Spring is around the corner and thoughts are turning to lush meadows and a blooming countryside with rolling hills. Two weeks of school holidays are coming up soon, and, if you’re itching to travel, there’s no better way to welcome the new season than to immerse the family in a European farm stay complete with cows to milk, goats to herd and chickens to feed. So, dig out them wellies and get rustic at these gorgeous farms...
Devon, the UK: Fowlescombe Farm
Kids are actively encouraged to feed goats and chickens, and watch sheepdogs at work in this 500-acre farm. It boasts numerous awards for its organic beef and lamb and has more than 400 rare breed sheep and 200 roaming cattle. Book a cosy cottage, go on a wildlife tour and enjoy fresh eggs and veggies, as well as home-baked pies every day.
Return flights from Dhs2,416 per person to London with British Airways, www.ba.com. From Dhs1,964 weekly for a cottage for four. www.fowlescombe.co.uk.
Umbria, Italy: Agriturismo Val di Boccio
Ponies, donkeys, goats, sheep and chickens are par for the course in this renovated hillside farm in beautiful Umbria. Surrounded by olive trees, oaks, laurels and lavender, it offers bed and breakfast, or self-catering options, plus a play area, swimming pool and home-cooked dinners rustled up using local ingredients.
Return flights from Dhs1,566 per person with Royal Jordanian to Rome (a little over two hours away by road), www.rj.com. Prices from Dhs316 per night. www.agriturismo.umbria.it.
The Netherlands: Feather Down Farm Days
Kicking off in The Netherlands around ten years ago, this company has spread to countless locations across the world. It has 20 farms in Dutch country alone and is best known for glamping. Combined with the stunning scenery in this laid-back country, farming will feel like a welcome luxury.
Flights from Dhs2,498 per person with KLM to Amsterdam, www.klm.com. Prices vary. www.featherdown.co.uk.
Animal encounters in the UAE
Al Ain Camel Market
The spectacle of the Al Ain Camel Market begins early, around 6am, and you’re welcome to watch the parading and trading of these fascinating creatures until closing around 8am.
Free. Every morning at Bawadi Mall.
Al Ain Zoo
Feed giraffes and budgies and watch the bird show at this children’s zoo. A real treat for the whole family.
Dhs20 (adults), Dhs10 for kids aged three to 12. www.alainzoo.ae (03 799 2000).
Al Tamimi Stables
Let the farm come to you with this petting zoo and feed animals like pups, ducks, hamsters, goats and snakes(!).
Dhs1,200 for two hours with transport and staff. www.tamimistables.com.
Posh Paws Kennel and Cattery relies on donations, volunteers and entrance fees. Head over to pet the animals.
Dhs20 (adults), Dhs10 for kids aged two to 16. www.poshpawsdubai.com (056 604 4091).