Quiet and secluded, Retreat East offers a tranquil experience, both day and night. Spend some time enjoying this à la mode Suffolk hideaway and you are guaranteed to leave feeling both pampered and restored.
Easily accessible from London, Retreat East is situated in the heart of Suffolk, surrounded by 35 acres of pristine British countryside. It is no wonder it has quickly gained popularity with celebrities – from football freestyler Jeremy Lynch to reality TV star Millie Mackintosh, who recently celebrated her 30th birthday at the retreat. Previously a working 16th-century farm, the site has been converted into a luxurious spa resort with 15 beautifully appointed eco-conscious barns, including their first barns to have private outdoor baths under canopies with sun loungers (launched this summer), and a further eight coming soon, some with their own wood-burning fires and four-poster king-size beds. Ranging from cosy sleeps for two, such as The Piggery, a large romantic barn with a fantastic sculptural bath and private sunny and sheltered courtyard twice the size as the barn itself, to four-bed farmhouses like the Cow House, the oldest barn with enormous kitchen and dining area and a luxurious double shower with underfloor heated pebbles – the barn stays are eco-luxury at its finest.
Retreat East was the vision of Dominic Richards who, 20 years ago, bought a house in the beautiful Suffolk countryside. His home became incredibly popular with the friends he had left behind in the London Spitalfields area.
It was the countryside residence they all wanted to visit as it offered them an opportunity to recharge, enjoy the clear skies, fresh air and artisan seasonal food.
This gave Dominic an idea, and when a nearby redundant dairy farm came up for sale he immediately identified its potential as a retreat for more sapped Londoners. The farm had certainly seen better days; its 16th-century farmhouse, historic barns and surrounding fields needed a lot of work, but the challenge was not enough to deter Dominic – he was determined and had already identified the potential with urbanites looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Guests check-in at the reception area, which doubles up as Retreat East’s farm and coffee shop, selling delicious farmyard essentials and locally made gifts such as Loggique candles, Framlingham soaps, Pump Street chocolate and Tiptree cakes.
On the accommodation side, in the heart of the retreat is the historic picturesque four-bedroom farmhouse. Perfect for multigenerational family stays, group stays and weddings, the timber-framed property has its own private garden and is packed with character.
We stayed in The Granary, an authentic eco-luxurious converted dairy barn with its own private terrace overlooking the Suffolk meadows. Luxury touches include a heated floor throughout, a wood burner, a stylish farmhouse-style kitchen complete with SMEG fridge, a Nespresso coffee machine and, in the bathroom, a state-of-the-art walk-in shower. The interiors are homely. Think laid-back woven rugs, rustic brickwork and wooden beams throughout (dividing the otherwise open-plan living spaces), pretty throws and cushions, modern artwork and contemporary furnishings. Natural light floods in from the Velux window above and there’s a spacious dining room with patio doors out to the terrace. Offering a very warm welcome to guests and locals alike, the triple-height Great Barn restaurant is a fabulous foodie experience. Seasonal menus feature an array of beautiful dishes, prepared using ingredients from local artisan producers. Choose from chicken liver pâté, scallops, organic rainbow chard, fennel, smoked scallop roe or green curry. Take your time to savour, leaving some space for dessert; on the menu during our visit was banana and spiced rum baked Alaska with caramelised pecans and smoked caramel sauce – the flavour was divine. The Great Barn is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (including Sunday lunch). You might visit to simply enjoy a cocktail, one made with Suffolk Distillery gin perhaps – and you can choose to wine or dine al fresco on the south-facing terrace while sipping some bubbles and watching the sun go down.
Talking of bubbles, the south-facing terrace is also where you will find the retreat’s outdoor hot tub and spa facilities – and watch this space, as the retreat has plans to extend the spa area. Unwind and experience a tranquil moment of pure relaxation with a treatment. I opted for their Five Element Aroma signature massage and felt the tension in my shoulders melt away. An in-barn massage service is also available.
Take a tour of the wild flower meadow, farm and the kitchen gardens that supply organic produce for use in their restaurant. Little ones will love meeting the ducks by the pond, stroking the farm chickens and watching the bees at work in their hive. Guests can also take part in clay pigeon shooting, axe throwing, archery, yoga, floristry classes, meditation, and chocolate making.
Popular local footpaths pass through the retreat grounds. Favoured walks include strolling the fields to the pretty village of Coddenham for a cup of tea and some home-baked cakes, and exploring the stunning Shrubland Park. There are plenty of walking-route maps for you to enjoy during your stay from the front desk, and bike hire is complimentary to guests.
Retreat East is pooch friendly throughout, including in the restaurant, with all properties allowing up to two dogs (other than The Little Warren & The Little Hive). There is even an impressive doggy shower for muddy dogs returning from their countryside walks. Plus, they sell local dog products from Pooches and Sniffe & Likket in their farm shop.
Prices from £130 for Little Hive & Little Warren barn rooms, £225 for a one-bedroom barn and £325 for a two-bedroom barn; retreateast.co.uk
Whether you’re looking to get out and about and explore by road or by foot, there are some must-visit places within very easy reach.
Ipswich is just under 20 minutes’ drive away from Retreat East. With direct rail links from London, it’s a great option if you’re travelling to Retreat East by train.
Woodbridge is a pretty market town that sits along the River Deben. It’ll take you around 25 minutes to get there, but it is more than worth the journey.
A quaint and pretty little seaside town, home to the famous Adnams Brewery. Southwold is ideal for beer, wine and spirits lovers to take a tour of Adnams Brewery brewing and distillery plants, or to enjoy a walk along the beach.
The drive is around 40 minutes but a visit to Aldeburgh is worth it. Perfect open beaches for a nice long dog walk and some of the best seafood restaurants around.