In rural Herefordshire, the loudest sounds come from the churches, gardens and museums. The night air carries only the wings of the bats and the rustle of leaves in the oaks. The Freeth sits near Bromyard: unspoilt, undisturbed and unimaginably pretty.
The rolling lawns invite croquet; the terrace suggests a spot of liquid lunch. Prepare it yourself on the Aga or summon our chefs from across the valley. Get all gastro without leaving the house or dig into a drop-off meal.
As dusk descends, light up the fire for games and tales over long drinks, or walk off lunch by walking through the local fields and woods. At The Freeth, you can practise the forgotten art of family and friends.
It’s oh-so-English. In summer, the gardens twitter with birdsong, the lawn runs forever with its open invitation for cricket or croquet, and the table on the terrace suggests a pitcher of Pimm’s, or at least a lemonade or two.
Or you might just want to break up some bread and feed the ducks from the bridge over the pond. Let’s not over-exert ourselves, eh? This is a holiday.
The swimming pool sits in the courtyard just a few steps from the house. It is a wonderful heated indoor pool with changing rooms and south facing windows with views overlooking the gorgeous garden and pond.
The books are waiting for you by the crackling fire. The chairs are all homely throws and soft cushions. This is the place to chill and be chilled, by the ambience, the décor and the sense of home from home.
There’s a sense of family here that only a home can provide. A large country house brings you together, while a hotel’s locked doors can only divide you. Gather around the fire for games and tales, chatter and laughter.
But the story doesn’t end with sumptuous comfort, turn another page and discover the library.
Keep in touch with the free wifi. Keep yourselves entertained with the full Sky package and selection of DVDs. At The Freeth, you can take a holiday without ever feeling like you’re away from home.
Your cup runneth over with culinary options. If you’ve always fancied yourself as a bit of a Rick Stein, throw on your whites and throw yourself at the four-door Aga and whip up a feast.
If you’d rather pop a cork than wield a liquidiser, put your feet up and choose from a list of award-winning chefs who can be summoned from across the valley in two turns of a lamb steak. And if washing-up gets a big thumbs-down from you, consider it washed, wiped and stacked.
Nearby, in charming villages with names like Bringsty Common and Bishop’s Frome, you can choose hearty, homely meals washed down with real ale in restored cider houses and country pubs that brim with rural charm.
Head to Ludlow for finer dining, to La Becasse and Mr Underhill’s, on each of which Michelin bestowed a shiny star.
You won’t know what sleep is until you’ve sampled the heavy languor of drifting off deep in the English countryside. You’ll sink into pocket-sprung, duckdown mattresses whilst wrapped in five-star Egyptian cotton. This isn’t sleep, it’s slumber.
The en-suite Master Bedroom promises a satisfying soak in the cast-iron bath. Bedroom two sleeps two, throw back the curtains onto a vista that runs over with bucolic charm.
Bedrooms Three is a twin up in the rafters and perfect for children. Bedroom Four is a double with en-suite bath, and you’ll fit a cot in Bedrooms Five and Six alongside the doubles and the floor to ceiling windows in Bedrooms Six.
Moving up, kids will squabble over the two doubles and twin on the second floor, just far enough removed to make for torchlit reading under the sheets, pillow fights and unscripted midnight feasts.