Retreat East: The Ultimate Rural Getaway For Weary City Dwellers
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Retreat East: The Ultimate Rural Getaway For Weary City Dwellers

A cosy haven in Hemingstone, Suffolk

If you’re craving a bit of countryside R&R, Retreat East is the perfect weekend getaway. Located in the heart of Suffolk, around two and a half hours’ drive from London – or an easy train ride to Ipswich, which is a twenty-minute taxi away – this charming bolthole was built as an antidote to urban stress, and it delivers.

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Review: Retreat East, Suffolk

Retreat East

STAY

Opened in 2017, Retreat East was the brainchild of architect Dominic Richards, who spotted the potential in a derelict old dairy farm. It was originally designed as a private members’ club, but post-Covid relaunched as a hotel. Guests stay in repurposed barns that are dotted around the 38-acre stretch of land, ranging from cosy shepherd’s huts to a four-bedroom farmhouse, complete with its own expansive private garden. All feature rustic-chic interiors, but with different quirks: some have outdoor baths, others have skylights where you can watch the stars.

We stayed in The Piggery (all properties have their own suitably countryside-esque name), a dreamy one-bedroom barn well-suited to couples. With its timber framing, pink accents, wood-burning fire, in-room bath and comfy bed, it has an uber-cosy feel, complete with a well-equipped kitchen and a TV/sofa area for chilling. Guests staying here also benefit from a large private terrace, which would be a lovely spot for a mid-afternoon glass of rose come summertime. 

Although properties are positioned fairly close to one another, there’s a real sense of privacy at Retreat East: it feels quiet, remote and relaxed, and you could easily spend the entirety of your stay snuggled up in your barn.

DO

It’s worth breaking out of your cocoon, though, to try the spa facilities. There’s a hot tub, sauna, steam room and gym which require booking ahead, but you get them all to yourselves, which is a nice touch. An array of treatments are also available, which use Elemental Herbology products, ranging from aroma massages to manicures. I was treated to the Five Elements Facial, a bespoke one-hour treatment which involved deep cleansing and exfoliation, plus a hair mask and scalp massage – dreamy. You can also arrange to have in-barn treatments if you’re feeling extra decadent.

Hot tub at Retreat East

Retreat East is also perfectly positioned for walks big and small: take a stroll over the fields to Coddenham, or a picturesque jaunt around Shrubland Park. Bikes are also available to borrow from the hotel, and if you have a car, the seaside towns of Thorpeness, Aldeburgh and Southwold are not too far away. Other local attractions include the Sutton Hoo burial site, plus the The Unruly Pig, recently voted the UK’s best gastropub.

The hotel can also arrange activities for guests, such as yoga, archery and clay pigeon shooting – these are particularly good if you’re visiting with a group of friends. A number of events are also organised throughout the year, such as cocktail masterclasses and painting workshops. 

Great Barn at Retreat East

EAT

Retreat East excels on the food front. At the heart of the hotel is The Great Barn, an all-day dining restaurant spearheaded by head chef Vlad Zdarsky. In-keeping with the theme of the rest of the hotel, it has a relaxed atmosphere, with exposed beams and a big open fire, plus big windows, allowing sunlight to flood in during the daytime.

The eatery showcases the best of East Anglian produce, focusing on seasonal and organic ingredients where possible – many grown in the on-site kitchen garden. Breakfast includes a buffet of pastries, cereal, fruit and juice, alongside heartier cooked dishes: there’s an excellent Full English featuring Suffolk sausages, fried hen’s egg, field mushrooms and black pudding, or an indulgent stack of pancakes topped with bacon.

Breakfast at Retreat East

Dinner is equally delicious, featuring exciting and unusual twists on classic British fare. Begin with a generous helping of sourdough and black garlic butter, plus starters of succulent pig’s cheek with caramelised apple, miso glazed halibut, and Swiss cheese souffle. For mains, there’s a particularly tasty crispy cauliflower dish, served with burnt lime aioli and topped with kimchi, plus wagyu beef short ribs with parmesan polenta and buckwheat. 

But the ultimate foodie highlight here has to be the roast. Choose between Dingley Dell pork belly, roasted beef, beetroot nut roast or haddock schnitzel, all served with crispy golden roasties, a giant Yorkshire pudding, and miso and maple carrots. Add some cauliflower cheese and greens for the full whammy. We enjoyed with a big glass of red before trotting back to The Piggery to remain horizontal for the rest of the evening. Sunday bliss.

Food at Retreat East

THE FINAL WORD

Alongside all of the above, we were impressed with the eco-credentials: the barns were constructed with responsibly-sourced timber, The Great Barn uses solar panels, and water is supplied by an on-site borehole. 

Come to Retreat East if you want to really switch off. A relaxed, leisurely atmosphere permeates throughout, helped by the kind, friendly staff who are there when you need them, but never overbearing. We left feeling restored, well-fed and rejuvenated, vowing to bring a bit of zen back to the big smoke with us.

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retreateast.co.uk