Farmer Jane Foad on her quirky Aberdeenshire destination Boutique Farm Bothies

Design of The DairyDesign of The Dairy
Design of The Dairy
Venture ten miles from Huntly in Aberdeenshire, and you will find a collection of quirky buildings, set in their own private spots in rolling countryside, where you can commune with nature, light a fire to heat up a wooden hot tub, and climb a ladder to a box bed with a view of the stars.

Jane Foad runs Boutique Farm Bothies at her family farm, and the accommodation on offer has been created from repurposed farm buildings and equipment, upcycled materials and vintage interiors.

What is more remarkable is that these buildings were assembled at the other end of the UK and shipped north on the back of a lorry.

Jane FoadJane Foad
Jane Foad

Jane explains: “My husband, James, and I bought the farm in 2012. We grow barley which goes to Glenlivet to make whisky, we have a small strawberry enterprise and we have sheep. But with just 100 acres, we always knew we were going to have to diversify.”

After a Go Rural meeting where she met Caroline Miller, an expert in agritourism, Jane was inspired to build a business offering back-to-nature hideaways. She recalls: “I’ve always loved quirky accommodation so we started to look around at what was available. At the time, the concept of glamping was limited to either a yurt, a shepherd’s hut or a gypsy wagon – and all were very expensive, and a bit generic.”

Jane comes from country roots. Her father, John Gunningham, is a farmer in Somerset who is experienced in construction, having built his own house and various farm and industrial buildings.

The Sheep Shed which sleeps two peopleThe Sheep Shed which sleeps two people
The Sheep Shed which sleeps two people

So the two generations started working on potential designs, taking inspiration from traditional farm buildings and keeping a vintage look in mind.

The Barley Bothy was their first creation, built in Somerset by John, and shipped up in two parts on a lorry in 2014.

The wooden interior was once a chicken shed, but it is unrecognisable now. It is open plan, apart from the bathroom, and features two double beds, and a sitting and dining area heated by a wood-burning stove.

Its quirky corrugated iron and wooden exterior and colourful mismatched interior was interesting enough to feature on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces just after it opened. Jane says: “That gave us a huge amount of publicity.”

Barley BothyBarley Bothy
Barley Bothy

Guests were drawn to the whimsical rusticity, and Jane feels that people get a real buzz from lighting the stove and cooking on it.

She says: “The Barley Bothy sleeps four, but was very popular with couples, so for the next project we decided to create cosy accommodation which sleeps just two.”

The second building, called the Sheep Shed, features a mezzanine level double bed with a huge window, something which Jane insisted on because it is in such a lovely spot.

The dwelling sits in its own little copse of trees with uninterrupted views from its glass gable end.

It was James’ idea to put in a wood-fired hot tub outside, and that has proved so popular with guests that all the properties have them now.

There is little ambient light here, allowing stargazing.

Next the couple added The Dairy, a little house based on a milking bale – a machine on a trailer which is taken out to the fields to milk cows.

This proved more challenging. Jane explains: “It was built during Covid, which meant I couldn’t go South to oversee the design, which complicated things, with a lot of photos being sent back and forth.

The colourful interior of The Sheep ShedThe colourful interior of The Sheep Shed
The colourful interior of The Sheep Shed

“Many of the fittings are from reclamation yards. James would source something and it would arrive at my dad’s, and we’d have to explain where it was meant to go.”

The finished house offers a double bed and two bunk beds with a ladder to reach the bedrooms or an outside staircase.

It has lots of quirky features, such as the “Ally Up” basket for hoisting up a flask and mugs for the morning cuppa, and a 1950’s larder cupboard repurposed into a cocktail cabinet.

Jane and James have recently added a farmhouse, bought from a neighbouring estate along with steadings, with the latter earmarked for a communal social space.

The Farmhouse is larger, sleeping eight guests, and the refurbishment has been made with multi-generational family holidays in mind, with an open plan layout, and a downstairs ensuite bedroom.

Jane says: “I’m aware that the other three little houses are not for everyone – if you can’t get up a ladder or fit into a box bed. So this one is more accessible for all. And we’ve already had several bookings where people take the farmhouse plus one or two of the bothies [to accommodate] the whole family.

The farmhouse is a more conventional short-stay offering – you won’t need to light a fire to boil the kettle, although it doesn’t have a TV, in keeping with Jane’s original vision of providing comfortable, cosy accommodation without modern-day distractions to give guests the chance to totally turn off from their hectic lives.

She says: “All four units are in their own secluded spot, allowing guests to appreciate the rural landscape surrounding them, and to really encourage them to slow down, relax, feel closer to nature, and rejuvenate.”

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