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Forget the creaking houses with rationed hot water or the overzealous sheepdog that might have scarred you from childhood – staying on a farm has never been so tempting. The farm-to-fork movement is only accelerating and at spaces across the UK you can jump straight to the source by booking a room and getting a peek of rural working life on a weekend break. The delight of diving into a breakfast of implausibly yellow eggs is perhaps only trumped if you collected them yourself; the same with oddly shaped beetroot ready to be roasted or a perfectly dirty potato. Stand by for a taste of The Good Life and greedy gulps of the fresh air.
Guardswell Farm, Perthshire
BEST FOR: FAMILIES
Wind back the clock for a taste of an enviably bucolic life at the 150-acre Guardswell Farm, which sits between the Perthshire villages of Abernyte and Kinnaird. After den building, tree climbing and feeding the sheep at the children’s outdoor day camp, lunch is served around a campfire. And for the grown-ups, there are no-dig organic-vegetable-growing workshops, the chance to build a birdhouse and flower-pressing masterclasses. In the farmhouse, which was gutted by the Lamotte and Wilson families when they took the helm in 2011, a red Aga takes centre stage amid stone floors, mismatched crockery and jugs overflowing with fresh flowers.
Address: Guardswell Farm, Kinnaird, Inchture, Perthshire PH149QZ Book your stay
River Cottage, Devon
BEST FOR: FOODIES
The Axe Valley stretches below the 17th-century longhouse at River Cottage HQ; chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s West Country sanctuary in Axminster. Inside are whitewashed walls, exposed beams, stacks of wood and no televisions; the idea is to tune into the rhythm of farming life instead. For a simple supper, order a sharing platter to the farmhouse, which might include carrot and split-pea houmous, caramelised onion, sage-and-cheddar arancini or ham-hock terrine. On the day-long River Cottage Experience, a tractor and trailer takes visitors to the farm to meet the animals and explore the vegetable patch before they tackle bread making and the art of home-cured bacon. End the day with a three-course supper made from foraged ingredients and washed down with a glass of elderflower or a local beer.
Address: River Cottage HQ, Trinity Hill Road, Axminster, EX13 8TB Telephone: +44 1297 630300 Book your stay
The Farm Camp, Wiltshire
BEST FOR: CAMPING
The cry of newborn lambs is likely to be your only distraction at this off-grid camp on a fifth-generation sheep farm outside Bath. After a hectic stint in Hong Kong and London, founder Tim Bowles returned home eager for a simpler life. The Farm Camp was born, with wood-burning stoves in the bell tents, campfires outside – and, crucially, hot showers and real beds. Try your hand at sheepherding or immerse yourself in a morning of den building, wood carving and mastering fire skills. And set off for the Hartley Farm Shop half a mile away to restock supplies or sneak yourself a doorstep-sized bacon sandwich.
Address: The Farm Camp, Church Farm, Winsley, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire BA15 2JH Telephone: +44 1225 582246 Book your stay
Tillingham, East Sussex
BEST FOR: WINE BUFFS
After hand-planting 10,000 vines in 2018 on his farm in Peasmarsh near Rye, Ben Walgate was faced with two months of no rain. It was a taste of nature’s unpredictable plan, but today his biodynamic vineyard is riding high. Pick from Tillingham’s own bottles or its selection from producers around the world in the wine bar and shop, and head upstairs to the restaurant for supper. Produce from the farm and walled garden dictates the menu, which might include Jerusalem artichoke and wild-garlic pesto or rhubarb poached in Tillingham rosé. Book one of the 11 rooms in the former hop barn, with views across the original Victorian farmstead and the 70-acre rolling estate, plus the sea and Romney Marshes in the distance.
Address: Tillingham, Dew Farm, Dew Lane, Peasmarsh, East Sussex TN31 6XD Book your stay
Killiehuntly Farmhouse, Inverness-shire
BEST FOR: ADVENTURE
The dread of a damp Scottish steading, complete with tired tartan, will evaporate on arrival at Killiehuntly Farmhouse, where Danish tycoon Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne have mastered Scandi-Scot style. Sheepskins are flung over chairs; white linen drapes hang from the sash windows; and floorboards are stripped back. After breakfast – eggs from the farm, poached fruit and black pudding, perhaps – venture outside for a skin-tingling swim in the River Tromie, watch the sheepdogs working on the hill or go stalking with the gamekeeper. Recharge in the sauna yurt before tucking into supper made by the in-house chef using organic vegetables from the garden.
Address: Killiehuntly Farmhouse, Killiehuntly, Kingussie, Inverness-shire PH21 1NZ Telephone: +44 1540 661619 Book your stay
Coombeshead Farm, Cornwall
BEST FOR: PRIVACY
A piglet was given to chef Tom Adams for his 16th birthday; by the time he was 22 his interest in pigs showed no sign of waning and he had co-founded the barbecue restaurant Pitt Cue in London; and five years later in 2016 he set off for east Cornwall to open Coombeshead Farm with chef April Bloomfield. With 66 acres of meadows and woodland at the place’s disposal, the aim is to be self-sufficient. The set supper menu includes Coombeshead’s own ham, preserved swede, crabapple and perhaps beeswax ice cream for pudding. And while social distancing is in place, the farmhouse is open for exclusive hire only, where squares of fudge and carafes of rhubarb gin await in the six pared-back bedrooms.
Read our full review of Coombeshead Farm, Cornwall
Coombeshead Farm, Cornwall: England’s best farm-to-fork restaurant
Kingshill Farmhouse, Kent
BEST FOR: WILDLIFE
During the winter months, tens of thousands of wildfowl can be seen soaring above Kingshill Farmhouse on the 3,300-acre Elmley National Nature Reserve. But there is also a year-round spectacle of wildlife for guests – from brown hares to dragonflies – as a result of Philip and Corinne Merricks’ commitment to conservation during their 40 years of farming the marsh. In 2013, their daughter Georgina and son-in-law Gareth Fulton joined them on the family estate to continue their vision. Take in the sweeping views of the reserve from the kitchen of the renovated 18th-century farmhouse, where cows dot the horizon, before soaking in a standalone bathtub while you try to fathom how you’re fewer than two hours from London.
Address: Kingshill Farmhouse, Elmley National Nature Reserve, Elmley, Isle of Sheppey, Kent ME12 3RW Telephone: +44 1795 664896 Book your stay Like this? Now read: The best log cabins in the UK
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