There can be few things more satisfying than popping open a chilled bottle of Salon Delamotte champagne on the deck of a sun-dappled treehouse on a spring evening in the Cotswolds with your two sisters as you settle in for a good old catch-up.
One sister has a “big” birthday this year and I’d spotted “stay in a treehouse” on her “things to do in my 50th year” list. Intent on making at least one of those things happen, I’d booked us into one of the three new treehouses at The Fish, a hotel set within the 400-acre Farncombe Estate.
The sophisticated woody interiors are by designer Hannah Lohan, who has packed a lot of style into what must have been a somewhat unusual space to work within.
The estate owners are Danish, so sprinkling a dash of “hygge” (pronounced hoo-ga, it’s a Scandinavian term used to describe the warm, cosy feeling that comes with enjoying the simple pleasures of life) would seem appropriate, with Lohan having combined that with English countryside influences.
Upon arrival at reception for The Fish – a relaxed spot within the Coach House, where 10 bedrooms have also just been added – directed us to treehouse number three, also known as Twiggy. It sits on a spacious deck, through which pokes a sturdy ash tree that cries out to be hugged, leaned on and climbed.
Although we refrained from the latter, we did climb into the two outdoor bathtubs within minutes of our squeal-filled arrival. We may all be over 45 but were reduced to giggling children within seconds.
The 50sqm oval-ended treehouses are made by Blue Forest in Siberian larch, and inside there is a comfortable double bed that shares the open-plan living area, plus a twin bunkroom and full bathroom.
From flip-flops and bathmats provided for getting out of the outdoor tub, to blankets to snuggle up in outside, they have thought of everything for the treehouse, as well as under-floor heating, board games, TV, Nespresso machine and a decent mini-bar.
The rest of The Fish has also had some work. There’s a new look for Hook restaurant and the rest of the main lodge where it lives, as well as a new boot room designed in conjunction with The Original Muck Boot Company, where guests can find wellies for loan, local maps, little towels for rubbing dogs down, and a hose for cleaning your boots (and maybe the dog).
In the lodge, there’s a games room and a separate pretty lounge that also serves afternoon tea. In the bar, there’s more cosy seating, a fire and great cocktails. Outside, there are decked areas for summer days and nights on squishy white sofas beneath fairy lights.
Feasting on the Deck is another nice touch – an outside wooden platform where up to 20 can enjoy a private party, catered to using a giant Weber BBQ.
Michelin-starred chef Martin Burge oversees the cuisine across the estate, which includes two other hotels, Dormy House and Foxhill Manor. Hook was reopened in March under Burge’s steer, with a focus on excellent fish dishes and more of Lohan’s designs.
Dinner was a perfect evening there – my cauliflower soup with pissaladiere was divine, and Dover sole with shrimp, caper and lemon meuniere a conversation-stopper.
Also new this year is the six-bedroom Farmhouse – a former private home, now sleeping up to 15 guests – and five cute Hilly Huts, which each include double bed, shower room, outdoor deck, chiminea and private hot tub.
Elsewhere, there’s a sports field, where we messed about for an hour on the optimistically named Segway 'Safari' – apparently we were the only group not to have fallen off them that day; not bad for a bunch of 40+ women.
The Fish is great in the way that it has developed organically – a new building included here, a cute little hut added there – and all dotted around a large woodland where you feel you have the run of the estate, something guaranteed to evoke the inner child in anyone.
One night in a treehouse (sleeps up to four) costs from £370, with breakfast. Rooms elsewhere at The Fish start from £140 with breakfast.
Tel: 01386 858000, thefishhotel.co.uk