Boarding our train at Paddington station with our first class tickets on the new and re-branded 1930's style GWR (Great Western Railway) we sense some of the glamour and feel of that era in its design and are ready to depart in style to the Cotswolds and visit Soho Farmhouse, in this beautiful and serene part of the world, wonderfully accessible by a very pleasant journey by train to Charlbury and thereafter a 15-minute taxi ride. Apparently there is no shortage of high end retreats in the English countryside but is our destination cast in that familiar mould? What would make Soho Farmhouse different from any other luxury country hotel?
The concept is novel and even though in some ways it may resembles some luxury retreats that one may have come across, Soho Farmhouse is immediately distinguishable by it's attention to design, originality in it's presentation and you have the feeling of something really special, cool and fun. This is as much a playground for grownups as it is for families. It has more of a creativity factor embedded in its amenities and not surprisingly, being the brainchild of the founder of Soho House, Nick Jones. A combination of rustic charm, space and comfortable luxurious design sets Soho Farmhouse apart.
Approaching our studio cabin overlooking one of several small lakes it reminds us of the humble dwellings of settlers in new frontiers but when inside you have to adapt your perception as the level of unexpected luxury is quite astonishing: large beds with Egyptian cotton sheets, rainforest showers, wood-burning stoves and well-stocked kitchens for the self-caterer. But providing the wow-factor more than anything else are the outside decks with copper bathtubs, rocking chairs and waterfront views.
Pastime facilities are without peer, you can indulge in the comforts of the Cowshed spa with sauna, hot tubs and a range of treatments and maybe combine this with the latest films in the luxurious cinema. Among unexpected novelties is a cookery school but for more common place amenities you will find a spacious gym and spinning studio, indoor and outdoor pool, boating lake, tennis courts, football pitch and horse riding and the list goes on of what seems to be endless possibilities.
The service is exceptional and again there is something out of the ordinary to be enjoyed here, whether you want a leisurely breakfast in your cottage, a pre-dinner cocktail in the comfort of your private space or a late night snack, the staff will be happy to arrive at your door in their adapted milk floats and prepare it there and then. And this is all provided with a courteous but informal conversational approach. However, dining with other guests is not to be missed at Soho Farmhouse, the Main Barn offering three restaurants with plenty of atmosphere whether you prefer the more formal mezzanine Fancy Farm or the open space downstairs. As would be expected, the produce is sourced from local farmers with emphasis on sustainability. Thereafter one can either relax in the comfort of the barn space or enjoy a different atmosphere at the Mill Room Pub staying open till late and hosting DJs at weekends. Or you might fancy a game of table tennis in the central courtyard for counter-measure after a hearty meal.
Putting together a string of interesting and enjoyable pastime activities is certainly not difficult at Soho Farmhouse and there are quite a few combinations of these which we would have to enjoy another day, on a happy return. But until then, sweet dreams will have to suffice.