If staying on a farm may not sound like the idyllic, relaxing summer holiday you might have been planning, put your preconceptions of stinky pigs, noisy cows and mud and muck aside: staying on a working farm can be a richly rewarding experience.
In fact, research from the holiday booking company Farm Stay shows that farm stays and glamping have surged in popularity in recent years with many people looking for a unique and enriching holiday experience.
Whether you’re a couple looking for some quiet time in a unique environment, or a family with kids seeking an educational adventure, there’s a farm for everyone in Britain, and many of them offer experiences so you can get up close and personal with the animals around you.
Imagine waking up to the sound of roosters and bleating lambs, or feeding the chickens and collecting fresh eggs for breakfast. Stay at one of these farms and might get to harvest crops, help shear the sheep or even deliver newborns. It doesn’t get more hands-on than this.
Here is our pick of the best farm stays across the UK – each offering a hands on experience that children and adults of all ages will enjoy.
Best farms stays in Britain
Live alongside the livestock in the Yorkshire Dales
Tucked away amid the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales, the Wensleydale Experience brings together rustic luxury and real life farming. Come here to meet the resident highland cattle and rare-breed pigs, but stay for the gorgeous, impossible-to-leave accommodation.
On farm tours, you’ll learn about sheep farming and its impact on our economy and get to pitch in with brushing their affectionate rabbit or feeding the Shetland pony. There’s cattle, chickens and even llamas to meet, and the pygmy goats are known for joining in with the tours. At the right time of year, you might even get to bottle-feed a young calf or witness lambs being born in spring.
And when you’re not working hard with the animals, you can kick back in one of the farm’s six yurts. More than just a round tent in a field, these bijou little boltholes have proper double beds, elevated outdoor decking for sundowners and even showers, toilets and private hot tubs. The best part? Those endless Yorkshire Dales views. wensleydale-experience.com
Try foraging and falconry in the Cotswolds
The Notgrove Estate is so quintessentially Cotswolds with its dry stone walls and picture-perfect cottages, it almost feels like a film set. It’s very real indeed, though, and it has been in the hands of the Acland family for decades. Harry Acland, its current custodian, has turned the 1,500 acre estate into a veritable adventure destination while keeping its farming roots firmly grounded.
Come to stay in one of their glamping pods, luxurious self-catering safari tents or the modern apartments and you’ll get to roam freely around the estate on foot or – if you’re feeling adventurous – on an electric quad bike, and take part in exciting rural experiences. Try foraging for the wild food that grows all around us, from nettles to berries, with a local expert, or take a hike into the forest with a falconer to watch birds of prey hunt in their natural habitat. notgroveholidays.com
Learn some rural skills in Monmouthshire
TV’s own Kate Humble and her husband Ludo Graham got drunk at a friend’s house one night and a few weeks later, ended up living on a farm. Okay, it wasn’t quite as simple (or fast) as that, but that was one of the many things that led Humble and Graham to opening Humble by Nature, a gorgeous, 117-acre working farm in the Welsh countryside.
Today, it’s a serious operation. There are rare pigs, cows, chickens and sheep, all looked after by farmer Tim, and a handful of holiday cottages and shepherd’s huts offer you the opportunity to stay amongst it all. There’s more to it than just farming, though. The whole place was designed to connect the public with the land, and reintroduce the rural skills that have long dwindled from CVs over the past century. Come here and you can learn everything from traditional hedge laying to dry stone walling and willow weaving. humblebynature.com
Go pro with grow your own in Kent
Known as the Garden of England, Kent is a rich, fertile land where fruit and hops have flourished on farms for centuries. At Rebel Farmer, just on the edge of the Kent Downs, the fruit and veg grown on Ed Kyrke-Smith’s land is all ethically grown using no-dig/permaculture methods and it’s all chemical-free.
From rare heritage crops, including unusual strains of wheat, to micro greens and salad, there’s a lot to get hands on with when you stay here. You can take an “introduction to growing” tour where you’ll get to see the whole operation, or a family-friendly gardening course. Accommodation is in the handsome 21-foot tipi, which sleeps up to five and has a shower block and compost toilet nearby. rebelfarmer.co.uk//rebel-farmer-tipi-stays
Pick your own wine in Devon
Staying on a vineyard has its obvious advantages: not only do you get access to some of the best bottles from recent vintages, but you’ll probably be one of the few to taste what’s going into the next lot, too. At Old Walls Vineyard in Devon, there vineyard tours and tastings of their reds, whites, sparkling and rosé wines for everyone, but those who stay during the autumn months can take part in the “stay and pick experience”.
For four nights, you’ll stay in one of their six luxury lodges which overlook the vines, spend your days harvesting the grapes (until you get bored), and evenings watching the sun set over the vineyard with a good vintage in hand. There’ll be wine tasting and experts on hand to answer your questions on all things viticulture, and hearty breakfasts in the onsite bistro. Best of all? They’ll send you a case of the wine you made when it’s bottled the following year. oldwallsvineyard.co.uk/stay-and-pick-experience
Learn to shear sheep in Aberdeenshire
Where else in the world can you learn to shear a sheep and spot dolphins on the same day? Right on the Aberdeenshire coast, with ocean views and rolling pasture, Stonebriggs is a gorgeous 200-acre, family-run beef farm. Alongside their cattle, there’s a herd of woolly sheep which, come springtime, need a good haircut.
Come to stay here and you’ll get the opportunity to join in the shearing, learning why it’s done, how the clippers work and perhaps even have a go yourself. At the right time of year – usually in June and December – you can also help out with the lambing season and see the delivery of their Dorset Horn sheep. Accommodation is glamping style in shepherd’s huts and barrel-shaped lodges. downonthefarm.net/farm-experiences-aberdeenshire
Here are more farm stays as chosen by the BBC Countryfile Magazine team
Explore on horse back, Devon
Would you like to take your horse on holiday? If so, Lowerton Farm is the perfect place – with a great livery stable to accommodate your horse and miles of bridleways and open common to explore.
If you are a climber, kayaker or keen to explore the moors on horseback or foot then Lowerton Farm is the ideal location to start your adventures from. You can relax and experience the beauty and activities that Dartmoor has to offer, then relax in front of a log fire in the farmhouse before getting a well deserved nights sleep and awakening to fantastic views. Dogs are welcome when arranged prior to your visit. lowertownfarmdartmoor.co.uk
Head for the hills, North Yorkshire
Carr House Farm in Ampleforth, North Yorkshire is home to Cuckavalda Gundogs – these are working dogs, with a great temperament and provide wonderful companionship. The dogs can play as big a part in your holiday as you wish, you are welcome to take them out for walks or simply enjoy their company. It’s the perfect way to introduce your family to the joys that owning a dog can bring. carrhousefarm.co.uk
This summer guests can also enjoy a foraging walk and learn how to cook their finds with experienced forager Lisa Cutcliffe from Edulis Wild Food.
Embrace a digital retreat and reconnect with nature, Northern Ireland
If the thought of a digital detox sounds appealing, then Ash Park in Dungiven, Northern Ireland could be the retreat for you – with no electricity or wifi it offers the perfect chance to slowdown and reconnect with nature. This luxury camping has outstanding views towards the Sperrin mountains across the lush green countryside, is close to the world famous basalt columns that form Giants Causeway and only an hour from the hustle and bustle of Belfast. The eco-friendly farm overlooks the beautiful Mountains and is home to an abundance of wildlife and delicious produce to forage. mountainskyglamping.com
Enjoy a wild swimming adventure, Shropshire
Does relaxing in a beautiful wooden hot tub, next to a fresh water lake sound appealing? How about larking about on a floating trampoline in the middle of that lake or a spot of fly-fishing? Or waking up in a farmhouse, then venturing out as the mist rises to go wild swimming? These are amongst the exciting things on offer in this delightful farm in Shropshire.
Upper Shadymore Farm’s design comes from its original use as a deer park that was created by Robert of Stapleton in 1284. The park still has two herds of fallow and red deer that can be seen on the 200-acre farm, alongside other animals throughout the year; from pedigree sheep and their lambs in the spring, to beef cattle and Black Rock and Speckledy hens. featherdown.co.uk/location/upper-shadymoor-farm
Meet the farm animals, North Yorkshire
A wigwam in Scarborough you say? Humble Bee Farm is not your typical rural farmhouse break – you get a lot closer to the farm yard animals when sleeping in a wooden wigwam, set in a 320 acre farm, and get to leave your modern luxuries and conveniences at home.
You can follow the signposts from the farm and walk along the Yorkshire coast or jump aboard the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and take a journey back in time traveling through the heart of the moors.
If you would prefer a bit more luxury you can stay in one of the cottages – a 200 year old barn conversion. Two of the cottages have hut tubs and all three have wood burning stoves. Both wigwams and cottages are open 12 months of the year. humblebeefarm.co.uk
Learn outdoor skills, Cornwall
Botelet Farm in Liskard, Cornwall has been looked after by the Tamblyn family for 150 years – the rural way of life hasn’t changed much – with cattle and sheep grazing the wild flower meadows and historic farming practices still going strong. Although the site of a Monoglian yurt or a few tents pitched on the rolling farmland can remind you which century you are in.
Natural mineral water is pumped from deep below the orchard, try the seasonal organic breakfast and why not relax with a therapeutic massage or a spot of reflexology. You can opt for a night in the organic B&B, relax in one of the beautiful historic self-catering cottages or stay a bit closer to nature in a yurt or tent. botelet.com