Three upmarket rural retreats

Chris Carter looks at how to get back to nature without compromising on the creature comforts.


Hacienda Zuleta: the "genre-definer" when it comes to upmarket farmland retreats

Hacienda Zuleta, Ecuador

A number of Ecuador's haciendas colonial-era country estates surrounded by expansive farmland have been turned into upmarket retreats in recent years. But "by any reckoning, Hacienda Zuleta is the genre-definer", says Paul Richardson in the Financial Times. It is the original and "perhaps the best".

Founded by Jesuits in the late 17th century, the Andean manor house occupies a high valley, the "crests of mountains rising on either side". It has been in the Plaza Lasso family for the last 100 years Galo Plaza Lasso was the country's president for four years until 1952. There is a sense of "settled routine" that pervades the house, yet "the hacienda has continued to evolve", with the restoration of a colonial patio into a dining room and a newly opened farm shop selling the produce from the estate's 300 Holstein-Friesian cows.

In April of last year, Zuleta opened its Condor Huasi ("house of the condor") Education Centre, where guests can learn about the hacienda's "ambitious" conservation projects, including its condor sanctuary. "I watched in amazement", says Richardson, as wild condors, "dark dots becoming great black flying carpets", swooped down to investigate those being reared in captivity, then soared off again towards the towering summits.

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Single Threads Farms, California

Californian husband and wife team Kyle and Katina Connaughton moved to the Japanese island of Hokkaido, where Katina worked in a traditional 500-year-old kaiseki restaurant. Later, they moved to England where Kyle oversaw research and development at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, Berkshire.

Recently, they have decamped to the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, California, "to open up a restaurant with elements of their adopted homes abroad", says Christine Ajudua in The New York Times. The result is Single Threads Farms, which has five stylish guest rooms, designed by New York-based outfit, AvroKO.

There are also roof gardens, greenhouses, and an 11-course tasting menu. "The vibe is a relaxed West Coast take on Japanese hospitality," says Ajudua. Dishes are smoked in a donabe (a traditional clay pot) and served on Japanese-made ceramic dishes.



Coombeshead, Cornwall

April Bloomfield made her name at the River Caf in London before moving to New York in 2003 to open her own gastro pub, the Spotted Pig. Now she's back in Britain at Coombeshead Farm, a Georgian farmhouse in Cornwall, with her business partner, chef Tom Adams, the owner of east London's trendy eatery Pitt Cue. The farmhouse features a living room warmed by a wood-burning cast-iron stove and sheepskin throws, says Jay Cheshes in The Wall Street Journal. There's also an "honesty bar", from which you can help yourself to Scotch and house-made cordials and tinctures.

"Guests are received like old friends" and invited to hang about the kitchen, stealing a nibble while dinner is being prepared, which is then served around a long wooden table. Should you get peckish between meals, "just-baked bread and charcuterie are available all day". If all goes to plan, two more barns, a small restaurant, bakery, cookery school, smokehouse and extra guest rooms will all be added to the property. From next year, guest chefs will be dropping in for a few days at a time to forage, teach and cook.

To book a table or rooms, go to

Om baaaaaaa: the next trend in yoga

From hot yoga to Bikram, aerial yoga and even the naked kind, you might think all bases had been covered for yoga enthusiasts. But no, says Claudia Cuskelly in the Daily Express. Now there's "goat yoga" at No Regrets Farm in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. The animals wander around and may even pounce on you as you strike your poses. It may sound silly, says owner Lainey Morse. But "it's really just about getting outside in nature with beautiful scenery and having animals around you". See for details. A yoga session costs from $10.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.