A wild paradise on London’s doorstep: Discovering the breathtaking beauty of Kent’s Isle of Sheppey during a stay in a snug farmhouse hotel (complete with a Kentinental breakfast)
- Sarah Hartley checks into Kingshill Farmhouse in the Elmley Nature Reserve
- Visitors to the reserve can enjoy 4×4 tours and go birdwatching, she reveals
- READ MORE: Inside the Florida hotel that’s known as the ‘birthplace of NASCAR’
As far as the eye can see, blue sky stretches out to the horizon. Beneath it, flat farmland stumbles on to salt marshes: such breathtaking beauty hints at life before civilisation.
Yet Elmley Nature Reserve, which fills 3,300 acres, is just 40 miles from London. Family owned, it’s run with an utter dedication to sustaining the ecology of the site while enticing visitors with wildlife, photography opportunities and 4×4 tours.
The England Coast Path runs through Elmley, attracting walkers and young families. You know it’s a serious reserve when armies of twitchers with cameras troop along the single-track road, pick up a coffee at the Cowshed cafe and head to one of the four bird hides.
It won’t feel busy, though, as you traverse windswept paths for miles.
Standing proud is Kingshill Farmhouse, now a comfortable retreat to sleep 16. With wooden floors and fireplaces throughout, the punchy decor mixes modern rustic with original art. A standout is the yellow room (no under tens) where the walls have a juicy shot of colour, and a sliding barn door behind the super king bed reveals a huge bath.
It’s great outdoors: Sarah checks into Kingshill Farmhouse, a comfortable retreat that stands proud in Kent’s Elmley Nature Reserve. Above is the hotel’s drawing room
According to Sarah, a standout guest room in the hotel is the yellow room (above) where a sliding barn door behind the super king bed reveals a huge bath
Want a more immersive experience? Pick from eight huts and cabins discreetly dotted about.
At dusk, when the place empties, there’s no finer spot to take in the epic scale than from Martha’s Hut, which sleeps two adults and two children. Inside the snug, wood-clad interiors mix industrial chic with velvet, cushions, a petal pink chair and the plumpest bed with fluffy towels and wool-covered hot water bottles.
There’s a wood burning stove to take charge of and, in no time, the hut glows warm. A compact shower room in moss-hued wood is cute, with a proper loo and mirror. The corrugated iron shower with a peek-a-boo window makes you feel part of the landscape. Outside there’s a bath on the deck which is fun even in frosty February.
Describing the hotel’s decor, Sarah says: ‘With wooden floors and fireplaces throughout, the punchy decor mixes modern rustic with original art’
Sarah stays in Martha’s Hut, which sleeps two adults and two children
Outside Martha’s Hut there’s a bath on the deck which is fun even in frosty February, according to Sarah
Guests at Kingshill Farmhouse are treated to a locally sourced menu with dishes such as Kentish ranger chicken with chorizo
After a raspberry ripple sunset, stroll with a torch to the Kingshill Farmhouse and listen out for owls.
Settle fireside with a Kentish Dockyard gin, Chapel Down vodka or sparkling Elmley plum.
Dining here is intimate with cosy tables tucked across the ground floor. Warming winners from the locally sourced menu are the Kentish ranger chicken with chorizo and spring onion rostie with cider and mustard sauce, followed by apple and fig chestnut crumble.
Of the nature reserve, Sarah says: ‘Flat farmland stumbles on to salt marshes: such breathtaking beauty hints at life before civilisation’
A short-eared owl in the reserve
Wake at dawn for a noisy display of birds and dip into your breakfast hamper. Elmley ketchup pimps the bacon sarnie, smashed peas on toast with local cheese is delicious, or order the Kentinental breakfast with Elmley plum compote.
You’ll find yourself enthusiastically pointing out a lapwing, widgeon or teal as the sun rises above the reeds.
Face east and the scene is idyllic, but you cannot shy away from the smoking industrial chimneys which coat the west – civilisation indeed.
Elmley Nature Reserve, Isle of Sheppey. Martha’s Hut costs from £210 per night; B&B at Kingshill Farmhouse costs from £205 per night (elmleynaturereserve.co.uk).
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