Read my review of a weekend family stay at Ilfracombe Farm, Devon, part of Featherdown Farms. Glamping on a working farm.
I spent my honeymoon glamping on the Isle of Wight in a yurt. We had big plans for a Caribbean getaway, but after all the stress of organising even our rather informal wedding (I arrived by narrowboat and the reception was in a cheesy museum), we just wanted to relax.
So, we found a pretty yurt and glamped. I loved every second of it.
Since then we’ve been to loads of festivals and gone camping, and I love those too. But glamping, well that little bit of extra luxury is always very welcome!
What is glamping?
noun [BRITISH] informal
Merging of the words glamorous and camping = glamping. It is camping involving more luxurious accommodation and facilities than those usually associated with traditional camping.
Glamping is camping in the great outdoors, but with a little less ‘roughing it’. It’s a bit more glamorous with a few more luxuries, making it an easier experience. Expect better accommodation than a nylon tent, perhaps a canvas bell tent, lodge or yurt. You’ll still be sleeping outdoors, but all the usual tasks might be a bit easier.
Check out my list of the best glamping accessories.
Just seeing a tipi, bell tent or other glamping accommodation always captures my heart. There’s something so special about the elegant shapes and the wonder within. Add a few fairy lights and nearby running water and I’m sold.
What are Feather Down Farms?
Feather Down Farms are working farms across the UK and abroad that have glamping facilities. You stay on the farm and get to experience a little bit of farm life through animal feeding sessions, farm tours and looking after your own chickens.
Although naturally each location will be very different, the accommodation is the same at them all.
The (very instagrammable) rustic lodges have no electricity or hot water and light comes from oil lamps and candles, but there is running cold water and indoor toilets. There’s a wood burner for cooking and warmth in the cosy and spacious lodge, and a cool box acts (surprisingly well) as a fridge. There’s no need to set anything up, just arrive, unpack and unwind.
Many have play barns and honesty shops and some even have hot tubs (no hot tubs at Ilfracombe at the time of writing). Ours also offered an amazing pre-bookable wood fired pizza night.
With no screens for distraction, they’re a great place for kids and adults to roam free. What elevates it from camping is the luxury of a proper bed and bedding, a kitchen, shower, and toilet. And the breathtakingly charming interior of the lodge!
Feather Down Farm, Ilfracombe – The Accommodation
After our drive to the North Devon coast, we were greeted in the parking lot by the lovely farm owners, Andrew and Kelly. They gave us a brief tour of the farm then led us down the field to our accommodation. Past the adorably noisy pigs in the barn (I swear then knew the sound of Andrew’s car and walk on the gravel as they piped up every time he was around but ignored everyone else!), we walked in the evening sun out into the open glamping field. There are four canvas lodges, split with two at the higher part of the field and two at the bottom. They’re close enough that you can enjoy if you book two as a party, but far enough that you don’t feel encroached on by neighbours. Everyone there was so chatty and friendly though and all the kids ended up playing together.
After our tour, we loaded our belongings into a wheelbarrow and headed to our new home for the weekend. We stayed in one of the four canvas lodges on the farm, and it was spacious and comfortable with an open plan living/dining/kitchen area. I’m sure we all audibly gasped with delight as we entered!
The lodge has it’s own toilet inside and a separate private shower just outside. The sofa is comfy and the rustic table has seating for six, with candle chandeliers above. It was all very comfortable and we found everything we needed, from a corkscrew to firelighters. It sleeps six, so the four of us were all very comfortable with plenty of space.
We were all enchanted by the lodge as soon as we stepped inside. I’d seen the interior online before, but kept it all a surprise from my husband and kids – and I’m glad that I did. The kids found the cupboard bed and immediately climbed inside! The lodge comes with luxury bedding, but you have to make up the beds yourself. Everything we needed was around and there are loads of gas and candle lanters.
So, once we had explored our home for the weekend, we made up the beds, lit the candles and sat down to a glass of wine. Bliss. As the kids ran around outside at dusk, we opened a board game, let the kids stay up late and had a great time.
There’s such a peaceful feeling at the lodge, as you look past the canvas doorway out into fields of sheep. The sun set to the right of our lodge, so we stepped out and gazed past the fields to the not-so-distant sea view with crimson skies above.
The bedding supplied is all hotel quality, giving a luxe feel to the lodge, and there’s a double bedroom, bunk bed room and the famous Feather Down cupboard bed.
My kids both slept in the cupboard bed, and they liked that they could open one door and see us in the living area, and at night we opened the other door into the main bedroom. That helped them to sleep knowing that they could see us, even in an unfamiliar place.
We brought a battery operated lantern, so they kept it in their cupboard bed all night. Note that the lodge only has gas and candle lanterns which obviously can’t be used in the cupboard bed, so be sure to bring a safe battery one if your kids will want safe light in the night.
The lodge sleeps six, so there’s a bunk room, double bedroom with real bed and double cupboard bed. All the beds have quality mattresses, thick duvets and hotel quality bedding.
I’d advise you to bring bathrobes, even in the summer. It helps with that luxury feel, plus it takes an hour to get the wood stove hot enough to make a cup of tea, so it’s a slow start to the morning. (tip: Ilfracombe Farm has an electric kettle in the shop that you can use if you don’t want to wait for your morning brew!)
The lodge has a woodburner, as well as a charcoal barbecue outside. Although it took about an hour to really get hot enough to cook on, I enjoyed using it! The kitchen has a good range of pots and pans, as well as a coffee pot, cutlery etc…
Before we went, I packed the essentials for some favourite recipes (I made my peanut stew and lentil tomato stew). I put all the necessary spices into small jars, brought tinned tomatoes and pulses and just had to chop the veggies at the farm.
It took longer to cook than at home, but got a wonderful slow-cooked flavour. For breakfast, we grated a potato for a rosti for breakfast with warmed plum tomatoes and eggs from our chicken outside.
Rather than a fridge, there’s a large cool box. You just pick up ice blocks from the shop (free) and replenish them daily. It works surprisingly well!
If you don’t fancy cooking on your first night, Andrew and Kelly offer a first night meal that you can book. In hindsight I wish we had as we arrived much later than expected due to terrible traffic. Still, we managed!
Safety – The lodge is equipped with CO2 and smoke alarms, as well as extinguisher and fire blanket. There’s also a fire guard that you can put around the wood burner. There ‘s a hand washing station with soap in the play barn to wash hands after touching the animals.
Pets – no dogs are allowed on this site.
If you’re at all squeamish about camping, then you probably want to know about the toilet and shower. Well here they are in all their glory.
The shower is a wooden hut and inside is a power shower and a few hooks to hang up your towel. I quite liked using the shower on a hot day. It has a powerful power shower and I loved the smell the steam created in the wooden shower hut. It’s just a few steps away from the lodge. Bring flip flops though as there’s uncomfortable bark chips that you won’t want to navigate barefoot.
As for the toilet, well, it’s a toilet. It’s clean in there, not at all spidery and everything works as it should! There’s certainly a novelty in going about your business by candlelight.
Play barn – Ilfracombe Farm has a large play barn with pigs, goats and sheep (kids can help during feeding time), plus there are goats and sheep in the fields.
There’s a trampoline, vintage tractor to climb on, ball pit and ride on toys.
It’s also close to two towns and numerous beaches so there are adventures to be had nearby. My kids spent most of their time playing with kids from neighbouring lodges looking after the chickens that roamed around. They started out nervous, never having been so close to a chicken before, and by the end they were happily carefully picking them up and putting them back into their coops.
Ilfracombe Farm is on an open field so we bought a cheap kite in Woolacombe and all the kids on the farm enjoyed playing with it!
Honesty shop – there’s a small shop inside the play barn with local gifts and some basic provisions (beans, cereal, soft drinks), as well as second hand books to swap. I would have loved to be able to pick up local milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables, but the owner explained that since Ilfracombe is just a 5-10 minute drive they don’t stock much.
Thing is, after many hours in the car to get there we certainly didn’t want to get back into it for supplies! Luckily we brought food and drinks with us.
You’ll likely need a car for Ilfracombe Farm, but there are lots of adventures to be had just a few minutes drive away.
It’s just 10 minutes drive to the magnificent Woolacombe Bay with a vast award-winning 3 mile golden sand beach and selection of restaurants, amusements and shops. Near the beach there’s an outdoor pirate-themed play centre with low prices for bumper boats, racing cars, crazy golf etc… My kids loved popping in there.
There are lots of seaside shops for kids to spend pocket money, plus a Spar corner shop. The beach was busy as it was such a hot day, but it’s so big that there’s plenty of space.
5 minutes away is Ilfracombe, another beach town which is renowned for being the home of the famous Verity statue by artist Damien Hirst. You can also head to Tunnels Beaches, just 10 mins drive from the farm, with a network of Victorian hand-carved tunnels that lead to unique sheltered beaches and a tidal bathing pool.
FeatherDown Farm – What to Pack
Since everything is all set up for you, you don’t actually need to bring that much! Just food, toiletries and a few extra home comforts and activities. Here’s what I’d recommend you pack:
Matches and firelights (they supply a few, but you don’t want to run out!)
Battery lantern (there are oil ones in the lodge, but my kids wanted a light in their cupboard bed so I’m glad we brought a safe battery lamp)
Towels (if not included in your lodge)
Beach shelter and beach toys if going to Woolacombe or Ilfracombe
Dressing gown/bathrobe (even in the summer, this feels luxurious while you wait for your morning tea on the wood burner!)
Flip flops for the shower
Charcoal, if you plan to barbecue
Olive oil, salt and pepper
Ingredients portioned out for meals
Throw blanket (useful for sitting on outside or cuddling under in the lodge)
Hot water bottles
Hand sanitiser (only cold running water in the lodge)
Food, drink and toiletries
Marshmallows to toast in the wood burner
Kite (Ilfracombe Farm is perfect for kite flying!)
Board games and cards
We pre-booked the pizza night and were so glad that we did! They have an outdoor pizza oven and have the most fluffy and amazing dough, plus a huge variety of toppings. We gathered on the picnic tables and everyone made their own massive pizzas.
The dough was thick, fluffy and our whole party declared it the best pizza they’d ever had. There were loads of toppings to choose from so everyone was happy. Andrew then manned the wood pizza oven and they were ready in just a few minutes. The pizzas were huge so the kids polished them off for breakfast.
My son made his in the shape of a cat and (much to my embarrassment) shouted “kill the cat” when Andrew put it into the pizza oven. Eight year old boys can be so strange…
Summary of our stay at Ilfracombe Farm – Feather Down Farms
We made a lot of memories at Ilfracombe Farm. The kids will never forget sleeping in a cupboard and learning how to pick up and look after chickens. With no screens we all really connected and loved playing board games, making crafts and just running wild. There was such a freedom for the kids. They ran, they played, they explored. We had spectacular weather, which made it even better, but I imagine the lodge would be cosy on cooler nights.
Our adventure to Woolacombe Bay beach was lots of fun, and luckily it’s really close by. But really we were all itching to get back to relaxing in the lodge. And relaxing we did! Sitting on deck chairs in the sun, stoking the fire for a dinner stew, lighting the candles at dusk – all magical. The kids ignored the few toys we brought and relied on their imaginations instead.
I read books, chatted to all the animals (because I’m that sorta gal) and savoured every drop of a wonderful coffee that took an hour to get the fire hot enough to make in the morning. I cherished relearning the art of slow living. I loved putting my phone away for the weekend. Sure, I could have surfed on 4G (and may have uploaded a few instagram stories to share it all with you!), but instead I switched off and reconnected with life away from social media. I need to do that more often.
Andrew and Kelly were wonderful hosts. Chatty and friendly without ever invading. Their own young children came to help on pizza night and it was nice to see all the various kids running about together. Ilfracombe Farm has only had glamping for one season, but they’re doing it all really well. It’s a great location and is so welcoming.
We would definitely recommend this holiday to anyone. Ilfracombe Farm has the best of upscale camping, slow living, quirky trendy surroundings in the lodge and beautiful beaches. With towns on the doorstep and numerous seaside villages, there’s a lot to explore.
Feather Down Farms completely captured our hearts. It’s a great balance of slight ‘roughing it’ and comfort. We’ll be back.
Disclosure: We were guests of FeatherDown Farms. All opinions are our own. Check out my other travel posts, including free range fun staying in a log cabin at Bluestone Wales, or a literary weekend in a 14th century cottage in Stratford Upon Avon.