A romantic overnighter with a twist
Muddy's Kerry Potter got married at The Tythe Barn in Launton, North Oxon, a decade ago. She returns - with her husband (yep, he's still tolerating her, phew) - for a sleepover at the venue's new shepherd's hut.
This is a case of me being seriously emotionally trumped by my associate editor Kerry Potter! Having been looking forward to reviewing this lovely shepherd’s hut, it turns out Kerry got married here, so it’s ding-dong round two for the romantic couple and ever the bridesmaid for yours truly. Over to you, Ms Potty pants.
That pretty barn in the photo above is where I married my long-suffering, ever patient husband, Rich, in 2007, on a scorchingly hot summer day, in a haze of champagne and, um, sambuca (what can I say, my friends are animals). At the back it opens out into a glorious English country garden, and I walked up an al fresco aisle under a pergola of fragrant blooms, dressed in a Alice Temperley lace beaded gown that I’ll love to my dying day. I’m too much of a cynical old hack to be massively romantic but it really was the perfect day.
Set within the grounds of owners Emma and Will Deeley’s farm, The Tythe Barn is a rural idyll (albeit one a handy five minute drive from Bicester Village) near Launton, north Oxon. And so a decade on we headed up the crunchy gravel drive once again, this time to check out the venue’s new(ish) addition – a luxe shepherd’s hut, tucked away in a corner of the grounds. It’s a 20 second stumble from the barn so is often used by newlyweds on their wedding night or by their family members. But it sits idle much of time (as weddings are obviously usually on the weekends) so the Deeleys are now letting it out on a B&B basis.
Rustic chic, basically. You are essentially sleeping in a caravan… but it’s certainly not like any other caravan I’ve seen. This wooden hut has been immaculately and thoughtfully refurbished to boutique hotel standard. It’s what estate agents would call bijou but everything you need has been cleverly packed in. There’s underfloor heating, a log burner, a digital radio, a proper bathroom complete with fluffy robes and beauty products, a cosy sleeping area piled high with cushions and a well-equipped mini-kitchen including a fridge stuffed with goodies. Plus an outdoor seating area, where we plonked ourselves to enjoy a glass of rosé, reminisced about our previous visit, listened to the birds singing and marveled at the blossom floating down from the trees like confetti. (God, it’s almost like a Hollywood movie, isn’t it? I don’t know what’s come over me.)
Would you need to have married here to fully appreciate an overnight stay, we pondered? I don’t think so – the hut would work for anyone keen to escape the whirr and buzz of everyday life for 24 hours, slow down and enjoy some fresh air. There’s no TV, no wifi and basically nothing to do so you can’t help but relax.
There was an enormous electrical storm during the night, with rain hammering down on the hut’s curved roof, which made our little bedroom area seem even more cosy. Even though it was a very humid night, we decided to fire up the log burner – it seemed a romantic idea after a few gallons of wine, ahem – so managed to turn the place into a sauna until about 3am when the flames finally died down. But you’re probably not as stupid as us.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The hut comes equipped with everything you need for a slap-up breakfast – delicious bacon, sausages, butter and eggs from the farm, bread, pastries, granola, orange juice, tea and coffee. For any other meals, you need to venture out. We walked along the footpath in the photo below into Launton, the quiet village a five minute stroll across the farm’s fields. Here there are two pubs both with confusingly similar names – The Bull serves trad pub grub, while The Black Bull has an Italian chef and a slightly more adventurous menu. We headed the latter and supped a sundowner in the pub garden, followed by a massive bowl of decent homemade pasta.
OUT & ABOUT
If you want to explore further afield than the village, you’ll need to get back in the car. We spent a few hours browsing designer bargains at Bicester Village, which is very close by. Late afternoon is a good time to visit, as most of the coach parties and tourists have left so it’s a little quieter. It’s open most evenings until 8pm and 9pm on a Saturday. There’s also a variety of food options here, with a new outpost of beloved London brasserie The Wolseley arriving in the summer (more on that when we have it). If you’re seeking coffee and cake, my top tip is the Rapha café. Not many shoppers know about this cycling shop’s pitstop so it’s pleasingly peaceful. Heading into Bicester itself? Try gastro pub Jacob’s Plough.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: An anniversary stay, or anyone who needs to disconnect and unplug for a while. It’d also be perfect for a couple who are completely frazzled by caring for tiny children and crave a night of peace and quiet to recalibrate and recharge.
Not for: Couples who don’t like each other much might struggle with the close proximity and romantic vibes! (Happily, we managed an entire 24 hours without sniping about domestic duties, so the hut must’ve worked its magic on us.) People who insist on classic five-star luxury might find the quirky glamping experience (eg cooking your own fry-up) not to their liking. And if your leisure time is all about culture and sight-seeing, you might be a tad bored – it is literally a hut in a field.
The damage: £175 B&B. Not especially cheap but it’s worth the money for a romantic jaunt with a bucolic twist. And don’t forget the hut is only available when the barn is not in use for a wedding so most stays will need to be Sundays or week days.
The Tythe Barn Shepherd’s Hut, Charbridge Lane, Launton, Bicester, Oxon OX26 4SR