When it's freezing outside and the chilblains are already tingling, a Landmark Trust property may not, on reflection, be the most sensible option for a weekend away. Now I'm no wimp when it comes to the cold – I went to a boarding school – but this is the first time I can ever remember wearing a woolly hat to bed.
The Oxenford Gatehouse is the latest addition to the Landmark Trust portfolio, the charitable organisation that since 1965 has been carefully renovating Napoleonic towers, crumbling chapels and follies in fields so that we can spend our holidays there.
The restoration work at the Gatehouse is so recent that you can still smell the paint. But despite the renovators' best efforts to cosy the place up using under-floor heating, storage heaters and an open fire (logs are provided at £4 a bag), there's not a heating system in the land that could permeate the three-foot-thick stone walls and gusty stairwell of this 19th-century beacon of Gothic revivalism, especially in the dead of winter.
The Gatehouse sits in the middle of a working farm near Elstead, a small village between Godalming and Farnham. It was once the gatehouse to the Peper Harow estate, though the land has long since been carved up, the main house turned into flats and the long drive absorbed into the grazing land. It was designed and built in 1843 by Augustus Pugin, the English designer, polemicist and architect famed for his passion for neo-Gothic style, hence the pointed arches, steep gables and quatrefoil windows.
Inside, the sturdy oak furniture, wing-backed armchairs and rich cut-velvet curtains expertly complement Pugin's heavy-duty aesthetic, with prints of Queen Victoria's coronation and Victorians living it up at the seaside providing a historical perspective.
The layout of the place is rather awkward, as you'd expect for an asymmetrical gatehouse. The two bedrooms – one twin, one double – are separated by a hallway, a vertiginous two-storey stone stairwell and a sitting room. With the bathroom located off the ground-floor entrance hall, guests sleeping upstairs would be advised to bring their own chamber pots. The restoration work cannot be faulted, however. The downstairs double room is particularly beautiful with its stone-flagged floor, beamed ceiling and handsome antique bed. Bedding and towels are provided but toiletries aren't; unless you count one teeny bar of soap, guests are asked, rather pointedly, to bring their own.
The food and drink
A pint of milk and some teabags are provided but the rest is down to you. The Gatehouse kitchen is well kitted out with an oven, fridge and microwave but no dishwasher. You can buy the basics in nearby Elstead and there's a Sainsbury's four miles away in Farnham. There are also plenty of good pubs nearby, including the Donkey (donkeytilford.co.uk), in Tilford and The Three Horseshoes (3hs.co.uk), in Thursley, where we had an excellent Sunday lunch.
This being a Landmark Trust property, you won't find spa services, a swimming pool or even a television. But there is a cupboard full of board games and enough books for a long weekend.
The Gatehouse is not suitable for guests with wheelchairs because of the narrow stairwell. Children and pets are welcome though babies and small children will need to be watched on the steep stairs.
Rental of the property (sleeps four plus a baby's travel cot) starts at £670 for three nights, going up to £906 for seven nights and £1,812 for a fortnight.
Oxenford Gatehouse, Elstead, Surrey (01628 825925; landmarktrust.org.uk)