Are reports of the demise of the staycation a little premature? Farm & Cottage Holidays, the largest agency of its kind in one of our favourite British destinations, the South-west, is reporting healthy bookings for this summer, suggesting that our holiday affair with the UK, rekindled by the strong euro and vagaries of Iceland's volcanoes, isn't yet over.
"We've seen an increase in two-week bookings as many families opt to stay in the UK for their main summer holiday," managing director James Morris confirms. Although he cautions that it isn't exactly a shoo-in for domestic tourism, adding: "Customers are definitely doing more browsing and research, with the average booking made after three website visits."
Farm & Cottage Holidays, which has more than 1,200 properties in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset on its books, also appears to be profiting from a wave of nostalgia and an apparent resurgence of interest in farm-based breaks. "Potential bookers are really keen to find out whether the kids can get up close to farm animals. The lambing season is especially popular," says Mr Morris.
One such property in its portfolio is Cory Farm, at the end of a track just across from the cliffs of the North Cornwall coast. It is home to a herd of 150 cows and hosts three holiday cottages set in traditional stone barns, that sleep eight, six and four. Prepare for a sensory onslaught, for visitors stay close to the action in the heart of the farmyard (pack your wellies for poor weather), which is patrolled by the owners' very friendly dog, Finn.
The design and decor lends all the cottages a bright and airy feel, with white walls and wooden floors, pine furnishings, and gingham curtains and subtle florals adding a light touch of country styling. I stayed in Stanbury Cottage, which sleeps eight and shares a small entrance hall with Marsland Cottage, which sleeps six. Combined, they make a good choice for large groups. The main living area in Stanbury is a big open-plan space with exposed rafters and plenty of windows to let the light flood in. A well-equipped kitchen is arranged against the back wall and separated from the sitting area by a dining table large enough to seat eight (don't put on the appliances before going to bed if you want a good night's sleep, the soundproofing between the floors isn't great). The rest of the room is a lounge, with two comfortable settees positioned to focus on a small TV. A bedroom at the rear has an ensuite bathroom fitted to cater for visitors with disabilities. The rest of the sleeping room is on the lower floor – three more bedrooms, two doubles, of which one is ensuite, a single, and a family bathroom.
The food and drink
It would be a pity not to make the most of farm shops and smaller suppliers on a retreat to the country, but there is a Morrisons in Bude and a Waitrose at Holsworthy. Check out the cosy local pub, The Bush Inn (bushinn-morwenstow.co.uk), which has a new restaurant serving a superior menu created from local produce at breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7.30am to 9pm. Life's a Beach (lifesabeach.info) is the silly name of a rather good cafe set above the sands at Bude, which serves fresh and hearty snacks by day and a restaurant menu by night.
A huge old barn has been kitted out for kids with climbing apparatus, a trampoline and other play equipment – a boon on a wet day or when you want to run the last energy out of little legs on return from the beach. There's a large lawn, too, with a table for outdoor dining. Get a flavour of farm life watching the cows being milked. Duckpool beach is a five-minute drive, while Marsland Mouth is a 35-minute walk through the Marsland Valley. Serious hikers can join the South West Coast Path. Horse riding is available at the local stables, which caters for riders with disabilities, too. The bright lights of Bude are just 10 miles away.
The cottage is fully wheelchair accessible and the owners are able to hire other specialist equipment on request for people with limited mobility. One well-behaved dog is welcome (but no bull terriers, staffs or rotweillers).
Cory Farm Stanbury Cottage can be booked through West Country cottage specialist Farm and Cottage Holidays (01237 459951; holidaycottages .co.uk) from £640 for a week's stay. Smaller units are available from £390 a week.
Cory Farm Cottages, Cory Farm, Morwenstow, Bude, Cornwall, EX23 9ST.