Suffolk, United Kingdom

Retreat East

Price per night from$190.88

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (GBP154.17), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Barns with every creature comfort

Setting

Mid Suffolk seclusion

A countryside hideaway, you say, where communing with nature can be combined with spa sessions and pre-dinner cocktails? Retreat East should fit the bill; a cluster of handsome, oak-timbered barns off a leafy, sat-nav-averse country lane (keep an eye out for the sign). The barns – a mix of beamed originals and new-builds – are quietly luxurious, edged by charming courtyards and verandas overlooking the fields. Most have a kitchen, though you may not spend much time there; the restaurant’s a showcase for some of Suffolk’s finest suppliers, along with produce from the bountiful kitchen gardens.  

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Facilities

Photos Retreat East facilities

Need to know

Rooms

21

Check–Out

11am. Earliest check-in, 3pm. There’s no flexibility on times, but you’re welcome to have a drink or relax in the Great Barn if you’re arriving early or in no rush to leave.

Prices

Double rooms from £185.00, including tax at 20 per cent.

More details

Rates include a continental breakfast, with fruit, yoghurt, home-made granola, toast and filter coffee. Main menu items such as souffléd pancakes or the full Suffolk breakfast (including treacle-cured bacon) are charged extra.

Also

Forgotten to bring boots? You can borrow a pair of Barbours (though, with a substantial deposit involved, be sure to bring them back). Plus you’ll find a small but thoughtfully-stocked shop at reception, with Suffolk-made toiletries and edibles, from ice-creams to apple juice.

At the hotel

Spa, gym, eight bicycles, wellies to borrow, a small shop at the reception, yoga and personal training sessions on request. In rooms: free Wi-Fi, Grind coffee machines, locally-made Loggique toiletries, flatscreen TVs

Our favourite rooms

The original, oak-timbered farm buildings have a real sense of place. Its name notwithstanding, The Piggery is particularly romantic, with a pink-painted four-poster made for breakfasts in bed, and French doors leading to a sunny cobbled courtyard. For more space, there’s the two-bedroom The Cow House, with its double-height living space, or the beautifully-beamed Roost, with far-reaching views across the fields. Set in walled gardens, the 16th-century farmhouse is also a beauty, with four charming bedrooms, sweetly sloping floors and perilously low lintels. If it’s out-and-out indulgence you’re after, the more modern barns have their own appeal. Consider checking into one of the spa barns, with their velvet sofas, woodburning stoves, and roll-top baths on the terrace. While most of the barns here are geared towards self-catering, these have teeny-tiny ‘kitchens’ – equipped for the concocting of gin and tonics, rather than any actual cooking.

Spa

The cedar-clad spa is small but cocooning, with a sauna, steam room and outdoor hot tub. There’s no charge, but the hour-long sessions need to be reserved. Treatments include unhurried massages and facials, with Elemental Herbology’s Chinese medicine-inspired oils, exfoliants and masks. Book ahead; with just two treatment rooms, slots soon get snapped up. In-barn massages can also be arranged, for an extra £25, unless you’re staying in one of the smaller suites (Little Warren, Little Hive, Nook and Den).

Packing tips

Beach shoes (the shingle is unforgiving) and a copy of Melissa Harrison’s lyrical, Suffolk farm-set All Among the Barley, to curl up with after dinner.

Also

The Stables and The Hayloft have wheelchair access – though not wheelchair-accessible showers – and a ramp is available on request for access to the Great Barn restaurant.

Pet‐friendly

Dogs are welcome in all but two of the barns (the Little Warren and Little Hive). Two are allowed per barn at no extra charge, unless additional cleaning’s needed after check-out. There’s also a dedicated dog shower, for hose-downs after muddy walks. See more pet-friendly hotels in Suffolk.

Children

Welcome in certain room types. The Piggery and Hayloft can both have a cot added for £20; the Burrow, Sett, Cow House and Stables all fit two adults and two children (or one adult and three children). The hotel doesn't offer extra beds.

Overview

All ages are welcome, though watch out for some unyielding floors and edges. And small fry aren’t allowed in all the barns, so call to check.

Best for

The self-catering set-up in most of the barns is particularly handy for families, with the cheering possibility of post-bedtime room service for parents. There are no extra beds, but travel cots are £20 per stay (you need to bring your own bedding).

Recommended rooms

Two-bedroom options include the Burrow or Sett, along with the more charismatic Cow House, with its parent-pleasing master suite. If you’re bringing a baby, the Piggery has a bath, mini-kitchen and plenty of nooks to sip wine in once the baby’s asleep.

Activities

There’s a small but sweet on-site nature trail for children, with a bird-feeder, bug hotel, and hedgehog house along the way. Kids will also enjoy pottering about in the kitchen gardens, and forays along the local footpaths, with the promise of cake in Coddenham. The seaside aside, local attractions include Jimmy’s Farm, whose residents run from rare-breed pigs to crocodiles and lemurs. Under ten minutes’ drive away, Needham Lake is a scenic spot for den-building, with two playgrounds and a circular trail around a duck-dotted lake.

Meals

Staff can provide highchairs and cutlery for kids in the Great Barn, along with a simple children’s menu; think mac and cheese, fish fingers and chips, or scaled-down Sunday roasts. 

Sustainability efforts

Water comes from the hotel’s own borehole, and there are solar panels on the Great Barn. Cleaning products and toiletries are eco-friendly, and food waste is composted and used in the kitchen gardens.

Food and Drink

Photos Retreat East food and drink

Top Table

Commandeer tables one or two, which are by the imposing fireplace and have the best terrace views.

Dress Code

Been-to-the-beach Bretons or dresses in summer, and slouchy cashmere knits from autumn onwards, with jeans and biker boots for pre-dinner ambles in the grounds.

Hotel restaurant

Set in the lofty, oak-framed Great Barn, the restaurant takes a pleasingly seasonal approach showcasing produce from the organic kitchen gardens: heritage squash, strawberries, rhubarb, rainbow chard and more. Its menus also name-drop some first-rate local suppliers: beef from Yarn Hill’s herd of Lincoln Reds, or Fen Farm Dairy’s luscious Baron Bigod cheese. There’s artistry in the kitchen (where menus change weekly) but nothing’s too fussy, from the treacle and rye sourdough, baked in house, to the satisfying mains, like roasted Suffolk chicken with garden-grown sorrel, and buttery potato terrine. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, when it’s wise to book ahead.

Hotel bar

Next to the restaurant, the parquet-floored bar has a billiards table at its centre. Undo your opponent with a large glass of sancerre from the short but well-chosen wine list, or a kitchen-garden-fuelled seasonal cocktail; a lemon verbena-laced daiquiri, say, or tart gooseberry sour. 

Last orders

Breakfast is served from 8.30–11am every day. Lunch is from noon until 2.30pm, Monday to Saturday, and dinner is 5.30-8.30pm. On Sundays, the restaurant is open from noon to 7.30pm.

Room service

Guests can order anything from the restaurant menu, with a 15 per cent surcharge for service.

Location

Photos Retreat East location
Address
Retreat East
Brick Kiln Farm Sandy Lane
Hemingstone
IP6 9QE
United Kingdom

Retreat East is set in rural Suffolk, on a cow parsley-lined country lane. Ipswich is 20 minutes by car, and the coast is within driving distance for jaunts to Southwold and Aldeburgh.

Planes

The closest airport is Stansted, an hour and ten minutes’ drive away.

Trains

It’s a 20-minute drive to Ipswich Station, where services include half-hourly trains to London Liverpool Street.

Automobiles

It’s perfectly possible to come by train and taxi, then cycle to nearby villages, but a car is handy for exploring the coast. Retreat East is just off the A14, and has parking and charge points for electric cars. In summer, no cars are allowed on the main site, so – after dropping off luggage – you’re asked to park by reception; it’s not far, and closer spaces are available for guests with mobility issues.

Other

Call ahead if you’re planning to helicopter in; it can be arranged, though landing fees apply.

Worth getting out of bed for

There’s excellent walking to be had, with maps to borrow at reception. Limber up with a 20-minute stroll across the fields to the neighbouring village of Coddenham, whose community-run village store (which shuts up shop on Sundays) is a shining example of its kind. Stocked with Suffolk-made comestibles, it also serves up coffee, tea and wedges of buttercream-filled cake.  

The Suffolk coast is punctuated with implausibly pretty villages and towns, including Aldeburgh. Behind the shingle beach, tarred fishermen’s huts sell samphire and fresh fish – though for haddock and chips, queue at the Golden Galleon, on the pastel-painted High Street. Six miles along the river Alde, Snape Maltings hosts the town’s classical music and food festivals, but is worth a detour year-round for walks through the mudflats and marshes. Further afield, do a spot of crabbing at Walberswick, then catch the ferry to Southwold – a 12-seater rowing boat, which only takes cash. It’s the English seaside at its most charming, with its beach-hut-backed sands, old-fashioned tea rooms, and eccentric amusement arcade

Closer to home, the village of Orford is not to be missed, thanks to its abundant oyster beds, first-rate bakery and 12th-century castle – said to be haunted by the ghost of a mistreated merman. Equally otherworldly is Orford Ness, a shingle spit dotted with eery concrete ‘pagodas’, where secret atomic weapons were tested in the 1950s. It’s now a wild and wind-scoured nature reserve, run by the National Trust, with seasonal ferries from Orford’s quay, which must be booked ahead. 

Local restaurants

Tables are rightly in demand at the Unruly Pig, a rural, red-brick inn with a brace of culinary awards. Hunker down in its wood-panelled dining room for an epic Sunday lunch – Iberico black pork or 40 day-aged steak, laced with anchovy butter. On Orford’s Market Square, Butley Orford Oysterage serves impeccable seafood with a minimum of fuss, and paper tablecloths. Start with its namesake oysters, raised on a local creek, followed by a chalked-up special: skate wing with caper-laced brown butter, perhaps, or house-smoked trout with horseradish. In Aldeburgh, Regatta is similarly strong on seafood, with samphire-framed fish platters and – if you’re in luck – local lobster with chips and garlic butter.

Local cafés

On Orford’s Market Square, pick up cinnamon-streaked buns at the Pump Street Bakery, or claim a table for brioche French toast and artfully-assembled tartines. In Aldeburgh, Ives is a sweetly old-fashioned ice-cream parlour, dispensing caramel-laced sundaes and precision-balanced triple-scoop cones. 

Local bars

For a change of scene – and pint of well-kept ale – head for the Dog at Grundisburgh, a hospitable, pink-painted pub by the village green. After a stroll on the shingle at Dunwich beach, retreat to The Ship for potted shrimp on toast and a half of Southwold Bitter. For sunset views over the marshes, chart a course for Orford’s Jolly Sailor, which also hires out electric bikes for pedals through Rendlesham Forest.  

 

 

Reviews

Photos Retreat East reviews

Anonymous review

 

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this rural idyll and cleaned the mud from their wellies, a full account of their adventures will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Retreat East in Hemingstone…


The clue’s very much in the name at this impeccably-arranged rural stay, set on a 35-acre swathe of Suffolk farmland. It started out as a ‘farmshare’ for a coterie of paid-up members, but now operates as a hotel, with a sense of continuity and calm that’s balm to a city-dweller’s soul. Bees hum in the kitchen gardens, buttercups dot the meadow, and guests stay in oak-framed barns – some new-built, some original, but all handsomely appointed, with painted shiplap walls, the slouchiest of sofas, and, in the more romantic retreats, linen-draped four-posters. 

You’re in reach of the coast for timeless seaside pleasures, whether it’s crabbing from Walberswick’s quay or strolling the pier in Southwold. Elsewhere, you’ll find handsome market towns, country pubs and windswept nature reserves – though the best stays here proceed at a languid pace, with ambles to neighbouring villages and restorative forays to the spa. Come the evening, the restaurant is a showcase for some of Suffolk’s finest suppliers, and – bar the odd fox’s bark – there’s little to trouble your slumbers.

 

Price per night from $190.88

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