See our recommended property above, or click here to see more rural holidays.
The options for a rural holiday are endless. Stay on a working farm in France, in a refurbished barn in Portugal, in an ancient stone house in Spain, or in a hillside villa in Italy. Go bird watching in an unspoilt rural landscape, hunt wild mushrooms in the forest, or get adventurous mountain biking along hilly local trails. A rural holiday can be as active or as relaxing as you like, but it's a guaranteed way to unwind far from the frenzy of the daily grind.
"For people seeking to recharge their batteries, a rural holiday is ideal," says Susie Kelly, the owner of a rural retreat called "Sunflower Studio," a tiny, 18th-century country cottage in the sleepy town of Civray, in France's Poitou-Charentes region.
"Here you can expect to hear owls hooting, frogs burping, nightingales singing in early summer, crickets chirping… A rural retreat like this one is perfect if you're looking for peace and quiet and a holiday where you do nothing but relax in your own way." she says.
Its tranquil setting makes Sunflower Studio a good choice for people looking for a writer's retreat or other solitary getaway too, Kelly says. "There's a lot of personal space here - and no hustle and bustle!"
Cora van Manen, who owns a small Italian villa called "Casa delle Damigiane" in Apricale, Italy, is just as enamoured with village life and the quiet of the countryside. Like Sunflower Studio, Casa delle Damigiane is a historic home located in a quiet village, and it makes a perfectly picturesque rural retreat.
"Our village is a maze of partly covered cobbled streets. No traffic is allowed except for some three-wheelers to carry materials and supplies, and the result of all this is total peace and quiet - a perfect spot for a rural holiday. We never slept better!" she says enthusiastically.
The Italian government has declared Apricale one of the loveliest villages in Italy, and van Manen assures that no one forgets their first glimpse of their rural village: "a bee-hive-like affair that dribbles down the hillside."
The peace of the countryside, the charm of old-timey village life and the easy access to nature aren't the only draws of a rural retreat. Spending time in the country is also a great way to get to know locals and to get involved in local life. A rural holiday gives you the opportunity to participate in a language class, a cooking course or some other community activity.
"Staying in a rural retreat is a great way to live in and mix with the local community," says Juan Salanova, who owns "Casa El Molino," a sprawling farmhouse in a hamlet in Spain's Grio Valley, near Zaragoza. "Rural holidays are also a good way to develop Spanish fluency (in the case of El Molino) because there are no foreign tourists around, as there are in the coastal resorts," he says.
Casa El Molino is a large home with many sitting quarters and bedrooms, so it's ideal for families looking for a rural holiday. Kids staying here have the option to participate in the activities of a local farm school, which in summer opens its doors to locals and visitors alike.
Of course, rural holidays don't have to be all about kicking back and relaxing. They can be great opportunities to play too, whether you're looking for challenging hiking, scenic canoe trips, or adventure sports like bungee jumping.
Patricia, who owns a country cottage called 'Zabesa' in the village of Naquera, just outside Valencia, Spain, says her rural neighbourhood is a hotbed of activities like tennis, squash, bowling, basketball and football, all of which are available close by.
"Zabesa is set at the foot of the Sierra Calderona, a natural park, so it's a perfect place for hikers and mountain bikers too," she said.
'The Barn', a converted cow shed and hay loft in Northern Portugal, is another example of a rural retreat that's ideal for lovers of the outdoors, says owner Mark Riley.
"The property has its own orchard and is surrounded by fields, woodland and mountainside, so there are lots of activities possible," he says of the historic country cottage. "Walking and mountain biking trails leave straight from the property, and a few miles away there are lakes and rivers with rock pools to swim in. Portugal's largest national park, the Peneda-Ger?s, is just 17 miles away."
Whether drawn to the countryside for the peace and quiet, the natural surroundings, the chance to interact with locals, or the abundance of outdoor activities, rural holidays are richly rewarding, Riley says.
"A rural retreat is just what you need to go back home invigorated and refreshed. I don't know what it is, but rural properties like ours seem to have a calming influence, and friends who come always go away feeling mentally and physically relaxed."
See our recommended property above, or click here to see more rural retreats.