Travel Feature: Stoke-by-Nayland Country Lodges, Suffolk

�When you’re jammed into a hot Tube like a moist sardine on a hot summer’s day in London, it’s easy to become disillusioned with the self–styled Greatest City in the World.

Equally, as you stroll through the concrete leviathans of Liverpool or Oxford Street, it’s tricky to remember that our nation’s fair capital is surrounded by some stunning countryside.

So when it came to the hottest weekend of the year, one that had the city desperately seeking solace from the fierce heat, my trip to the Stoke-by-Nayland Country Lodges was a luxurious and blessed escape from it all.

Stoke-by-Nayland is a tiny hamlet just on the Suffolk border, famous as Constable Country – the landscape that inspired many of the great artists works.

It really in the middle of nowhere, so I was amazed how easy it was to get to; the greater Anglia service from Liverpool Street had us in Colchester in under an hour, and the staff at the lodge kindly picked us up from there. We were door to door in literally two hours.

The Stoke-by-Nayland Country Lodges are a new addition to an popular existing resort, all built by an apple dynasty.

The family behind it made their mark in the world with Copella apple juice – a business that started in the kitchen sink at home and ended up being sold to Pepsi Co, presumably for a bit of a profit.

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Part of their land was never suitable for farming so they built a golf course around 40 years ago, and this has now expanded to include a hotel, bar, restaurant, a second course, a full spa and gym and, as of April, the country lodges.

We checked into our home for the weekend and were amazed by both the size (the one bedroom lodge was twice the size of our London flat) and the tranquillity.

As they are brand new, everything is done to a very high standard, and straight away we enjoyed a drink on the huge balcony watching the golfers play their shots in the distance.

It was so peaceful that we both fell asleep to the sound of the occasional “fore”, only waking as the fierce sun started to dip out of sight.

The lodges are built on former the home of the Women’s Land Army, who kept the crops growing while the men were fighting in WWII, and we had a look around the old headquarters before we got ready for tea.

Our accommodation was a pleasant quarter of a mile stroll from the Lakeside restaurant, but in deference to my girlfriend’s high heels, we managed to commandeer a golf buggy, and had a whale of a time negotiating the country paths.

In the soft evening light we sat on the restaurant terrace watching the world go by, a mixture of golfers finishing for the day and wedding parties having fun.

Our meal was excellent. We had an aquatic pair of starters; the salmon with horseradish mustard and the monkfish and crustacean special, both of which were light and tasty appetisers. For the main course I had a delicious juicy slab of Irish Sirloin, while my girlfriend had haddock inventively topped with welsh rarebit, which was a tasty combination.

All this was washed down with a full, peppery Malbec, and after a fruity pana cotta we were full to the brim.

The next morning we woke up to a glorious breakfast which had been brought across from the hotel. It had everything; fruit, pastries, yogurts, cheese and ham and we sat contentedly on the balcony munching away watching the landscape come to life.

Seeing the golfers go about their business made me want to unleash my driver, but as I was here with my better half, a treatment was more the order of the day.

I had the therapeutic full body massage, which was an hour of pure bliss and left me feeling very relaxed, while she had the indulgent Decleour ultimate body massage, which was even longer. She described it as a stretch massage that left her feeling loose in places other treatments couldn’t reach.

We popped our head in the gym, which looked to have some top of the range gear, but instead opted to spend some time wallowing in the pool, chilling out in the Jacuzzi and sitting in the steam room. I think we made the right choice.

There was just time for another drink on the terrace, and a fantastic haute cusine Sunday lunch, with some of the best lamb gravy it has been my pleasure to dunk a potato in, before we headed home.

A weekend in the Stoke-by-Nayland country lodges is like a wonderful, peaceful dream. Even our short stay had me feeling more at ease and ready to tackle London again. The place is so geared towards luxury, and so full of friendly staff eager to make your stay a pleasant one, you can’t fail to have a good time.