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Over the Farm Gate

Escape the crowds, head to one of these ‘hidden’ rural gems

This year the UK is going to be busier than ever with families looking to spend their summer holiday

This year the UK is going to be busier than ever with families looking to spend their summer holidays here rather than abroad. Predictably, our favourite summer destinations are going to be super popular with holiday makers and day trippers, so why not seek out the delights of an area that’s not quite as well-known, yet boasts all sorts of exciting sights and experiences?

Here we highlight the counties waiting to be explored in a perfect Farm Stay family holiday…


Lincolnshire is a large county stretching from the Humber Estuary in the north, down the North Sea Coast ending at its border with Cambridgeshire in the south.

This wonderful county has the best of all worlds, including the rolling hills of the Lincolnshire Wolds descending to the flat, wide open expanses of the Fens with their big skies.

Those who love the traditional seaside experience, are spoilt for choice with Cleethorpes, Skegness and Mablethorpe offering ‘golden sand’ opportunities. Of course, there are plenty of quieter spots where you can enjoy sandy beaches and long walks with the dog. Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve is a dynamic stretch of unspoilt coastline running southwards from the edge of Skegness to the mouth of the Wash.

The city of Lincoln is a great place to explore with its magnificent cathedral and castle at the top of the cobbled Steep Hill, and Lincolnshire itself is famous for its links to aviation.

If You Do One Thing: Visit the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre.

A Day In Nature: Skellingthorpe Old Wood Walk, not far from Lincoln, offers ancient woodland, once a haunt of the Vikings. It’s brimming with diverse flora and fauna.

Leicestershire & Rutland

Leicestershire and Rutland are landlocked counties that nestle alongside one another, both packed with history, activity and nature. The rolling countryside in these counties is popular with equestrians who love to ride their horses along the many quiet bridleways that walkers can of course also enjoy. Walkers and cyclists can also explore the National Forest near Ashby de La Zouch, while Conkers is an activity park with a wealth of fun outdoor activities ideal for families.

History buffs will enjoy exploring Leicester city centre to discover more about Richard III in a permanent exhihibition, but don’t miss Rutty the Dinosaur whose huge skeleton can be found in Leicester’s New Walk Museum! In Rutland, Oakham Castle is worth a visit to see its remarkable display of over 230 ornate oversized horseshoes – each one presented by a peer of the realm on their first visit, dating back to King Edward IV.

Love food? Head to Melton Mowbray which has earned itself the title of Rural Capital of Food with its locally made Stilton cheese and of course, the original pork pie.

If You Do One Thing: Spend the day at Rutland Water – there’s just so much to do! One of the largest artificial lakes in Europe, it offers everything from walking, cycling and fishing, to birdwatching and a variety of water sports. There’s even a little beach for children!

A Day in Nature: Bradgate Park, a public park in Charnwood Forest, near Leicester, has a wild and rugged landscape with dramatic rocky outcrops and gnarled old oak trees. Look out for the deer!


Northamptonshire is full of surprises with historic buildings including Broughton House, known as the English Versailles, Rockingham Castle, built for William the Conqueror and a fascinating unfinished Elizabethan structure, Lyveden New Bield, full of religious symbolism. The National Trust are reopening the latter to the public this summer after extensive work to enhance the visitor experience.

The river Nene offers attractive stretches of water perfect for a gentle day aboard a canoe paddle boarding, or fishing, while the Nene Way offers walkers the opportunity to stroll along a peaceful route exploring the Northamptonshire Wetlands, famous for its birdlife.

If You Do One Thing: Visit Althorp House, home to the Spencer Family

A Day in Nature: Stanwick Lakes a 750-acre countryside attraction and nature reserve in the heart of the Nene Valley with play areas, open spaces and paths for nature lovers to enjoy. Don’t forget your binoculars!


If you love hiking, you’ll be interested to know that the Shropshire Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is said to have as many distinct individual hilltops as any area of England, apart from the Lake District.

The county is steeped in history — King Arthur is thought to have been born here, Wroxeter has the remains of the fourth largest Roman city in Britain, and at the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the Ironbridge Gorge has UNESCO World Heritage status. Visit Bridgnorth Castle and you’ll see it has a tower that tilts at a greater angle than the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

The county town Shrewsbury has a strong Tudor influence as can be seen in its many half-timbered houses, while other towns of note are Ludlow and Telford. If you love gardening, why not time your visit to coincide with Shrewsbury’s spectacular annual Flower Show in August.

Speaking of festivals, another highlight on the calendar is Ludlow Food Festival in September. This is one of the few food festivals that takes place within the grounds of a castle and, in normal times, is enjoyed by foodies from round the world.

If You Do One Thing: Climb aboard a train at Telford Steam Railway.

A Day in Nature: Carding Mill Valley offers a walking route across the wildlife-rich heathland with views across the Shropshire Hills and Long Mynd, ancient common land.