From rolling hills to flat plains, the countryside offers an escape from the city in more ways than you can imagine. The unpleasant sound of traffic is replaced with the buzz of cicadas and the low ‘moos’ of cows grazing off in the distance. The thick smog dissipates until all you breathe in is the scent of wildflowers and freshly ploughed hay. Trendy restaurants are switched out for long wooden tables with generous portions of homemade meals served family-style.
If this description makes you want to pack your Wellies and go off the grid, keep reading for our selection of utterly dreamy, fairytale-like cottages, villas, chalets and farmhouses. One week in one of these places and you’ll want to sell your possessions and live off the land like the locals.
After a long drive up to Poland’s Masurian region, step out of the car and take in the gold and green colours of the landscape, which intensify with the setting sun. Follow the sound of piano music or the smell of summer vegetable soup coming from an open kitchen window, and you’ll find the sounds and flavours of your childhood. Come with just a loved one or 50 of them because this farmstead is more like a small village with several rustic houses which you can book for exclusive use, as apartments or individual rooms. You’ll never believe this, but the host, Piotr, discovered this area while paragliding over the Welski Landscape Park, which resembles Tuscany. Together with his wife and close friends, they created a place that offers luxuries such as peace and quiet, nature with fresh lake air, history through antiques, books and knick-knacks, and hearty homecooked meals. Perhaps it does take a village to raise a child, but it doesn’t take much to keep the kiddos entertained here. This village has a wooden playground, a beach volleyball court, bikes and tons of greenery to run around on. Oh, and once it’s business as usual again and you’re looking for a venue to host a company training program or conference, this place has you covered – theatre room, tech equipment, sports tournaments and games for team-building exercises.
“Heaven in the countryside...An enchanting place where you are surrounded by greenery and calm in a really beautiful countryside landscape. The houses have a lot of charm and are very well equipped. It feels like you’re travelling back to the 19th century when you enter those wooden houses. Time stopped for us here. ”
Slowhop's review: This is the real countryside where in addition to tomcats, you’ll find cows, sheep, goats, and horses – keep that in mind if you mind the smell.
(Photos: Domy Konesera)
Prepare to spend the big bucks on this 5-star luxury resort in the heart of Tuscany near Siena, which is perfect for a honeymoon or memorable holiday if you want to treat yo self. Once you’re inside the gates, you’re transported into an Italian dream that indulges all of your senses. Situated on a 300-acre organic farm, vineyards and 13-acre gardens, you’ll want to spend as much time outdoors as inside the exquisite 13th-century villa. Each of the 22 rooms and suites feature murals and antique furnishings inspired by the villa’s rich history. If you look closely, you’ll notice the craftsmanship carried out by the local in-house artisans who used traditional Italian techniques. That about covers the visual aspects, now onto our personal favourite – taste. Dine at two restaurants, one of which is Michelin-starred, where you pair the farm-to-plate and seafood dishes with one of the wine cellar’s 1,250 prestigious bottles. Ambitious guests can test out their skills at the cooking school and uncover real ravioli recipes or turn sheep milk into ravaggiolo and ricotta. Heal your body in the luxe spa with treatments using fresh herbs and raw ingredients from the gardens, and then sprawl out on the large Moroccan beds in the spa garden for as long as you want. There’s not much we can say about sound because it’s really quiet here other than the water fountains and gentle notes drifting from the music room. How does that sound?
“The ultimate in luxury in the Tuscan countryside. The suite was decorated in a romantic and elegant country estate style, the grounds and atmosphere were relaxing, and the spa is a Shangri La. The food is beautifully presented yet understated. I cannot wait to return next season!”
Slowhop's review: Score major brownie points with your loved one by booking a romantic candle-lit table in the grotto area bordering the infinity pool. Away from other guests, the two of you can celebrate a milestone or make memories while your private waiter caters to your every whim.
(Photos: Borgo Santo Pietro )
Perched atop the green rolling hills and fertile farmlands of Australia’s Byron Bay Hinterland, this farmhouse is so picturesque, we almost didn’t add it to this list because we wanted to keep it a secret for ourselves. Here’s a quick rundown: 75 acres, 360-degree views, 4 bedrooms, 25m pool, 9 guests welcomed. Pictures don’t do this place justice, so you’ll just have to see it for yourself – architecturally designed interiors, open floor plan, full-size kitchen, lounge area, expansive deck with hanging daybed, outdoor bathtubs. Insider tip: for the best Instagram-worthy picture, hop in the pool at dusk and capture the most stunning golden sunset. With two children of their own, hosts Alita and her husband prepared this place for families with little travellers in mind. Kids will keep themselves entertained all day, playing in the mud kitchen, plucking herbs in the garden, searching for wallabies, swimming in the pool or swinging on the handmade swing until the moon replaces the sun. To start your holiday off right, Alita usually puts together a lovely welcome basket with basics (milk & bread) along with special treats (wine and chocolate macadamias). The private house is just an 8-minute drive from the town of Bangalow, which is famous for its boutique stores and top quality restaurants and cafes, so you can always pop by for groceries and/or dinner if you don’t feel like cooking tonight.
“We had the most wonderful stay at this stunning property: sweeping views, beautiful interiors, dream garden for kids. So many little details made it special – the playground, beautiful lap pool, two fire pits, comfiest beds ever, and a hamper from Harvest. Love love loved it.”
Slowhop's review: If you’re not deathly afraid of heights and you want a soaring bird’s eye view of the historic villages and green valleys of Byron Hinterland, the hosts can arrange joy flights and helicopter transfers from the property.
(Photos: Temple Farmhouse)
Podlaskie – where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain and the Białowieża National Park lures you in with its mystical promise of bison sightings. Here on the Eastern edge of Poland, you’ll find a Robin egg coloured (blue-green) wooden house that’s so incredible, it won the Best Preserved Monument of Rural Architecture Competition. Travel back in time to an idyllic village where you can spend your days looking out at nothing but the vast sea of fields around you, preparing scrambled eggs with fresh chives on the tiled stove, or exploring the forest and colourful neighbourhood teeming with interesting architecture such as Orthodox churches. While you’re out, stop by the farmer’s market for sourdough bread, the freshest milk, locally grown vegetables, herbs and flowers for the table. The country cottage has two bedrooms for up to six people, but if you’re missing a few kiddos during the bedtime headcount, there’s a good chance they’re still up in the treehouse just a few meters above the ground. You’ll begin to understand the meaning of the ‘simple life’ once you’re swaying in a hammock, sitting on a deckchair or lying on a blanket in the tall grass of a flowering Podlasie meadow. What more do you need?
“A wonderful place on the accommodation map of Poland. Charming, with soul, with a past, with a nice owner. The tiled stove and record player are the souls of this magical place. I love houses that are refined to the smallest details. We didn't miss anything. Besides the fact that we went back in time, we relaxed like never before and distanced ourselves from everything. We will come back for sure!”
Slowhop's review: The little house is surrounded by a fenced yard which is perfect for a family with small children. The little ones can run wild and free while the grownups enjoy a glass of wine on the porch worry-free.
(Photos: Country Cottage Near Bialowieza)
Crack open a cold beer and lean back in the wooden lawn chair positioned around a glowing campfire. The summer sun is setting on the 42-acre property, and the crickets relieve the birds of the day shift and put on their nightly show. Can you picture it? Here are a few more details to really bring the image to life. A 180-year-old farmhouse sits on Elmore Mountain with views out towards Stowe, in other words, a Vermont country paradise. WiFi’s a little slow, but you’ll soon learn you can live without it for a little while. Take long walks in the woods, run barefoot on the lush green lawn, get lost on the road less travelled and then come home and cook up a hearty stew or roast wieners over the campfire. Your hosts, E.V. and Travis, live right on the property over in an 1840 barn and are quick to respond to requests and invitations to join guests for a beer. This probably goes without saying, but the 3 bedroom farmhouse is a child’s dream come true: bunk beds, wide-open fields with cows mooing ‘hello’, breakfasts on the porch overlooking the mountains, library with books and board games for rainy days, collecting wildflowers; you get the idea.
“E.V.'s place is one of the most unique cottages I've stayed in. It was filled with interesting decorations and had a country charm that really makes it feel magical. In addition, it's pretty close to Stowe and makes it a very convenient base for skiing.”
Slowhop's review: All-wheel drive is a must up here because you’ll face dirt roads, potholes, spring mud and winter blizzards. If you lack 4-wheel drive, let the hosts know ahead of time, and they’ll find a way to get you where you need to go.
(Photos: Cottage Close to Stowe)
What does the British royal family have to do with Transylvania, in the land of Count Dracula, and the hospitality business? It just so happens that Charles, Prince of Wales, purchased and renovated a property originally built for the former ‘judge’ overseeing the tiny village of Zalánpatak founded about 400 years ago nestled among the Carpathian Mountains. Charles was so struck by the area’s beauty and rich heritage after his first visit to Transylvania in 1988 that he decided to transform a multi-building property, which used to be a glass factory until the early 1900s, into a unique accommodation. First, you’re welcomed with local brandy 'Székely Köményes' in the kitchen, and then you’re invited to your rooms where you’ll discover antique Transylvanian furniture – tables, wardrobes, hand-woven woollen carpets, wood-burning ceramic tile stoves. Dinner is served at a shared dining table with an open fireplace and a 7 m high ceiling, and you can expect traditional cooking of the different Transylvavanian ethnicities (Romanian, Hungarian, Saxon). It will be hearty, and you won’t go to bed hungry. You can walk it off in the garden or wander through the forest before dark – just beware of bears, wolves and bats...If you survive the night, go for a horse carriage ride, learn about wildflowers, take a refreshing dip in the mineral water pool or simply plop down in a shady spot with a book. With no TV or radio, you’ll truly feel transported to another place and time.
“The guesthouse has spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, isolated from the modern world. The staff are wonderfully friendly and helpful, and the food is all homemade and delicious. The rooms are simple and nicely refurbished, in their own ancient style. Recommended for people who appreciate nature and authenticity.”
Slowhop's review: Looking for a truly remote place to stay? This is it. You have to drive a few kilometres off the paved road to reach it, but this adds to its charms. Just an FYI, there are only two small shops in the village and no restaurant. The nearest town is 20km away (Barót, Baraolt).
(Photos: Prince Charles' Guesthouse)
Follow the meandering farm track through the meadow until you see a quint little fairytale cottage waiting for you under lush oak and ash trees. We’re not sure which English fable setting it resembles – perhaps you have an idea – but we fell in love with it right away. Your own story begins as soon as you step through the stable door and enter the traditional Cotswold dry-stone walls. You may be on a quiet hill farm in Cotswolds country, but you’ll find decorations and cosy elements from lands far, far away – throws and rugs drawing inspiration from North African and Native American weaving, Mexican crafts, sheepskin rugs, colourful tapestries on the walls and unique art pieces. Keep warm on cold English nights with a wood-burning stove, or enjoy a long soak in the wood-fired hot tub. It’s just big enough for four people with two bedrooms and everything you’d need for a quiet weekend away or for a family holiday – the farm’s three little ponies, Sailor, Carrot and Rolo, are waiting to take your little ones for a ride through the enchanted woods. For provisions, head over to the Jolly Nice Farmshop or the Woefuldane Organic Dairy and stock up on milk, cheese, eggs and other fresh goodies straight from their farm. Somehow breakfast tastes better with a view of a misty meadow. See for yourself.
“We spent a wonderfully relaxing week at Jackdaw Cottage, which is secluded and well equipped. We loved the log burner, the wood-fired hot tub and the inquisitive cows in the field next to us, and our dog Rudie loved the acres of open space and walks through the farm. Ali and Dan were very friendly and helpful.”
Slowhop's review: If you need a little break from the simple country life, take a day trip to the South West Cotswolds and add these spots to your travel itinerary: the Painswick Rococo Garden, Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, and Kelmscott Manor.
(Photos: Jackdaw Cottage)
The inviting scents of fresh lavender and rosemary become stronger as you approach the tree-lined driveway leading up to this luxury stone farmhouse located right in the Alpilles Natural Regional Park in southern France. This B&B’s 25-hectare property features spectacular surroundings – sprawling lawns, swimming pool, fields of lavender and olive trees. Next, the staff will show you to your room, or you can book a whole self-catering apartment with 2 bedrooms & 2 bathrooms. Just as the lavender scent has an immediate calming effect, the neutral and warm tones of the interior will also put your mind at ease. You can finally switch to ‘off’ mode and get much-needed sleep on king-sized beds with fresh linens after a hot shower using locally made soaps. Breakfast is best enjoyed on the sun-drenched courtyard terrace, followed by a bicycle ride through the countryside and picturesque villages nearby. Cool off in the pool and sip chilled local rosé until it’s time for dinner at the on-site restaurant 'Le Potager du mas' where you can delect the fresh herbs and fruits and vegetables from the garden you strolled past earlier in the day. Evenings are spent on a private terrace, listening to cicadas chant while you ponder what to do tomorrow – sightseeing the Musée Urgonia and Cavaillon Cathedral, or reading a book under the oak trees and playing tennis?
“By far the most beautiful property we have stayed in, in the South of France. We had a great welcome from Fabienne; the rooms were clean, spacious, and furnished in the French provincial style. There’s also a luxurious pool, and the gardens are most picturesque with a large lavender patch.”
Slowhop's review: Le Mas de la Rose doubles as an event venue, so if you’re dreaming of an intimate wedding ceremony in the romantic French countryside, or you wish to host a post-pandemic family reunion, there’s no prettier setting.
(Photos: Le Mas de la Rose)
Dogs rule at Singdean, and their humans don’t have to compromise on luxury to stay in a pet-friendly place. In the Cheviot Hills, 345m high off a quiet country road between the village of Newcastleton and Bonchester Bridge in the Scottish Borders, is a 700-year old stone byre which is now and adults (and dogs) only B&B. Decorated and furnished in a rustic-cosy Alpine style with natural materials such as wood and stone, you’ll feel transported back in time, but with modern touches that add the level of comfort you’re accustomed to along with ecological solutions (solar panels, private spring, biomass boiler). Choose from two types of exclusive-use accommodations offered on these four acres of private grounds – Heimlig, a B&B suite with thick stone walls which was originally a byre and is attached to the main house but has its own entrance and has a wood-fired outdoor hot tub and sauna, or Alpnhaus, a mountain chalet for two with an outdoor wood-fired hot tub and fully equipped kitchen. Previous guests gush about the breakfasts, which often include baked fruit bread, cold cuts, cheese, fresh fruit and coffee and juice. Singdean’s owners, Del and Christa, live in the cottage with their dogs, and Christa has a deep-rooted understanding of mountain life because her family originates from the Alps. So if you fall in love with this Alpine style, you can take a piece of Singdean home with you by picking up snuggle slippers, woollen blankets or candle holders at the owners’ little shop. Be sure to spend cloudless nights stargazing close to Europe’s largest dark sky area, where the lack of light pollution makes for breathtaking displays.
“This idyllic alpine cabin set in the heart of the Scottish borders is simply stunning. Off the grid, it nonetheless is warm and cosy, and the water comes from the local spring. The owners, Del and Christa, are as warm, friendly, and welcoming as their Alpnhaus cabin, and they also have the most amazing alpine goods shop too! We honestly cannot recommend Singdean enough, and it certainly won't be our only visit.”
Slowhop's review: This truly isolated place in the Scottish Borders is totally off the grid, so there’s no WiFi and usually no cell reception. If you really can’t live without digital entertainment, there’s a TV; otherwise, we recommend downloading any films or music before your arrival.