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Review of Southlands Farm Cottages, Northumberland

Posted by Paul Miles at 10:28 on Wednesday 05 October 2011

>> For contact details and more information, see our full listing of Southlands Farm Cottages 

Exterior of the delightful stone built cottages and patio at Southlands Farm. Photo: Paul MilesExterior of the delightful stone built cottages and patio at Southlands Farm. Photo: Paul MilesSouthlands Farm is a 17th century stone longhouse with outbuildings that have been imaginatively and wonderfully restored by the owners Charles and Dee. Presently, there are three adjoining self-catering cottages and there are plans for a fourth. 

The Rooms
Interiors are extremely comfortable and tasteful, with heavy curtains in fabrics by designers such as Nina Campbell, large kitchens full of top quality equipment, a sitting room with wood-burning stove or open fireplace and bedrooms with feather duvets and supremely comfortable beds. There are candles and fresh flowers from Dee’s tranquil garden. East cottage has a spiral staircase, double-height ceiling and a mezzanine bedroom. Outside all three, there are tables and chairs so you can dine in the sunshine. The patios all face inwards, creating a warm community feeling after days exploring the open pastures surrounding the farm.

The Food
When you arrive, there’ll be a hamper of local produce. It could be anything from sausages, eggs and beer to a homemade cake and bread. Some basics, such as tea, coffee, milk, oil, herbs and spices, are all there in the cupboards. For other produce, you are next door to Charles and Dee’s tiny farm shop, where you can buy hams, bacon and sausages, cuts of beef and free-range eggs, all from their smallholding. For a few pounds a day extra, you can have a full cooked English breakfast, all fresh from the farm of course and, in summer, tomatoes from the fruit and vegetable garden, from which you are free to pick your own (although if you want to be remembered fondly, it may be a good idea to show some restraint and not pull up every carrot.) There’s a small shop and a pub that serves food in a neighbouring village, just a couple of miles away.

The fantastic host Charles with a cute piglet. Photo: Paul MilesThe fantastic host Charles with a cute piglet. Photo: Paul MilesThe Activities
Hadrian’s Wall is the main local attraction. This World Heritage listed site and the 84-mile long footpath that follows its route, is just a few miles away from the village of Gunnerton. Cycle there or Dee or Charles will drop you off at the nearest point, Brunton Turret. In summer, there is a free bus service that follows the route of the Wall, allowing you to explore a new section each day if you wish.There are other, shorter walks nearby, including to a rocky crag from where you can view the rumpled landscape of fields, stonewalls and villages.

Charles’ philosophy is “to bring people closer to their food.” You soon learn what that means. Shooting and fishing are activities he enjoys and in which you can join – for a fee - but only if you’re going to eat what you’ve killed. You can also follow him or Dee through the smallholding, admiring the suckling Kune Kune piglets and learning about ‘teat fidelity’, patting the Dexter cattle and collecting eggs from the hens. If all this tires you out, there’s a hammock slung between trees in the garden and space to set up an easel in the farmhouse conservatory where Dee can give tuition on painting with oils.

The Green
When Dee and Charles bought the farm, some 20 years ago, there were just five trees on the 37-acre site. They have since planted hundreds of hawthorn, blackthorn and others in hedgerows and repaired stonewalls. The farm is organic and the land grazed gently. In the cottages, solar thermal panels heat the water and there are plans for a ground source heat pump (although currently it’s an oil boiler.) Electricity is from renewable sources, via Ecotricity.

There are bird-nesting sites built into the eaves for sparrows and swifts and feeders for other garden birds. Charles will help you identify whether it’s a greater or lesser-spotted woodpecker.

How to travel by Public Transport
The nearest train station is Hexham, nine miles away. If bringing bikes, it’s possible to cycle some of this on quiet roads and country lanes if you work out a route on a map. Take the train from Newscastle to Hexham, there are roughly two trains an hour and the journey takes just 30 minutes. If you are arriving from another location on Hadrian’s Wall, take the free bus to Brunton Turret. Dee or Charles can come and collect you from there.

The Verdict
A very comfortable, pet-friendly place run by a fun and friendly couple in a beautiful part of England. The only downside was the lack of views of rolling hills from the cottages themselves, but this is easily made up for by the warm hospitality, delicious food and cosy atmosphere.

>> For contact details and to check availability, see our full listing of Southlands Farm Cottages

>> See all our Green places to stay in Northumberland 

Unwind in the garden and take a nap in the hammock. Photo: Paul MilesUnwind in the garden and take a nap in the hammock. Photo: Paul Miles

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Blogs posts categorised as 'Reviews' have been written with the support of one or more of the following: accommodation owner, activity provider, operator, equipment supplier, tourist board, protected landscape authority or other destination-focussed authority. The reviewer retains full editorial control of the work, which has been written in the reviewer's own words based on their experience of the accommodation, activity, equipment or destination.

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