Tried and Tested: The Ellis-Miller House, Cambridgeshire
I don't know about you, but for me there's something special about a home that's been specifically designed to showcase its surroundings.
With the home in question designed by an award-winning architect, and its location a beautiful Cambridgeshire village, who would pass up the chance to spend a few nights there?
So as the last days of June approached, my partner James and I headed to the Ellis-Miller House in Ely, full of anticipation. After all, the Ellis-Miller House is an award-winning home designed by an award-winning architect (Jonathan Ellis-Miller), so expectations were running high.
A small glass-and-steel box with closed Californian-style shutters, the house looked unassuming from the outside. We parked in the carport and retrieved the keys, lugging our bags behind us.
"This is where you come when you want to escape from the world," James said as we stepped inside, and he was right. With one push of a button the shutters slowly lifted, revealing a huge expanse of floor-to-ceiling glass that showcased acres of gently rustling greenery outside.
"I could look at this view for ages," I said, and in fact did, as James headed to the bedroom for a quick post-journey nap.
Powering up the BOSE iPod dock, I selected some soothing tunes, threw open the glass doors and spent the next hour or so just gazing out over the green landscape from the squishy leather sofa. Ely Cathedral, otherwise known as the ‘Ship of the Fens', was clearly visible on the distant horizon across the field, its leaden towers glinting in the late afternoon sunlight.
Exploring the single-storey house didn't take very long - in a good way. The Ellis-Miller house is simply designed and simply constructed, with a huge living space partitioned by an open fireplace, a kitchen/dining area, a wet room and an ensuite double bedroom.
Each well-chosen piece of furniture had its place, and the overall effect was clean and uncluttered. Well, when you've got views this spectacular outside, you need to sit back and let them speak for themselves.
The bedroom faces the peaceful, east-facing green garden, and its cleverly situated windows meant we could enjoy the sun rising from the comfort of our cosy bed...something we took advantage of during our stay!
We'd come to the Ellis-Miller House in June, but we found ourselves already planning a return visit in winter, when we could light that huge fire, switch on the underfloor heating and just hole ourselves up with that magnificent view for company.
For now, though, we decided to head out and see what the local area had to offer. Our first port of call was The Cutter Inn, a nearby pub and restaurant nestled by the River Ouse. We watched boats, ducks and river cruises glide across the sparkling water as we nursed a bottle of wine - a delicious mid-week treat!
Wicken Fen Nature Reserve was next on our list, the National Trust's oldest nature reserve teeming with over 9,000 species of wildlife. We sat outside in the sun, feeding the exceptionally friendly robins and sparrows with café-bought sandwiches, before heading out on the scenic Adventurers' Trail, leading us through heavenly expanses of tranquil wetland, singing birds and whispering trees.
The second day brought a must-visit to Ely Cathedral, an intricate and seriously imposing structure that dates all the way back to 1083. The guided West Tower tour we took saw us ascend over 200 steep steps, but the spectacular view at the top, overlooking the city and countryside and stretching out for miles, was more than worth the effort.
Shopping, eating and relaxing were all easy in the surrounding area, with its friendly charm and laid-back creative flair. We weaved in and out of independent craft shops, bars and coffee shops as we sought out yet another favourite haunt to return to again one day (we also bought some flavoured local gin as a souvenir...well, it's a local delicacy and you have to sample those wherever you can!)
No matter how we whiled away our days, one thing was essential - returning to the Ellis-Miller House in time to watch the glorious sunset, equipped with a chilled glass of wine.
Though I had fully intended to work during the trip, I didn't open my laptop once. This house simply compels you to relax, and it's the ideal place for hard-working types who find it hard to switch off and breathe easy.
We were genuinely sad to leave, but the Ellis-Miller House is one of those places you know you'll come back to more than once. Discussing our plans to return in winter, we headed for home feeling restored, revived and ready to re-emerge in the real world.