We’d recently been Devon / Cornwall way when we went to Newquay and to Weston-super-mare to see the Banksy Dismaland exhibit. So the journey down the M5 from Birmingham wasn’t too bad. The things was, that when we got to the end of the M5, everything got a bit interesting.
I have family that live on a farm out in Lincolnshire. They live about 15 miles from Lincoln City Centre and there are a few country roads to go down. But driving to Lympscott Farm in Devon was a whole new benchmark for middle of nowhere British countryside!
Driving at night during the final few miles of our cross-country trek, we saw rabbits, foxes and badgers milling about at the side of the roads and it was pretty clear to see that we were “in the sticks” and if we still weren’t sure, when we drove up to the newly refurbished barn at the farm and pulled down the windows to greet some of our blogging compatriots, the smell of fresh manure swiftly cleared any uncertainty to its countryside authenticity.
I went with an open mind and hadn’t given much thought to spending the next few days in a cottage being the only guy in a group of 15 girls, but driving up the path to the front of the property, looking into it’s massive windows, shining a warm yellow light out onto the the drive, I felt that I had underestimated what the cottage would be like.
There was no rickety barn doors, thatched roofs, stables, barrels of hay or even a chicken pen. This was a breathtakingly awesome barn conversion. A solid refurbished building and home. A well maintained frontage and grounds, well styled and planned out and there was a covered outdoor area with rattan chairs and table. Rattan! In the Devonshire countryside! And this was just the first impressions. As I parked up, next to the other 6 cars in the large gated courtyard, I noticed a sign for “games room” too. I knew I had somewhere to go and hide if everything got too girly!
We walked into the huge front door into a hallway and heard noises from a door to our left. Opening it up we were welcomed by those that had managed to stay up and a huge modern open plan kitchen and lounge. This was not what I expected. After some brief conversation about the journey and that there was plenty of wine around, we headed upstairs for the night. As the only couple there, Holidaycottages.co.uk gave us the double room and had made everyone name cards on the doors so we were welcomed warmly. The room was a good size for a couple, with a double bed, a built in wardrobe, a chest of drawers and an ensuite. I unpacked everything and made myself at home. The ensuite was a modern as the rest of the house and everything was spotless. The promise of a nice hot shower was too much so I tried it out before bed and was not disappointed. I had to remind myself that I was in the middle of nowhere, enjoying a hot, powerful shower that put our own at home in central Birmingham to shame! As the sounds of the die hard bloggers chatting downstairs stopped, we drifted off in the the near silent country night.
The next morning was a family affair. It felt a bit like Christmas morning. Everyone came down, some in PJ’s and some already completely dressed and ready for the day. There was more than enough space in the kitchen and the super-long dining table could sit everyone. The room was very big and split by having the well designed and social kitchen one end, the dining table in the middle and a very big lounge the other end with matching corner sofas and a log fire in the centre of the room. The room has been designed to entertain and to entertain a large group of people. Myself and another blogger cooked up a full english breakfast from local produce provided by holidaycottages.co.uk from John’s – the award-winning local deli. This included local bacon, local sausages (both normal and gluten free), free range eggs from a local farm and some other goodies. Even the coffee was locally packaged and the tea was the wonderful Devonshire Tea breakfast blend. We are used to Yorkshire tea which can be quite strong, Devonshire tea on the other hand is very tasty but light and floral. Like taking the strength of Yorkshire tea down to 80% and mixing a tiny bit of earl grey. It was really nice. We had panicked about coffee too, but the very well equipped kitchen had two 8-cup cafetieres!
As everyone mingled and chatted around the very large breakfast bar, we heard how we had missed out on the jacuzzi! I had forgotten that there was one at this cottage, but it seemed no one else had. Eleven of the girls had jumped in the previous night and were explaining that by the end of it, there was only a shallow puddle left when they all got out. I ventured out to see the jacuzzi and could still see some of the water on the floor around the large tub. The cover had been put on but I believed them. It had it’s own covered shelter and lived around the side of the cottage, next to the BBQ and around the corner from the rattan table and chairs at the front of the house.
The plan for the day was to go and explore Devon. Our hosts had planned a beach outing and a scavenger hunt, then dinner at a local pub in the evening. At present I am injured so have to do activities that I can manage, which unfortunately means I can’t walk far and not safely on a beach. We looked up Disability friendly beaches and decided to make our way to Westward Ho! Nothing is that close in Devon, it takes a drive and there are a lot of country lanes. The upside to this is the scenery.
Driving to Westward Ho! we got to see what we had missed during the night time drive the evening before. Rolling hills and wild life, lots of different type of plant life and farming. The drive took about 40 minutes and it was easy enough to find parking very close to the beach. We took a walk up the promenade and took some photos. We watched the huge expanse of beach that was dotted with dogs running about, parents with kids and prams, surfers making their way to the waves and in the distance some kite surfers and kite buggies. The beach was massive and stretched for what must be a mile or so. There is also a lot of rock landscape and people were crabbing and digging for something though we never worked out what.
Amusements and Devonshire Cream Tea
As in true seaside fashion, we stopped for a few games in the amusements and tried to win some tickets. We were rubbish. I think we got 15 tickets from playing the Whack-a-mole game and that would have bought us a Worthers Original each! We kept the tickets as souvenirs instead! The other thing we promised ourselves we would do at the beach was have Devonshire Tea and along the beach was a perfect setting. The place we decided on was called Country Cousins and they were great after noticing I was on crutches. It was busy as they were serving carvery but they gave us a seat in the quieter tea rooms rather than the main restaurant and I was more at ease there. As we only wanted tea and scones, it was better to be away from everyone eating their dinner.
The service was great and the staff helped me clear up a question that had been playing on my mind – which is a Devonshire Cream Tea and which is a Cornish Cream Tea. The tea is the same but the the way the clotted cream and the jam is spread is different for each neighbour/rivaling region. I like cream then jam, and this as we fortunately found out, is the Devonshire way!
Several cups of tea and a couple of scones later we were back in the car, on the way back to the cottage. We had seen some signs along the way and decided to stop off and explore. The first being a place called “The Milky Way”. I’m no astronaut but this seemed awfully misleading! As it turns out, it is a local kids attraction and indoor play centre. It even has an outdoor mini-theme park with it’s own rollercoaster. Curiosity satisfied, we moved onto our next sign. This was for a “Heritage Village”. We had not heard of a heritage village before so thought we should look. If anything it would inform our challenge to visit every county in the UK and give us some insight into those areas.
The village is called “Clovelly” and we were not prepared for what we found out about this place. Clovelly will get a special post of it’s own when we visit again. We have to visit again because while I am injured, we can’t go there. Clovelly is a completely privately owned village on the Devonshire coast that is only accessible by walking down a steep hill or by private land rover down to the bottom! No cars can go down, the village is lined either side of a single road and they still use carts for transporting goods up and down the lane. We could not believe what we found out and spoke to the lovely people in the visitors centre at the top of the hill. The village has a thriving community and all of the property is rented from the estate to which the village belongs. The manor house and gardens are at the top of the hill on the way into the visitors centre. This was something special and although we could’t visit this time around, we will definitely visit again and see what it looks like. The view from the visitors centre is worth a mention too, it looks out over the coast and bay, a great place to take pictures and see the water.
As Clovelly is a private town, it does cost to visit. I believe for adults it is £7 and children is £5 and for the Land Rover trip is £2 each way but this is optional, you can walk. http://www.clovelly.co.uk/
We left Clovelly and returned to the cottage. On our entry into the farm before the second cattle grid, we were cut off by some cattle. It turned out that we had arrived at feeding time so I turned off the engine and we sat a watched the hundred or so cows go by. We like cows, we are Hindu so it was special to be able to be this close to so many. We waved and said hello to all of them and made our way to the cottage. This reminded us that this cottage was on a working farm. The farm is an organic dairy farm and likely help serve the milk that we all had for breakfast. The farmers live next door and the cottage literally is their barn conversion. I think they put more into the renovation of the barn into a cottage than anything on their land!
While the barn is a new style cottage, the option to also rent a smaller cottage adjacent to the barn is a useful option. Some of our group stayed in this cottage and they said it was smaller and more of a traditional home. Still more than I had expected when we were driving there. Beehive Cottage is still modern, well maintained and has everything you need for a getaway. This makes a great addition to the living space if you have more people or some in the party that might not want to party. The option of the extra space is a big plus for this cottage but I assume quite rare as holiday cottages go. Potentially perfect for large parties with some parents with babies or the older older generation that might want some peace for the bustle of the big barn.
Everyone was out so we spent some time relaxing on the big sofas. I had a nibble on what was probably the nicest salmon pate I have ever had, courtesy of John’s Deli and we have some more lovely Devonshire tea. After about half and hour on the sofas we fell asleep! It was just too cosy. Considering the size of the cottage and the massive lounge, it was a very cosy place. The designers and decorators have put a lot of effort into the quality of the offering and made sure everyone feels at home. I had a browse through the Holidaycottages.co.uk brochure and stuff to do booklet and saw the vast number of cottages they offered. If everywhere was like this, then I am pretty sure we’ll be booking with them. I did think that this particular cottage is probably the most perfect cottage to have at Christmas. Like Perfect!
We can only speak from the perspective of the double room, but the rooms are well equipped, clean and spacious. There are option of doubles, twins and quad rooms. The additional cottage has doubles and twins. The ensuite was great and modern and the main bathroom was also modern and well equipped.
There was a main bathroom upstairs, 3 rooms with ensuite and a downstairs toilet. Downstairs, next to the kitchen there is a washroom and drying space, fully equipped with everything you need to look after everyone. The cottage can fit 14 with an additional 6 in the second cottage.
If you are looking for cottages in Devon I recommend looking at the video above and the website for the cottage.
When everyone got back we all talked about how we spend the day and how the scavenger hunt went. I think the consensus was that for all the city-folk among us, the 3 mile walk around the local lake was a challenge, albeit beautiful. They did very well to get round it, I certainly couldn’t have. The Rugby World Cup was on and I tuned in to watch it on the large flatscreen tv fixed to the wall in the lounge. The tv was also served by a dvd player and freeview box. Everyone then got ready for dinner and we made our way over to the Bradworthy Inn for dinner.
Only a 5 minute drive away the Inn served us up a lovely dinner. There was gammon, curry, fish and chips, steak and more, all locally sourced and it was well made. There was a nice atmosphere in the pub an a few locals came to say hi.
Back at the cottage we all talked some more and enjoyed some of the Portlebay Popcorn that had been provided for nibbles. My favourite was the cappuccino flavour. Which was surprisingly very very nice. I wasn’t so keen on the lemon sherbet flavour or the berry flavour but I could have eaten several bags of the cappuccino one. I also drank some of the fizzy drinks that had been stocked up in the fridge courtesy of Luscombe. A drinks company based in Devon. They do an incredible Madagascan Vanilla Soda and an intense Raspberry Crush. I looked on their website and saw that they do more varieties and if they are as flavoursome as the two I tried, I will attempt to get some more for home. The day ended with renditions of dance moves and a slight sadness that we would be leaving the day after.
The final day was spent eating as much as possible of what was left over, cleaning and goodbyes.
The cottage had become a really nice break for all and for us we saw something that we knew was out there and have been searching for – the British adventure. Something about a cottage on an organic dairy farm in the middle of Devonshire, is quintessentially British. I felt very comfortable in the care of Holidaycottages.co.uk and well looked after, whether the hosts were there or not. The cottage is well looked after by them and the service very good.
We’ve got a brochure and still have a long list of counties to visit, so maybe we’ll see more countryside cottages in the months to come.
What was probably one of the most exciting things about this trip was learning not just about the hosts, the area and the county, but the produce that comes out of Devon. The manufacturers and farmers, brands and innovators creating food and drink that serves the local area and the country. It was deeply satifying to drink something that was made just a few miles away, or eat something that was prepared the same day, all from people we possibly shared a pub with. I feel we lose that sometimes as the busy people we are and getting away from it all is important to really see what is going on in the UK and what some Brits are really achieving.