The Midlands has always been one of my happy places. It has just about everything you could possibly ask for: scenery that could make your heart weep with happiness, outstanding food, dozens of quirky shops and lots of outdoor pursuits.
Brahman Hills, I have discovered, is probably one of the best places to explore the Midlands. Its location, just off the N3, makes it incredibly central – but, fear not: you’re not going to be disturbed by highway sounds. To the contrary; thanks to its location in the Blue Crane Nature Reserve, my overwhelming impression of Brahman Hills was its stillness.I stayed in one of the self-catering cottages (although accommodation is also available in hotel rooms). I fell instantly in love: I always think that a fireplace is obligatory when you’re staying somewhere where the nights are cold, and the cottage not only had one of these: it also came equipped with fat sofas and woolly blankets so that you can really enjoy your glass of red while the flames flicker. Creaky wooden floors and rooms splashed with sunlight made the cottage even more exciting, but my favourite feature was definitely the patio, leading off an extremely well equipped kitchen: probably the best place to get contemplative as you enjoy coffee and a rusk and watch the rising sun.
Of course, no trip to the Midlands is complete without a proper meander through the craft and antique shops in the area. But, if you’re not keen to do that, and would rather have a total check-out from reality, Brahman Hills has loads to offer. The fact that I nearly experienced a coronary while hiking up a mountain on the reserve did nothing to detract from its enjoyment – how could it, when there was something new to marvel at with every turn, whether that was an eyeball to eyeball encounter with the Brahmans for which the farm is named, or simply a particularly spectacular view. If you need to massage your stiffness away after your exertions, the staff at the spa can certainly help. This is definitely a highlight: you’ll already be relaxed by the time you enter the building, thanks to your walk through a field of lavender.
The greatest treat of all, however, is dinner at 89 on Copper. The restaurant has an entirely unique atmosphere, thanks to its rather unusual location in a cellar under a barn. The menu changes regularly, but you can expect bold tastes and novel combinations (as an aside, if you don’t feel like eating out while you’re staying at Brahman Hills, but you don’t want to cook either, the hotel will organise a private chef to dish up something delicious in your kitchen).
PS – Don’t leave the Midlands without popping in at the Midlands Kitchen; a market-style hub where the choice is as baffling as the servings are generous. I opted for a giant bowl of nachos on one occasion and a hearty vegan the next, and both were absolutely scrumptious.