It’s twilight at Greatstone Beach. The empty skies are golden pink and the marsh harriers are outlined in an amber haze of light as they descend upon the sand. From Water’s Edge, one of Bloom Stays’ luxury holiday homes, the view of Kent’s coastline is endless.
Capturing the beauty of this untapped region, which borders Romney Marsh to the north and Dungeness to the south, the contemporary holiday house takes UK homestays to a new level. Inspired by the Japanese preserving technique known as Shou Sugi Ban, the house is clad in burnt Cedar, while, at the back of the house, across three floors, floor-to-ceiling windows give epic vistas over the changing coastal views.
With six bedrooms and seven bathrooms, the rambling house can sleep up to 15 guests and is perfect for extended family holidays or reuniting with friends, with enough space for everyone to have ‘a place’ to call their own. At the heart of the home, and beringing everyone together, hwoever, is a huge, petrol-blue kitchen-diner – a nod to the sea outside – where meals en masse can be conjured up. State-of-the-art features include induction hobs, two dishwashers, barista-style Nespresso coffee machine and Le Creuset pans.
Whether you perch on the stools at the central island or sit at the scrubbed wooden table, the space is made for convivial gatherings. From the sandstone flagstone floor to an aged-leather sofa; hand-woven baskets to cow-hide throws, the feel is one that oozes a cool, Scandi aesthetic. Bi-fold doors lead out to the garden, where a Webber bbq and outdoor pizza oven allow for al fresco dining, when the sun shines, while the outdoor table tennis table and Fusbol table are perfect for fun-fuelled family tournaments.
Adjoining the kitchen area is a cinema-style den, where a ‘wrap-around’ sofa and oversized 85-inch TV (with Netflix, Prime TV and Sky TV, surround sound and in-ceiling speakers) allow for cosy movie nights with the whole family. There’s also an alcove with a huge selection of board games – from Pictionary to Scrabble – for those who want quality time away from the screens for a while. In fact, this well-thought-out approach to detailed family living elevates a stay here – whether it is the bikes you can hire or the local Romney Ales left for guests to try.
Wehn it comes to resting your head, there are two bedrooms on the ground floor, and three more located on the first floor, with sleek en suite bathrooms boasting power showers to wash the sand off at the end of the day (there is also an outdoor shower for those who want to rinse off outside). The nearby shoreline is reflected in the interiors, with crisp white bed linens from Dusk, brightened with patterned throws, wicker chairs with nautical-striped cushions and modern travel posters ‘advertise’ destinations, such as Jamaica and Ibiza.
The first floor also has a second lounge space, with oversized cream linen sofas from Oka, and pops of colour with bright cushions, Berber rugs and Moroccan pouffes. An inbuilt bar area with wine chiller, fridge, glassware and shakers is another thoughtful touch for those wanting to make their own sundowners to really enjoy that view.
Talking of which, one floor up is the master suite – a stunning room with high, vaulted windows giving even more epic views across the shoreline, to be taken in from the super-king bed or the slipper bath placed in just the right position. Bifold doors lead out to a private bedroom terrace with bean bags for moments of total seclusion.
Framed by sand-dunes, it’s easy to while away the hours on Greatstone Beach, found just a few steps from the back of the house. A joy to spend time on, the wide beach is sprinkled with sea-shells and is often empty except for a handful of dog-walkers or joggers. Nearby is Dungeness – also worth a visit and beloved by many an artist. In fact, artist Derek Jarman’s house – Prospect Cottage – with its famous garden created from the shingle beach – has recently been renovated and visitors can access the inside to view artworks and gain more understanding of the filmmaker and activist’s life.
There’s a beauty in the bleakness of the coastline here – the Romney wildlife reserve means the wide skies are often filled with swooping birds, while the burgeoning artist community has meant that intriguing retreats and cottages have popped up in unlikely, and often isolated, places. You can pootle around coastal towns such as Sandwich, Deal and Rye, browsing artisan shops and stopping off for pub lunches.
In fact, one of the reasons that Nicky Russon and Rowena Owen founded Bloom Stays, a ‘holiday home rental company with a difference’, was to champion this corner of the UK. Not only are all the properties cherry-picked by the co-founders themselves, but the location is paramount for each property.
“Any house we pick passes the test of being gorgeous, unique, and of an all-round quality standard,” says Nicky and Rowena. “The owner is the house’s creator, carer, nurturer. We only work with owners who have like-minded values to us. Of course, the house must be lovely. So must the setting. Kent is where we live, work and play. We only pick houses that have a spot-on location.”
Here, exclusively for Forbes, Nicky Russon and Rowena Owen discuss why Kent – its coastline and countryside – is a region they are passionate about.
What is so special about Kent?
Kent is London’s coast and it’s England’s garden. It’s also our special spot as we have both lived and worked here (practically) all our lives. So, personally, Kent is special to us but we think it has so much to offer visitors, too.
The ancient City of Canterbury is a must-see, of course, but we love it because of the Marlowe theatre and its shopping. Within an hour of most Kent towns you can be on the coast and, with Margate, Whitstable, Folkestone’s ever-evolving harbour and the shingle of Dungeness, the coastline will never leave you wanting.
For those who want to scratch that historic itch, the county has plenty of castles and historic sites of importance to explore – take Leeds, Tonbridge, Scotney and Chilham Castles just for starters. Or you can switch the guidebooks for walking boots. There are thousands of acres to explore at Bedgebury Forest, for instance, where you can also tackle some serious off-road biking.
And food… there is a new wave of chefs and restauranteurs making Kent their larder. Many have their own kitchen gardens, which are becoming a wonderful feature at some of the best restaurants. The Small Holding at Kilndown; Updown Farmhouse at Deal, and Water Lane at Hawkhurst are wonderful examples of local field-to-fork dining. Meanwhile, The Sportsman at Seasalter, and many other pubs and restaurants, are developing a dining scene around the coast that rivals any of England’s traditional seaside resorts.
Where should visitors go to venture off the beaten track?
The clifftop walk along the White Cliffs of Dover is a wonder, while there are also beautiful ‘hidden’ beaches, such as Viking Bay and Greatstone (not many people know about the latter, which is why it is often so quiet).
Where is your favourite place to dine out?
The Pig at Bridge Place offers amazing service and sublime food, and is surrounded by wonderful countryside.
Where is your favourite Kent country pub?
The Dove at Dargate has recently been named Pub of the Year… so well deserved for its support of local breweries and offering the most delicious food.
What is the ethos of Bloom Stays?
Bloom Stays is a holiday letting agency that does the right thing for everyone, every time. Whether you stay with us as a guest or your house is let by us, we offer everyone the highest levels of personal service. We are independent and only consider houses in Kent of the highest quality for our guests. We’re also detail obsessed whether that’s high-quality bed linen and pillows, testing the can openers, sharpening kitchen knives or testing the Wi-fi, Bloom Stays houses should surpass expectations every time.
What is your USP?
We find special houses in Kent that offer true ‘wow’ factor when you walk in. Sometimes that’s an amazing kitchen; sometimes that’s a beach view over Dungeness. It could be a Shepherd’s Hut or an historic Victorian villa on the White Cliffs, where you can see France (on a good day). There’s always something to talk about with our houses.
What are some of the experiences on offer when you stay with Bloom Stays?
We aim to offer more than just a holiday house. We recognise when people spend their hard-earned money they want an experience to make memories and remember for a lifetime.
We work with local partners who have the same values as us, and the same passion for Kent products/produce. So we can offer some special experiences that cater to all tastes whether that’s cocktail-making kits delivered to the door or a personal training session, bike hire or paddle-boarding. We have a link with The Small Holding restaurant in Kilndown, where our guests have the option of booking a kitchen tour hosted by one of their chefs. These are all special additions to a Bloom Stays break and they are experiences we know and love. We truly value what Kent can offer and want to shout about it from the rooftops!