Penny has been a little quiet here of late, she’s been busy with a big family travel project which she can’t wait to share here. After moving to the Peak District last year, she has put all her travel experiences into fulfilling her dream to be a self catering holiday let host.
I’ve always dreamed of running my own holiday lets. A short spell as a student as a chambermaid, followed by nearly a decade of of travel blogging and travel writing has seen me squirrel away so many ideas. So when we found the perfect place in the Peak District, an old B&B, with a partially-coverted barn and a long forgotten 1960s static caravan, my heart immediately said yes. Although I know you are probably saying yuk no way right now…
Creating a holiday let from this took a lot longer to get my head round however. In May 2017 we finally moved into two old farm cottages, joined together on a hill top overlooking stunning views of the Peak District, close to Ashbourne and pretty Dovedale with its famous stepping stones, and only 10 miles from Alton Towers theme park.
For a few months after moving in we talked a lot but couldn’t fathom where to begin. We were still adjusting to our move from suburbia to countryside. Then someone in the school playground suggested a joiner who also had the jack of all trades skills we needed, we met, got along and within his first day the barn was gutted and ready for a new kitchen, floor and bathroom.
He didn’t mess about, 4 months later it was on Airbnb and we had our first 5 star review. The bookings came in quicker than we expected, all of them were 5 stars, and so we found the courage and confidence to tackle the caravan.
Many people said we should trash the caravan – a 1961 Bluebird Senator – but I could see so much potential, articles about quirky places are definitely our most visited posts here. Our dog could just smell little creatures…
Our joiner agreed to rip it back and give us his honest opinion. We trusted him after seeing his work on the barn, so were thrilled when he said the main structure was dry and rot free. He could re-insulate it with new materials and re-clad it and we’d have a completely blank, clean canvas to design our own caravan.
This was exciting, if a little daunting. In many ways the barn was easier to design as the walls were already in place. Plus small spaces need to really work hard in terms of storage and comfort. But I relished the challenge.
A big turning point was seeing the space reclad inside and painted white and then the flooring going down. We used a mix of Harvey Maria Sussex Oak planks to create a warm looking, but hard wearing and easy to clean space, with Dee Hardwicke green patterned tiles to create a stunning kitchen zone and Little Bricks in Apple Green to make the bathroom feel special.
Making the most of nature outside was a big priority and caravan windows have always made the most of views. The caravan was already sited perfectly to admire the sun rising and setting across Dovedale. Our joiner designed the biggest window possible to replace the damaged and rotting three frame window. So many people have commented it looks like a painting.
We decided to install central heating, to fire up the hot water for the power shower and the radiator. It was important to make it toasty. Luckily the caravan was already plumbed, so there is a proper flushing toilet, full sized basin and generous shower cubicle for a caravan.
Our joiner designed the beds, a double and two couches that convert to beds for children at night. He fitted a small kitchen, made tongue and groove doors and repurposed second hand pine units to make a run of storage.
We decided to go for a Scandi theme to embrace the nature outside and our joiner’s woodwork. My Mother in Law painted Norwegian Rosemaling designs on the door and an old drop leaf table. We found little knick-nacks at local car boots and charity shops and added a few Ikea scandi-style soft furnishings. This was by far my favourite part and I love how guests always remark on the little homely touches. For me that’s what a holiday home from home is all about.
We also added a deck and created a land drain from the pond.
Testing it out
Of course once it was finished, we had to stay in it ourselves and test it out. We did a family stay, with dogs who we welcome, and a couples stay too, as the caravan predominately appeals to those groups. Although we have also had a few people come and stay on their own to completely escape and relax too. This definitely appeals to me!
I’m slightly biased, but it was great to find the kids and dogs slept comfortably, we could cook and move about without bumping into or squeezing past each other as we used to in our old touring caravan. The power shower was a treat, as was a proper bathroom with room to move. All the time we had a touring caravan I was determined to park up somewhere with the best view from the front window, but seldom did it work out quite like that, so this felt like a major traveller’s life goal ticked off!
Having been through the barn renovation I felt much more able to relax and enjoy this project. There will always be things that go wrong, but I learned to see them simply as problems to solve. I’m so glad we faced our fears and salvaged it, and love reading how much joy it brings to guests! I love travel writing and bringing inspiration to people brings me joy, but actually being part of shaping holidays, family time, mini moons, birthdays, reunions, anniversaries is such a privilege and so rewarding.
It’s been wonderful to show all the team the glowing reviews in the guest book and on Airbnb too.