Two alpaca farmers from Ilfracombe have transformed a disused, centuries-old threshing barn into luxury holiday accommodation for people with disabilities.

The Brookes decided to renovate a derelict farmhouse and turn it into their home and subsequently a 5* holiday cottage. Its success gave them the confidence to diversify their business further and take on a nearby empty stone threshing barn.

Early on in the process, the couple realised that holiday accommodation for groups or large families with a variety of needs was virtually impossible to come across.

So, as well as making sure it had luxury credentials, such as a hydrotherapy pool and hot tub, they were inspired to ensure the entire barn was fully accessible.

Kate explained: “We always planned for the property to have two accessible rooms on the ground floor, but when we started looking into disability facilities, we realised how few holiday lets accommodate groups where more than one person has mobility needs.”

The Brookes’ decision to go above and beyond basic disability provision was partly inspired by a friend’s story about a disabled 12-year-old boy whose family had to leave him, and his carers, behind when they went on holiday because they were unable to find anywhere that could accommodate all their needs.

“We became aware that there was a real need for fully accessible accommodation like Otter Pool Barn, and we wanted make it luxury too.”

The Brookes successfully applied for a North Devon Plus LEADER grant to go towards 40% of the costs for the barn’s accessibility equipment.

Kate explained: “NFU Mutual provided a seamless service throughout the changes we made to our business. Having an insurer we could trust was essential and all aspects of the policy had to work well in practice.

“When we opened the barn, Barry from NFU Mutual in Barnstaple came out and walked round the whole place to advise on exactly what we needed and we can ring them for advice whenever we need to. It feels fabulous to know we’re providing something really special for people. It takes more work but it’s completely worth it.”

The barn’s regeneration involved extensive research and meticulous planning. All six bedrooms have wheelchair access, there are four profiling beds as well as ceiling hoists in one bedroom and bathroom and two mobile hoists for use throughout the house. There is also a mobile hoist for the spa pool and hot tub, with all mobility features discreetly incorporated.

Kate continued: “Among our very first visitors was a disabled man who hadn’t been able to have a bath for 30 years because he didn’t have a bathroom hoist at home. He said it was wonderful to be able to enjoy a bath here."

The property has been awarded the highest level of accessibility standard by Visit Britain and a 4* gold quality award rating.