We drove through several back roads bordered by hedge rows, off the A40 in northern Herefordshire, taking turn after turn. We knew we were in deepest England, but were not sure we were following the directions properly. Our destination was Old Linceter House, a National Trust property, where our friends were waiting.
Sure enough, after about five miles of meandering, we saw the discreet little sign for the house.
I have been seeing more and more advertisements for very attractive “digs” which can be rented for short terms in England and other holiday locations. Take a look on the World Wide Web, in alumni magazines, and even now in fancy travel magazines.
Sharing the National Trust House with our friends, who have rented such places often, was very successful in many ways. England also has other rental arrangements, including the Landmark Trust, which operates in a similar way. There are also many private groups, such as Rural Retreats. All of these have catalogs of inviting properties which may be “let” by the week, and all of which are on the Internet.
At these sites you can see photos of all the properties, and check out locations and sizes, etc. For non-Internet literate folks, catalogs are available.
There are National Trust Houses all over England, so you can choose an area you’d like to investigate. The catalog is organized according to several interests, for example: Single storey, Romantic locations, City properties, for Visitors with Disabilities, and others. Several are architectural wonders, being saved by the National Trust Scheme.
Old Linceter House was way out on a country road, with very little traffic, (a tractor now and then). The views across the Hereford hills were long, lush, and green with the 14th century Black and White moated manor house off in the distance. Except for the electric pole we could have imagined ourselves in a time warp centuries back. We spent many hours on the front terrace, drinking in that view (and the local wines.) The house was fully equipped with everything you might want in such a house, including a washer/dryer, a freezer, and even a microwave. The beds were very comfortable, the bathrooms new and spotless, and there was a TV set for the news and sports fans among us.
From this comfortable cottage, we did several day trips around the area. We were in a lovely part of England, not as well known as the Cotswolds, but not far away. We went to Worcester to see the Cathedral. We went to charming Ludlow, on the border of Wales. We spent a day at the fabulous Powis Castle, which has one of England’s major gardens, (Hint: there is a National Trust House on its grounds, called the Garden House, which sleeps six, and would be a very special place to stay.) there were other gardens, and historic sites near our place. In fact, there were so many things to do, that we really need to go back. It is so relaxing to stroll through a different charming English town or village each day, or to take an unknown road, seeking the wonderful surprises that come to one unexpectedly.
Part of the fun of staying in a house is that one gets to shop for basics, and to see what the English housewife sees everyday at the supermarket. This may not seem like a holiday to you, but it really is a wonderful way to see a country up close and personal, and not from a bus window. And don’t worry; we also ate dinner out most evenings. In fact we ate terribly well, at all sorts of up-market pubs, and two of the best restaurants in England.
Both great restaurants were in the afore-mentioned town of Ludlow, which is an ancient market town, with a castle.
One day when we were already in Ludlow, antiquing, we used a cell phone to call The Merchant House from the street, just on the off chance they might have a table for four. As luck would have it, they did, (and the place only has 6 tables!) so off we dashed to claim the table while the husbands went on an errand. Needless to say, they got lost, not having listened to our directions, but eventually they were rescued and we enjoyed a fabulous lunch of lobster and crab salad, roasted sea bass with wild mushrooms and crème fraiche, and finally, an apricot tart with amaretto ice cream. That might give you a clue as to why this restaurant has a Michelin star.
The other Michelin starred restaurant is called Mr. Underhill’s at Dinham Weir. We went there on a Sunday evening, because (even calling from the states a month ahead) we could not get a reservation for the Saturday evening before. The setting is very inviting. Drinks are served on the patio of a garden overlooking the river. We were properly impressed when the owner’s wife, who made us feel very much at home, offered a menu with our name at the top. It is a set menu, with no choices, maybe not everyone’s preference, but we were properly forewarned. We first had asparagus and broad beans with a champagne and chive beurre blanc, then filet of beef on a fennel and pea risotto with tarragon and shallot. Those were the main courses, preceded by little appetizers, and followed by an intermezzo of a strawberry/champagne concoction, and then an apricot crumble with ginger ice cream, or a poached pear with pistachio ice cream.
Okay, enough about food. I just didn’t want you to think we spent the week slaving over a hot stove, and I wanted to give you a really good idea of the fun one can have exploring just one little area of England, or any other country for that matter. I have never been a fan of speeding through Europe, and this trip proved the rightness of that attitude. I feel as though we have a much better view of offerings of that part of the world. To tell you the truth, we could do it all over again and have a whole new set of adventures.