Extraordinary Escapes in the Cotswolds

Wishbone, Malvern Hills

Wishbone, Malvern Hills - Credit: Mark Watts/Unique Homestays

Extraordinary Escapes, presented by Sandi Toksvig on Channel 4 uncovers hidden getaways from all across the country. Here, we visit a ‘rough-luxe’ romantic ivy-clad stone cottage hidden on a forgotten fruit farm in the Malvern Hills, together with three other exceptional homes on our doorstep

Looking at first like an overgrown, tumbledown ruin of a barn, Wishbone is a whimsical and romantic hideaway for two that takes the rough-luxe concept to the max. Hidden within the remains of an ancient fruit farm in the Malvern Hills, this bewitching little 16th-century cottage retains many original features to create a cosy and timeless interior. 

Wishbone, Malvern Hills

The Malvern Hills are on the doorstep - Credit: Mark Watts/Unique Homestays

Nestled into a rambling, Eden-like setting, with a private fishing lake and acres of fields, this ivy-covered escape is an example of unkempt perfection. Hiding within ancient stone walls, tangled with tendrils of foliage, is a luxurious interior where snuggly blankets, plump sofa and a log-burner bring a superior level of comfort to a very cosy little nest, the perfect place to retreat back to after a day’s walking. 

Wishbone, Malvern Hills

A vintage washstand is cleverly repurposed in the bathroom - Credit: Mark Watts/Unique Homestays

The Grade II-listed property belongs to what was initially a livestock farm, owned by the Earl of Beauchamp, but which was changed to a fruit farm in 1919. Some of the orchard trees remain, bursting into vibrant pink blossom in May, and guests can scrump away happily, helping themselves to the bountiful fruit and herbs that grow here.

Wishbone, Malvern Hills

The upper barn door can be flung open on warm days - Credit: Mark Watts/Unique Homestays

Owners Mervyn and Niki have been slowly and sympathetically restoring since the 1990s, carefully preserving original wattle-and-daub panels, exposed timber beams and a fabulous brick floor. They’ve upcycled and collected vintage items over the years to complement the rustic setting placing a farmhouse table and jaunty little cupboards among modern textiles and a neat kitchen in muted grey, which shares the zoned open-plan living area. 

‘It’s a creative space; there’s all sorts of things to trigger the imagination,’ commented comedian Jenny Éclair during her visit for the show. 

Wishbone, Malvern Hills

Wooden stairs lead up from the kitchen to a reading nook - Credit: Mark Watts/Unique Homestays

A king-size bedroom is located on the ground floor for ease, leaving the cosy upstairs nook, reached by a wooden staircase, for reading and gazing out through a full-height window that would once have been used to access the storage space in the rafters of the barn. 

Wishbone, Malvern Hills

The bedroom leads off from the kitchen - Credit: Mark Watts/Unique Homestays

Pretty blue barn doors open from the lounge onto a cobbled patio and garden, strung with festoon lights. This is the ideal spot for a picnic lunch or to take out a blanket, a mug of hot tea and some binoculars on a fine day and sit before the awe-inspiring view of the Malvern Hills, spotting wildlife and relishing the peace and tranquillity of the location. 

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For get-away-from-it-all weekend breaks, this 500-year-old beauty is a wish come true. 

Accommodation for two adults, from £995 for a short break. To book a stay at Wishbone, visit uniquehomestays.com

THREE MORE EXTRAORDINARY STAYS...

ASTLEY CASTLE 
Nuneaton, Warwickshire, landmarktrust.org.uk 

A thoroughly modern piece of architecture has been stitched into the fabric of an ancient moated castle that was on the verge of destruction, following a fire in 1978, thus continuing a millennium of occupation and making for a gorgeously atmospheric place to stay. Winner of the UK’s most prestigious architecture award, the RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture 2013.  
Accommodation: For up to 8 people 
How much: Four nights from £1,275 

THE FIND 
Cranham, Gloucestershire, uniquehomestays.com 

In this unique solution to the age-old question of how to extend a traditional cottage, the slickest of contemporary architecture marries with the preservation of a centuries-old home to create a state-of-the-art retreat in glass, concreate and Cotswold stone. Set down a long country drive within a serene 16-acre wooded valley near Cheltenham, this dynamic pairing of unique architect-designed properties offers sublime escapism. 
Accommodation: For up to 12 people 
How much: From £14,895 for a short break 

HUDNALLS HIDEOUT 
St Briavels, Lydney, Gloucestershire, hudnallshideout.co.uk 

There are treehouses and then there are treehouses... An ode to timber architecture, with a unique A-frame design, this is a treehouse to beat all others. Luxurious and cool, it is totally secluded on its own exclusive site in woodland in the much-loved Wye Valley, where getting back to nature is the order of the day. 
Accommodation: For 2 adults 
How much: From £400 a night (min stay 3 nights) 

Extraordinary Escapes: Unique and Wild Getaways Across the UK, by Gemma Bowes, is the official tie-in to the Channel 4 show Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toksvig. It’s published by Quadrille, £20. 

You can watch series 2 of Extraordinary Escapes on All 4

Extraordinary Escapes

Extraordinary Escapes: Unique and Wild Getaways Across the UK, by Gemma Bowes, is the official tie-in to the Channel 4 show Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toksvig. It’s published by Quadrille on February 17, £20. - Credit: Quadrille Books