The Lakes by Yoo is an exclusive, new-build enclave in the English countryside that offers high-spec waterside cabins for city-dwellers seeking peace. Lotte Jeffs reports
It was dark by the time we arrived at the Lakes by Yoo in the Cotswolds and we’d just about managed to keep our four-year-old from having a meltdown the entire way, so we were keen to check into our cabin by the lakes and relax.
Almost 40 minutes later we were still driving around the labyrinthine pathways looking for our home for the weekend. We thought we had found it, unpacked the car and started walking over a footbridge to an incredible-looking modern mansion when a woman pulled into the driveway, wound down the window and asked what we were doing. We were heading straight towards her front door. After some awkward explanations she pointed us in the right direction and eventually we found our place.If you were checking into a hotel or traditional “resort” you might expect someone to escort you, or at least some better signage. But the Lakes By Yoo isn’t a traditional resort and that’s what makes it such an unusual and enjoyable place to stay.
This is in essence, an extremely luxurious residential estate, with 850 acres of pristine parkland and six lakes (ours looked like it had been dyed blue) providing the perfect backdrop for relaxation and rejuvenation. A handful of the properties are rented out to weekenders like us, but there is a sense that you’re crashing an exclusive residential community.There is a concierge service you can reach via an app but there is very little in the way of “service” here and that I think is kind of the point. If you are happy to avoid people and do your own thing entirely this is the place for you. But if you like to feel “looked after” on holiday – and able to phone for a gin and tonic to be brought to your room whenever you fancy it, you might be frustrated. Although catering or a personal chef can be booked in advance.
It has been reported that a number of high-profile people own some of the beautifully designed villas, apartments or impressive high spec houses here: from Kate Moss and Lily Allen to Alex James and Jenson Button, although Globetrender can’t confirm this.
Our cabin was directly on a lake with its own jetty and ladder down into the water. I went for an exhilarating cold water dip one morning, followed by hot coffee and a basket of fresh bread and pastries which had been delivered (one of the few nods to “hospitality” on offer).The cabin itself was stunning, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the lake, an outdoor terrace and a log fire in the living room. The rooms were sumptuous and cosy, with lots of lovely fabrics and natural textures from the wooden slatted walls to the wicker light shades making it feel very homely. A mezzanine level had an en suite bathroom, double bed and an area for kids to sleep under the rafters (although they wouldn’t officially have a bed made up for her – we did this ourselves).Despite the hyper high spec of the place, the microwave oven wasn’t working. We had brought our own food to cook in the small kitchen and serve on the beautifully long wooden dining table, but our plans were foiled by the lack of an oven. Instead we dined at Elsa’s, a no-frills restaurant with a limited menu in a tepee elsewhere on the property. It was cute and charming, and the food (burgers, chips, pizzas) was decent if slightly less elevated than one might expect from such a luxurious resort.
Better for self-catering are the new lakeside apartments that have fully equipped kitchens. A new bar and restaurant will also be opening this spring. In the summer, guests can enjoy try pursuits such as fishing, sailing, kayaking, and paddle-boarding on the lakes, or take a stroll through the lush countryside on one of the many walking trails. The estate also boasts a fully-equipped gym, indoor swimming pool and tennis courts. If you want a campfire experience with toasted marshmallows and sausages, that will be £300. There’s a great lakeside children’s playground and even a zipwire. (A new kids’ club has opened since our stay, complete with a suspended rope course, Woodland Tree Top Trail, climbing wall and array of other activities.) We made good use of the huge indoor pool with our daughter and the spacious gym. The spa reception features an original David Hockney video installation which reminds you that you’re staying somewhere quite extraordinary.
The Lakes By Yoo concept was developed by a partnership between John Hitchcox, the founder of international property development company YOO, and the renowned designer Philippe Starck. Hitchcox and Starck created YOO in 1999, and since then, the company has designed and developed some of the world’s most innovative and luxurious properties such as the Met Bangkok and Jade Ocean – Miami, Florida.
You can feel Starck’s touches throughout and the cabins and larger houses which from the outside have a modern Hamptons vibe – made from natural or stained black wood with huge windows and tons of outdoor space and all perched close to one of the six lakes.
Hitchcox and Starck worked in collaboration with architects, designers, and environmental experts to create the sustainable, eco-friendly development that seamlessly integrates with the surrounding natural environment. It would be a wonderful place to own a home which in some cases could have been built on spec, just for you.
As a resort to visit with a family it lacks some of the elements of hospitality you might find in other places – it’s no Soho Farmhouse basically, but it certainly offers privacy, nature and a great sense of escape.