The luxury at Bruisyard Hall is palpable. And not just figuratively; I’m palpating it under my hands all weekend – from the Vi-spring mattresses in the bedrooms and the squashy, upholstered armchairs in the attic-bar-cinema, to the manicured lawns where we sunbathe, everything feels luxurious to the touch. Even the enormous free-range chicken I find myself wrestling with during our butchery class on the Saturday morning – even that feels like a king among chickens, or at least a dinosaur among them.
But we’ll come back to that chicken, and the grislier underbelly of our stay at Bruisyard. For now, imagine a group of jaded cityfolk arriving at Saxmundham station, in the oddly-unpublicised loveliness of the Suffolk countryside. Very few friends I canvas for recommendations before my visit have ever been to Suffolk for a holiday, other than for Latitude Festival in nearby Henham Park. There’s no obvious reason for that, because despite Bruisyard Hall being as Suffolk as Suffolk can be, skirted on all sides by woodlands, hills and heaths, it’s an easy distance for a post-work journey from London on a Friday night.
Which is exactly what we’ve done, leaving the city after work and still pulling up the drive at Bruisyard Hall with enough daylight to last us through a welcome tour of the Hall, if not the 600 acres of estate it comes with. Although since Bruisyard dates back to 1354, there are enough architectural features and centuries-old scars for a thorough tour to exhaust a lot more daylight than we have that evening, or even that weekend. Rebuilt after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the estate became home to a Catholic family, and has the priest-holes and the marks of what once were high, anti-surveillance windows to prove it.
A later addition is the crest of the Rous family, owners of Bruisyard Hall, though more recently still Keith Rous, the sixth Earl of Stradbroke, decided to supplement the family motto of ‘We Live in Hope’ with the more high-octane addition of ‘We Fight Like Lions and Breed Like Rabbits’. That hasn’t made it on to the crest ornamenting the front of the Hall, and it’s impossible to confirm if the House of Rous descendants are making good on that motto – though the popularity of the estate as a wedding venue suggests it’s seen its fair share of both flaming rows and true romance.
The bespoke-ability of a stay at Bruisyard Hall means it’d be easy to spend an entire weekend on the grounds, going from pool room to paintballing, from formal dinners to woodland rambles without ever having to leave the estate. We do leave twice, lured out once by the Adnam’s Brewery tour in the nearby town of Southwold, and again by the Allen Gardiner cruise along the River Orwell, complete with a three course breakfast and a wealth of local history supplied by the captain.
Apart from those side trips we spend the weekend on the grounds of Bruisyard, though less idly than that might make it sound. On Friday evening alone, welcome tour dispatched, we manage to fit in a wine tasting in the gardens of Bruisyard – Italian reds wielded expertly by Bijou Bottles – followed by a barbecue – tongs wielded no less expertly by ex-Dorchester chef David Newstead. David’s here in his role as executive chef of Heathcote & Hare, catering partners of Bruisyard Hall and bookable for everything from wedding banquets to our cookery class the next morning. Still sleepy from the evening’s excesses and the expansiveneness of our breakfast, we’re woken up thoroughly with a crash course in chicken-jointing. That’s followed by a confrontational cook-off in which we work a lot harder for our lunch than we had to for David’s beef croquettes and grilled prawns the evening before.
But that’s the beauty of Bruisyard Hall; whatever your preferences for a weekend away – cooking or being cooked for, Italian wines or East Anglian beers, chess in the dining hall or chicken-jointing in the Barn – this is a mansion for all seasons.
Bruisyard Hall is available to hire exclusively from £3,500 for a 3 night minimum weekend stay from Friday to Sunday, or from £1,250 per night for a weekday stay from Monday to Thursday. The Hall sleeps 20 in ten rooms and guests have the use of the entire 600 acre estate. For more information, visit www.bruisyardhall.com.
Catering packages are available through Heathcote and Hare, the estate’s own catering company, with breakfast packages starting at £10pp and welcome hampers (serving 10) filled with local Suffolk produce from £100. For more information, visit www.heathcoteandhare.com.
Travel to Bruisyard is available with Abellio Greater Anglia www.abelliogreateranglia.co.uk from London Liverpool Street to Saxmundham.