Sheepskin Life offers Luxury Cottages Across the UK

By Paul Joseph

In the UK, people are increasingly choosing to holiday at home. A combination of austerity and increased choice is drawing travellers away from foreign shores and towards the multitude of beauty spots and places of interest dotted across this small island.

At the higher end of the UK’s domestic holiday scene is Sheepskin Life. Founded by Helen Shaw and Adam Lloyd in December 2009, the online business boasts a sizeable collection of some of the UK’s most desirable cottages, each offering luxurious and characterful accommodation in an idyllic setting. spoke exclusively to co-founder Helen Shaw to find out more about Sheepskin Life.

Can you explain how the business works?
All of the cottages in our collection are the cherished and precious holiday homes of their owners. Each one is distinctive, packed full of character and located in an awe inspiring landscape. Interiors range from city style loft in a rural environment to simple but stylish.

We know that our guests our very busy and so need all the help they can get to help make the most of their precious time off. So for each guest we send a personalised guide tailored to their preferences and hobbies with everything they want to know about their chosen holiday cottage and the local area.

When guests arrive at a Sheepskin cottage they find hotel style comforts but with all the freedom of home. There is a welcome gift from Sheepskin including fresh roast coffee, tea, olive oil, sea salt and a few other tasty treats. All of the beds are made with soft cotton sheets, marshmallow duvets, cosy blankets & throws and for each guest sumptuous Sheepskin bathrobes and cotton towels.

With Sheepskin’s delicatessen service you can order delicious tapas selections and wine, through their partnership with Davis Bell McCraith, to be delivered to your cottages before you arrive.

Of course a cosy cottage or remarkable country house is not complete without a log burner or open fire and so all of our holiday homes have a fire and a generous supply of logs too.

What is the process by which the properties are chosen to be listed on the site and how many are currently listed?
We are regularly contacted by owners of holiday homes who wish to become part of the Sheepskin collection. When an owner contacts us we initially find out as much as we can about the house, its location and what makes it unique by phone and email. We turn down many properties at this stage – perhaps the location isn’t right or the owner already has a good level of guest stays and income from their home therefore it does not make sense for them to join our exclusive collection.

If both we and the owner feel that they and their holiday home may fit the Sheepskin portfolio I then visit the house to meet the owner, get a real feel of the house, location and what it is like to stay there and to make recommendations of any finishing touches that may be needed in order for the house to be exactly what we know our guests are looking for. During this visit I stay overnight at the cottage so that I can experience the house first hand and can talk with expert knowledge to guests about what it is like to stay there.

Our collection is and always will be small: we want to retain the high standards, personal service and originality of our collection. We currently have 19 properties and plan to expand this to 26 by the end of 2012.

What kind of price would you expect to pay to rent one of your cottages?
Our prices range from £285 for a 3 night stay at Hafod Glan Gwy (one of the 'Independent' newspaper's best weekend retreats) to £1,500 for a 3-night stay at Rhoscolyn House in Anglesey which sleeps 10 and is only accessible on foot at high tide.

Has there been a spike as more people chose to holiday domestically during the economic downturn?
The current economic climate and travel chaos of recent years does seem to be encouraging more people to explore at home rather than venture overseas for their holidays.

We are also finding that more people from overseas are choosing to holiday in the UK as the favourable exchange rates make it even more attractive to discover the natural beauty and heritage the UK has to offer.

What is the ratio of UK customers to overseas customers – and how much of your marketing is aimed at visitors coming from abroad?
The majority of our customers are living in the UK and this is where the majority of our press coverage and marketing has been so far. We have only recently purposely extended our marketing efforts outside of the UK though the internet means that we have always had a small proportion of customer from overseas (US and Germany in particular). As our customer base expands and people recommend us to their friends at home and abroad our overseas customers are increasing.

Do you have any intentions of expanding, perhaps to include overseas properties, or do you intend to remain relatively small and exclusive?
We intend to grow our collection in the UK to a maximum of 50 properties over the next few years and then look to expand with overseas collections. Even as we expand though we will always remain relatively small and exclusive in each country so that we can maintain the originality of our collection and the high level of personal service to both our guests and owners.

What would you describe as sheepskinlife’s USP?
We focus not just on the unique and characterful holiday homes for our collection but on providing a service to ensure our guests enjoy the authentic and first class holiday experience they are looking for in stunning properties that feel like a real home from home.

What is your own personal favourite part of the UK?
My favourite part of the UK is the Brecon Beacons in South Wale because it really is a truly beautiful part of the world with breathtaking scenery from rugged mountain tops to rolling valleys and historic market towns. Here you can explore the mountains or enjoy a day on the river with a wonderful, secluded place to call home at the end of the day. Lletty, within the Sheepskin collection, is my personal favourite bolthole where you can hide away with family and friends in this remote and luxurious farmhouse.

By Paul Joseph