The Summer Folly

Valentine's Day retreats
Frescoes adorn the ancient walls of The Summer Folly The Summer Folly / Unique Home Stays

Though it stretches to sleep four, this whimsical Lincolnshire holiday cottage – the final project of Blenheim Palace architect Sir John Vanbrugh – is a great proposition for two. With a frescoed sitting room and snug, a tiny scarlet-hued library, deep roll-top baths and arched Georgian windows, there’s much for history lovers to swoon over. Fans of the great outdoors have plenty to keep them entertained, too. Set in the grounds of Grimsthorpe Castle, with trees dating back to the Domesday era, this curious folly comes with two patios, a walled garden bursting with flowers, and access to 3,000 acres of rolling green land to explore.


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Spinks Nest Cottage

Valentine's day retreats
Reclaimed materials give Spinks Nest Cottage a rustic-luxe fee @haarkan

Taking its name from the old folk word for finch, this little brick-and-flint cottage is lined with a treasured collection of reclaimed and vintage materials. Exposed flint and lime-rendered walls, traditional Norfolk pamments and antique sanitaryware form an unfussy backdrop to fabrics and furnishings from Mulberry Home, Designers Guild and Woolroom, while underfloor heating keeps things toasty throughout. Set in Hunworth, in North Norfolk’s Glaven Valley, the escapist scene is completed by a village pub and easy access to blustery coastal walks, as well as heritage sites such as the National Trust’s Sheringham Park.

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Cobham Dairy

Valentine's Day retreats
Cobham Dairy has been sensitively restored in the style of James Wyatt John Miller

This pint-sized model dairy was built in the 1790s, in the grounds of Kent’s Cobham Hall, for aristocratic tea parties as well as producing butter and cheese. Designed by influential architect James Wyatt in the style of a tiny chapel, with a bell tower and cloisters, it was recently restored by the Landmark Trust and converted into a holiday cottage; the building starred in the More4 TV programme, £1 Million Restoration: Historic House Rescue. Now much warmer than the original cooling space, thanks to underfloor heating, the dairy’s dolls’ house feel is further heightened by coloured glass windows and vaulted ceilings.

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Little Cottage

Valentine's Day retreat
Whimsical Little Cottage is a perfect base for exploring Rye Kitty Wheeler Shaw Photography

Pretty Rye, on the East Sussex coast, is classic weekending territory, its cobbled streets and higgledy-piggledy houses home to antiques shops, restaurants and glimpses of history at every turn. Right in the town’s medieval heart, Little Cottage is part of a terrace of Grade II-listed properties. The hideaway lives up to its name with one bedroom, a sitting room, a serene white bathroom and a beautiful custom-built kitchen (the splashback built from an old billiards table) squeezed into its tiny form. Floral cushions, gilt mirrors and a headboard fashioned from an old mantelpiece all add to the vintage charm.

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Monks Hall

Valentine's Day retreats
Grade II*-listed Monks Hall is just a few strides from the River Wye Matt Davies

Believed to be the oldest house in the Wye Valley, Monks Hall is set on the Gloucestershire side of the water, in the delightful village of Brockweir. A little way downstream is Tintern Abbey and the house is thought to have been built for the abbey’s monks in the 12th century, with living quarters above and an undercroft for animals below. Extended in the 14th century, the building is Grade II*-listed. Fortunately the owner is a historic renovation specialist; modern comforts have been sensitively added, but the building’s old oak beams, 14th-century fireplace, whitewashed walls and original leaded windows remain intact.

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Tower O’Ess

Valentine's Day retreats
The majestic riverside setting of Tower O’Ess Aboyne Photographics LTD

Built at the behest of banker and MP William Cunliffe Brooks, in 1871–3, this two-person holiday cottage originally served as a gateway to Aberdeenshire’s Glen Tanar (and its 25,000-acre estate) before later becoming a working gatehouse. Set by the River Tanar, surrounded by Scots pines, its latest incarnation has seen the addition of some contemporary luxuries, including a hot tub, superking-size bed and electric car-charging point. Heritage is not neglected in the listed property, however, with fittings and furnishings by established British designers such as Araminta Campbell, GP & J Baker, Christopher Farr and Jane Churchill.

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