Hartley Dyke Barn Review
When the unseasonably glorious February weather hit, we headed to cosy Hartley Dyke Barn near Cranbrook in Kent for a weekend of exploring.
Walk into the Barn and the first thing you’ll notice is a sense of space. Hartley Dyke still has the high ceilings and airiness of its first incarnation as a farm building, with exposed beams and floor-to-ceiling windows that mean that even on a grey winter’s day, the Barn feels bright and inviting. I loved the open-plan main living space, with an island separating the kitchen from the sitting room and big squishy sofas next to a woodburning stove. Outside is a a patio that would be perfect for a balmy barbecue in the summer, and up the wide wooden stairs are two roomy bedrooms, each with a bathroom. The Barn isn’t far from the town of Cranbrook but it feels rural and peaceful – the perfect place for a really good night’s sleep.
When you stay at the Barn you’re right next to Hartley Dyke’s main historic house, but luckily the owners are charming. Bill and Georgie had great recommendations for where to eat and walk, let us nose around their gorgeous vintage cars and even introduced us to Walter, the carrier pigeon who turned up at their house one day and decided he liked it so much that he’d stay.
You won’t go hungry here. Bill and Georgie leave a lovely package of essentials and treats for guests, and the fantastic Hartley Farm Shop is next door – so close, in fact, that there’s a secret gate leading right to it from Bill’s garden. Doing a food shop wouldn’t normally be a highlight of a weekend away for me, but this delightful farm shop is stuffed with wonderful local ingredients, gourmet treats and fresh produce. Warning – it’s easy to get overexcited and spend a LOT of money here on posh wines, cheese and other goodies. I especially recommend the maple burgers.
Sunny Kent adventures
As lovely as it is to chill out with a glass of wine by a crackling wood stove, the real delight of a stay at Hartley Dyke Barn is getting outdoors. The Barn makes the perfect base for hiking in the rolling hills and quiet forests of the High Weald. It’s easy to find the perfect walk, too. In the Barn there’s a huge map of Kent dotted with walks, pubs and places to explore. We also used highwield.org, which lists circular walks in the High Weald by length in miles.
We decided on the five mile Robertsbridge walk, which begins and ends in the peaceful village of Robertsbridge in East Sussex. The walking route turned out to be the perfect introduction to Kent and Sussex – we rambled across fields and past fairytale thatched cottages, spotted oast houses (the old hop kilns that are a symbol of Kent), walked past a grand manor house where the snowdrops were in bloom and hiked through shady woodland in glorious sunshine.
When you need to refuel after a long day of exploring the countryside, you simply have to head for one of the ancient Kentish villages that lie a stone’s throw from Hartley Dyke Barn. Many are straight out of storybook England – village greens, cricket fields and beautiful old houses (Bill told me that there are more period houses in Kent than in all of America). And all of them seem to be crowned with an excellent pub. We took our tired legs to The Bull at Benenden (another great recommendation from Bill and Georgie) for the perfect pint after our day in the sunshine.
Wood fires, walks in rolling fields, great food and drink and a cosy home to come back to – this is what restorative weekends in the South East are made of.
Stay there: The lovely Hartley Dyke Barn sleeps four and is available to rent from £475 per week.
Kent & Sussex Cottages list plenty of other pretty cottages to suit weekends away of all kinds, from the cosy Hideaway, ideal for two people, to Hawkridge Oast house, which sleeps 12 and is perfect for big family gatherings.