Why go “glamping”, you ask, when a perfectly good hotel room is available at the same price? You would, however, be denied a weekend adventure in a room with a “ewe” at Romney Marsh Shepherds Huts.
Not that one of the friendly woolly jumbucks can occupy one of the huts with you. If they did attempt such a daring thing, there’s always a gate and five steps to negotiate. Sheep are like Daleks – ramps only.
In glamping terms, or posh camping, Romney Marsh huts are four-star luxury in a field in Kent.
I’d be tempted to give them an extra star just for the novelty of sleeping in the same field as a flock of woolly ones. But pick your time of year. On our weekend in late February, shepherdess Kristina was keeping at least 20 or 30 merinos in the nearby barn because lambing was approaching.
As an Aussie, this pleased me enormously because merinos are the only breed you find Down Under. Not that I speak sheep – to my knowledge.
This is a proper working farm. Within moments of arrival, Kristina’s partner Paul introduced himself, then his father too. And a sheepdog jumped about for attention. I loved it. It felt like an under-rehearsed scene from Clarkson’s Farm. And if you like that show, you will warm to this place.
By night, you could hear comforting bleating from the barn, and get a whiff of woodsmoke from Paul’s burn-off of branches after the storms.
“We took a battering,” said Paul. “We even had to tether those!” He pointed to what looked like a large cricket roller in the field which had been tied to the two shepherds’ huts. Reassuring to know that on a stormy night you wouldn’t wake up in the next field where the cows live.
The huts’ interiors are worthy of any top-rated, self-catering cottage.
They boast many creature comforts, not least a Nespresso coffee machine, along with two coffee pods among the teas and instant coffees also available.
In a tastefully decorated miniature farmhouse kitchen, there’s no Aga, but one step better – a ceramic hob! This was a complete surprise.
For those needing something a little stronger than tea, there was also a refreshing bottle of white wine.
At the other end of a hut, which comfortably sleeps two (a family sized one is currently being fitted), there was a double bed with duvet and one of Kristina’s large woolly blankets from her excellent branded range, Romney Marsh Wools.
In the middle of a field in February, you do need one. But the huts are not cold. There’s a dinky log burner at one end together with a small radiator. We were toasty throughout our stay.
Also recommended is the two-day breakfast box for £15. Swing back the doors to the hut each morning, then cook up the bacon, sausages and eggs, sourced locally.
There’s also a pair of binoculars provided, so you can look at the gentle hills surrounding the marsh land where more sheep are grazing, and imagine you’re Jeremy Clarkson.
Best of all are the bathroom facilities. There’s a hot shower, and a flushing loo.
How do they squeeze it all in? You need to pinch yourself that you’re actually in a farmer’s field.
There is much to explore locally, in what is a designated area of natural beauty. Romney Marsh Visitors’ Centre on the A259 is a great place to start. Ask one of the guides to recommend a short walk, most of which are circular and will lead you away from the car park at the centre.
We took the “Sheep Trail” (of course) from the centre, which is waymarked. It allows you to take in the expansive marshland, while also giving you a glimpse of the famous Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, whose impressive green livery might flash by every now and then, pulled by a steam locomotive. There are stations at Hythe, Dungeness and Romney.
A family Rover ticket for five costs £65.
If you fancy it, Dungeness is well worth a short diversion. Noted for the famous residency of late avant garde filmmaker Derek Jarman, you can drive up to his pretty Prospect Cottage, whose yellow decorative trim matches the surrounding gorse bushes. Many also make the pilgrimage to what is designated as the UK’s only “official” desert, albeit of pebbles. And all this in the shadow of EDF’s nuclear power station, giving the excursion an eerie feel.
Drive on to the Britannia Inn, where local artists’ works adorn the walls. You’re bound to see many hipsters lolling about, making it more like Shoreditch by the Sea. Many seem drawn to paint Jarman’s cottage. The ice cream and cakes are good too.
After two days in the Shepherd’s Hut it’s easy to see the appeal. For a short stay, it provides immediate peace and quiet, combined with pleasant countryside views, along with a touch of luxury.
But actually, it’s the presence of the cuddly-looking Romney sheep that makes this innovative stay so diverting. I will never eat lamb again – at least not until next Sunday.
INNS & OUTS
This busy seaside town is 10 minutes drive from the huts. It’s on the England Coast Path, but don’t do it all at once. Simply walk along the sea wall on arrival, which gives you a bird’s eye view of the bay. There’s good parking in the town centre, and a long stay area, at the western end of the A259. There is history, too. Dymchurch is bookended by Martello Towers, dating from Napoleon times.
The Ocean Inn in Dymchurch serves all day, with sandwiches, fish and chips and a huge board of specials. Closer to the shepherds huts, try The Walnut Tree, Aldington, which offers a 10% discount for hut dwellers. Eat the show-stopping “steak on a stone”. This is a slab of your chosen meat placed on hot granite that you cook yourself. Don’t be shy – everyone’s at it!
A weekend in itself really, but nearby Rye is a must-visit, with its pretty cobblestone streets and original Tudor buildings. Pop in for an ale at the ancient Mermaid Inn and absorb its renowned literary past. Originally dating from 1156, it’s been visited by Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother.
Book the holiday
Romney Marsh Shepherds Huts near Aldington, Kent, offer a two-night (minimum) stay self-catering in the Lookerer Hut for two adults sharing from £250. Local produce breakfast boxes from £15 extra per booking, optional add-ons with local activity providers and artisans also available to book. Find out more at bloomstays.com/property/the-lookerer.
You can also find more information at visitkent.co.uk and romneymarshshepherdshuts.co.uk.