This woodland retreat will fulfil your cabincore fantasies

Surrounded by beautiful woodland vistas and serving up rustic cosyness in spades, a cabin retreat in the South Downs is the perfect tonic for your end-of-year burnout, says George Wales

What do you look for in a holiday? Good weather is probably up there. A buzzing food scene, maybe. Some social-ready scenery probably wouldn’t go amiss. Or maybe you’re one of the 55% of people surveyed by Booking.com, who said they wanted their next trip in 2023 to be somewhere off-grid. Somewhere you don’t have to be elbowing people out of the way to get to the pool, or constantly using Citymapper to find your way from hotel to metro and back again. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve increasingly found myself drifting into the latter camp. I’ll happily spend hours gawping at #shepherdshut on Insta, or sifting through the off-the-grid tab on airbnb, staring longingly at the lonely lighthouses and windswept shacks tucked away in corners of the UK I’ve barely heard of, let alone visited. The dream of total disconnection has never been more alluring, probably because the news is pretty dire right now, and the idea of flicking the off switch feels like an essential part of keeping yourself sane.

It’s that mindset that has brought Aussie brand unyoked to these shores, offering burnt-out city-dwellers the chance to get away from it all at their collection of cabin retreats dotted across the UK. There are cabins in North Norfolk and the Black Mountains in Wales, but I’m heading to the South Downs, charmed by the possibility of finding the wilderness within a 90-minute drive of London.

After arriving in the dark (we drove, but you can get a train to Haslemere, and then a 20-minute taxi) and dumping our bags in the provided wheelbarrow, we blunder our way through a hooded woodland path until we find our cabin, perched above a sprawling valley. The view is breathtaking, but that won’t become clear until the following morning, when we’re genuinely struck dumb by quite how stunning the scenery is – all rolling hills and horizon-hugging fields. 

In the meantime the cabin itself is revealed to be an absolute beaut (I’m booked into Josef, although the website makes all of them look pretty dreamy), neat and compact and absolutely the sort of thing you’d lust after on a trawl through #cabincore TikTok. It’s not exactly luxe – there is no outdoor hot tub here – but it’s clearly been designed with comfort in mind, from the perfectly squidgy king-size bed to the rainfall shower, while two gas hobs, a small fridge and a rustic wood-burner are there to keep you fed, watered and toasty, no matter what’s happening outside.

Unyoked are big on the mental benefits of doing nothing, and as such, distractions are few. There are a couple of paperbacks. There is Uno and a set of Connect Four. There is a cassette player with a choice between Bowie the Beach Boys or Van Morrison. And that’s about it. Just you, your thoughts, and anyone you might have brought along for company. Fortunately, you’ve got nature to keep you occupied.

A private footpath soon connects up with a public one, offering multiple scenic walks through the surrounding national park. Maybe you’ll go and discover the ruins of an old Roman fort, or follow the babbling river the other way towards a Buddhist monastery that’s still very much operational. Or maybe you’ll just stare at it all from bed, because you’ve genuinely never been anywhere so cosy in your life, and with a view like this one, why would you ever leave?

As anticipated, I didn’t quite manage to keep my hands off my phone the entire weekend. Much as I love the intense nostalgia of rewinding a cassette, you forget just how dismal the sound is, like listening to music through a tin-can telephone, and so I turn to Spotify, my bluetooth speaker and Folklore for some appropriately woodlandy vibes.

However, I do switch off all my notifications, silencing Whatsapp and throwing a big green blanket over the constant noise of the news cycle. And knowing that I have a tendency to fill every bit of blank time by checking my socials (waiting for the kettle to boil, waiting for a bus, literally walking from one room to the next), I make a point of not doing any of that. Instead, I just sit. Listen to an owl hooting outside. Watch a sheep wandering about in a field on the other side of the valley. Notice how different the outdoors smells after a sudden downpour.

Ordinarily, I’d roll my eyes at anyone else talking like this, but all I can say is that it absolutely hits the spot. I spend the weekend feeling rested, unbothered, totally ignorant about every plant, bird and tree in my field of vision, but very pleased to be surrounded by them. When your to-do-list boils down to one very simple imperative – keep the fire going – then it’s hard to feel stressed by anything very much at all. That said, you absolutely will need to keep an eye on that fire, because truly, you have never seen hunger like a wood-burner wolfing down your hard-foraged kindling.

My stay lasts less than 48 hours, but the experience feels hugely restorative. Even though the cabin is only a few minutes walk from the road, the sense of immersion in nature is thoroughly convincing, and if you can be disciplined enough to shut your phone off for a couple of days, it’s a genuine chance to fully disconnect. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, overstimulated, or just over it full stop, it’s the break from reality you’ve been waiting for.

Unyoked has ten cabins based across three UK locations, with prices starting from £154 per night. Find out more here.

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