Cobham Dairy in Kent is the latest property to join The Landmark Trust’s portfolio of upmarket self-catering holiday lets. Situated equidistantly between Gravesend and Rochester, beside the National Trust-owned Cobham Wood, this beautiful, quirky little building has just undergone a lavish £1 million refurbishment. It took a team of highly specialised plasterers, stonemasons, stained-glass makers and other craftsmen two years to complete.
It now has added luxuries such as underfloor heating, a large egg-shaped bath and a fully-equipped Shaker-style kitchen with a microwave — not to mention an efficient wood-burning stove and a very snug double bed.
Designed by James Wyatt in the mid-1790s, Cobham Dairy was created as an indulgent folly for the fourth Earl of Darnley’s wife.
Known as “pleasure dairies”, such edifices were originally conceived as meeting places for aristocratic ladies to come and amuse themselves by churning a little butter, drinking milk and gossiping. Catherine de Medici, Marie Antoinette and Mary II all had them, and there is even a branch of gender studies devoted to the politics of pleasure dairies, which makes for interesting further reading.
Wyatt’s dairy is a stone’s throw from Cobham Hall, which has been a girls’ boarding school since 1962, but the dairy is cleverly masked by surrounding hedges to ensure privacy.
The interior has been finished off in tasteful shades of cream. Charming touches include displays of vintage terracotta dairy bowls on cool Carrara marble shelves, blue and white milkmaid curtains (designed in-house), a milking stool, some milkmaid-themed engravings and a collection of decent books in case you forget to bring one. However, with its tiny side cloisters, stained-glass arched windows — stunning when sunlight shines through them — and ribbed vaulted ceilings, its exterior feels distinctly chapel-like, as much a place of prayer as of pleasure.
There are plenty of good local walks, and the nearby village of Cobham has three decent pubs, and a church containing an exceptional collection of medieval brasses commemorating the de Cobham family. There is no TV or Wi-Fi in the dairy, and the telephone signal can be poor. How wonderful, when an absence of anything proves to be such a recommendation.
The nearest station is Sole Street on Southeastern, 2.9 miles away. A four-night stay at Cobham Dairy starts at £468 (landmarktrust.org.uk).