Since landing in Chipping Norton in late 2015 Soho Farmhouse has become the most coveted country hotel in the UK.
Spanning 100 acres of pretty Oxfordshire countryside the members club and hotel features 40 cabins, five restaurants, a pub, a deli (serving almond, coconut, soy and oat milk lattes), a Boathouse with outdoor and indoor heated pools, beautiful lakes and wild gardens, a Cowshed spa (and piles of Cowshed products to pilfer at every turn), a hot tub 'island', a gym, spinning studio, cinema, cookery school, five-a-side football pitch, tennis courts, horse stables, a children's club and countless beautiful people pootling about on matching Pashley bikes and being ferried around on cute milk floats.
Conde Nast Traveller calls it: "One of the starriest, most fabulous hotels in Britain." Style blogger Fashion Foie Gras declares it: "a Londoner's country paradise," and The Telegraph says it is: "the ultimate country-lite retreat."
There's only one problem: It's so damn fabulous it's almost impossible to get a room.
Soho House has nailed the British farmhouse experience for people who want a 'country chic' mini break but would rather drink martinis and have manicures than actually get muddy.
It's done such a good job that unless you're planning MONTHS in advance (and we're talking six months minimum if you're after a weekend stay) there's probably no room at the inn/farm even if you can afford the £350+ nightly price tag.
Unless that is, you are prepared to book into one of the Bell Tents in the campsite hidden behind the five-star gym.
In real life, £100+ may seem a little steep for a night in a tent on a farm.
And no, the bathroom situation isn't ideal (there aren't any, instead campers have 24/7 access to the loos and showers at the Boathouse around the corner).
But this isn't real life, this is Soho House world, and if you're really keen to experience the Farmhouse and all its charm (you should be) then glamping, as I discovered last week, is actually a super fun option that delivers most of the benefits of a regular stay. Just without a roof, walls or running water.
Hell, apart from marrying Nick Jones or smuggling yourself in on one of those milk floats it may be your only option for the foreseeable future, so here's everything you need to know about the Bell Tents before you book...
TEN THINGS YOU NEED KNOW ABOUT THE FARMHOUSE BELL TENTS
1. You don't have to be an outdoor enthusiast or ever have set foot inside a branch of Millets to camp here. You can just turn up with your Away weekender and find everything you need for a decent night's sleep, including a tent big enough to stand up in, a six-foot bed, duvets, pillows, nice lighting, a wood-burning stove, rugs, a pair of armchairs, wellies, dressing gowns, a clothes rail, a full-length mirror, eye masks and earplugs.
2. You will need those earplugs. By day the campsite is very quiet, and the no-kids rule is a bonus, but at night canvas walls + several rounds of Soho Mules = noisy neighbours. Also the fire alarms are a bit keen, which is reassuring with all those wood-burning stoves and campfires dotted about, but still bloody annoying when they go off unnecessarily at 8am in the morning.
3. There is no mini bar. Or fridge. Or room service. But you can get an ice bucket and booze from the nearby Pen Yen restaurant and/or BYO.
4. There is coffee (Nespresso, of course). And tea. And furry hot water bottles, all found in the shared outdoor living area at the campsite entrance. Nearby there are also hammocks for chilling and a fire pit surrounded by hay bales perfect for toasting marshmallows and making some new friends (people at the Farmhouse are disarmingly friendly, you'll get used to it by dinner time).
5. You can charge your phone and laptop. The tents have electricity and several plug sockets (and WiFi).
6. The important stuff may be provided but there are a few things you should try and bring:
- Layers: There are heaters and a fire in each tent but it can get cold dashing between the Boathouse and campsite when you need a wee in the early hours of the morning.
- Flat shoes: Heels + wood chip + the dark = a potentially knee-scarring combination and the milk float shuttles don't venture into the campsite.
- A travel speaker if you want to listen to any music as there isn't a TV or radio (or maybe headphones if you want to be nice to the neighbours?).
- Snacks: The deli/shop will feel a long way away if/when hunger strikes.
7. There are no toiletries/towels provided in the tents but you'll find everything you need in the Boathouse, from mouthwash to Moody Cow shower gel. The 'Powder Room' is actually the ultimate girlie getting-ready spot, with GHDs, mirrors for days and plenty more of those Cowshed products to drench yourself in.
8. The coffee-coloured dressing gowns provided are comfy as hell, and the Farmhouse vibe is generally pretty dressed down, but wearing them in public anywhere away from the spa will immediately mark you out as being a 'camper' (as well as making you look like a fleecey Star Wars extra).
9. The campsite isn't staffed so make sure you get a contact number when you check in in case you: trip the electrics at 2am/need to report a rogue fire alarm at 8am/want to cancel your morning spin session after that 2am finish (could happen). NB The Soho House general 'no pictures' policy does extend to the campsite but with no staff around to enforce it it's the perfect place to take snaps of your fleecey, fabulous, super stylish stay (sorry SH).
10. When it's very cold and dark (the tents are available all year round!) it's good to know that the Mill Room pub stays open until the last person leaves, even if that's at 5.30am, so finding a spot on the sofa and working your way through a bottle of good whisky is also an (unofficial) overnight option.
Bell Tents from £80 per night (ours cost £110 for two people on a Thursday night in September).