Just a few miles from the Suffolk coast, close to the delightful historic town of Halesworth, lies Belle Grove, the location of one of the most amazing self-catering holiday cottage complexes in the country.
To captivate my partner and I so entirely on a foggy night in early December shows just how special is Belle Grove. It is reached by driving up a small single track country road from which you turn into a gateway and then along an even more narrow track until you cross a small bridge over a pond and into a farmyard.
At first we thought the yard a bit untidy and wondered if we were in the right place. But as we had followed the detailed and excellent instructions emailed by owner Jo Jordan, we parked the car and found immediately the cottage we booked. Peering through the fog, we notice the outline of a completely original building which towers above the others… the Dragon House, of which more later. We then realised that the cottages have been cleverly concealed within farm outbuildings.
Each cottage plot, or Barn as Jo likes to call them, has its own entrance, which takes you along a short path through a small, attractive garden to the front door. Open it and you’re transported to another world. The effect is like that of being in a modern fairy tale or a film set, for once you step over the threshold you experience something so sublime it’s almost untrue.
We stayed for two utterly blissful nights in the smallest of the five cottages, The Stable. And while it’s unique, no two properties being alike, it shares the impressive interior design qualities and features of the others.
The interior styling, created by Jo and her husband Nick Fisher, utilises Indian and Balinese architectural salvage as well as local antiques, bric-a-brac and modern appliances. The salvage has been wonderfully put together to make solid kitchen units, wardrobes, the most fantastic and comfortable beds, quirky adorable lights and amazing bathrooms and each with superb digital showers. The rooms are painted in bright, bold colours, with timber beams and ceiling joists lovingly revealed and repaired. Beneath the feet are rugs covering vast wooden floorboards, stone and marble.
Mirrors abound, along with carvings, statuary and sumptuous fabrics. Kitchens are a cook’s delight, each with a range featuring six ring hobs, and top quality utensils and equipment on granite works surfaces. At the far end of the living room, the log burning stove was set up and took just one match to light to make our first evening cosy, romantic and unforgettable.
Everything you need to make your stay as enjoyable and effortless as possible is provided, ranging from milk in the ample fridge freezer, to a lovely bottle of wine, chocolates and flowers as well as an individual welcome message. The hosts have taken great pride and effort in providing copious amounts of helpful information about the buildings and the locality. This includes the write up in Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine about the farmhouse, known locally as Dragon House, when it was declared Overall Winner of The Daily Telegraph Building Awards.
Dragon House, like the barns it towers above, utilises the timber, granite, marble and other materials from India and South Asia, art from around the world as well as local pieces. It’s a building like no other, not least because of the metal dragon sculpture perching on the chimney stack, a feature which emphasises the fairy tale nature of Belle Grove, and the unconventional beauty within.
The cottages range from The Stable, which can sleep two, to the Upper Barn which can sleep six and which is ideal for an intergenerational family stay, with a wheelchair accessible bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor. They will soon be adding Griffin Lodge, which will have five bedrooms.
Tempting as it is to spend all your time in the cottage, particularly as everything you set your eye upon transports you to a dreamlike location, do also enjoy what is outside especially if you’re staying in the summer. Stroll by the pond, cross the bridge, walk along the neighbouring fields – for this is also a working farm – and go into the fabulous little on site shop (exclusive to guests) which sells a well-priced selection of carvings from Africa, and artefacts and object d’art from near and far.
Things to do and see
If you don’t want to cook every evening or lunch during your stay, the impressive Boarding House restaurant in Halesworth provides exceptional English food at reasonable prices. Halesworth too is worth looking around, a hidden gem of a traditional Suffolk market town.
Only a few miles away is the Suffolk coast, one of the most underrated in England. At the northern end, Southwold is elegant, mannered and interesting and the other side of the River Blyth to charmingly eccentric Walberswick, ideal for children with its dunes, clean sand, gentle sea and little stream. Further south is Aldeburgh, with unspoilt Georgian and early Victorian seaside buildings and some of the best fish and chips in the country.
We left Belle Grove and decided to spend the rest of the day in nearby Minsmere, a vast bird sanctuary with huge reed beds, waterways, a coastal strip, fascinating woodlands, cleverly concealed hides and an excellent visitor centre. Run by the RSPB, this is one of the best visitor attractions in the country for those who love birds and wildlife.
Its natural simplicity and harmony with nature is in complete contrast to Belle Grove’s barn cottages which are fantastic celebrations of Jo and Nick’s creative use of wood, metal, glass, fabric and technology to create luxurious, sophisticated accommodation.
To sum up, a few days spent here is a brilliant, unmatched experience. Enjoy the unique interior of your cottage, the dream-like location and the unspoilt countryside, market towns and diverse seaside areas only a few miles away. You’ll return to your daily life re-energised, re-invigorated and longing to come back to this beautifully secluded hidden gem.
For more information, including booking, visit BelleGroveBarns.comLast modified: June 10, 2021