Tourists are flocking to rent holiday homes with some special guests…as bookings soar for special breaks with animals.
Worldwide holiday rental site Airbnb has launched a new platform that allows visitors to have fun with a variety of four-legged and feathered friends.
Among the packages on offer include a “Meet the Dogs of Chernobyl” trip to the Ukraine, the opportunity to go on a stand-up paddleboard tour with a corgi in Florida and a horse whispering stay with an “equine therapist” in Barcelona.
In Scotland, travellers can head to a private home in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park to have afternoon tea in the garden with four mischievous Herdwick sheep; Hamish, Dougal, Benny and Lochie.
The woolly pets join guests at the table to be patted and pose for pictures – and they just may try to eat the homemade scones and sandwiches straight off their plates.
“The sheep are very nosey and they absolutely love meeting visitors,” the Airbnb’s Scots host, Beccy Routledge, said. “However, their table manners still have plenty of room for improvement.”
The platform already has 1,000 experiences signed up worldwide, co-hosted by more than 300 species and their “human advocates”.
Airbnb said this will “allow even busy urbanites to reconnect with the natural world through hiking with rescue dogs, chilling out with alpacas or cuddling cows”.
Guests can meet the animals in places “that allow for gentle observation and bring a sense of connection far beyond animal selfies or performances”.
Beccy came up with the idea of letting people have tea with the sheep last year when two joined her family in the garden while they were eating outside.
“Hamish and Dougal were just lambs and they came straight over to the table to see what was going on and they seemed to enjoy being with us,” Beccy said. “We thought it was hilarious and lovely and as we were already operating an Airbnb I thought this could be a nice addition.
“The sheep are very friendly and sometimes follow us into the kitchen. They are like giant puppies. They can also be really quite naughty and one of them once managed to untie both shoelaces of one of our guests under the table.”
Beccy stressed the sheep are not allowed to eat the cakes. Instead, visitors feed them pellets of food from saucers at a table set out for a formal afternoon tea.
After the tea is finished, they can walk the sheep back to their barn for a goodbye selfie.
The barn’s hens and cats may also pop by to say hello. In addition, if there are new lambs, people can give them a bottle of milk as well.
You don’t have to be staying at the house to have tea with the sheep. People can just enjoy the 90-minute animal experience, which costs from £32 per person.
“One Italian lady guest was moved to tears and a couple from Florida said it was the highlight of their tour of Scotland,” Beccy said. “I can’t believe that our sheep are now becoming world-famous.”
For anyone concerned that the animals are going to be used by Airbnb for profit, it assures holidaymakers that this is not the case.
It said its animal experiences “are underpinned by a new, industry-leading animal welfare policy created in collaboration with World Animal Protection” and stressed the policy has been designed to ensure animals’ well-being at all times.
“You will never find an Airbnb experience where you can kiss a dolphin or ride an elephant,” the company said.
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