Farm-stays are brilliant for low-key, low-cost (in most cases) and green family holidays and breaks. Farm-stay accommodation is often in cottages converted from barns and other old agricultural buildings, but glamping (‘glamorous camping’) options such as safari-style tents and yurts are increasingly popular.
Most prevalent in the UK and France but available in various other European countries (in Italy they're called agriturismi), farm-stays are especially well suited to families with very young kids, who adore having friendly farm animals on tap and lots of space and fresh air to run around in.
On many farms with accommodation, guests can join in with daily tasks, including animal-feeding and egg-collecting, and feast on home-grown veg and other produce sold in on-site honesty shops. As such, good farmstays – such as Feather Down Farms – can be perfect examples of sustainable and local travel, perfect for green family holidays.
Many of the below are also great for multi-generational holidays or, when several units are combined, as large holiday homes for groups and families.
Just 10 minutes from sandy beaches, this organic livestock farm with three self-catering cottages, glamping shepherd’s hut for two (with private lake) and B&B rooms is a great base for exploring the family-friendly island and visiting retro Godshill Model Village with its miniature trains, bonsai trees and squirrel trail. But the array of cute animals on site, many tame and strokeable, will make kids want to stay home: in addition to cows, rare-breed sheep, pedigree pigs and horses, there are rabbits, guinea pigs and the star turn – alpacas.
In a stylishly converted stone building on traditional Little Goonreeve Farm, barely changed since the 1950s, this delightful property has decking, a small garden and open access to 20 acres of farmland. Visitors are free to join in farm tasks such as feeding and can buy meat, eggs and organic vegetables produced on site. The cottage sleeps four in a master bedroom and bunk-room, or there’s a neighbouring property for up to six.
This three-bedroom contemporary conversion is on a mixed farm keeping Black Welsh Mountain sheep, Red Devon cattle and traditional breeds of pigs and chickens, offering its own meat in season and eggs most days. Depending on when you stay, there are brilliant activities to join in with either on-site or nearby, including Whimple Wassailing (driving evil-spirits out of the orchards), mountain-biking through the bluebells, vintage tractor rallies and hay-making. You’re within easy reach of the Jurassic Coast with its fossil-hunting, but in fine weather the outdoor swimming pool will tempt you to stay put.
In the courtyard of a 200-acre dairy and sheep farm in the Blackdown Hills AONB, this characterful barn sleeping 6/8 has direct access to extensive walking paths, some through ancient woodlands, others alongside the River Lupp adjoining the farm, and one to a National Trust Iron Age fort on Dumpdon Hill. Guests are welcome to have barbecues in the large orchard.
On a working farm and riding centre (to which guests can bring their own horse or pony), this restored granary with its cosy woodburner and space for four is one of three on the same site (booked together, they accommodate up to 15). Kids love watching the chickens and pigs in their free-range enclosures, and there’s an array of footpaths and cycle routes nearby, including canal towpaths.
This Oxfordshire farm and horse livery yard welcoming well-behaved dogs and horses gives onto a brilliant network of bridleways and walks. You can see sows farrowing all year, ewes lambing in spring and mares foaling in spring/early summer. The five-person cottage with its exposed stone walls includes baby and toddler equipment such as a stairgate and highchair.
Just east of the Peak District and also handy for the child-friendly attractions of Matlock and for Alton Towers theme park, this collection of seven farm properties sleeping up to 80 sits in three acres of lovely farmland running alongside the River Amber. On-site you’ll find a fruit orchard, a petting zoo and children’s play areas, and kids can feed the animals and collect eggs with Farmer Vic.
This dairy farm by the River Wyre (part of the popular Feather Down Farms group; see above) gives families staying in its safari-style glamping tents the freedom to go wild swimming, build dens in the woods and romp in the indoor play barn with its straw bales. The honesty larder stocks tasty treats including cheese from the farm’s own goats. The coast is just 15 minutes away, and you’re also close to both the wild landscapes of the Forest of Bowland and the thrill rides of Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Bramble Farm Cottages, near Clitheroe
These three properties (sleeping two, seven and eight) occupy converted 19th-century barns on a working sheep farm where kids can join in with lamb-feeding from March to May. Set in 170 acres of environmentally managed farmland in the heart of the Forest of Bowland AONB, they’re perfectly located for exploring the Ribble Valley and for visiting Brockholes Nature Reserve, the Bowland Wild Boar Park and the Roman museum at Ribchester.
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Sleeping six, and pet-friendly to boot, this stone cottage is one of four set around a 12th-century farmhouse in open farmland underneath the Skirrid Mountain in Monmouthshire. Kids are free to explore and make friends with the animals, including Kune-kune miniature pigs, a huge Gloucester Old Spot, a donkey, goats, sheep, ducks, dogs, cats and loads of horses and ponies – including Tinkerbell, a tiny rescue pony. They can also collect their own eggs for breakfast. Added bonuses include a heated indoor pool, a hot tub, a games room and an on-site riding school with tuition for ages four and up.
Bodwi Farm Cottages, near Abersoch
This homely four-person property a mile from the sandy beach of Abersoch on the Gwynedd coast is one of three neighbouring the owner’s working farm, all of them dog-friendly and all with enclosed gardens with views of the farmland, mountains and sea.
Though not an actual farm, this luxurious seven-bedroom farmhouse on the Gower Peninsula has a whole bunch of resident animals including dogs, cats, horses, chickens and ducks, and also welcomes your own dogs and horses. Set in 35 acres of natural forest, pastureland and flower meadows, it has a large carp-filled lake with a jetty and a rowing boat.
This dog-friendly holiday cottage sleeping five can be booked with another one on the same working dairy farm to sleep 10 in total. Located directly on the long-distance Ayrshire Coastal Path, it comes with spectacular views of Arran and the Mull of Kintyre and is just a few steps from the beach. Farm tours are available.
Tips for Farm-stay Holidays
• Don’t arrive with a car full of food. Many farms providing accommodation have honesty shops where you can stock up on its own and other local produce, plus essentials such as matches and loo roll.
• In properties with only a wood-fired stove, take a portable gas hob – lighting the stove and waiting for it to heat up just to make a morning brew or boil a pan of water for pasta becomes wearing.
• Find out if fireguards can be loaned to place in front of log-burning stoves; if none can be provided, take your own if this is a concern. Ask too what baby equipment can be hired.
• Take extra blankets in case what’s there isn’t sufficient.
• Bring toys and simple games (board games and low-key sports such as cricket and rounders), and avoid hand-held games, laptops and so on – farms are an excellent environment for kids to learn to play independently without the diversions of modern life, and for parents to learn to relax and let their offspring roam free to some degree.
• Check extras you can book in advance. For instance, some farms let you hire a rabbit for your stay so kids can get a taste of having responsibility for a pet.
• Find out about activities such as farm tours and the chance for children to muck in, whether it’s milking goats or feeding leftovers to the pigs.
• Think about bringing a telescope if none are provided – most farms are in good locations for star-gazing.