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by Chloe Green (@SharedBucketList)
It's nearly December (we can't believe how fast this year has gone!) and, with that in mind, we thought we'd reminisce and feature the mini winter retreat we went on around this time last year in Somerset, England.
As Christmas is always a busy period, we figured we could use some alone time afterwards, so we booked a few days away together in a remote location, choosing a countryside backdrop for ultimate peace and tranquility. To make things a little more exciting, we also opted for an unorthodox form of accommodation which seems to be growing in popularity worldwide: staying in a shepherd's hut. Watch a reel of our shepherd's hut experience, here!
If you're yet to sample the shepherd hut lifestyle, we've listed the pros and cons of our first-time experience, with some additional tips to consider before booking:
Pros of staying in a shepherd's hut
If seclusion is what you are after, many of the shepherd's huts advertised on typical booking sites, such as AirBnB and Booking.com, offer exactly this. Although ours had effectively been placed in the owner's garden, he was a farmer with acres of land which meant we didn't ever feel like our privacy was compromised. Instead, we were greeted by a friendly flock of sheep each morning, the sounds of horses whinnying and stretches of fresh green grass which seemed endless from our hut window.
It enabled us to unplug from the chaos and disconnect from our normal responsibilities, both literally and metaphorically. Because there was no WiFi in our shepherd's hut, we were barely active on our mobile phones, which is another alluring feature we had considered in advance - we wanted to be able to switch off fully and take in our surroundings. The scenery and sense of isolation helped massively with that.
Having a hot tub was the cherry on top of the cake for us - probably even more so because we were staying at an exceptionally cold time of year. Once we got it working (more about that part in the cons section), we didn't want to get out. Luckily, it also stayed warm overnight, meaning we could jump in again the following morning.
With regards to the hut itself, ours was well-kitted out and had everything we needed for a simple and comfortable stay. This will obviously vary, depending on the hut you book, but we'd recommend making sure yours has: a log burner for warmth/similar source of heating, a fridge, oven, hob and kitchenware for you to use. Our host even provided washing up liquid and cleaning products which we wouldn't have thought about bringing but did end up using. There were also towels, blankets and clean bedding available but, if you'd prefer to take your own for personal use, do so.
Cons of staying in a shepherd's hut
It's a tight squeeze! You might be glad the two of you are spending quality time together, but you could also find yourself wishing you were there on your own when things start to feel claustrophobic. Once you've accepted the necessity for a bathroom, kitchen and area for you to sleep, you'll understand why there isn't much wiggle room for anything else. Still, acceptance doesn't make sizing matters any easier - especially when you're having to hang your clothes on the curtain rail or rest your feet on your overnight bags. It's certainly not for everyone!
Boredom can kick in if the weather isn't great. Despite us wanting to switch off from technology and hoping to immerse ourselves in nature and seclusion, we did have rubbish weather on one of the days which meant we couldn't get out and about for a walk. (We were also quite a significant distance from the nearest pub!) Thankfully, this didn't just mean we spent the day scrolling through social media; we'd brought some games with us which we ended up getting rather into - Scrabble is an absolute godsend during moments like these - so make sure you have some entertainment lined up in case of the unexpected.
Take some extra kindling for log burners and find out what sort of hot tub you have (if you have one) before you go. We can't emphasise this one enough! Our host was brilliant in the sense that he had left clear instructions in the shepherd's hut for us to follow when setting up the log burner and wood-fired hot tub. But, unfortunately, there wasn't enough kindling to keep each one alight and we eventually had to buy more from him (a little cheeky perhaps but, in fairness, it did mention that we would need some in the booking details and he had suggested buying our own). Anyway, heating the hot tub should have only taken 4-5 hours and it ended up taking a lot longer due to our lack of preparedness. Learn from our mistake: buy the kindling! (Need some soon? Click here.)
It's not the best place to be if you're feeling unwell. Sadly, Connor came down with Covid towards the end of our stay (bizarrely, I didn't) which couldn't be helped, but it was far from ideal to be spending another night in a shepherd's hut. At that point, the cramped space, smoky log burner and needless extra spending on kindling really got to him and he just wanted to go home. At least, he can laugh about it now.
So, the ultimate question, we guess, is whether or not we would be willing to stay in a shepherd's hut again? Truthfully, we are unlikely to if we can avoid it - our experience wasn't as cosy and tranquil as we were hoping - however, we aren't ruling it out forever more and are optimistic that others may be able to have a more enjoyable time (potentially, the summer would be a better time of year?). We shall see what the future holds...
If you have any questions relating to our stay, please don't hesitate to get in touch. You can leave us a comment below or use our 'contact' page to send us your query.