Rural Retreats review: The highs and lows of staying in a self-catered holiday cottage in Colchester, Essex

The space: Wakes Hall Lodges, available to let through Rural Retreats, are located on the Suffolk/Essex border with views out onto the breathtaking Colne Valley. They’re about an hour and a half’s drive from London or 10/15 minutes from the city of Colchester.

The vibe:

It’s all about total relaxation at these holiday cottages that are designed to be a ‘home away from home.’ They’re quiet, peaceful and laid-back with beautiful surroundings (500 acres to be exact) that provide the perfect means to escape the rat-run and spend some quality time with friends, family or that special someone.

The damage:
Prices start from £697 for a one-bedroom self-catered cottage for seven nights – or £748 for the two-bedroom cottage (but split that between four and it doesn’t seem so bad).

The brag: Chilling in the outdoor hottub on our private veranda sipping a glass of white straight from the fridge #dontwanttoleave

The Instagram shot:


The hits: You’re greeted with the wow factor as soon as you arrive at your lodge, with all the mod cons you’d expect from a holiday home and then some. My tech-savvy partner was particularly enamoured with the induction cooker (which came in handy when I felt too lazy to cook!) as well as the smart TVs in the lounge.

The lodges are spacious with open-plan living/dining areas. The super size king beds made for some rather lazy lie-ins – and stepping through the French doors onto our own private veranda with stunning views over the countryside was a better way to start my day than my normal south London landscape. The huge standalone baths and walk-in waterfall showers made washing something of a luxury come Sunday evening.

And of course your own private hot tub is the ultimate in luxury – ours was peaceful and secluded, with no neighbours around to have a nosey while the pressure settings relieved aching muscles.

We were recommended The Swan pub for dinner and it didn’t disappoint. The freshly baked bread with sprigs of rosemary tantalized our tastebuds before I moved onto a creamy fish pie with a glass of rose and my partner wolfed down a ciabatta bun burger with thick-cut chips. Pre-booking a table is worth the extra effort as you’re sat in a quiet, private area whereas it can get busier later in the evening.

But the main highlight of the lodge was just how peaceful it is. Sitting on the veranda sipping a glass of white wine, it felt like nothing could bring me down – the polar opposite of pulling your hair out at your desk or worrying about bills at home.

But for those who need to be constantly plugged in – there is free WiFi.

The misses: Although they aren’t billed as holiday homes, the absence of an outside pool was definitely missed. There’s plenty of room for a development like this in the future so fingers crossed it’s something that’s considered. 

The lodges are new this year so they do have their teething problems. We had issues with hot water and outside lights for the first couple of hours - although these were quickly rectified on the first night by the staff who are on call for your every need.

They’re also pretty much in the middle of nowhere so without a car you are limited to just the lodge and the surrounding countryside. However if you do come by car and want to get out and about, the historic city of Colchester is a 10-15 minute drive away and ticks the cultural box – while Colchester Zoo is a fun day out for couples and families alike.

I was offered a custom-made food hamper on arrival but this wasn’t delivered. However the standard food hamper on arrival was in itself a real highlight and meant we could just kick back and relax on our first night. The white wine was crisp and fresh while the fresh fruit and bread were definitely a bonus and made for a delicious first morning breakfast in the lodge.

The deets:

Wakes Hall Lodges, in Essex, is available for letting through Rural Retreats. Please call 01386 701 177 or visit the website for more information. Prices range from £96 per person, per night (based on a three night stay). Rural Retreats is particularly interested in hearing from owners with quality properties in which demand for holidays currently exceeds the supply. Please get in touch on the number above.

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