The great escape: Hertfordshire’s most fabulous Airbnbs
- Credit: Archant
All over the country people are handing over the keys to everything from lavishly appointed townhouses in prime locations to cottages - and even mansions - in the country and just about everything else from riverboats to Mongolian yurts.
Hertfordshire is no exception - with some of the unlikeliest properties ranging from the spectacular to the quirky, all available by the day to anyone who feels more at home in a real home than a hotel room.
Here’s a selection...
1. The country pile
This six-bed house just outside Brookman’s Park sleeps 10, and is built around a four-storey tower which dates back to the 1860s and sits at the end of a private road surrounded by fields and hills.
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The living room has a Russian oak floor and two open fireplaces and the kitchen has a slate floor, picture windows and black granite worktops. Outside, there’s a sizeable courtyard. There’s also a seven-seat SUV on hand for anyone who fancies seeing the sights in comfort.
And if any of it looks familiar, it probably is, having featured on ITV’s property show Live The Dream: As Seen On Screen.
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Price per night: £550
2. The townhouse
This recently renovated Victorian house is about as central as you can get for anyone visiting St Albans, sitting as it does on Holywell Hill. It’s also something of a home-from-home for large families.
It has four bedrooms, three reception rooms, two bathrooms – one with a large free-standing roll-top slipper-style bath - and a large kitchen. Bi-fold doors open out from the family room to a terrace and well stocked 100-foot back garden, all within a stone’s throw of the Cathedral.
Price per night: £179
3. The showhome
A 10-minute taxi ride from Luton airport, this four-bedroom detached house sits on the northerly tip of Harpenden in one of the quietest streets.
It’s spacious, and configured well for sizeable gatherings – to which it regularly plays host - with a large open-plan living room linking in to an equally large and stunning kitchen and a wide, secluded garden.
It’s a classic entertaining home which sleeps eight in four bedrooms over two floors and has three bathrooms, which is just as well for anyone working up a sweat - one of the downstairs rooms is equipped as a small gym.
Price per night: £195
4. The cost cottage
A more secluded option, this compact cottage has been created from a barn conversion at the end of a family garden in Old Hatfield. It’s a small, couples-only retreat but stylishly designed into an open-plan L-shape with windows on three sides.
While it’s close to the family house, the owners stress that it’s private and self contained but do warn of one possible intruder - the family Labrador that tends to take an interest in newcomers.
Price per night: £72
5. The rural idyll
White Cottage dates back to the 1500s and sits in an absolutely stunning location on the banks of the River Lea next to the Brocket Hall Estate near Wheathampstead.
Some serious thought has gone into creating pure luxury over two floors with a stunning loft bedroom, an antique-laden lounge and a smaller book-filled cottage - in a garden listed in The National Garden Scheme’s Yellow Book.
There’s even a hot tub raised on open decking and nestled beneath willow trees with breathtaking views along the river and, the host assures guests, the occasional sighting of kingfishers.
Price per night: £95
6. The Pumping station
It’s not the whole property but an eco-friendly annexe newly converted to incorporate solar power, including many nice touches and features that brought it to the attention of Channel 4’s Restoration Man programme.
Surrounded by trees on a quiet road next to Broxbourne Woods, near Newgate Street, it has all the mod cons, including Chromecast, Apple TV, a B&W Zeppelin and while there’s only one bedroom, the building is quirky enough to provide another by locking one door and unlocking another.
Guests swoon over the location, sitting as it does within 2,000 acres of nature reserve, and the owners even tell guests they can use their garden - as long as they don’t mind feeding the chickens.
Price per night: £85
7. The glass house
This compact glass dome is formed of 157 triangular panes and sits at the bottom of the owner’s garden near the Galleria in Hatfield. Aimed at couples and “solo adventurers” it must rank as one of the oddest offerings in the county.
There’s more than a touch of glamping to it with only cold running water on hand to brush your teeth and make coffee but the owners warn, you’ll need the kettle to wash your face. Shaving means a trip to the garage where there’s a socket and vanity mirror and there’s even an umbrella as they admit that it’s “99 per cent watertight”.
And anyone who’s afraid of the occasional greenhouse bug is urged not to apply.
Price per night: £37
8. The log cabin
This pretty wooden cabin of a home is set behind high hedges in a secluded sun trap of a garden, just off the A5 in Flamstead. It comfortably fits no more than two, but guests comment on how deceptively large it is.
Rustic as it looks from the outside with its dark wood and red-tiled roof, it’s thoroughly modern inside with additions such as wi-fi, smart TV and Netflix.
Price per night: £70
Sally Trendell is a former flight attendant who spent three decades flying all over the world looking after first class passengers for British Airways.
Now she’s taken off in a new direction as an Airbnb host, letting her beautiful cottage annexe near Wheathampstead. And, as she’s someone who clearly knows all about top-level service, we asked her to share any tips she may have.
You know they have done the checks. And, of course, they guarantee payment comes through so you know you’re not going to be left short. And if anything goes wrong they tend to be very responsive. I was lucky enough to very quickly become a super host and was given a direct line.
Any advice for being a good host?
I check all my guests in properly. It’s important to meet and greet, get them settled and tell them where everything is. We are, after all, in the middle of nowhere out here. Then I say ‘that’s it you never have to see me again if you don’t want to’ - although, in reality that’s rarely the case. In fact, I get lots of repeat bookings and now have Facebook friends all over the world. The personal touch makes all the difference.
How did you start?
I began in February last year. When I decided to let it I originally thought about advertising locally but when I eventually registered [with airbnb] I went online and listed at 11pm, and the following morning I had my first booking. That left me with a mad rush to get everything ready but it was a good problem to have.
Can guests be trusted?
I think so and always hope so. People generally play by the rules. They are, after all, staying in your home. Also, in my case I’m there on site most of the time so that must help a lot.
How important is it to accommodate requests?
I suppose I’m a bit of a soft touch in some ways. I had one couple here for a christening who asked if they could have a marquee in the garden and have friends over. That was fine. Another asked if they could bring five friends over to join them in the hot tub. Again, I didn’t mind but it was nice that they asked.
I also offer my guests a fabulous ‘home dining experience’ whereby Maria Azcona from Retromum Catering will create, deliver - and even serve if required - a gourmet three course meal tailored to include dishes of your choice. This has proved immensely popular and is a fantastic extra service to offer guests who may be visiting on their honeymoon or celebrating an anniversary on their trip away.
How do you set the ground rules?
I go by my own standards. Treat as you’d wish to be treated. I spent 38 years in the air and we had a golden rule on BA - you never say no to a passenger. Even if you can’t provide something, you show them you’re doing your best to try to.
Other than that I just thought of all the things I’d want when I go away. I found myself going to the pound shop and making sure I was stocked up with all the extras. Spare toothbrushes, razors, that sort of thing. I also provide a well-stocked larder with several types of tea, coffee, sauces, olive oil, etcetera.
And has it all been worth it?
Put it this way, after a lifetime visiting just about everywhere in the world, the world has decided to come and visit me.