40-minute walk to fill up the milk bottle from the local farm’s vending machine, or a stroll to the beautiful local villages of Great Dalby or Ashby Folville (both about 30 minutes’ walk). We also found that the picturesque scenery and peaceful backdrop gave us the headspace to get our creative juices flowing, and this would be the perfect place to escape to rekindle a creative hobby such as painting or writing that book you’ve been dreaming of.
Although the barn is compact, the well-equipped kitchen and pizza oven make this a superb self-catering option. Provided with a pizza dough recipe and a pantry stocked with the essentials to make a simple dough, I spent an idyllic few hours on a rainy afternoon kneading and proving my dough, before getting the satisfaction of cooking my pizza outside. But there are plenty of options for those looking for a break from the kitchen too. The barn’s owner can arrange for local chef Ali Green to cook for you and your guests, or leave pre-made dishes in the fridge for you to bake at your own convenience.
We arrived to find a whopping fish pie and sticky toffee pudding ready to bake which, despite the enormous size, we did our best to devour because it was so unbelievably good. Outside of the barn, local pubs The Royal Oak and Carington Arms, plus the nearby cafe in the March House Farm shop all offer great food, and temptingly close too. Slightly further afield – a 20-minute drive but more than worth it – you’ll find The Fox & Hounds in Knossington.
Leicestershire may not have the mountains of the Alps, but Knotting Hill Barn House is a slice of chalet chic in the UK that will leave you feeling refreshed… although likely hankering after your very own cabin in the woods, too.
Hire Knotting Hill Barn House from £380 per night (minimum three-night stay); visit canopyandstars.co.uk/knottinghillbarnhouse