Stay the Night: The House, Kent

This large, listed 16th-century property creaks with history and impresses with eclectic décor, says Sophie Lam

What makes the perfect holiday rental? For a big get-together, it's room enough to gather and room to retreat. It's an escape that doesn't require a gold medal in orienteering to find; a house that's a treat to borrow, but that still feels homely.

This is the winning formula that Karen Northcote has arrived at with The House. After setting up the food operations at Harvey Nichols in Leeds and a decade running the acclaimed north London pub, The Engineer, she fell in love with The Weald, where she now runs a cosy pub in Rye and rents out her Grade II-listed, 16th-century wealden hall house in the village of Kenardington.

These medieval houses are dotted all over Kent and the South-east and were usually built for yeomen; Karen's gloriously wonky building still bears original leaded casement windows, wooden latch doors, notched timber beams and creaky, oblique floorboards. However, on entering, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the resident yeoman had a penchant for Bob Dylan, Virginia Woolf, Where the Wild Things Are and Mexican handicrafts – the house's history is redolent, but embellished with Karen's own eclectic tastes – a marriage that doesn't try too hard, but works a treat.

The rooms

The softly rustic sitting room The softly rustic sitting room There are three bedrooms in the house (one en-suite) as well as a converted barn-annexe across the drive with a bedroom, shower, and sitting room with sofa bed. Bathrooms are stocked with generous bottles of Neal's Yard toiletries.

Each room is furnished with an endearing selection of curios – cute, knitted Donna Wilson cushions bearing badgers and owls; old Enid Blyton books; an antique teddy and flat-woven rugs; Roberts radios; pretty linens and soft, plaid blankets. There are no curtains, so you'll go to bed gazing out at the lights of distant neighbours and wake up with the day.

Downstairs, the house is broken up into distinct social zones. There's the gravitational cosy, country kitchen, with Aga, larder, dining table and doors that open on to the garden; and the solitary study, with a desk nudged into the casement window for inspirational views and dozens of knick-knacks, including Mexican Day of the Dead figurines, candles, old postcards and Anglepoise lamp. The spacious sitting room has an inglenook fireplace and stash of logs, an assortment of lamps, colourful glass tea light-holders, fresh flowers and Sky TV. Next door is the "Snug", with a log-burning stove, mini ping pong table, DVDs and – best of all – the vinyl collection: David Bowie, Otis Redding, Billy Bragg and the Jesus and Mary Chain were just the start of a long weekend of record spinning.

Out and about

Dungeness Lighthouse in Romney Marsh Dungeness Lighthouse in Romney Marsh There's plenty to explore in this corner of South-east England, and your bucolic base is only a 10-minute drive from high-speed trains and the M20 at Ashford. The vast beach of Camber Sands is down the road from Rye (, around a 20-minute drive south of The House. Local attractions include Chapel Down Winery (01580 763033; with its resident alpacas and vineyard tours; as well as Smallhythe Place, a 16th-century cottage and theatre-barn; 14th-century moated Bodiam Castle; and Sissinghurst Castle with its Vita Sackville-West-designed gardens – all run by the National Trust ( Or you can strike out to explore Romney Marsh, with its tall grasses, sheep and the Royal Military Canal (

The food and drink

Breakfast essentials are provided:coffee for the Italian espresso machine, milk, home-made muesli and bread from the Lighthouse Bakery School in Bodiam. The kitchen is stocked with an array of cookery books that endorse Karen's diverse tastes: take your pick from Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery, right through to David Chang's Momofuku. All that's left to do is get acquainted with the Aga. Karen also runs The Ship Inn in Rye (01797 222233; and can fill up the fridge with ingredients, wine and beer ready for your arrival. Or just pop down for Rye Bay fish curry at the pub.

The Woolpack in Tenterden (01580 388501;, a recently renovated 15th-century inn that celebrates local produce, is around a 10-minute drive away. Closer still is The Red Lion in Snargate, which is happily lost in a timewarp. Walk there in an hour and a quarter, then reward your efforts with a Whitstable Winkle Picker bitter and pickled egg – just make sure it's not between 3-7pm, when the quaint and quirky pub closes for the afternoon.

The essentials

The House, Kenardington, Ashford, Kent TN26 (07515 713517; Rental starts at £250 per night for six guests; £350 with the annexe. Children and dogs welcome.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn