Victorian showmans wagon in Dorset

Idyllic and eco-friendly: Shepherd’s huts are perfect for your next rural getaway

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Shepherd’s huts offer the ultimate alternative getaway destination in the UK – private accommodation that’s perfect for couples, situated in breathtakingly beautiful locations and all with a low environmental impact. Find out why I think you should give them a go, as well as what to expect and where to find them.

The other morning I was sitting outside, sipping from a mug of hot coffee and watching birds flutter in and out of the hedgerow just in front of me. Beyond, the rolling hills of the Dorset coast stretched out in front of me, tumbling down to the sea that I knew was hidden just a mile or so away, veiled from sight by a clump of oak trees. The sun was starting to peek out from behind the early cloud and there was birdsong everywhere. We were less than two hours drive from home but in another world.

I don’t like to think of myself as a creature of habit. But at this moment I realised I’d become one. A creature of holidaying habit.

You need to hear me out. I think I’ve found the perfect formula for rural getaways in Great Britain.

Shepherd’s huts.

Or tiny homes, traveller’s wagons, cabins. Whatever you prefer to call then. There was even a lorry called Lottie we once pitched up to.

We’d just spent the night a renovated showman’s wagon dating from the 1870’s, and it wasn’t our first stay in a shepherd’s hut or wagon. Not even our first this year (our third, I now realise on counting!).

Something keeps luring me back, time and time again.

If you’re a couple planning a countryside escape, I don’t think it gets much better than this. Space of your own to kick about in, charisma and character by the bucketload and instant access to the great outdoors. Plus, you’ll find cooking facilities and a private bathroom almost always as standard – perfect if you like to do your own thing when you’re away, or prefer not to share. They’re also gentle on the planet, with a far smaller impact on the environment or communities than more commercial places to stay.

I’m not planning to hang up my adventurous boots just yet. But after our most recent stay, it’s hard to see why I would choose any other place to stay. I can explore the length and breadth of Britain knowing there’s the perfect kind to place to put my feet up at the end of the day.

Here’s why I think you’ll love shepherd’s hut stays too – plus where to find them and what to expect.

Where can I find shepherd’s huts?

With a nod to their origins as an agricultural vehicle, you’ll find most shepherd’s huts and cabins in the UK in rural areas. And with that in mind, shepherd’s huts are the perfect choice for anyone looking to enjoy the great outdoors – whether that’s hiking up hill and down dale, enjoying coastal strolls or beach days, or simply taking it all in over a cup of tea where you’re staying. You’re just a likely to find a hut or cabin in a prime coastal location as you will in an off-the-radar rural spot.

And they’re cropping up all over the country too. We’ve stayed in fabulous huts and cabins across Wales, the New Forest, the Peak District and Dorset in the past few years – and I hope to add more destinations to that list in the near future.

View from Peak District shepherd's hut
View from our shepherd’s hut in the Peak District this summer

Many are located on farms or larger properties but you’ll also find plenty in village locations or the fringes of town – ideal if you fancy a pub or things to do within walking distance.

It’s also worth keeping your eyes peeled for excitingly different options.

There are options in much more urban areas too. A couple of years ago we enjoyed a fantastic alternative weekend in Cheltenham, staying in a gorgeous shepherd’s hut tucked away at the far end of a garden. With its own private access and surrounding space, we had the best of both – a central location as well as one that felt secluded and peaceful.

Are shepherd’s huts for me?

Shepherd’s huts are the perfect option for couples. You’ll find some huts that offer bunks as well as a double bed, but most are set up for two guests.

And whilst we don’t have a canine companion, many advertise themselves as dog-friendly. As most have plenty of outdoor space on offer, I imagine they’d be ideal for a stay with a four-legged friend.

They’re also a great choice for anyone who wants the freedom to prepare their own food and drink. You might struggle to create gourmet meals here, but they’re super if you like to breakfast on your own schedule and make packed lunches (perfect if you plan to picnic or be on your feet all day like us). It’s also pretty common to find a barbecue onsite for alfresco dining during the warmer months. Otherwise, we’d always recommend checking out a local pub for dinner or whipping up a simple one-pan dish.

As shepherd’s huts are often in more rural or remote locations, they often best-suit folks who are travelling by car. This gives you the freedom to get out and about as much as it makes getting there easy.

What’s it like staying in a shepherd’s hut?

Cosy, in a word.

Whilst shepherd’s huts can vary enormously in my experience, there are a few key things in common.

First is a compact living space, containing both a bed and space to sit down, usually with a small or foldaway table.

Second is a small kitchen space to prepare basic meals and hot drinks.

And third is outdoor space.

Interior of shepherd's hut in the New Forest
Interior of a gorgeous hut we’ve stayed in twice in the New Forest. The bed folds down where the table is

What Shepherd’s Huts lack in space they usually more than make up for in character. Authentic restored huts and wagons are often bursting with period details, such as real wood floors and original furniture. Hand-built wagons, made by the owner are often more rustic but feature little gems you might not find elsewhere. And modern builds are often polished to perfection, with high-end detailing and clever use of space to create practical – as well as hugely inviting – places to stay.

Apart from the occasional off-grid option, most shepherd’s huts have electricity as standard and many have electric heating for cooler days and nights. WiFi is less common, but check the listing before booking if this is a deal-breaker. You’ll find some cabins equipped with a log burner as an alternative source of heat, perfect for autumn and winter breaks. Don’t discount off-grid options, especially for short stays, as this can be a magical experience – with just lanterns for light and a fire for warmth.

The living space tends to overflow into the great outdoors. With most shepherd’s huts situated in rural locations, it comes as no surprise that most folks who let shepherd’s huts or cabins try to make the most of this space. It’s normal to find a deck, patio or seating area outside – perfect for morning coffee or an evening tipple. For a truly memorable experience, I’d highly recommend looking out for a fire pit or hot tub for alfresco evenings.

Last but not least, the question I am most often asked. What about the bathroom?

This varies enormously between different cabins and huts. That said, en-suite bathrooms are very common and often delightfully luxurious in our experience. Occasionally more rural options either offer a nearby bathroom in an outbuilding or a fully enclosed shower and toilet just outside the cabin – rustic and a little breezy but always spotlessly clean and perfectly functional. Personally, I don’t mind any of these options, but an ensuite waterfall shower always feels most like a treat.

Shepherd’s huts and sustainable tourism

Over the years I’ve picked shepherd’s huts for lots of reasons. Because they’re great fun, can be found in fantastic locations and because they suit us down to the ground as an outdoorsy couple.

But more recently, I’ve come to realise there’s an additional bonus. They’re a sustainable option too.

Sustainable tourism is a pretty complex subject, but there are a few things about shepherd’s hut stays that I love which help to contribute to communities and minimise impacts on the environment.

For starters, in most instances, you’re choosing to support a small business rather than a major hotel chain or accommodation provider. These often have large environmental and carbon footprints that extend beyond the venue where you choose to stay. You’re also choosing to avoid the minefield of second homes and holiday rentals that can contribute to social and economic problems in rural areas, making it harder for local people to live locally.

Shepherd’s huts and cabins are also a relatively low waste with a low carbon footprint. Shepherd’s huts and cabins are often built from timber and corrugated metal by small businesses based in the UK – or adapted from existing vehicles. Plus there’s no hotel freebies or breakfast buffet leftovers resulting in unnecessary waste. Electricity and gas usage is low as they’re such compact spaces.

Best of all, lots of owners are proud to promote the sustainability credentials of their shepherd’s huts. From solar panels on the roof to eco-friendly toiletries, extensive recycling to upcycled building materials, there are some fantastic, awe-inspiring options out there. We loved a completely hand-built off-grid hut we stayed in in the Brecon Beacons – it was the ultimate in low-impact, high-enjoyment holidaying.

Where to book a shepherd’s hut for your next holiday

There are dozens of ways to find great shepherd’s huts for your next getaway. Here are my favourite ways to track down great options.

Airbnb

As a big corporation that takes hefty fees from owners, Airbnb isn’t the most sustainable option. But when it comes to choice and ease of use it can’t be beaten. In particular, it’s great for tracking down last minute availability. We’ve found most places we’ve stayed this way, including our recent escape to the Dorset coast.

www.airbnb.co.uk

Google it

Forgive me for stating what might sound like the blindingly obvious. But if you know (roughly) where you want to go this is an option not to miss. Why? Because it’s a great way to track down local providers and small businesses who might not feature on big booking platforms. We found the super Pembrokeshire Barn Farm through a simple search.

Cool Camping

My favourite for online inspiration, Cool Camping features some truly wonderful destinations. Whilst I’ve not booked shepherd’s huts through this site, the campsites discovered have been as magical as hoped. As they feature a curated list of huts and cabins you’ll want to book well in advance if you’d like to grab somewhere featured here.

www.coolcamping.com

Canopy & Stars

The company that puts the glamour into glamping. If you’re looking for a luxurious shepherd’s hut stay, Canopy & Stars is a great place to start. If Cool Camping specialises in exceptional locations and getting away from it all, Canopy & Stars specialises in outstanding accommodation. One for all of you who feel a little nervous at the idea of an outdoor shower and would prefer something a little more comfortable.

www.canopyandstars.co.uk

Bergere shepherd's hut in Tivoli, Cheltenham, UK | Travel guide | Girl with a saddle bag blog
Le Bergere in Cheltenham – an unexpected urban surprise

A little inspiration from A Girl With A Saddle Bag

Last but not least, I couldn’t talk about my experiences staying in shepherd’s huts without pointing you to some more reads about our own stays.

To my slight regret I’ve not documented every stay for you – but I’ve blogged about a few that’ll give you a little flavour of the trips we’ve been on.

Have you tried a shepherd’s hut for a rural getaway? What would you recommend to anyone trying this type of trip for the first time?

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Alice
girlwithasaddlebag@gmail.com
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