When the city rush becomes too much, or the only type of cattle you remember are the ones served up on your plate, a farm break could be the answer to your urban fatigue.
Whether you’re looking for a free bed in return for a day of fruit picking in the sunshine (could happen), tucking into some fresh cheese made by your own fair hands or galloping over the hills on the back of a trusty steed, the UK has a host of retreats to suit your rural ambitions.
High Bullen, Exmoor
Best for: Horse riders
Game Of Thrones nerds, console yourselves now that season three’s over by getting off the sofa and unleashing your inner Daenyres Targaryen or Jon Snow on horseback. At High Bullen farmstead in the Lyn Valley, you can spend a weekend learning to gallop across the heather moorlands of Exmoor National Park.
The courses are suitable for complete beginners and experienced riders and you can take part in moonlight rides, horseback treasure hunts or cross country jaunts during the visit. Accommodation is in a 17th-century farmhouse which has wonderful views to the Black Mountains of Wales. From £220pp, including meals.
The Magdalene Project, Somerset
Best for: Green-fingered travellers
Get really stuck into farmhand life on The Magdalen Project, where volunteers can stay free of charge for anything up to three months (meals included) in exchange for pitching in on the farm. This could include fruit picking, fence painting or getting involved with the horticultural side of things: sowing, planting out or hedge laying.
Workers tend to clock off about 3.30pm so after you’ve downed tools you can go wandering in the nearby hills, borrow one of the farm’s bikes and go for a cycle, or help out in the organic kitchen and pick up a few farm cooking tips.
Hagley Bridge Farm, Somerset
Best for: Foodies
Attention cheese-lovers, this holiday could just be your dream come true. Hagley Bridge Farm is a working dairy where you can spend the entire weekend devoting yourself to the making and eating of all sorts of mouthwatering cheeses.
Over two days you’ll learn how to make Mediterranean, British, soft and creamy or hard and bitey varieties, which you can stuff down on the spot or bring home to admiring flatmates. Hagley Bridge also runs cheese-making courses which also involve making your own bread and chutneys to go with your handiwork. From £210pp.
The Toft Alpaca farm, Warwickshire
Best for: Animal lovers
Are you on good terms with your landlord? Good enough to move in your brand new pet alpaca? If you have a hankering to hang out with these four-legged fluffballs, head to the Toft Alpaca Farm in Warwickshire, where you can stay in the on-site cottage and learn everything there is to know about looking after them.
The farm runs regular hands-on workshops or you can stay on one of their pet days, where you get to test drive the furry creatures on walks and take them on an obstacle course. They’re all for sale, so if there’s one that particularly takes your fancy – better start clearing the junk out of your yard. From £40pp.
Cold Harbour Cottage, Kent
Best for: Country folk
The award-winning Cold Harbour Cottage offers a stay in a 1760s building, aimed at recreating the old-fashioned lifestyle that an 18th-century farming family would have had. Owners deliver country tours that include hikes through the fields, old farming method demos and – should you ever need them – shepherd’s survival techniques for living on the windswept marshlands. From £400pw (sleeps four).
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