If it’s good enough for David Cameron… Jenny Needham takes a look at how the humble shepherd’s hut has been given a modern-day makeover

Until the early 20th Century, shepherd’s huts with iron wheels and hinged stable doors could be seen dotted around the countryside. Sheep moved from pasture to pasture, and the shepherd went along with them in his hut-on-wheels, which was his whole house and workshop rolled into one.

Nowadays, if you’re lucky enough to stay in a shepherd’s hut, you may be surrounded by sheep and rolling acres, but there’s no need to chase around after animals. Just light the wood burning stove, open a decent bottle of wine, sit back… and contemplate.

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Shepherd’s huts, little havens on wheels, are hugely popular again, popping up in private gardens, as extra space for hotels and holiday cottages, and even as writing dens for former Prime Ministers: David Cameron recently revealed he had spent £25,000 on a luxury hut for his Cotswolds garden. But although the modern versions are styled as “shepherd’s huts”, they are usually designed for indulgent modern living, with electricity, heating, mains drainage and electricity. Whatever the weather, they are warm and cosy, which just adds to the romance.

The Camerons’ hand-built hut came complete with sheep’s wool insulation, a wood-burning stove, Bakelite light switches and hardwood stable doors. The former first family fitted it out with a pull-out double sofa bed and painted it in Farrow and Ball colours. The rustic cabin was bought from Red Sky Shepherds Huts, who have a range costing from £16,500. “Yes, they are sprouting up everywhere, but we really love it,” said Cameron. Just the place, obviously, to recuperate after five years in the country’s most stressful job.

Tourism businesses have been quick to jump on the shepherd’s hut trend. Beacon Hill Farm, near Longhorsley, in rural Northumberland, recently added three luxury huts to their offering. The Hideaways, situated on a wildflower hillside in rural Northumberland, are modelled on the original horse-drawn Northumbrian shepherd’s huts, but at 30ft, they are much larger than the originals, with three rooms, instead of one. And unlike their 19th Century counterparts, they are robust and sturdy, beautifully warm and painted in wonderful colours. The lap of luxury.

For starters, there are comfortable double beds, wood burners, splendid bathrooms, soft colours and the finest appliances. Even by 21st Century standards, the Beacon Hill hideaways are no ordinary shepherd’s huts. The living area in Bluegrass, the first to be completed, has a combined microwave and oven, halogen hob, fridge, Belfast sink, and masses of utensils. There is Wi-Fi, a Bose Bluetooth speaker and a digital radio. The bedroom has a smart TV, and an adjoining bathroom has a shower, loo and basin. Heating and hot water are provided by a gas boiler and radiators, and there is also a log-burning stove.

The huts were designed by Chris Moore, with wheels bought from Gloucestershire and steel bases made by a local blacksmith. “We did our research by staying in huts in Scotland and Northumberland,” says Chris’s father Alun. “We were a bit underwhelmed and convinced we could do better. Chris also designed the interiors and made the furniture. He loves using reclaimed materials and the result is a lovely rustic feel.”

The luxury huts are an addition to the successful, multi-award-winning Beacon Hill Farm Cottage business which has been welcoming family and friends to its four and five-star cottages for more than 30 years. Buegrass and Ryegrass are already being rented out and the third will be finished in the spring. “The Hideaways were created to fill a need in the market for exclusive rural getaways for couples,” says owner Chris. “They are designed for people to unwind, relax and enjoy each other’s company in total luxury, away from the stresses of modern living. It seems to be what people are looking for.”

Close to the village of Ravensworth, ? near Richmond, Clare Moss-Clennell and husband Shaun installed a shepherd’s hut in the grass meadow of Holmebeck Barn four years ago. Initially installed to accommodate overflow from their bijoux one-bedroom barn conversion, they also rent it out. The hut cost £30,000 and Clare designed the bright and colourful country-style interior herself. “We’ve got a few little luxuries in there, such as a flat-screen TV, but we wanted it to retain its rustic feel,” she says. “Glamping is so popular now and it’s a step up from that really. If you’ve been out walking or cycling and it’s pouring down, you can come back, have a shower and relax in a nice environment.”

Looking through her visitor book, the words that most regularly appear are “relaxing”, “cosy” and also “attention to detail”. “Often, when I meet guests and show them into the hut, they can’t believe how well the space is used and a common relief among many is the small en suite,” she says.

Another couple who are constantly praised for their attention to detail are award-winning holiday cottage owners Richard and Kate Hodgson, from Ingleton. Their luxury holiday let portfolio already included a converted barn on the farm, a townhouse in Barnard Castle and a cottage in Gainford, and they have just built and furnished a shepherd’s hut. “We wanted to add something entirely different to our offering and felt a traditional-style shepherd’s hut would blend in to the beautiful countryside we are lucky enough to enjoy.”

The Hodgsons’ south-facing hut is tucked away in a quiet corner of a field and looks out out over the rolling, unspoilt countryside of Lower Teesdale. Richard designed it from scratch, bought some cast iron wheels and asked local fabricator Keith Tallentire to make the chassis. Richard and joiner Barry Proudlock then constructed the frame, and enjoyed the process so much they are considering making shepherd’s huts to order for people wanting extra bedrooms, offices and playrooms.

While the exterior is simple, the luxurious interior includes a top-of-the-range kitchen with Neff appliances, granite worktops and breakfast bar from Custom Design at Bishop Auckland. The hardwood stable door is from Treetop Joinery in Shildon, and looks out onto a decking area with bistro table, chairs and an outdoor sofa surrounded by private lawn. There’s a relaxing two-seater sofa – “we were determined to have a sofa in there and designed the interior around it,” says Kate – and a Hobbit wood burning stove, to keep guests cosy. The lighting is from Warrens Lighting, in Bishop Auckland, and the oak flooring comes from North Yorkshire Timber. “We always try to support local businesses,” adds Richard.

The shower room was supplied by Bathroom World, in Darlington. “The beautiful glass sliding bathroom door was an extravagant purchase,” says Kate. “It was made in Venice. It’s a statement piece and we love it.”

After all the hard work, the couple booked themselves into the hut for a few nights to make sure there were no teething problems. “We are pleased to report everything worked beautifully,” says Kate. “Looking out onto the starry night was beautiful and the solar fairy lights in the oak tree just added to the magic.”

  • Mill Granary Cottages Shepherd’s Hut minimum two-night stay, £190.

W: millgranary.co.uk; T: 01325-730339

  • Beacon Hill’s Ryegrass is £145 per night or £750 per week in summer (until end Sept) and £125 per night, £650 per week from October to end April, minimum two-nights stay, with access to spa, leisure facilities and observatory at no extra cost. W: beaconhill.co.uk
  • Holmebeck Huts, two nights mid-week

£140, weekend £160. T: 07810-631172;

W: holmebeckshepherdshuts.co.uk