The diversification of agriculture has long been a trend in farming, undertaken to preserve the industry as times and consumer demands have changed. But diversification into tourism is a relatively new concept. As self-catering has become the popular way to holiday and with more weekend-away tourism, recent years have seen a huge growth in the number of converted farm buildings for rent. Canny farmers have turned to rebuilding - saving properties that might otherwise have been destroyed - and designing their disused barns and stores to attract worn-out townies looking for a little tranquillity. At the same time we, the renters, are helping to preserve part of our heritage when we stay in these charming links to our past.
Little Duxmore Barn, near Havenstreet on the Isle of Wight, is a perfect example. A 300-year-old barn, it was converted in 1993 and has been refurbished to a high standard to make the most of the surrounding countryside and light. There is a stunning double-height entrance hall, with its floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors on both sides. This space houses the dining area, which sits at least eight. This is a social property (it sleeps eight), a house for sharing; well-suited to families who want to spend time together in peaceful surroundings.
Situated in the heart of the Isle of Wight countryside in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Little Duxmore is encircled by fields of organic wheat with only one other house in view. Surrounded by a private, enclosed garden, it has a further acre of grounds with a footpath through a wood connecting to the island's network of paths and bridleways.
The comfort factor
A truly tranquil setting with relaxing rural views on all sides - the only sound you'll hear is the tweeting of the birds. The décor is simple and tasteful with quality country-style furniture. In the living-room there are DVDs, videos and books for cosy winter evenings or rainy days. There is a well-equipped kitchen with a Rayburn cooker, washer-dryer, dishwasher and microwave.
There is a main bathroom on the ground floor; good for guests with accessibility problems. There's a smaller bathroom with shower upstairs. Both are stocked with complimentary Gil-christ & Soames smellies.
The food and drink
A hamper bursting with goodies awaits guests on arrival. In the nearest village, Havenstreet, the White Hart Inn (01983 883 485) serves up good fare, but it's best to book ahead. If you want something to take home, products from Isle of Wight Lavender (01983 825 272; lavender.co.uk) or The Garlic Farm (01983 865 378; thegarlicfarm.co.uk) make good souvenirs.
You're unlikely to meet anyone wandering around the barn except for the local wildlife. If you venture out you'll cross paths with all manner of people - from elderly, female ramblers, to groups of cyclists and families enjoying some of the many seaside attractions. If you want to mingle with the sailing set, head for Cowes.
The nearest town, and one of the ferry ports, is Ryde (three miles), one of the island's classic seaside towns, with sandy beaches for winter walks on fine days. The barn's central location means that there is easy access to anywhere on the island, including two other ferry ports, Fishbourne and Cowes. There are so many family attractions on the island you'd be pushed to squeeze them into a week, but watch out for seasonality.
There is good access downstairs with the open dining area and a ground-floor bedroom and bathroom, although it would be a squeeze trying to get a wheelchair into the living-room. There is parking outside the front door.
Three nights from 11-13 November costs £621 for the whole property.
Little Duxmore Barn, Rowlands Lane, Havenstreet, Ryde, Isle of Wight PO33 4DS. Book through Rural Retreats (01386 701 177; ruralretreats.co.uk).
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* Annes Grove, Co. Cork is a gothic tower rescued by the Irish Landmark Trust (00 353 1 670 4733; irishlandmarktrust.com) .
* The Bee House & The Hive (01531 640 021; premiercottages.co.uk) are two converted cottages near Ledbury.Reuse content