Africa in the Cotswolds


We’ve just returned from an unforgettable holiday in the Highlands of Scotland with Tom’s family.

To quench the thirst for some Celtic atmosphere, 16 of us rented a house near Loch Ness, on the breathtaking Dell Estate. I know we do B&B well in this country, but you can also find some truly amazing self-catering accommodation – and this house ticked all the boxes for homeliness and comfort.


For a week we felt like Lairds of our own kingdom. The most stunning scenery on the doorstep; beautiful wooded mountains, our own plentiful fishing lochs, and an amazing array of wildlife including golden eagles, osprey, otters, red deer, and red squirrels.


The children enjoyed every minute, and our own version of the Highland Games will remain a fond memory for all of us. Over the years, our own home, Milton Farm has been witness to some great parties. The Paton family clan gatherings are legendary, and my father-in-law Andrew relates stories of the house being so full that party guests even slept in the bath.


Our generation of the family also have this compulsion to use an occasion for celebration. Last month I reached the big 4-0 – an ideal excuse for a party.

The theme was Out of Africa and the challenge was to recreate on our farm an African landscape in the foot of the Cotswold Hills.During the week before the party the occasional movement of furniture bemused our B&B guests, as we made room for a stage in our dining room. But this was nothing compared to the lifesize models of African wildlife that emerged in the garden.One French family staying as guests in a room overlooking the garden were most intrigued by Le singe est dans l’arbre (monkeys in the tree).


Despite farming obligations and battling with orange blossom midge in the wheat, Tom had been busy in the workshop making props with large pieces of plyboard, a jigsaw and pots of paint.Using his artistic talents, he created remarkable life-sized models of rhino, giraffe, zebra and monkeys. On the night, authentic jungle sounds completed the effect. It’s not often our neighbours are disturbed by roaring lions or trumpeting elephants!

The evening was brilliant and guests donned Pith Helmets as safari hunters, wielded spears as Zulu Warriors and we even entertained the odd lion, ostrich and leopard.


A truly memorable event, and did anyone sleep in the bath? Well I’m not sure, but all I’ll say is at 3.30am, with your bed full of snoring children, and having had quite a few sherbets during the evening, it’s a pretty attractive place for a kip – even at 40.


Suzie Paton’s farm B&B columns