If you’re in need of the ultimate escape to the country, you’ll find it at Retreat East.
Tucked away in the Suffolk countryside, this restored 16th-century farm has been converted into eco-conscious luxury barns and rooms, which look out onto 35 acres of pristine meadows.
And if you think that sounds inviting, there is also an on-site spa and outdoor jacuzzi to relax in.
A members’ club which welcomes non-members for overnight stays, Retreat East is the brainchild of Dominic Richards, an architect from London who bought the derelict dairy farm 15 years ago.
It finally opened its doors for business in 2017 and now aims to offer guests a reimagined version of ‘The Good Life’ – and a stay here is pretty close to that.
Our writer Felicity Moxon visited Retreat East and here’s what she had to say about it.
A visit to Retreat East had been on my wish list for a while – and as we drove down the drive and saw it for the first time, it didn’t disappoint.
Nestled in the pretty village of Hemingstone, you’re only 20 minutes by car from Ipswich train station, but you could be a million miles away.
Surrounded by the most glorious countryside, you can’t help but feel at one with nature here.
Retreat East offers a choice of accommodation, ranging from cosy sleeps for two, to a four-bed farmhouse which sleeps eight. And each of the barns are just as beautiful from the outside as they are in, with wood cladding and rustic brick.
When we stepped into The Nook, the one-bedroom barn where we were staying, we instantly felt at home.
Everything here is built for comfort, from sofas you can just fall into, to little extras like organic toiletries and fluffy dressing gowns and slippers left in the room.
But our favourite part was the four poster bed, which had the most beautiful headboard and a remote controlled skylight you could open and gaze up at the stars.
If the weather is nice, all the rooms have some sort of outside space, whether it is decking or a whole courtyard. Our barn had French doors leading out onto the decking and a cute bistro table. Perfect for sipping cocktails from as we looked out across the meadow.
SPA AND ACTIVITIES
When it comes to things to do, you can take it as easy or as rushed as you like at Retreat East.
Hire bikes to explore the local area, have a go at axe throwing or clay pigeon shooting, or really get into country living and go horse riding.
For the more fitness conscious, take a yoga class or book your own personal training session.
Or if you just fancy relaxing, book in at the spa. Treatments include the Five Element Aroma Massage, priced at £80 for 60 minutes, the Moisture Replenish Facial, £80 for 60 minutes, Gel Manicures for £64 or a £50 Pedicure with foot massage.
Guests can also book the outdoor jacuzzi for an hour. Tucked away behind the main barn so you have some privacy while relaxing in the bubbles, it was a great way to either start the day or unwind after exploring the local area.
FOOD AND DRINK
If your plan is to spend the weekend on site, all the barns at Retreat East are self-catering, with cooking facilities and all the pots, pans and kitchen utensils you need to rustle up a delicious dinner.
But there is also a wonderful restaurant, so make sure you book a table in the Great Barn at least one of the nights you are there.
Serving kitchen garden produce from their seasonal menu, we had homemade bread and balsamic to start as we sipped on cocktails. This was followed by the vegetarian sharing platter (£16) and rib eye steak (£25) for mains.
We couldn’t leave without trying one of their delicious puddings, so we had sticky toffee pudding (£8) and the cheese board (£10) which was all sourced locally from Suffolk.
Other menu highlights include the dressed Cromer crab, pan-fried sea bass and garden strawberries with whipped cream and mini meringues.
Once you’re finished eating, relax with a glass of wine on the cosy sofas next to the fire in the Great Barn. There is also a pool table in the bar area and a selection of board games to keep you entertained.
THE LOCAL AREA
Retreat East has a number of walks you can do right from the site, just ask the helpful staff.
One of the nicest walks is to the chocolate box village of Coddenham. Stop for some tea and cake or go a bit further afield if you have a car.
The pretty market town of Woodbridge is a 25 minute drive away and has some lovely places to eat and shop.
Make sure you head to Market Hill for some great independent home and clothes shops. Pop into The Pump Street Bakery for some delicious chocolate treats or The Unruly Pig offers more upmarket dining.
The beaches of Southwold and Aldeburgh are also a 40-minute drive away if the sun is shining.
We loved our stay at Retreat East, but the biggest plus was how dog-friendly it was, as we brought along our ginger, curly cockapoo Morris.
Well-behaved dogs are allowed in every room. They can also join you for breakfast, dinner or cocktails in the main barn.
This made our stay even more special as Morris was treated like royalty and given lots of treats and attention from the staff. I think it’s safe to say he enjoyed his stay as much as we did.
One great touch we loved was the four paw spa near the bikes, where you can shower your dog down after a muddy day playing in the fields, which was super handy.
As we departed we felt totally refreshed and not quite ready to head back to normal life, but all good things must come to an end.
There is so much on offer at Retreat East, whether you want to laze around or explore the surrounding areas.
It’s a real slice of heaven that can be enjoyed all year round. We’ll definitely be back with Morris in tow soon.
Room start from £99 a night and include a Continental breakfast
Photos courtesy of of Felicity Moxon and Retreat East