Finding the perfect mix of countryside and city at cottage that offers best of both worlds
So often the choice of a short holiday in the UK comes down to a city break or a trip to the country - but combining both can be surprisingly easy if the right property is found.
Boyd Cottage, also known as East Barn, fits the bill perfectly. A smart, well-appointed converted barn tucked away on a working farm in an idyllic corner of Gloucestershire, the place is situated in the village of Bitton, on the River Boyd in the so-called Golden Valley halfway between Bristol and Bath - meaning guests get the best of both worlds.
Said to have inspired Bitton-born author Dick King-Smith to write The Sheep Pig, which later became the hit movie Babe, Boyd Farm is now owned by Daily Mail agony aunt Bel Mooney and her husband, retired photographer Robin Allison-Smith. The couple live there in a large farmhouse, next door to Mooney's son Dan and his wife Aimee.
The cottage would once have been used to keep animals or store hay bales on the farm, which until 1906 was the site of a water-powered corn mill. Now it has been kitted out with two cosy bedrooms, which both lead outside via French doors, as well as a large open-plan living and dining area upstairs complete with balconies and a wood burner. There are two private courtyard gardens, a children's play area and a private picnic spot by the river where visitors can swim in the mill pond.
On a summer's day you wouldn't want to leave, but the location comes into its own at other times. A short drive to the main road gives a choice of heading six miles left to Bath, or six miles right to Bristol. The former is famous as a World Heritage site rich in history, from its ancient Roman thermal spa to its stunning examples of Georgian architecture, chief among them the magnificent, sweeping Royal Crescent.
Bristol, meanwhile, is simply a great European city, buzzing with bars and cultural venues by the harbourside.
Watershed is one of Britain's foremost arthouse cinemas, while the main arts centre, Arnolfini, is getting back on its feet after it was removed from Arts Council England's national portfolio in 2017. Now operating as an independent charity as part of the University of the West of England, which owns the 19th century warehouse where the venue is based, Arnolfini has just been given £1.8 million from ACE to last until 2022 and has relaunched its exhibition programme. The gallery has an excellent bookshop and a very busy café bar managed by award-winning independent brewery the Bristol Beer Factory.
Meanwhile, up in the well-heeled Bristol neighbourhood of Clifton there are dozens of popular independent shops and cafes to explore, as well as that engineering wonder the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which spans the Avon Gorge.
Stunning views of the bridge and the city beyond can be enjoyed from the Clifton Observatory. Originally built as a windmill in 1766, it boasts a recently-opened rooftop cafe and is home to one of only a handful of working camera obscuras in the UK. This instrument dates from 1828 and can be rotated 360 degrees to give a unique perspective on the scene from the top of the observatory tower - an experience the attraction's bosses liken to 'Victorian CCTV'.
The inside of the observatory is also the gateway to Ghyston's Cave, sometimes known as Giant's Cave - this is a natural chamber which opens out onto a platform on the cliff face, 250 feet above the gorge. The huge sailing ships that once came up this tricky-to-navigate channel needed to be sturdily built to cope with the old city port's notoriously high tidal range - hence the phrase 'shipshape and Bristol fashion'.
All this on the doorstep of a rural retreat.Boyd Cottage - East Barn - sleeps four in two bedrooms and is pet-friendly. Parking is provided. The nearest railway station is Keynsham. Prices from £322 (correct at time of writing). Visit www.mulberrycottages.com or call 01227464958 to book. Log on to www.cliftonobservatory.com to find out more about the Clifton Observatory. See www.visitbristol.co.uk or www.visitbath.co.uk for details of things to do in Bristol and Bath.