‘Are you in New Zealand?’ my Kiwi friend excitedly asked over Instagram after seeing my latest post. Deceivingly, I’m not. I’m less than a two hour drive from London, at a winery in the Rother Valley, East Sussex. It wasn’t the photos of the wine or the vineyards though that made it look as if I’d flown to the other side of the world for the weekend. It was the unique accommodation.
Following their recent summer launch, you can find all sorts of places to stay on Airbnb now. The additional categories mean you can search for a range of unique property types and locations from creative spaces to caves, national parks, and houseboats. You can also search for earth homes, more commonly known as Hobbit Houses, coined from the Lord of the Rings and famously available to visit at Hobbiton in New Zealand.
Set the scene
After a two-hour drive from London we pulled into the winding drive of the winery and were met by a tractor. Behind the wheel was America Brewer, a Brazilian native who welcomed us warmly and impressed us instantly when we realized she was driving the tractor in sky-high heels. America owns and lives at Oastbrook Estate with her English husband Nick, and their lovable golden retriever Laura, who dutifully welcomed us at the door of the Hobbit House.
The concept of a Hobbit House may sound twee, but the hideaway—with a flourishing meadow on the roof—is more like something out of a Grand Designs episode than a gimmick. The bulbous doors are custom made and the stars on the blue dome ceiling are hand painted. It’s surprisingly spacious too, with a round, open-plan living room, dining, and kitchen space, flanked by two bedrooms with generous en suites on either side. Everything is comfortable and taken care of, from toiletries in the bathrooms to a fully equipped kitchen with a coffee machine. The set up is ideal for a family, or two couples to share.
If the sun is shining, expect to spend much of your time in the front garden. There’s a dining table, plus a barbecue, a hot tub with views of the vineyard, and the sound of birdsong from all around. It’s also the spot to dig into the welcome basket spread of crackers, local cheeses, and of course, a bottle of Oastbrook sparkling wine.