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My Favorite Airbnb: A Hobbit House on a Vineyard Just Outside of London

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 5/19/2022 Lauren Burvill

‘Are you in New Zealand?’ my Kiwi friend excitedly asked over Instagram after seeing my latest post. Deceivingly, I’m not. I’m less than a two hour drive from London, at a winery in the Rother Valley, East Sussex. It wasn’t the photos of the wine or the vineyards though that made it look as if I’d flown to the other side of the world for the weekend. It was the unique accommodation.

Following their recent summer launch, you can find all sorts of places to stay on Airbnb now. The additional categories mean you can search for a range of unique property types and locations from creative spaces to caves, national parks, and houseboats. You can also search for earth homes, more commonly known as Hobbit Houses, coined from the Lord of the Rings and famously available to visit at Hobbiton in New Zealand.

Set the scene

After a two-hour drive from London we pulled into the winding drive of the winery and were met by a tractor. Behind the wheel was America Brewer, a Brazilian native who welcomed us warmly and impressed us instantly when we realized she was driving the tractor in sky-high heels. America owns and lives at Oastbrook Estate with her English husband Nick, and their lovable golden retriever Laura, who dutifully welcomed us at the door of the Hobbit House.

The gates of the Hobbit House open onto the vineyard. © Lauren Burvill The gates of the Hobbit House open onto the vineyard.

The place

© Provided by Condé Nast Traveler

Vineyard Hobbit House

$484.00, Airbnb (Starting Price)

The concept of a Hobbit House may sound twee, but the hideaway—with a flourishing meadow on the roof—is more like something out of a Grand Designs episode than a gimmick. The bulbous doors are custom made and the stars on the blue dome ceiling are hand painted. It’s surprisingly spacious too, with a round, open-plan living room, dining, and kitchen space, flanked by two bedrooms with generous en suites on either side. Everything is comfortable and taken care of, from toiletries in the bathrooms to a fully equipped kitchen with a coffee machine. The set up is ideal for a family, or two couples to share.

If the sun is shining, expect to spend much of your time in the front garden. There’s a dining table, plus a barbecue, a hot tub with views of the vineyard, and the sound of birdsong from all around. It’s also the spot to dig into the welcome basket spread of crackers, local cheeses, and of course, a bottle of Oastbrook sparkling wine.

Also on the property is the newly opened Avalon House, a Scandinavian-style lake house overlooking a natural pond. The space is new so the interiors are minimal, but it’s perfectly comfortable for a family of four, with the main draw being the front deck with a hot tub.

The backstory

If you do the popular wine tasting during your stay—and you should—you’ll hear all about America’s animated history, and how she came to the U.K. and unexpectedly ended up in the Sussex countryside, working the vines herself, all the while wearing those soaring heels. The estate was originally owned by Guinness for farming hops, and America and Nick live in the original oast house. The story behind the Hobbit House is that it was originally intended to be a treehouse but the planning permissions weren’t approved. The couple then suggested an earth house instead, which tend to blend into the landscape more harmoniously, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The interiors are both whimsical and functional. © Lauren Burvill The interiors are both whimsical and functional.

The food and drink

Cooks will be happy to make use of the kitchen, or there are plenty of pubs nearby in Bodiam. You can book the vineyard tour and tasting for $38 per person, which runs on the weekends from April to October, and on weekdays from July until September 3. During the tasting, you’ll enjoy generous glasses of their rosé, sparkling wine, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir, plus the option to bring bottles home with you at a discount.

Anything left to mention?

If you’re checking out on Sunday, visit Bodiam Castle in the morning before heading across the road to The Castle Inn where they do a cracking roast.

This article was originally published by Condé Nast Traveller U.K.


Video: Airbnb Announces Restriction On One-Day Reservations During Holiday Weekends (CBS Sacramento)

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