Dannah Farm featured in the Observer 19 July 2009
In June this year we were contacted by Farm Stay. The Sunday newspaper, The Observer , were looking to feature a farm offering luxury accommodation with spa facilities on a working farm. Dannah was chosen and a few weeks later the travel writer, Matt Carroll, arrived to sample The Studo and also The Spa Cabin. We were delighted when the article appeared, and just in case you don’t read the Observer here it is in full!
It’s Sheep and Chic on the farm.
Forget the wellies - today's farm B&Bs are all spa baths and stylish sofas. You can still make a pig of yourself though, says Matt Carroll
Having grown up in rural Gloucestershire, I've always loved the "smell of the country". Where other people smell cow dung, I smell idyllic Saturday mornings spent mucking about on my mate's family farm as a youngster - tipping cows, firing air rifles and other wholesome activities.
Imagine my disappointment, then, when I arrive at Dannah Country House Farm, just south of Matlock in Derbyshire, to find that the air is suspiciously fresh. "Where are all the animals?" I ask Joan, the farmer's wife.
"Oh, they're out in the fields," she says, nonchalantly, pointing towards the rolling hills stretching away to the horizon. This is not like any farm I've been to before. But it's not just the absence of visible livestock that distinguishes Dannah from your average smallholding; it's the standard of luxury in all the guest rooms.
Gone are the days when staying in a farmhouse B&B required wellies and a fly swat. Along with dozens of other enterprising farms across
"This button works the hot tub," says Joan, as we drop off our bags and order champagne. Every room here is individually designed, the only common features being spa baths, flat-screen televisions and iPod docks.
"We took over the farm in 1985," says Joan, "and started offering B&B rooms a year later. Back then an en suite toilet was considered 'luxurious', but tastes have changed. People expect more nowadays - not just creature comforts but a sense of style, too."
We are in the Studio Hideaway. According to the website it's "perfect for that really special occasion when only something truly different will hit the spot". It's different all right.
Spread over two floors, it has a sitting room with stylish brushed-leather sofa, and a walk-in shower room with a stone floor. Best of all, though, there's a hot tub and private chill-out area at the back.
We head out for a romantic meal at the Saracen's Head in nearby Shirley. Tucked away in a warren of country lanes, this place dates from 1791 and, despite having been recently renovated to gastro pub status by its thirty something owners, Robin and Terri Hunter, it retains an authentic country pub feel.
The first thing I notice when we walk through the door is a roaring fire, and a bar full of beer taps serving strangely named ales.
The menu is unashamed "English pub food", and I struggle to finish my enormous portion of fish and chips. Everything is prepared on site, right down to the ice cream we polish off for pudding.
Saturday begins where Friday left off: with an enormous meal that leaves me incapacitated. This time it's breakfast, with local sausages (obviously), bacon, eggs and all the trimmings.
If you really don't want to drag your groaning stomach around, there's no need to leave the farm. A vast blue sky is stretched tightly over the surrounding fields, and the lawn has just been mowed.
As I head to the front garden, trying to come to terms with just how stuffed I feel, the only sounds I can hear are birds flitting about in the bushes and bees buzzing away among the flowerbeds. This is the kind of place where a day can easily drip away with nothing but a good book and copious cups of tea.
If, like me, you crave a bit of "farm" with your "house", you won't be disappointed. The sheep may be kept at arm's length but there's always Sally Longlegs and Charming Andrew - a pair of pigs that live in the yard. As I venture over to take a peek, all I can see is a pair of trotters and a bulbous pink backside poking out of the corrugated iron sty. The only testament to them being alive is the rhythmic snoring emanating from within.
If you look closely, though, there is evidence that Dannah Country House is a bona fide farm. Across the yard I spy
It's the perfect combination of luxury townie touches and homely country comforts - and it suits me down to the (muddy) ground.
Dannah Country House Farm has doubles from £140. The Saracen's Head (01335 360330) is in Shirley, near Ashbourne.