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HLN reviews…Middlemoor Farm Holidays

We visited this Northumberland farm-come-staycation destination for ourselves… and we were far from disappointed.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 04.09.2021

This holiday was paid for by our writer and she decided to write about it as she had such a nice time. It is not a paid-for or contra advert 🙂 We pride ourselves on ensuring that any paid-for or contra advertising is clearly marked with ‘Advertisement Feature’ at the top of the article. 

THE STAY: READING ROOMS

All we knew about Middlemoor Farm Holidays before we rolled up on their driveway for our week-long staycation was that their bread and butter lies in the art of surprise. Quirky, one-of-a-kind holidays homes were what we were promised. Somewhere to escape the ordinary. What we were about to find out was that, as well as bags of character, their unforgettable holiday homes were also filled with class.

Because that’s always the worry, isn’t it? You book something a little different – and this can be anything, not just a staycation – and as soon as the confirmation email comes through, it invokes a certain dread that the experience in question is unusual for a reason. Maybe it’s perceived as ‘quirky’ because it’s unpopular, and maybe it’s unpopular because it’s not good.

Have you just made a huge mistake? Will this be an experience to remember for all the wrong reasons? Is it too late to get your money back? The spiral can be rapid.

That’s why, when you rock up to your new home for the week, it’s always reassuring to be met with an element of relief. As soon as we pulled up on the private driveway of the Reading Rooms and were met by the homely vision of a stone farm cottage – that, to be honest, could have housed Cameron Diaz and Jude Law’s budding romance in The Holiday – we felt calm. This was tranquil, well-kept, familiar. And yet, no real surprises as such. Until we stepped inside, that is.

Over the threshold, our calmness quickly gave way to awe. Initially, this was prompted by the sheer amount of space inside. Sleeping seven, the Reading Rooms could easily fit a party of 30 in their open-plan living and kitchen area. But that wasn’t all. While exposed beams, chequered kitchen tiles, wooden split-saloon doors and the black stove nestled in the heart of the living area all exuded traditional rustic charm, we didn’t get the feeling that we’d find any spiders, mice or draughts in this barn conversion. The gleaming cream AGA oven enthroned in the kitchen seemed to be the perfect metaphor for every inch of this holiday home: modern yet classic, attractive, cosy, spotless.

Best of all, the Reading Rooms is accessible – meaning no-one in our party had to be left behind, which can all-too-often be the case with cottage stays in the UK. There are two seriously-spacious double bedrooms on the ground floor – one with a fully accessible ensuite wet room – while the remaining three beds can be found upstairs. While the triple-room lacked a little height (we’re a tall group), it had plenty of width and an ensuite with a bath and a shower of its own, so every room had their own sense of privacy – meaning this cosy cottage is as perfect for weekend getaways with your mates as it is for big family gatherings.

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THE STAY: MISS ELLIE

They weren’t kidding when they decided to name them ‘narrowboats’. If you’re wanting to swing a cat on your jollies, this one probably isn’t for you. But when it comes to a glamping getaway with all your home comforts within arm’s reach, one of Middlemoor’s two charmingly converted narrowboats – Miss Ellie – delivers, and then some. This holiday hideaway has character in bucketloads, giving us just a taste of the high seas without labouring the point. And what she lacks in width, she makes up for in outdoor space.

Step off the deck onto your own private ‘jetty’ and you’ll find it leads out to a vast expanse of field which belongs to you and you alone for the duration of your stay. Always neatly mown, (the Middlemoor team are strong believers in remote-controlled lawn mowers, for minimal intrusion into your stay), the lawn is a great space to catch some rays if you can, let any little ones run off some steam or have a kickabout yourselves. And with plenty of outdoor furniture and a firepit just made for toasting marshmallows, you could easily set up camp out here in the morning and not go back inside until the sun’s set over the rolling countryside, and Northumberland’s world-famous Dark Skies are glimmering with starlight.

Because we visited Middlemoor in August, right in the prime of Britain’s summertime, the weather was decidedly unpredictable. But what that did mean was that we experienced Miss Ellie in rain and shine – and we can vouch that she’s just as handy as a perfectly-positioned base from which to explore Northumberland on brighter days as she is as a cosy bolthole in which to batten down the hatches when it clouds over. There’s just something so undeniably satisfying about watching a downpour when your safely snuggled up in front of the TV in this vacay-vessel, with a mug of something heart-warming in your hands, (be it tea or whiskey).

The longer of Middlemoor’s two glamping narrowboats, Miss Ellie sleeps up to four adults and two children across two double beds and one set of bunkbeds, which kids universally seem to love. There’s also plenty of seating (albeit a little tight), indoor bathroom facilities (a must for us!) and a fully working kitchen. In other words, Miss Ellie’s a little like the Tardis of the holiday home world – and we’re here for it.

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THE SURROUNDINGS

Idyllic Northumberland countryside, in a nutshell. Although Middlemoor Farm is just one sharp turn away from the A1, it could be in the heart of Narnia for all we could hear of the traffic. Farmyard chickens greeted us nearly every time we returned to the Reading Rooms after a day exploring, while the farm’s herd of cows dappled the vista as we drove up to Miss Ellie – both serving to reiterate that overwhelming sense of countryside tranquillity we felt throughout our stay.

And when it came to our days out exploring, we were never in any danger of boredom. Sometimes it was a hop, skip and a jump up to Alnwick, (in reality, about a 15-minute drive) to visit the iconic castle (aka Hogwarts) and The Alnwick Garden – not forgetting a not-so-quick stop off at one of our favourite second-hand bookstores, Barter Books. On other days, it was a trip to Northumberland’s award-winning coastline for a day at the beach, complete with freshly-caught fish (and chips), ice cream, fishing boats and cosy British pubs. It’s official: we were spoiled for choice with Middlemoor as our base.

Our particular highlights? Beadnell beach. This horseshoe-shaped bay is actually one of the very few south-facing stretches of sand in Northumberland, meaning you get the sun all day. There are also plenty of water sports for the thrill-seekers in your party (KA Adventure Sports is where it’s at), parking is a breeze and the facilities are excellently maintained.

For us, a trip to the Northumberland coast isn’t complete without a visit to Bamburgh, too. We parked up in Seahouses and walked the three and a half miles along the seafront to Bamburgh Castle – which is really worth the visit in itself, btw. We used the opportunity to book onto a Farne Island boat tour while we were in the area too so that, on another day, we were treated to seeing a whole colony of grey seals at play, and even caught a rare glimpse of a puffin, despite us visiting after their breeding season.

The fun didn’t stop when the sun went down, though. As well as a boatload of family-friendly pubs within easy driving distance – special shout out to the Harry Potter-inspired The Hog’s Head Inn, here – Northumberland has also been awarded Gold Tier status for their dark skies, (which are also the largest designated dark sky space in the UK), and one trip to public astronomical hotspot Kielder Observatory was enough to see why. We actually saw Jupiter and Saturn with our bare eyes, guys! Unforgettable.

THE TEAM

You can just tell Middlemoor Farm Holidays is a family-run business. The holiday homes themselves are just that – a home for the holiday – and that’s down to the cleanliness, comfort and character that prevails throughout. You know that the team understand family life: the hassles and the mess, the space and the accessibility needed, not to mention where you want your home comforts most. And they deliver. Middlemoor think of everything.

And what’s more, it seemed nothing extra was too much trouble for Jane and the Middlemoor team during our stay, either. We asked for an extra highchair when we first arrived; they had hand-delivered it within 20 minutes, along with a warm welcome. We had a little difficulty in working out how to use the AGA; Jane not only helped us there and then over the phone, but also sent over a photographed copy of the instructions via WhatsApp, just in case.

That being said, while it’s true the Middlemoor team couldn’t have been more helpful, it’s also true that we hardly saw them! The team here seem to take the approach of giving their guests all the cards in the deck, letting them play their hand, and then responding accordingly. While we’re sure that if we had needed almost anything at all, we could get it with just a quick phone call to Jane – who was, every time we tried to call her at least, always easy to reach – we’re also sure that if we never reached out at all, we still wouldn’t know what Jane even looked like.

The thing we found was that we really didn’t need anything more than we had already been given. Aside from those initial requests and a quick query about a drop in internet connection (the whole village’s had been temporarily affected), we were more than satisfied in using both the Reading Rooms and Miss Ellie as a proper home-from-home.

And had we been any less familiar with the area, Jane’s simple but ingenious idea of leaving out a personalised guestbook meant that we had a wealth of different tips, tricks, destinations and days out all at our fingertips. What more could you ask for?

Has our review inspired you to find out a little more about Middlemoor Farm Holidays for yourself? We hope so! Why not check out their website for more information?

Middlemoor Farm, North Charlton, Alnwick, Northumberland NE67 5HP

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