“It does drive; but it takes a good jumpstart!” laughs Olive McCaughan when asked if the former horsebox-turned-romantic hideaway is also roadworthy.
Still, we don’t think anybody would be in a rush to take “The Oat Box” too far from its location on a family farm near Coleraine on the North Causeway Coast.
It is the latest venture for Olive, who previously featured on the cover of Irish Country Living in 2013 with her gift and accessories company, LoveOlli. After getting married to her husband Richard, however, and with the arrival of children Kingsley, Gracelyn and Austin, Olive decided to sell the company to Ulster Weavers and look for a new business opportunity that would work closer to home.
Though initially, it may have been a case of putting the cart before the horse(box).
“I bought a Rice horse trailer and a caravan and hadn’t really an idea of what I was going to do with them,” says Olive, who toyed with the idea of something like a coffee bar; until she found a 1968 Bedford TK horse lorry on eBay for £8,000 in England.
The other two vehicles were promptly sold and the horse box arrived in June 2019.
“It only had three owners from new and it was dry-stored for 20 years before we got it, so it was in really good condition, but obviously not MOT’d to drive, so we had to have it transported on a low loader from England,” explains Olive.
“We had to jumpstart it with the tractor!”
And in the last year, the horse box has been lovingly turned into glamping accommodation, using mainly repurposed and salvaged materials, with Olive’s designer eye for detail evident throughout, along with practical features like an electric shower, two ring electric stove and wood-burning cook stove.
And it seems it might not be the last project either.
“There’s already a caravan in the yard!” she laughs.
Photography: Emma Stewart Photography
We stripped it out first of all. Obviously it’s kitted out for four large horses, so we had all the partitions and that to take way. Then we got a joiner in to fit it out again for us and we had to employ an electrician and a plumber because that’s a wee bit past our skill set! But we did a lot of the finishing work. The ceiling and mahogany floor are original, and the pine panelling is reclaimed from First Ballymena Presbyterian Church, which was being renovated. The walls between the shower and the back of the cab are actually the back of the pews! Meanwhile, the doors and stained glass windows came from O’Kane Reclamation in Coleraine.
There’s a king size bed above the cab, so two adults and a small child could be accommodated. The cushions are made from vintage fabrics I have gathered over the past few years and my poor mother was roped in to do all the soft furnishings! The step ladder came from the farm and I bought the sofa secondhand on Gumtree for £60 and recovered it.
Some like it hot
The stove is from a company called Salamander Stoves www.salamanderstoves.com. They specialise in stoves for small spaces, so their signature one is “The Hobbit” stove for shepherd’s huts. We have the small wood burning oven, so you can actually cook on top and there’s an oven on the side too.
This dog painting sort of sparked the colour scheme for the whole space. I bought it from Nicholas and Steele Vintage; I follow a lot of dealers on Instagram.
Sink or swim
I found these art deco tiles in a house clearance sale. I just keep an eye on Facebook Marketplace, buy whatever I think is a good deal; and then find somewhere to use it! I got the taps from All Things French in Leyland in England. It’s a company that specialises in French copper items and you can find them on Etsy and Instagram.
I got these Moroccan-style tiles from Best Tile at www.besttile.ie. I had seen them on Instagram and I said, “I have to use them somewhere!” I got the Indian water bowl on eBay from Lacewing Interiors. They specialise in Indian vintage.
Guests seem to be jumping into the cab and taking their selfies. The men definitely do like getting into the lorry! The number plate is OAT 180F; that’s why I went for “The Oat Box” for the name, given the connection with horses and oats as well.
Keep it local
There’s lots of artisan food producers popping up along the north coast, so we have a lot of local people involved; for example, we get our milk from Chestnutt Farm down the road in Portrush. There’s a company called Indulgence NI in Ballymoney who do grazing boxes, so we can offer that service too. And we also give our guests our own eggs for breakfast.
I wanted people to be able to go outside the lorry and relax. We sourced the fire pit from the local garden centre and the balcony was Richard’s handiwork. It’s the original ramp the horses would have walked up: we just levelled it up and then he built the decking on top of it. It’s a really good base for the north coast because White Rocks Beach, Portrush and the Giant’s Causeway are just a few miles away and then you’ve got all the Game of Thrones sites, Ballintoy Harbour, the Dark Hedges etc.