The New Place To Self-Cater In Style

The New Place To Self-Cater In Style

On a picturesque Cotswold farm, owners Polly and George have converted five derelict stone barns into self-catering accommodation. We went to Bibury Farm Barns to check them out for ourselves and confirm they really have filled the gap in the market. While we were there, we sat down with Polly to find all about why, how and what they wanted to create.

Wow, what a place this is, but why the Cotswolds and why Bibury?
We love this area. We both grew up around here and always knew we would head back home, once we were married and had reached this chapter in life. The barns and farmhouse were part of George’s family farm, but no longer fit for use in modern-day agriculture. We saw a perfect opportunity to both save and restore the derelict farm barns, and also create a business in the place we love. After a lot of planning applications, some great people on side and a very friendly bank manager, we have Bibury Farm Barns. 

Why develop the barns for self-catering?
There are some lovely hotels and pubs with rooms in the area, but very few luxury self-catering options. The gap in the market really came to light when we were looking for places for friends to stay for our own wedding nearby. Long-term lets are great, but this close to London they often don’t work financially. Above all, we really felt passionate about sharing such a beautiful part of the country.

Who do you see staying here?
Anyone who wants to escape everyday life and indulge in fresh air, beautiful countryside, wholesome walks and family time. We want guests to leave feeling restored and refreshed, hence the big comfy beds and rolltop baths. We think it will especially appeal to families and groups of friends looking to escape the city. We provide BabyBjorn travel cots and highchairs; there are big baskets of board games and table tennis tables on site, and one barn has a games room with table football.
Location wise, we’re situated in the middle of some of the most lusted-after Cotswold wedding venues, and we're becoming a popular accommodation option for families and friends of brides and grooms. Both George and I are keen horse racing fans, so we also hope to attract Cheltenham racegoers – we’re 20 minutes from the racecourse. Ultimately, though, we are a year-round home from home, where kids, friends, extended families and dogs are all welcomed. We have just booked our first wellness retreat and have been approached by several brands wanting to use the barns as a shoot location. So, really, anything goes. 

Are there other similar places that have inspired you?
We have definitely done our research, looked about and got a few ideas from places we have stayed at, but I’d say Wilderness Reserve looks fantastic. In time, we’d like to put in a pool and some kind of spa facilities, but one step at a time.

The interiors are out of this world...  Sadly, we can’t take much credit for the interiors. The original plan was for me to do it all but, just as important interior decisions had to be made, I fell pregnant with our daughter Lilah – and still had my 9-5. So we went in search of a qualified interior designer who understood Cotswold stone and barn conversions, and found Pippa Paton, who not only understood the remit perfectly but exceeded our expectations and has left us with something that is truly special. The remit was to keep (and restore to original glory) as much of the barns’ character as possible, upcycle as much as possible – all with a principle focus on comfort, style and luxury. We want people to feel like coming to us is a treat, something more than they would find in their own home. 

There are five barns – how are they configured and could you take them all?
There are five barns that range from three beds to five beds. A couple of the barns can be combined via a clever courtyard to be a seven bed. If you took the lot you could sleep 38 people so fun for a big get together.

We were lucky enough to stay here. Tell us about the beds – they’re some of the comfiest we’ve tried…
Personally, we have always been so fussy about beds and bedding, and truly believe that we have made our home bed the comfiest bed in the world! There’s nothing more disappointing than going away somewhere lovely and being disappointed by a cheap, lumpy pillow or rock-hard bed. We vowed that BFB would, above everything else, have exceptionally comfortable beds. All of them are superking-sized (although two rooms in every barn have zip-linked beds, turning them into extra-long singles if required). Pippa approached a local husband-and-wife startup, Bedfolk, to produce luxurious, high-thread-count cotton sheets, made even softer by a slight touch of satin, especially for us. We send them to a specialist launderer who cleans them in such a way as to preserve the quality and softness. 
Talk to us about the vast number of console tables…
Rustic wooden console tables (most often vintage, refurbished) punctuate the spaces, providing the perfect way of framing and separating spaces from, say, a living space to a dining space. Importantly, they work to create cosy nooks within a larger floorspace. 
And the bathroom amenities…
They’re from 100 Acres, a local company that produces botanical bath products and candles, all made from natural, organic products in small batches, with oils, herbs and botanicals each chosen for their healing, calming or uplifting properties. We love that it’s a local company and adore each and every one of its products.

What about all that exposed brickwork?
It has been retained and restored, so that as much of the original Cotswold stone was kept exposed as possible. That wasn’t the easiest option in terms of construction and cleaning, but it was very important to us to keep the nod to the original features of the barn.

Is running BFB now your day job? 
For me, yes – as well as being a mum to a toddler and we have a new baby due in December. We are also lucky enough to have a barns manager, who does all reservations, mans the concierge service and is the guest’s point of contact. George still has a full-time job as a grain trader. He is still involved with the business though – mainly the number crunching! All three of us work out of the BFB office during the week. 
What has been the hardest thing about getting it off the ground?
Letting people know we are here. I think both George and I thought, from the moment the builders left, people would naturally start forming an orderly queue to stay in the barns. It’s hard to market before opening because you don’t quite have the product to show off. When you compete in the high-end market, you really need people to trust your brand and it’s hard to do justice to the spaces with images alone. We plan to do more of an interactive tour of the barns on the website, but all in good time.

Clearly we think BFB is the dream, but what’s the feedback been from other guests? 
We’ve had such lovely feedback and are always delighted by return bookings. Only yesterday, a guest said they love Old Hay Barn because “it feels as if you are staying in a 5* hotel – but better”. 
Finally, what is there to do in this neck of the woods?
Bibury is in a great, central Cotswold location. There are several well-acclaimed bistros and gastropubs close by (The Wheatsheaf, The Village Pub in Barnsley, The Bell at Langford). There are some great walks too, with Bibury (idyllic and inimitable in its Cotswold charm) only a 15-minute walk away. The market towns of Cirencester and Burford are ten-minute drives from us. Cirencester has the wonderful Organic Farm Shop that sells homegrown fruit, veg and flowers. Cotswold Wildlife Park is also just a short drive away, as is Adam Henson’s Farm Park, Chedworth Roman Villa and Bibury Trout Farm. You could also cruise the famous antiques shops of Tetbury and visit the Westonbirt Arboretum (amazing in autumn). You can do water sports at South Cerney lakes or there are several clay pigeon shooting venues. If all that isn’t enough, we’re within easy driving distance of Soho Farmhouse and Daylesford, and the quintessential Cotswold villages of Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold and Moreton-in-Marsh.
A 3-bedroom barn starts at £1,050 for 2 nights and £350 for additional nights, up to £2,475 for a week. Get 25% off all bookings on stays in 2019.


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