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The words ‘luxury’ and ‘pig-sty’ are rarely heard in the same sentence, but Kim Jones takes us on a walking holiday that changes all of that, in The Cotswold Way.
“So, guys…we’re going away for the weekend to enjoy lots of bracing, long walks in the countryside!”
If that kind of statement never gets the rapturous rounds of applause you always (hopelessly) hope for from your children when you mention ‘walking’, try adding this: “Oh, and we’re going to be staying in a pigsty…”
Telling them that you’ll be bedding down on your break away where pigs used to pig-out should pique their interest. Plus, it’s a great way to divert the minds of reluctant little ramblers enough for them to be excited about going on a walking break away.
Of course, where you’ll actually be staying is a luxurious barn conversion, fitted and kitted out to top-notch and tasteful standard, but children love to hear the story of how the beautiful, five-star Monks Mill Barn did once house plenty of big, bruising and, (according to the Barn’s owner Stephy), particularly bad-tempered piggies.
The barn – nestling in a peaceful valley in Wortley, near Wotton-under-Edge in The Cotswolds – was converted into a luxurious, modern holiday home three years ago. The downstairs is an airy and bright open-plan living and dining space, with double-height windows offering a serene and expansive outlook to rolling farmland grazed by sheep beyond. With huge sumptuous sofas to sprawl on and bookcases bursting with reading material plus board games to cosy up with, it oozes sophisticated calm. Upstairs are two large and impeccably decorated galleried bedrooms, both ensuite.
We arrived on a cold Friday afternoon to a – very welcome – ‘Welcome Hamper’ of food filled with produce from nearby Wotton Farm Shop, including bread, jams and a delicious coffee and walnut cake. (The shop does a good range of home-made ready meals if you don’t fancy cooking every night, too) Our cocker spaniel got a gift of dog biscuits and, with coffee soon brewing, we all immediately felt at home. Sitting right on The Cotswold Way – a National Trail running through rolling farmland, woodland tracks and quiet grass and flower-verged roads – Monks Mill Barn is perfectly placed for walking.
You can take a pleasant route to the nearby town of Wotton-under-Edge (kids will love being tasked to spot the next ‘acorn sign’ en route) where there are a few coffee stops and pubs to refuel in.
Or, you can go all-out and take your OS map (and plenty of snacks) with you to venture out for the full day. We headed to the National Trust Newark Park Estate complete with strutting peacocks and deer, and then on to the pretty and secluded Ozleworth Valley, passing through farms and woods, fields and tracks.
Walking will definitely help you work up an appetite and if you’re not cooking in the lovely kitchen at Monks Mill Barn, then head off to the dog-friendly pub – The Black Horse – in North Nibley, a 10 minute drive away for hearty food and an open fire.
We only had the weekend to explore but if you stay for longer, then nearby classic Cotswold towns to visit include Tetbury and Cirencester. Though, even if we’d extended our stay, I suspect I’d have been happier just enjoying more country rambles and the subsequent warm comfort and tranquil views that Monks Mill Barn offers up.
There aren’t many places these days where silence really does reign supreme. And if you’ve worn your kids out on a few walks, then they’ll be surprisingly (blissfully) quiet too. The Barn has to be one of the loveliest self-catering properties we’ve ever stayed in. The pigs’ loss was definitely our gain.
Monks Mill Barn, Wortley, near Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire GL12 7QP.
For more information, visit monksmillbarn.co.uk