Rural accommodation travel guide

Is there anything more sublime than sitting outside on a balmy night, sipping a cold glass of something local with nothing around you except the sounds of the countryside and a dark sky bright with stars?
Rural accommodations bewitch with their tranquillity. Bastions of peace and quiet, brimming with a sense of untapped adventure.
You might be in the sticks but there’s little chance you’ll be bored. Rural accommodations can be the launch pad for a whole host of active adventures, from hiking and biking to horse riding and wild swimming. And there’s plenty of culture in the countryside too, with local markets in tucked-away towns your new go-to for groceries. You might even find yourself in your host’s farmhouse kitchen learning her Nonna’s recipe for perfect pasta.
Read on in our rural accommodation travel guide for more details.

Is a rural accommodation for you?

Stay in a rural accommodation if…

…You’re travelling with your family. Busy roads be-gone, rural accommodations offer safe, open space and a whole host of exciting activities for children to be as wild and free as they choose. Many come stocked with games and books for rainy days too. …You’re of an active bent. Enjoy hiking or mountain biking from your doorstep, wild swimming at the bottom of your garden or horse-riding at the farm next door. …You like to be where everyone else isn’t. Your local market might be just that – local – and you may well not see another person, let alone a tourist, for hours. And you’ll be supporting tiny local businesses reliant on the few tourists they encounter. …You’re a foodie. Cosy up in your host’s kitchen for a pasta-making lesson, visit the vineyard next door for a tasting, go truffle hunting or foraging and eat delicious home-cooked delicacies where the food miles are measured in metres.

Don’t stay in a rural accommodation if…

…You want to go car-free. Unfortunately in most places rural doesn’t equate with a reliable, efficient and easy-to-access public transport system. While some accommodations will help you be car-free, its more likely you'll need a car to explore the area or go out to a local town for dinner. …You want nightlife, not wildlife. Cicadas become the backing track to rural nights, and stars provide the entertainment. Evenings are tranquil – so fire up the barbeque, sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy the show.
…Beaches are all-important. You can of course, stay in a rural accommodation and enjoy the beach, but with most set on farms, in the mountains or simply deep into the countryside you’ll likely have to drive to reach that perfect stretch of sand. ...You want to stay connected. Many rural accommodations pride themselves on being self-sufficient and off-grid. And while Wifi is usually available, the countryside calls to you to switch off.

Rural accommodation practicalities

Given the rural, often off-the-beaten-track nature of their locations, most rural accommodations in Europe will require car hire to reach them – and will be able to help you arrange this - although it is always worth asking the owners whether they are able to help with transfers and local lifts instead. Some will be happy to run you down to the local shop or to an activity if you arrange it with them first. Other accommodations may also have bikes available to hire for more local exploration.

While some places to stay, like our eco-lodges in Devon or cottages in the Loire are fantastically family-friendly, providing all kinds of toys and activities as well as extra beds and cots on request. Other properties, for example our mountain retreat in Crete, are adults-only so you’ll need to double check before you book.

While the standard varies from the rustic to the luxurious, with all our rural accommodations you can expect clean and comfortable rooms and private bathrooms (if you’re not renting out the whole house). Some will have air-conditioning although many older buildings will rely on their traditional stone construction to keep cool. A swimming pool – and certainly a private one – isn’t a given, but where there is no pool you might find that you’re not too far from a quiet beach, or that there’s a river perfect for wild swimming at the bottom of your garden.

Many of our rural accommodations are working to ensure their facilities are as available to as many people as possible for example ensuring specially-adapted rooms, reserved parking, and catering for a wide range of food allergies. However, those based in renovated old buildings will face challenges constrained by the building’s original, often uneven architecture, making step-free access difficult. Feel free to expand on your requirements when you make an enquiry and your local hosts will be able to provide detailed information specific to your needs.

Rural accommodation activities

Local hosts bring your holiday to life, enhancing your away-from-it-all peace and quiet with as many (or as few) things to do as you’d like. You can choose to be left alone – that’s fine too – but your hosts will be on hand to point out the best hiking routes, cook you mouth-watering dinners or take you on a guided tour of the night sky, transforming your stay into an unforgettable holiday packed with fulfilling, personalised experiences.

Walking

Rural accommodations and walking go hand in hand – or in step – with almost all offering trails of some description right from the doorstep, from leisurely ambles to local tea rooms in Devon, or more strenuous mountain treks. Where the walking country is particularly enticing, for example Crete’s White Mountains or the Majella National Park in Abruzzo, Italy, accommodations will provide detailed route maps and sometimes even local guides, to help you head out on foot.

Cycling

An excellent way to cover longer distances car-free if you’re staying out in the sticks, many rural accommodations offer bike hire – or can advise on the best place to pick some up. Where you pedal is up to you. Mountainside retreats in the Spanish Pyrenees or Italy’s Piedmont region are excellent options for downhill thrills, while the Loire Valley offers family-friendly pedalling between chateaux on off-road cycle lanes with baby bike seats and toddler trailers available. Alternatively explore the old Roman road through the Peneda-Gerês National Park in northern Portugal.

Horse-riding

With many rural accommodations set on farms or among farming communities, horse-riding is a near-ubiquitous option. The horses you’ll use are generally mild-mannered and used to beginners – and children – although more experienced riders can always be catered for too. It’s a perfect way to explore the peaceful rolling farmland of Le Marche, Italy, or the mountain trails of Abruzzo, all in the company of expert instructors and guides.

Stargazing

Say so long to light pollution and enjoy the full beauty of the night sky. Some accommodations, like our off-grid eco hotel in the Altiplano de Granada, Spain, are in areas so dark they offer stargazing tours led by expert astronomers with powerful telescopes. Otherwise a deckchair and a free evening on the terrace offer a more informal alternative.

Wildlife spotting

From bird watching in Andalucía or bear-tracking in Transylvania, to butterfly-spotting in Devon, rural accommodations are perfectly poised for wildlife adventures.

Maggie Watson, owner of our rural accommodation Wheatland Farm in Devon shares her love of the local wildlife: “Guests tell us they love our 21 acres, whether they want a tranquil retreat for themselves or proper outdoor space for children to explore. Personally, I’m addicted to the big wildlife pond. In winter I watch the pied wagtails coming in to roost at dusk. Frogspawn and tadpoles herald spring. And in summer into autumn I’m entranced by the stunning dragonflies. Sometimes I take a paddle board out, sometimes I swim, but often I just sit on the bench and daydream.”

Foodie fun

Join in the grape harvest – payment in wine, of course - in Abruzzo, forage for truffles in Le Marche, learn how to make perfect pasta in Piedmont or simply wander round the Loire Valley’s delectable farmer’s markets to pick up locally-made goats cheese. Rural accommodations base you in the heart of where some of Europe’s best fare is grown. Expect delicious, home-cooked meals in B&Bs, farmstays and local restaurants – following traditional recipes made from ingredients dug up earlier that day. And with food miles measured in mere metres, you’ll be cutting down on your carbon footprint too.
Throw caution to the wind and have five puddings a day. Marla has worked as a pastry chef, and her puddings, cakes and breads are to die for.
- Alexandra Foster in Piedmont, Italy.

Responsible tourism

Tourism can be a powerful force in rural areas where employment opportunities for young people are few and far between. It’s a story that is played out in the countryside across Europe; less people take up traditional livings and instead leave for more lucrative work in bigger towns and cities. The result – a declining rural economy, depopulation and a loss of traditional culture and ways of life. The mayor of a mountain village in Piedmont, Italy recently made headlines by offering $10,000 to newcomers to come live there in a desperate bid to keep its school and selection of small shops open, another further north is offering a bonus to residents who have babies – as well as offering abandoned property for $1 (you’ll have to refurbish your house within two years) and recovering agricultural land for would-be farmers. Rural tourism offers employment opportunities not only in accommodations but in the wider community – supporting local farmers and producers, encouraging entrepreneurship and helping small businesses (language schools, activity providers and tourist guides, shops, cafes and restaurants – the list is endless) to thrive.

And with many popular resorts - for example Barcelona in Spain – becoming unpleasantly overcrowded, going rural can also make for a much pleasanter holiday experience. You’ll also be spreading the benefits of tourism more widely. It’s worth remembering that tourism in many rural areas is very seasonal, with the summer months receiving the lion’s share of visitors. Consider travelling in the spring, autumn or even during the winter months and you’ll not only enjoy a peaceful escape with barely another tourist in sight, but you’ll be supporting local businesses and producers at times when income is a little tougher to come by. And with log stoves, home-cooked food, friendly hosts (and often discounted rates) there’s something oh-so-cosy about an off-season escape.

Our top Rural accommodation Holiday

Portugal tree house accommodation, Northern Portugal

Portugal tree house accommodation, Northern Portugal

Treehouse in National Park Peneda Geres, Northern Portugal

From €110 to €160 per accommodation per night
Accommodation
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Rural accommodation or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Best time to stay in a rural accommodation

Rural accommodations offer options all year round; sun-drenched terraces in summer and cosy firesides for snow-filled winter escapes
The best time to stay in a rural accommodation all hangs on where you want to go, and what you want to do when you’re there. If you’re travelling to Europe and you want to spend some quality time in the pool you’ll want to travel between May and September, but expect the July and August summer holidays to be booked up well in advance. Walking in southern Spain and Crete is best in spring - when temperatures are cooler and the air is scented with almond blossom - and autumn, and if you’re hoping to catch the grape harvest in Italy you’ll need to travel in October. Devon, UK can be fun in winter if you don’t mind a few muddy puddles – just make sure you pack your welly boots. At the same time accommodations in the Spanish Pyrenees or Italy’s Piedmont region play host to snowshoe trails and skiing.
Maggie Watson, owner of our rural accommodation, Wheatland Farm, which offers eco-lodge and cottage accommodation in Devon, UK shares her favourite times of year to stay: “Best for our wildlife is late May through to the end of June, when the flowers are at their height, the days are long, and you feel you get Devon almost to yourself. But we also really love seeing kids enjoying their summer holidays. The sound of bikes and go-carts rattling down the drive, and lighting a campfire to help guests socialise in the evenings, are seasonal highlights!”
Stew Holland, owner of our rural accommodation Casa del Fiume in the Majella National Park, Abruzzo, on his favourite time in Italy’s Central Apennines: “Just like most of southern Italy, July and August are always hot with average temperatures in the mid 30’s centigrade. Obviously since we are in the mountains and near a river it is a little cooler. May, June and September are cooler months with some rain so ideal for trekking in the mountains. October is great too. The end of May beginning of June is a special time for fireflies."

UK (Devon) Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
2
8
122
FEB
2
8
92
MAR
3
10
85
APR
5
12
62
MAY
7
15
65
JUN
10
18
57
JUL
12
20
54
AUG
12
20
70
SEP
10
18
77
OCT
8
15
98
NOV
5
11
106
DEC
3
9
122
Written by Sarah Faith
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ranloth] [Guide icon: Mike Smith] [Is it for you?: Ricardo Gomez Angel] [Walking: Matteo Leoni] [Stargazing: Joran Quinten] [Food: Brina Blum] [Best time: Sergio Boscaino]
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