We’ve been cooped up for so long that the chance to go free-range in Britain once lockdown eases will make this spring really special.
With the big outdoors beckoning at last, it’s no surprise that bookings for farm stays are soaring. And while there are plenty of places that offer rustic simplicity by the acre, there are others that give both the opportunity to stay close to nature and to enjoy a bit of luxury, from a bolthole for two with its own bar to a Highlands farm with its own airfield.
It doesn’t get much more bucolic than at Scrogg House Farm, a smallholding in the Yorkshire Dales’ idyllic Rawthey Valley. Two converted cottages – a one-bedroom former threshing barn and a two-bedroom former smithy – come with fishing rights to the River Rawthey, which trickles by outside, with a deep pool for swimming where it meets the River Clough.
Country living: Scrogg House Farm, a smallholding in the Yorkshire Dales’ idyllic Rawthey Valley
Going green: The rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales. With the big outdoors beckoning at last, it’s no surprise that bookings for farm stays are soaring
Walk straight from the front door into Sedbergh, a mile away, or follow the river to one of England’s highest waterfalls, Cautley Spout in the Howgill Fells.
Back at base there’s a dog shower and plenty of human comforts, mixing modern technology, such as underfloor heating and a hot tub, with traditional features including exposed beams and stonework.
The one-bedroom cottage has the best availability, from £206 for two nights (scrogghouse.farm).
From the converted granary cottage on the 1,650-acre organic estate of Bainbridge Farms near Morpeth in Northumberland, a short stroll takes you through the fields to the serpentine-shaped Rothley Low Lake, designed by Capability Brown.
With high-quality Neff appliances in the swish kitchen, plus a wine cooler, this is no ordinary farmworker’s abode. Take a dip in the outdoor hot tub, eat by the chimenea, relax on the balcony leading from one of the two bedrooms and watch farm life going on about you.
There are plenty of other walks nearby – dogs are welcome – plus the gardens of the National Trust’s Wallington and Cragside houses to explore. And if you fancy the idea of a bit of organic farming yourself, the owners are happy to give you an introduction to it.
Bainbridge Farms near Morpeth in Northumberland is close to the gardens of the National Trust’s Cragside House, pictured
A week for four costs from £850 (crabtreeandcrabtree.com).
At David’s Organic Farm in Llanfallteg, Pembrokeshire, guests can even learn to drive a John Deere tractor. The hour-long lesson (for over-18s) is just one of the many activities available when you book one of the five dog-friendly stone cottages on the 450-acre farm. Go fly-fishing on the River Taf, take a nature trail along the disused railway line or climb to the viewpoint overlooking the valley and the Preseli Hills. There’s a rota to feed the animals, including visiting Gruff the pigmy goat.
The most charismatic of the cottages are the Old Coach House, sleeping six, and the Old Mill, for four. A week in April costs from £574 for four, or £667 for six (davidsorganicfarm.wales).
It may be called the Tractor Shed but the converted barn at Maynard’s Farm in Weston-under-Redcastle in Shropshire feels more like something out of Grand Designs, with its open-plan, double-height living area, modern beams and a window taking up the whole of one side.
The Tractor Shed is a stunning converted barn in Shropshire with an open-plan, double-height living area
There’s a master bedroom on the mezzanine and a twin downstairs.
Fans of a full English can stock up on sausages and cured bacon at the farm shop, along with eggs and fresh bread. Outside, the private decking area has a barbecue where you can sizzle yet more sausages – real aficionados can even take a sausage-making or butchery course.
A week for four in May costs from £642 (sykescottages.co.uk).
You will find eight more lovely conversions on the Norfolk/Suffolk border at Wheatacre Hall Barns. On a dairy and arable farm along the Waveney Valley amid the southern broads, with plenty of walks, fishing and birdwatching, they are surrounded by quiet country lanes ideal for cycling (bikes are available free of charge).
Watch the cows being milked, then stock up on a pint or two plus fresh cream at the farm shop. If you don’t fancy cooking, you can order ready-made meals.
At Wheatacre Hall Barns, pictured, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, you will find eight lovely barn conversions
While at Wheatacre Hall Barns you can watch the cows, pictured, being milked, then stock up on a pint or two plus fresh cream at the farm shop
The dog-friendly barns sleep from two to seven. They share a hot tub, games room, fitness and soft-play areas, with a booking system used to ensure social distancing.
A week for seven costs from £1,020 in May (farmstay.co.uk).
If you like the idea of a bar with your barn – and who wouldn’t – the Hampshire Hideaway near Basingstoke is for you.
Sleeping just two people, the converted cart shed on a 1,500-acre arable farm has oodles of space, with dramatic vaulted ceilings, panelled doors and a palette of soft greys and greens. Stock up in the nearby Newlyns Farm Shop – which has a room dedicated to cheese – then crack open the bubbles at your private bar.
There’s a south-facing wildflower garden and walks a-plenty in the surrounding area. It costs from £180 a night through kiphideaways.com, which charges an annual subscription of £14.
There are more romantic retreats nearby in Hampshire’s Meon Valley, on the 2,500-acre Bereleigh Estate, which has a brace of new cabins that exude contemporary rustic chic.
In Hampshire’s Meon Valley, pictured, there is the 2,500-acre Bereleigh Estate, which has a brace of new cabins that exude contemporary rustic chic
Snuggle up in the bedroom by the wood-burning stove and gaze out of the large window which frames the landscape. If cooking in the fully equipped kitchen doesn’t grab you, summon the mobile pizza oven, made from a converted horse trailer, or walk across the farm’s wheat and barley fields to a double-decker bus turned deli.
The rest of the farm is home to several glamping options and two campsites, but dog-friendly Woodland and Cedars Kabins are a half-hour walk away from the action, as well as a 40-minute hike to the South Downs Way.
A night in April costs from £155 for two (cedarvalley.co.uk).
You’ll find unusual animals at the 12-acre Moorparks Farm in Devon, which is home to alpacas and rare-breed Greyface Dartmoor and Swiss Valais sheep.
Moorparks Farm in Devon, pictured, has a couple of two-bedroom cottages that have been converted from barns
Moorparks Farm is home to alpacas and rare-breed Greyface Dartmoor and Swiss Valais sheep, pictured
It’s a special place to stay – even the Indian Runner ducks have a beautifully designed ‘Waddle on Inn’ duck house.
The couple of two-bedroom cottages, converted from barns, have been done up with similar care and have light, modern interiors and private gardens. Between Dartmoor and Exmoor, the cottages have the best of Devonshire’s countryside right on the doorstep, and are just a short drive from the North Devon coast. Three nights for four costs from £380 in May (moorparks.co.uk).
The usual roster of farmyard animals is joined by reindeer and emu at Nettlecombe Farm near the south coast of the Isle of Wight. As well as animal feeding and petting, there are three coarse-fishing lakes where the biggest catch to date is a 20 lb carp hooked by a 12-year-old. Set in rolling countryside near Whitwell, the farm has a series of six circular walks, including the Downs, woodland and coast, and even a hidden waterfall.
Back at base, there are nine dog-friendly cottages with simple modern decor.
When you order groceries in advance, be sure to include the local Mermaid Gin or Isle of Wight wine. Seven nights in April costs from £565 for four (nettlecombefarm.co.uk) with car ferry returns from £66 (wightlink.co.uk).
There’s a real treat for whisky-lovers at Newhall Mains on the Black Isle Peninsula in the Highlands. On the farm they grow barley which guests can see being turned into Scotland’s national drink at the local distilleries of Balblair and Dalmore.
Highland jet set: A cottage bedroom at Newhall Mains on the Black Isle Peninsula – which also has a private airfield
The usual roster of farmyard animals is joined by reindeer and emu at Nettlecombe Farm, pictured, near the south coast of the Isle of Wight. Back at base, there are nine dog-friendly cottages with simple modern decor
The converted granary cottage on the 1,650-acre organic estate of Bainbridge Farms near Morpeth in Northumberland
The five cottages around a courtyard have been crafted from 18th Century farm buildings. But there’s nothing antiquated about the Tesla charging points, underfloor heating and elegant interiors that are more boutique hotel than farmhouse B&B.
The farm even has its own airfield if you want to charter a private plane to get there in style. Three-bedroom Red Gates is dog-friendly, has a wood-burning stove in a large kitchen diner, and views of the farm’s Jacob sheep whose wool is used to spin the cottage rugs. From £290 a night in May for six (newhall-mains.com).
For somewhere a bit more rustic, check out the trio of corrugated iron and wood bothies at Newton of Begshill in Aberdeenshire. One was adapted from an old chicken shed, another is based on a mobile milking parlour and a third is a romantic bolthole for two with a bed on its mezzanine.
Boutique Farms Bothies offers a trio of corrugated iron and wood bothies (one is pictured above) at Newton of Begshill farm in Aberdeenshire
Colourfully decorated with vintage finds, they have wood-fired hot tubs and a slipper bath by the window for star-spotting. Cook on the wood-burning range or in the pizza oven.
Three nights in May for four costs from £450. Dogs are welcome (boutiquefarmbothies.co.uk).
Go one step closer to nature and stay in one of five safari tents at Kittisford Barton near Taunton in Somerset.
While there is no electricity, you can expect comfort under canvas here – pine beds, a proper bathroom with shower and heating courtesy of a wood-burning stove.
One of the bedrooms in one of five safari tents at Kittisford Barton near Taunton in Somerset. While there is no electricity, you can expect comfort under canvas here
During the day, collect eggs from the hens, meet the goats and explore more than 200 acres of trails, woodlands and fields. Then return for an evening toasting marshmallows on the fire pit or take up the option of the wood-fired hot tub.
Four nights for six in May costs from £401. Dogs are welcome (glampinghideaways.co.uk).
If glamping isn’t your thing but you take sustainability seriously, check out the trio of wooden Dorset Eco Retreats near the village of Ansty, with ground-source heat pumps, turf roofs and wood-burning stoves.
Inside one of the trio of wooden Dorset Eco Retreats near the village of Ansty. They have sleek interiors with velvet sofas and bifold doors that open on to stunning scenery
But there’s nothing hair-shirted about the sleek interiors, with velvet sofas and bifold doors opening on to stunning scenery.
By day, enjoy the views of Bulbarrow Hill and the Blackmore Vale and, by night, star-gaze from the wood-fired hot tub. There are plenty of walks nearby.
A week for six people in May costs from £1,262 (dorsethideaways.co.uk).
- Places listed had good availability at the time of going to press. In England, self-catering stays may be possible after April 12. An announcement in Scotland is due in mid-March but hospitality is not likely to reopen before the end of April. In Wales, a review is due on March 12.