Why guests are flocking to these amazing shepherds huts in Yorkshire

Simon Spinks proves it can pay to be different when you are competing for guests in the hospitality trade

There have been reports of some areas of Britain becoming saturated with holiday lets as more investors look for a tangible asset and a relatively safe place to put their money long term. This is, of course, a major issue for local people who are already struggling to get onto the property ladder due to inflated prices and lack of supply in popular places. As The Yorkshire Post reported this week, just over a fifth of homes are not permanently occupied in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, where average house prices, already much higher than the regional average, have rocketed during the pandemic.

The burgeoning numbers of holiday homes also look set to be a problem for established lets, guest houses and hotels. While we are now in the middle of a staycation boom, those who prefer a foreign holiday are itching to board a plane, which means bookings in Britain are likely to fall when travel returns to some kind of normality. This is when a prime location, quality accommodation and great customer service will pay dividends for those competing for guests. All of these are imperative but some businesses are also trying a different tactic to help them stand out from the crowd.

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Among them is The House at Hawes, which featured in the Yorkshire Post magazine earlier this year. It was a conventional B&B before being turned into a quirky, Yorkshire-themed guest house. Owners Fiona and Tim Gardham set it up with the aim of making people smile and their bookings show that they have succeeded. Their piece de resistance is a life-size and incredibly life-like Swaledale ram made from felted wool. He sits in the entrance hall, while all of the bedroom suites are themed and include work by Yorkshire designer makers.

The Fenton shepherd's hut celebrates the wartime airbase

Over at Golden Hill Farm, overlooking the sea at Liverton, near Saltburn, North Shire promises “magical accommodation” and it delivers. Expectations are exceeded for those who love to stay somewhere quirky and exciting and fans of Harry Potter are thrilled at the Potteresque style of some of the cottages, including The Dorm, which is made to replicate the castle turret dorm at Hogwarts.

Simon Spinks is the latest purveyor of out of the ordinary holiday accommodation after investing in a flock of eight shepherds huts on his land at Hornington Manor in Bolton Percy, near Tadcaster. While he realised that the huts are now commonplace, he was determined to have them and to ensure they were extraordinary as they fit beautifully with the story of the site.

Managing director of Leeds-based bed making firm Harrison Spinks and one of Yorkshire’s great innovators. Simon bought the estate 12 years ago for its 300 acres of land. It now produces the hemp, flax and wool fillings for Harrison Spinks’ luxury, sustainable mattresses and is home to Texel, Suffolk, Zwartble and Wensleydale sheep. The enormous period house that came with the land has been put to use as a wedding venue with 19 ensuite bedrooms, while his huts are a new addition.

“I wanted shepherd’s huts because they tie in with the sheep we have here and they are the most luxurious huts you’ll find. They provide more guest accommodation for the weddings but they can also be used for staycations and business travellers,” says Simon, whose had the timber holiday homes made entirely bespoke, while designing interiors to celebrate Yorkshire’s heritage.

The shepherd's huts are much larger than average

Constructed by local firm R&E Falkingham Joinery, at 20ft long and 10ft wide, they are far bigger than the average shepherd’s hut and include king-size beds topped with Harrison Spinks mattresses, a sitting area, kitchen, ensuite bathroom and a balcony.

No expense was spared on the themed interiors, which are by Tony Pett, former design director at Duresta. “He is amazing. I gave him the brief, which was ‘to surprise’ and he did a remarkable job and a huge amount of research,” says Simon.

The first hut, The Fenton, takes its name from an aerodrome just outside Hornington, which served as a fighter station in the 1940s. It features memorabilia of wartime Britain, including artwork of the planes.

The Egyptologist was inspired by Lord Londesborough, an eminent Victorian and former owner of Hornington Manor. He was a keen Egyptologist who used to stage mummy unravelling parties at his London flat, a practice that was apparently not unusual.

There are eight shepherd's huts in total on the site

Folklore embraces tales of Yorkshire witches, pixies and giants and The White Princess hut is inspired by Elizabeth of York. Hull born flying ace Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930, is honoured with her own hut, which reflects her love of fashion, flying and adventure.

The Arts and Crafts hut is influenced by Goddards House in York, designed by Walter Brierley and built for chocolate magnets, the Terry family. It features beautiful artwork and 19th-century chocolate boxes on the walls.

“I like to do something different and bespoke because I am an inventor at heart, plus my strategy is to create remarkable places that surprise people and help create lasting memories,” says Simon. “I really enjoy doing that because it’s fun but it’s also helpful for making you stand out from the crowd.”

What all the above staycation providers have in common is property that is photogenic and that is now a fantastic marketing tool. “We know guests take pictures of our huts and share them on Instagram and Facebook and that’s great publicity,” says Simon.

This hut celebrates the Arts and Crafts era

*For details of Hornington Manor’s shepherd huts and wedding venue at Bolton Percy, visit www.horningtonmanor.co.uk/shepherd-huts-hornington-manor.

For information on The House at Hawes B&B in Hawes visit www.thehouseathawes.co.uk. You can find information on Harry Potter inspired accommodation and other quirky holiday lets at North Shire, Liverton, near Saltburn, at www.northshire.co.uk

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No expense was spared on the design and fit-out
Simon Spinks who came up with the idea of having definitely fifferent shepherd's huts on his land in Bolton Percy