We stayed at the Hazel Cottage, one of four or five converted barns, in Irelands Farm for a week in August 2006 – and it was a wonderful escape for us city slickers. The cottage although small, was bright, clean, cheerful and equipped with all the basics you would need, including a small fridge, a very nice gas hob and oven, a front loading washing machine, tv, little boom-box, vacuum cleaner etc. Everything you needed really was all thoughtfully there in place.
We arrived after a long flight and we fell immediately in love with the place. The kitchen is just the right size, the downstairs living room is cosy and comfortable, and bedroom upstairs is a fairly good size. A comfortable bed, clean sheets and a fairly decent collection of paperbacks made us feel very much at home. Even the towels were provided, as we were overseas visitors. The kitchen is well equipped – all the cutlery, the wine opener, milk stocked in the fridge, tea, coffee, down to the salt and pepper. We couldn't really ask for more, and the owners were polite, friendly and more than glad to help with all of our requests at any time.
Although we did miss our power shower back home, we soon adapted to the trickly shower because there was always enough hot water, and hey, you get used to it in a day or two. But if you like your showers to be well... showers, then the one at this cottage fails to live up to the mark and it can get annoying to stand under a meagre trickle of water to try and get clean or have a decent shampoo.
Ireland Farms is tucked away in between open farmlands and is in absolutely gorgeous farm country. It's a few minutes drive from the Henley main street – but that drive is charming and spectacular in itself. We went for long walks along farm lined trails and each walk was an adventure of the senses. The wheat was being harvested, the fields looked marvellous. Wild rabbits scurry around, all kinds of wild berries on the trees, the scent of fresh country air – and to top it all – we woke up one morning to see a wild deer from our kitchen window – that was a breath taking experience. At night, the star filled velvet sky is something you may want to take in with a scotch or two.
However, keep in mind that this is all arable farm land, there are no appealing sheep in the meadows or cows in the corn for the kids to marvel at. So in that sense, there is no 'farm experience' to be had on the location itself, at all. If you're hoping to take your kids along to collect eggs, to watch cows being milked, help pick vegetables or any of that sort of stuff, you won't find it here. Also, we were rather taken aback to be told that our son could not run about in the common back yard area shared by the cottages in case he disturbed the other (presumably childless) guests. There is plenty of wide open space at the back, just begging for children to explore and run around in, and it was a little tiresome to have to tell our 6-year old that he would have to restrain himself from doing that. Another family with three boys who arrived as we were nearing the end of our stay managed to ignore this silly diktat with a remarkable joie de vivre, and were seen noisily playing a game of cricket which helped lighten the atmosphere and which my son joined in with considerable enthusiasm!
Ireland Farms is just five minutes from one of the best pubs in Henley-in-Arden (the Bird in Hand, and there are quite a few other pubs along the high street – just a few minutes away). The fish-and-chip shop (Seaspray), Chinese takeway, Henley ice cream, and the weekend market are must trys. There's a huge Tesco about 20 minutes away (in Stratford), and there's a smallish market – in Henley itself. There are plenty of places you can drive to around Henley, and overall, it's a great little holiday spot. We did Warwick Castle (overpriced theme-parked history for the masses), drove to Kidderminster for a steam train ride , Stratford and the Shakespeare experience, the walk up the hill next to the old church in Henley! Phew! Magic!
Note to those expecting to stay in a hotel in the country: Irelands Farm isn't a B&B or a 'country experience hotel'. It's a self catering accomodation – and you need to understand that concept. It's independent, no bother, no strangers lurking in the halls and certainly no doormen expecting tips. But you're well and truly looked after overall and for a comfortable, serene place to stay in the heart of gorgeous country – you can't beat that. One other point, if you don't like electric poles, you should keep in mind that very close by outside your back yard is an industrial sized one. Although initially concerned about its health implications, we relaxed in about a day as the serenity of the countryside took over and our worry/paranoia faded into obscurity soon enough.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.