If you want a quirky staycation, you can stay in a stable for the night… with a horse

Metro’s Laura Millar spent the night with a rather long-faced companion (Picture: Sandy Kitching)

It’s the middle of the night and I’m woken up by a hairy face nuzzling my neck.

Groggily, I turn to my bearded boyfriend, Dan – then remember he’s slumbering in the bunk bed below.

This affectionate creature is none other than a magnificent jet-black Friesian horse called Hidde, who is sharing our accommodation.

Hidde (pronounced ‘Heed-er’) doesn’t quite have free, er, rein to make himself totally at home.

We’re in a converted double stable, with a bathroom and living-sleeping area on one side, and a hay-lined space on the other, separated by a wall.

Hidde is a Friesian horse, a rare breed originally from the Netherlands (Picture: Sandy Kitching)
Sleeping on the top bunk means Hidde can say hello in the morning

But between top bunk and horse’s head there’s no barrier – hence Hidde can make his presence felt.

Frankly, he makes it felt in other ways too – a series of hearty trumps occurs throughout the night and it transpires that not only do horses sleep standing up but they sleep very little.

The rest of the time they spend pacing more urgently than a football coach at the Euros.

Dan and I are experiencing a ‘Stable Stay’ at the beautifully situated, 70-acre Greenbank Farm near Cartmel, in the Lake District.

Owner Tracey Alexander offers an immersive experience. If, like me, you thought Friesians were cows, they’re also highly prized horses, from Friesland in the Netherlands.

‘I currently have 14 Friesians,’ says Tracey. ‘Some are retired carriage-driving horses, others had owners who could no longer look after them.’

As well as riding, Tracey offers a range of experiences, including grooming and carriage driving.

You can also relax with picturesque views of farmland
Guests can learn to groom the Friesians (Picture: Sandy Kitching)

‘I’m keen to educate people about these beautiful animals,’ she says, ‘and being here is a complete break from city life.’

There are around 2,000 Friesians in the UK. Top-quality horses can be worth up to £20,000, while studs sell for £500,000.

When I first meet 19- year-old Hidde, I can see the appeal. His glossy coat is inky-black, his neck arches gracefully like a knight on a chessboard and the tufts around his hooves are delightfully fluffy. His mane flops over one eye and I detect a mischievous glint.

This is confirmed when, on being led to his stable, he refuses to stand still while I try to tie him up prior to giving him the first of many nets of hay.

‘You have to be firm with him,’ laughs Tracey. ‘Just push back if he gets too close.’

That’s not easy when you’re dealing with nearly 70 stone of stubborn animal but eventually he deigns to let me brush his mane before hoovering up his oats and carrots for dinner.

Dan and I then head out to Cartmel for our own evening meal.

After our restless night, Hidde’s fed again. Then we watch him frolic in a paddock before bidding him a fond farewell.

I’m going to miss my hairy, snorty, farty companion. Oh well, at least I still have Dan…

A Stable Stay is £250 for up to three. Find out more on their website or via Facebook.

Three more animal encounters

Puppy love in Somerset

Cuddle up with some adorable golden retriever puppies

Nicolas Grant-St James, founder of The Dog Whisperer UK, has a pack of adorable golden retrievers.

Whether it’s just to play with them if you don’t have your own or for a special occasion, you’ll love these cuties.

From £60 for two hours. Find out more here

Leopard lounge in Kent

You can sleep in the lions’ den at Port Lympne

At Port Lympne reserve, you can already stay in accommodation that gets you close to lions and tigers.

Now it’s opened Leopard Creek, whose cabins and wigwams let you sleep metres from these magnificent big cats.

From £489pn for a cabin. Find out more here

Meerkat magic in East Sussex

Meet Aleksandr for yourself at Drusillas

Get up close and personal with the animal kingdom’s cutest critters at Drusillas Park in Alfriston.

The meerkat experience includes the chance to feed them, ask the zookeeper questions and have your picture taken with them. Simples!

From £80pp. Find out more here

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