Annabel Simpson

Winter Retreats

Annabel Simpson
Winter Retreats

Because we can all be more imaginative than Soho Farmhouse...

As soon as festival season is over and I've had a couple of weeks to decompress, I start to fill my diary to prevent the winter blues. These winter weekends replace the festival weekends and in some ways can be very similar. There's plenty of walking (just not from stage to stage, plenty of eating (not necessarily burgers or mac and cheese), drinking wine (not from a box), sitting around an open fire (but without sketchy strangers staring at you across the flames) and you can curate the music yourself. 

Here are my top getaways this winter, there's an island, a boat house, a pub, a shepherds hut, a farm house and a bohemian country estate...

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OSEA ISLAND is an extraordinary place! It's a private island with a seaside Nantucket feel to it. You can rent individual cottages, larger houses or the entire thing making this the ultimate party island. Osea isn't a stranger to the festival scene, having hosted Drifters a 500 guest rave up and Krug Island - the champagne and live music festival curated by Mick Jones. I had an epic weekend with 15 friends recently at the manor house with plenty of space for cooking large dinners and then having a good old fashioned disco. Despite it's party potential, the island is perfect for a cosy weekend by the open fire enjoying their 4 poster beds and letting the sea air wash away the cobwebs! 

From from £295 for 2 nights

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THE BOATHOUSE AT KNOTTS END will knock your socks off. It's the perfect spot for a romantic weekend away. It's nestled in complete privacy on Lake Ullswater with views from the bedroom or the terrace and a boat underneath to row on to the lake if you're feeling adventurous. 

I was brought here as a surprise by my boyfriend. He said we were meeting a 'outdoor wear' company who was a potential client but unfortunately we had to stay at a Travel Lodge as everywhere was booked (this rang alarm bells). He kept making fake phone calls to someone called 'Lynne'. When we eventually arrived, I realised the whole thing was a set up, there was no outdoor wear company there was no Lynne! What relief!  I was blown away by the setting and bonus point he also proposed the next day on the lake. 

There are of course incredible walks all around the boat house and pubs of note (which are always a priority for me) include the Drunken Duck. 

£555 for a 3 night stay

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THE GUNTON ARMS, think huge roaring fire, incredible food, a splatter of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin and set in a 1000 acres deer park. I first discovered this pub when I was taken there as a surprise for my very high brow hen do. We sat on a long banquet table in the Elk Room (the room pictured) where slabs of meat are cooked on the huge roaring fire underneath the impressive ancient Elk Skull.

Recently I revisited with 4 friends for a weekend out of town and it was PERFECT. We spent our time eating far too much (think crab pasta with Chilli, venison curry and rib of beef to share from the fire), reading ghost stories and playing board games in the sitting room and walking the grounds looking at sculptures from the likes of Sol Le Wit and Dan Graham and trying to prevent my dogs from chasing the deer. 

From £165 per night

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THE SECRET MEADOWS SHEPHERDS HUTS are set in 115 acres of Suffolk countryside, should you be craving some luxury festival accommodation bursting with character. You have the options of Luxury Lodge Tents, Gypsys Rest (pictured a large shepherds hut and gypsy caravan for 4ppl) and The Hobbits Box, a beautifully converted old horse box. All sleep 4-6 guests. There are nature trails, long walks, a hot tub, you can book a massage. It's great for kids. Book dinner at The Unruly Pig one evening. 

From £525 for 3 night

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KITE'S NEST in Cranborne is a picturesque farmhouse in Dorset and an ideal little go to for a weekend away for 8 friends. Whack the tunes on and dance around the kitchen while cooking a feast by the fire. It has pretty gardens and a home from home feel to it. Visit 10 Castle Street round the corner described by The Telegraph as Dorset's grandest hotel should you fancy a swanky lunch and you can pet their extraordinarily large pigs.

£275 per night book at


Here's one for the American readers or those of you looking for an adventure next time you're in New York. 

FOXFIRE MOUNTAIN HOUSE Nestled in the snowy Catskill Mountains in New York State, this stunning old house was restored in 2016 by a couple who collected beautiful antiques to fill the house. Tim is a nomadic chef with a passion for "farm to table" and open fire cooking. Mornings traditionally start with a barefoot walk in the snow followed by yoga in front of an open fire followed by a massive breakfast feast including gluten free pancakes.

Foxfire is a mere 2 hour drive from the centre of Manhattan and while you're there make sure you visit super cool local hippy town Woodstock which is only 20minutes away and prepare for disappointed when you learn the 1969 festival Woodstock was actually 50 miles away in Bethel. As the sun sets it's not all yoga and muesli, they have an extensive collection of american spirits including homemade vodka and the staple of any hipster hotel a burboun library - help yourself.

From £350 per night