With pizza ovens and glammed-up interiors, farm stays may look different these days but their essential magic — animals, countryside and space to run about in — are the same as they’ve been for a century or so. We’ve found the best to let you get close to Britain’s glorious unspoilt nature and enjoy every minute of it.
Agas and sculptural wood-burners set the tone for a smart selection of cottages sleeping between two and ten in one of Perthshire’s prettiest corners. The farm hosts regular events; autumn will see mushrooming and fermentation workshops in its 170 acres; there are Hebridean sheep and angora goats to pet, all a half-hour drive from Dundee. Next year, all stays will include breakfast.
Details One night’s self-catering for two from £120 (guardswell.co.uk)
Redford Farm Barns in Shropshire
2. Redford Farm Barns, Ludlow, Shropshire
With a house sleeping nine and an adjoining cottage for four, these barns make for a stylish countryside celebration. The accommodation is open-plan with rustic and antique furniture plus a touch of taxidermy; Nigella Lawson filmed her Christmas special here in 2017. Chickens and ducks roam outside, while the fields are woven through with walking trails and sprinkled with Rylands sheep. There’s also a bar and games barn (Nigella fans will recognise the darts board) and foodie Ludlow is a 20-minute drive away.
Details Five nights’ self-catering for 13 from £3,228 (redfordfarmbarns.co.uk)
3. Tillingham, Peasmarsh, Kent
All the food groups are covered here; as well as sheep, rare breed pigs and an extensive vegetable garden, there’s a vineyard specialising in natural wine. Day visitors come in their droves for the two restaurants (particularly the Sunday “feasts”) but Tillingham has 11 rooms and two bell tents too. It’s a simple life — the rooms don’t have televisions but views of the vines are ample compensation and the rural-industrial decor works a treat.
Details B&B doubles from £175 (tillingham.com)
4. Pythouse, Tisbury, Wiltshire
Time your stay right at this vegetable-focused smallholding and Pythouse’s produce will take centre stage in the acclaimed Slow Living Restaurant, where typical dishes include courgette roasted over charcoal with yoghurt and caramelised honey. The orchard has six bell tents around a communal living area that includes an outdoor kitchen, and this year has also seen the addition of a shepherd’s hut. Until November, Pythouse has pick-your-own flowers options too.
Details One night’s self-catering from £120 (pythhousekitchengarden.co.uk)
Easegill Cottage in Cumbria
5. Easegill Cottage, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria
A stay on this quintessential Lakeland sheep farm will allow you to observe — or take part in — activities beyond the lambing season in spring, including show preparation and the livestock sale season in autumn. In Eden Valley, this is serious walking country and Wild Boar Fell is just far away enough to make it a challenge. The market town of Kirkby Stephen is nearby and the barn, which has been sensitively converted, has three bedrooms and an outdoor wood-fired hot tub.
Details Three nights’ self-catering for six from £670 (staylambinglive.co.uk)
6. The Silo, Randalstown, Co Antrim
This former grain storage container has just been repurposed as a rounded but unconventional holiday let. The ground floor has an en suite bedroom that sleeps three on a double and single bunk (on top). Up some spiral steps is the sitting room with a circular sofa and a fold-down table. It’s set on a working livestock farm, a short drive from Lough Neagh and an hour from the Giant’s Causeway. Just over half an hour from Belfast, it’s easy to reach from Scotland and Liverpool by ferry too.
Details One night’s self-catering for three from £185 (watersedgestays.com)
Mazzard Farm Cottages in Devon
7. Mazzard Farm Cottages, Ottery St Mary, Devon
These cottages, most converted from barns, sit in a very gentle part of Devon. Parents of young children will love the play areas and extensive collection of toys and equipment available to borrow; children themselves might prefer the pygmy goats, ducks and horses and the chance to play in the orchards. Guests are free to help themselves to apples, greengages, pears and damsons, while Sidmouth is a 20-minute drive away. Most of the cottages sleep up to four people but two of the houses can be joined up to sleep up to ten.
Details Seven nights’ self-catering for four from £350 (sawdays.co.uk)
Nettlecombe Farm on the Isle of Wight
8. Nettlecombe Farm, Whitwell, Isle of Wight
This award-winning farm has been welcoming guests for 40 years; animals include flocks of blacknose sheep and chickens as well as alpacas and an emu, and children can join in at feeding time. There are nine cottages that sleep between three and ten, including one wheelchair-accessible option. It’s near the tiny village of Whitwell — there are views from the farm down to the sea — which means the Victorian resort of Ventnor is a ten-minute drive away.
Details Seven nights’ self-catering for three from £515 (nettlecombefarm.co.uk)
9. Manor Farm, Attleborough, Norfolk
Three generations of the same family have owned this 750-acre farm near Norwich, but now it balances livestock with less intensive farming and a glampsite. Four shepherd’s huts, two yurts and a handful of bell tents share access to a wildflower meadow and an eight-acre swimmable lake that is filled from the farm’s borehole. There’s a communal safari tent with sofas, a hot tub and wood-burning stove, while an outdoor pizza oven augments the hampers with breakfasts or pizza ingredients.
Details One night’s self-catering from £170 (wildwithnature.co.uk)
Nantgwynfaen in Ceredigion
10. Nantgwynfaen, Llandysul, Ceredigion
This collection of antique-filled cottages on an organic farm overlooking the Teifi Valley is gently boho — one of the cottages, Ty Nodyn, has a bed headboard made out of a piano — and there’s a shop that sells the farm’s sausages and eggs. A small glamping site and a games barn for all guests to share create a convivial vibe, and Poppit Sands beach is just over a 30-minute drive away.
Details Three nights’ self-catering for two from £210 (organicfarmwales.co.uk)
My night in Dorset’s answer to Soho Farmhouse
By Hannah Gravett
Chicken coops aren’t typically luxurious, but this is no ordinary farm. I’m staying in the newly converted coop at Outbuildings, near Bridport in Dorset. Where the chickens used to roost there is now a grand king-size bed with a dashing William Morris velvet headboard. An alfresco bathtub — not any old tub, a fabulous copper one by William Holland — faces out to our own wild garden, with a backdrop of rolling fields and hay bales.
Farm’otels are the new bouji break among millennials and I get the appeal. They offer a countryside immersion — home-grown veg from the garden to the dinner table, away-from-it-all setting — with neither the indignity of camping nor the formality of a hotel.
This is my second visit to Outbuildings, which started as a holiday-let business in 2009. It has changed a bit in the two years since my first stay, adding new rooms including the Pen — a swish shepherd’s hut — and the Granary, which sleeps six, plus an on-site restaurant and reception.
The Pressing Room, with a copper bath
CATHERINE FRAWLEYCATHERINE FRAWLEY
It’s as upmarket as Soho Farmhouse, but without the overhype and exclusivity — or the posers.
It helps that the business is a proper family affair. Ed Whitehead has worked with his parents, Karen and Billy, and brother George to turn what was an old dairy farm into this plush retreat. He and his husband, Dom Sanchez, take care of the day-to-day and look after guests, but the family, including Ed’s grandparents and Oscar the dog, all live on the farm. Over our weekend break, Oscar can regularly be found plodding up and down the grounds in search of tummy rubs.
There are seven rooms, including our quaint coop, which is aimed at couples. Split across two floors, it has an open-plan living area fitted with a wood-burner, a teeny kitchen and an upmarket coffee station.
Baths are a big deal here. Book the Cider Room and you get a massive Rotundus copper version, kitted out with jets and bubbles for the ultimate pamper session.
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When you’re not soaking, there’s plenty for guests to do on site. We hunker down amid the bales at the Hay Barn cinema (which can be booked twice daily for three-hour slots) and enjoy the 7.30pm showing, bundled in blankets and with a load of treats. Popcorn, sweets, hot chocolate and more are laid out each evening, while freshly baked handmade pizzas can be delivered for an intermission munch (from £80 for two guests). The only problem is deciding what to watch from the many streaming services — we settled on a horror film.
Then there’s Bubbles in the Woods, a private hot tub squirrelled away from the grounds, so guests can take a soak while watching stars glinting through the tree branches (from £50 for two, for four hours).
All the rooms are self-catering, but you don’t have to cook. The rustic dining barn, Cart Shed, serves a three-course menu on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, cooked by Mark Kick, a former chef at the Ivy in Covent Garden, London (£75pp for three courses and a glass of fizz).
We tuck into West Country scallops, Dorset steak frites, massaman curry and elderflower jelly. Many of the ingredients, including the salad leaves and veg, are grown on the farm. The glasses of Furleigh Estate Classic Cuvée that accompany our meal come from a vineyard just a ten-minute drive away.
The newly converted coop at Outbuildings
For easygoing nights in, there are locally sourced meal packages with everything from homely cottage pie to charcuterie boards and barbecue hampers (starting from £20). We try the Breakfast Bits hamper, which arrives on our doorstep with a selection of full English ingredients, fresh juice and yoghurt with berry compote (£10pp).
We love the farm’s Text for a Tipple service, which brings locally brewed ciders and specialist cocktails to our cutesy porch door from the on-site “Baaa” (cocktails from £10). And Dom and Ed are on hand with a concierge service to help with everything from walking routes to local recommendations.
And there is plenty to do nearby. Just a ten-minute drive away is West Bay beach in Bridport, and we enjoy walking along the cliffs, following the South West Coast Path before going for fish and chips followed by ice cream at Bridport Harbour (the best are at Rachel’s and Baboo Gelato, respectively). Bridport’s historic market (perfect for mooching) takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Lyme Regis is a 25-minute drive and offers guided fossil-hunting tours and the Lyme Regis Sculpture Trail.
But soon the chicken coop calls, and there’s nothing nicer than returning for a doorstep-delivered tipple and a soak.
Hannah Gravett was a guest of Outbuildings. One night’s self-catering for two from £190 (holidayoutbuildings.com)
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