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Weeke Barton23 February
Thanks #stormdoris for the awesome draw in my #fire today.
Weeke Barton22 February
Thought this was a mud bank, turns out to be a granite rock #gardening #granite #dartmoor
Weeke Barton22 February
Oop hello spring #devonlife #gardening #spring
Weeke Barton18 February
Goodnight #sunshine see you tomorrow
B&B’s with bling
At Weeke Barton you don’t have to disappear for the day after breakfast, come rain or shine. The lovely longhouse has a lounge full of books and a fire in the hearth on cooler days, and there’s a well-stocked bar and a garden for kids to let off steam in… perfect!
The soft-hued bedrooms are decorated with quirky art to lift this out of the norm. Breakfast is very good and dinner’s available if you like.
Step out of the door and Dartmoor is before you – with hiking, biking, horse riding and climbing.
Hotel of the week
Set in four acres of chestnut, apple and damson trees in Dartmoor National Park, this 500 year old longhouse opened as a hotel last year. An intimate hideway, it has"more than a touch of East London edginess”’ says Grainne McBride in Condé Nast Traveller. “Wonky beams” prop up ceilings, modern art graces the walls, and the decor is “retro” with unique touches in the five bedrooms that include old film-set paraphernalia and sheepskin rugs in deep windowsills. Bathrooms feature “sleek stone and chrome”’ and fresh, “hearty” meals are served communally at a three-metre-long, polished-slate table.
Uk and Ireland Escapes
What is it?
A 500-year-old whitewashed longhouse on a hillside in Dartmoor National Park, it opened last winter as a rustic-cool hideaway with wonky beams, modern art and photography on the walls, and retro decor such as Ministry of Food tins and film-set paraphernalia.
Behind the scenes
Jo Gossett and Sam Perry, who used to work for Conran restaurants, moved from London to Higher Westcott Farm six years ago and opened the old farmhouse as a B&B (it’s now a self-catering holiday home). This is the couple’s newer, hipper venture with more than a touch of East End edginess, set in about four acres of apple, damson and chestnut trees (plus a recently added pétanque pitch).
The Hackney-on-the-moors feel continues in the five bedrooms, each with quirky touches such as a collage of Fifties pin-up postcards, hessian-sack cushions, sheepskin rugs on the deep window sills or paintbox-coloured anglepoise lamps. Orla’s Room has a super-king bed with a bath at the end of for soaking up the view through lovely latched windows. The bathrooms are in sleek stone and chrome, stocked with fragrant local herbal bath products.
Dinners are very sociable: the set menu is eaten with other guests at a three-metre-long, polished-slate table by a wood-burning stove. Just-caught-crab salad was followed by a chicken, chorizo and cider pie, bubbling away in an enamel dish with a buttery pastry lid. The world’s best homemade brown-bread ice cream had a rum and caramel kick and was served in an antique tea cup atop a long-stem base. And it was all washed down with a rich, fruity red from a list of biodynamic wines. Breakfast is just as wholesome and hearty: homemade granola and local apple juice, or a Full English for those who can manage it.
Who goes there?
Foodie couples from Bristol and London; young families (children are very welcome, with camp beds and a kids’ supper menu).
What’s there to do?
Ramble till your heart’s content in the national park, or go fishing and shooting nearby. Come for foraging weekends in autumn or the pop-up supper clubs planned for later in the year. After a busy day, mingle till late in the low-roofed honesty bar (six-footers had better stay seated), with its funky stag-head wall lamp and all you need to mix your own cocktail.
The chilled soundtrack - from Balearic beats to reggae and soul - that hums quietly from sleek Sonos speakers in the sitting room, dining room and bar. Thoughtful touches such as a thermos of cold milk left out last thing at night so you can make tea in your room in the morning.
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Weeke Barton is a traditional Devonshire longhouse with a newly paired-down, urban vibe. Although on 20 minutes from Exeter, this is an utterly remote escape with a view of the Teign Valley and near total silence.
Sociable graphic designer Sam Perry and his partner, Jo Gossett (ex Conran Restaurants) are Londoners who have embraced the country lifestyle, bringing a hint of the metropolitan and an eye for detail. The sitting room has leather sofas around a wood-burning stove, the dinning room a slate-topped table, and french or south American cafe music murmurs from hidden speakers. My room-one of five, all facing the view-was unfussy and expertly comfortable. You can sink into a vast, white bed or snuggle up on a sheepskin on the window ledge. What quirky pieces Sam and jo haven’t sourced, they made themselves. A dinner menu’s emailed in advance: Jo’s fish pie and apple three-ways was as good as any Marylebone bistro’s. I joined other guests for dinner, but otherwise this is the place to switch off and retreat.
Thank you both so much for a fabulous stay. Your hospitality, delicious food and beautiful house have given us a very memorable weekend. Thank you also for the excellent walking advice! We can’t wait to come back!
Emma and Chris, November 9th/11th 2012
Thank you for a fantastic stay, we were made to feel very welcome. The B&B is beautiful and the pub recommendations were great too. We will definetely recommend you to our friends. Whishing you a very happy christmas.
Nic and James
Thank you so much for a wonderful stay - a true getaway in the true sense of the word.
Emma and Matt (London)
What a lovely weekend - the perfect location for a cosy winter escape. Beautiful rooms, amazing fires and thanks for keeping our bellies full with a delicious breakfast. Really hope to be back again soon and will bring friends.
Ben and Katie, February 8th/10th 2013
Amazing house, fantastic bedrooms, beautiful location and warm hospitality - thanks for a superb weekend!
Sam and Dan 18.3.13
Thank you for an inviting and restful stay with delicous vitals. See you again soon.
Jack and Marcy, NZ & USA
Thank you for a fabulous weekend in your “Longhouse”. You made our wedding weekend very, very special. We very much look forward to coming back to see you soon….especially your apple juice..all the best.
Jason, Sarah, Ella & Molly
Best city break ever! Thank you.
Eleve and Jamie May 27th 2013
Thanks so much for a blissed-out 2 days for 2 weary travellers after driving 13 hours from Dublin, this place was the perfect antidote. Easily one of the best places we’ve ever stayed: we’ll be telling everyone and nobody in equal measure. We’re already thinking about shorter routes to get here.
Ian and Nuala
“Weeke Barton is an absolute gem, and I wish more bed and breakfasts were designed and managed the way Jo and Sam run theirs.”
Jason, United Kingdom (05.05.13)
“Weeke Barton is a total treat. The Longroom is incredible, a perfect mixture of it’s original form and contemporary, thoughtful interior design. We stayed in Orla’s room, which had views out to the moors and space enough for roly polys. If you have a bath, you can look out into sky and listen to the birds chirp and the sheep bleat. Sam and Jo were the perfect hosts. They had a knack of being there when you needed them but giving you the space and quiet to enjoy the outdoors and indoors of this great place. The food was delicious. Homemade, full of flavour and generous portions. Complimented by a good selection of wine. Can’t recommend it enough. As you might be able to tell….”
Emma, United Kingdom (27.04.13)
“We had a lovely time here, the room was immaculate and Sam and Jo were really helpful in terms of recommending restaurants and places to visit. Also really liked that there was no TV (true escapsim!) but coupled with a very decent film library. Don’t think we got our free i-escape goody (cider?) but that was no biggy. Really hope to visit again in the future and would certainly recommend to friends.”
Katie, United Kingdom (10.02.13)
“We had a fantastic time here. It’s a beautiful house, decorated with effortless style and it oozes charm and coziness. The owners have not only done a magnificent design job, they managed to create a very welcoming atmosphere. And the service they offered was just as perfect. We had dinner there as well and it was delicious. We’ll come back.”
Sabine, United Kingdom (16.12.12)
“We had a wonderful weekend. We were immediately made to feel very welcome. The old house has been restored beautifully and our room (Orla’s Room) was perfect with its big super king bed, free standing bath and comfy window seats looking out over stunning Dartmoor views. We would highly recommend driving 20 minutes to the high moor for a walk, and would equally recommend the pretty walk around the woods and river surrounding the house. After a day out on Dartmoor there is nothing better than relaxing by the open fire with a little drink from the well stocked honesty bar followed by a delicious supper cooked by Jo. We can’t wait to come back, thank you.”
Emma, United Kingdom (11.11.12)
Weeke Barton, Dartmoor, Devon: Hotel Review
Tempering on-trend styling with original features, Weeke Barton is a renovated medieval longhouse on the doorstep of Dartmoor, south Devon. Isabel Choat enjoys the warm and relaxing vibe, a help-yourself bar and great food.
I’m glad I wasn’t trying to find Weeke Barton at night. On a gloriously sunny day I shot straight past the turning for it. Back on the right track, the only indication that the winding unpaved lane might lead to a boutique B&B was a discreet and tasteful sign at the side of the road.
Doubles from £110 B&B. A two-course dinner is £18, three courses £25
The oldest part of this listed longhouse on the edge of Dartmoor national park dates back to 1440. But step inside and you’re firmly in the 21st-century. Sam Perry and his wife Jo Gossett moved to Devon from London in 2007 to transform another nearby longhouse into a self-catering holiday home. With Higherwestcott Farm up and running successfully, they bought Weeke Barton and spent a year deep in renovations, blasting thick black paint off beams to reveal the original wood, relandscaping five acres of garden, and filling the interior with bang-up-to-date decor: a cow-hide rug, a chrome bull’s head light fitting, Sonos speakers, a SodaStream and animal skulls on solid wood shelving. The country-cool vibe continues in the five bedrooms with limestone bathrooms and sheepskin rugs. But the on-trend styling is tempered by the original features; there is character here and the overall effect is warm and relaxing, rather than coldly modern.
With the sun shining, I was tempted to settle into a deckchair in the garden, but instead headed out for lunch at the Nobody Inn in Doddiscombsleigh. This excellent pub offers a more trad take on country living, its wonky-floored, low-ceilinged interior filled with tankards and brass pots, fairy lights and candles. On the menu are steak-and-ale or fish pies and roast Dartmoor beef. If that’s not warming enough, there are 250 wines and 262 whiskies on sale. I went for the trio of “third” pints of local ale and a chicken terrine and potted shrimp.
Back at Weeke Barton, the wine list is more modest. In the snug bar, guests can help themselves to spirits or bottles of biodynamic wine. In her former life, Jo was a restaurant manager and now offers evening meals. A crab salad starter and chicken-and-chorizo pie with perfect pastry were rounded off by homemade brown bread ice-cream.
After a night in a deeply comfortable superking bed, it was back down the winding staircase for a breakfast of home-made granola and local apple juice.
A walk was in order. The village of Dunsford is a 20-minute stroll away, along the river Teign. But the moor beckoned. I drove to Haytor and walked to another granite outcrop, Hound Tor, for a blast of Devon air. The last time I was on Dartmoor it was a freezing winter’s day, and my bed for the night was in a shabby bunkhouse. This time, the landscape, of course, was just as wild, but the accommodation couldn’t have been more different.
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“Weeke Barton is a converted long barn in Devon and is as stylish as it is laid back,” says Tamara. “Rooms are only £110 a night, including breakfast, so it’s fantastic value, and prices don’t go up for the holiday season, either.” From £110 per room, including breakfast.
B&B and Beyond: Weeke Barton, Devon
An old longhouse in the Dartmoor countryside has been transformed into a sleek rural retreat. You might think you’ve gone awry. Because when you turn off Dartmoor’s one main road, trace a river, cross a stone bridge, squeeze down a lane and arrive at this traditional white homestead, you walk right into Hackney.
Weeke Barton is old: parts of this granite and cob longhouse date back to 1440. Yet, since the end of 2012, following one couple’s year of meticulous renovation, what now lies inside is an east London take on rural Devonian living. Beams have been reconditioned, granite fireplaces restored, the huge wooden door hung back on its hinges. But there’s also an integrated music system piping old-school reggae, arty prints on the walls and interesting books and knick-knacks on the shelves.
Weeke Barton sleeps 10, with cots and extra beds for under-12s. The five doubles occupy the first floor, two larger at one end, three smaller at the other, accessed by spiralling staircases. All gaze across the twittering garden to hills of green – views best contemplated from window seats covered in cushions and skins.
Rooms are named after the eldest child of the first families to stay in them. Wonderfully on-the-wonk Orla is super-kingsize, with a raised bath in the bedroom; Avalon’s tub is tucked into its neat en suite. The three kingsize rooms – Otis, Alfie, Henry – are shower only. All five are done in warm, neutral hues offset by flashes of colour and quirk.
Downstairs is party-host heaven: the parquet-floored dining room with its big slate-top table is where breakfast is served. There’s also a small honesty bar, where you serve yourself biodynamic wines and beers, and borrow DVDs. (All rooms have players, though no TV channels.) In the large lounge, leather sofas gather round a wood burner and a door leads to the terrace for summer socialising.
Breakfast is taken around the main table. Homemade granola is a tasty toast-up of oats, seeds and nuts. Apple juice comes from the local cider farm, honey from devon. The cooked course is modest but perfectly formed: bread is home baked: eggs, sausages are all local.
No need to go anywhere; Jo can cook dinner, served round the communal table. Choice is limited to one meat or veggie option, though special diets can be catered for. A choice of beef and ale or mushroom and tarragon pies made our menu; pudding was fancier - delicious Tarte Tatin with apple sorbet and Panna Cotta. the on-site honesty bar means no one has to drive for a drink.
Value for money awards 2011
Best-value Hotel Rural UK Runner up
Hunkering under its thatch on the eastern flanks of Dartmoor, Higher Westcott is a picture. The farm is an authentic Devon longhouse, which means that 300 years ago every room was a feathery riot of poultry. Today, it’s a rustic-chic heaven: even the log pile looks like it’s been styled.
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For splendid isolation: Higher Westcott farm, Devon. Set alluringly amid the wild beauty of Dartmoor, as far from the rat race as you can get, higher Westcott Farm is your dream base for outdoor activities, from riding to canoeing, mountain biking and good old hikes off the beaten track. What sets a long weekend apart is that no matter how muddy, windswept or just plain exhausted you are, you can rest assured there is somewhere incredibly civilised to return to at the end of the day. The owners Sam Perry and Jo Gossett, a former Graphic Designer and Conran restaurant manager who relocated form Hackney, North London, to this traditional
Dartmoor Longhouse in 2007 and brought their metro-savvy sensibilities with them. This means generous sofas to collapse on to before a hearth, within easy reach of a tiny bar (nothing naff, mind you – were talking red and black retro style adorned with vintage soda siphons). Kettles and other paraphernalia do not ruffle the sleek lines of the four upstairs bedrooms, but there’s a thoughtful ‘snack station’ in the hall with teas, fresh fruit and bottled water from their own spring. And when stomachs start to rumble properly, there’s accomplished cooking at dinner and fresh Devon produce at Breakfast.
Thick hoar frosts, misty mornings and muddy walks: Dartmoor in winter takes some beating and one of my favourite affordable guesthouse is here. At Higher Westcott Farm, in a peaceful rural setting on the moor. Jo Gossett and Sam Perry have brought modern, minimalist chic and luxurious bathrooms to their Devon longhouse.
The guest living room has a retro bar (usually playing a chilled music selection from Sam’s iPod), and dinner here is a must – Jo was formally a Conran Restaurant Manager. The place lends itself perfectly to groups of friends, with four double bedrooms, communal dinning (beside a granite fireplace of epic proportions), a clubby atmosphere in the sitting room, and a downstairs tea-and-snack station rather than trays in the bedrooms.
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Got wanderlust? Dartmoor National Park covers more than 368 square mile, which you can explore on foot, horseback, four wheel drive or even a hot air balloon.
Stay in one of the king-sized rooms at 300 year old Higher Westcott Farm, near Moretonhampstead, and wake up to a homemade breakfast, which can be walked off with a trip to Castle Drogo in Drewsteignton. There’s a breathtaking walk around the grounds (with a pub at the half way point). Also, try to find time for Cannonteign falls, England’s highest waterfall.
I wanted to wholeheartedly endorse Higher Westcott Farm (a ‘boutique guest house’), not least because when I had to cancel my initial booking at the last minute, they were so good-natured about it. ‘They’ being Sam and his partner Jo, a thirtysomething couple who a couple of years ago decamped from Hackney in London (leaving behind jobs as graphic designer and Conran restaurant manager respectively) to refurbish a 300-year-old house in the Dartmoor National Park and live the dream.
And they are fantastically well situated to do that. Despite the hammering rain on the day we arrived, the beauty of the countryside shone through and scenic walks beckoned from the doorstep. Inside, as Jo welcomed us in to the sitting room with its leather sofas and honesty bar, it became obvious that something of a theme was going on.
Higher Westcott Farm has more than a slight whiff of the Nick Hornbys about it: from the black-and-white framed photos of Elvis and Aretha, and the Bob Marley soundtrack at breakfast, to the communal dining around a large wooden table where a playlist or two might be handy for those awkward lulls in the conversation.
I did wonder whether Sam and Jo had brought a little too much of a London vibe to Devon. It clearly works - they’ve had a constant stream of guests during this, their first year of business - but if, like me, you tend to misanthropy on a weekend break, or just prefer to choose when and if to talk to other guests, the enforced conviviality might be a bit of a trial. (That said, our fellow diners were very good company.)
Despite this, I recommend that you dine in for at least one night - the food is made by Jo with local ingredients. Ham hock and parsley terrine with home-made piccalilli, seafood stew with mussels, prawns and squid, and apple tart and cream were on the menu for our stay. The rooms are tasteful, uncluttered and comfortable. Our bathroom was a bit of a squeeze, but the shower made up for that. Extras include sweet knitted slippers, a well-stocked DVD library and, in an alcove by the dining room, tea, coffee, soft drinks, fresh fruit and nuts for you to help yourself. There is also pre-dinner bubbly and canapés’ in the living room with other guests. In essence, a bit of metropolitan urbanity in the wilds of the West Country.
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Give the gift of clean air and tranquillity with a night in a 300-year-old granite-walled longhouse in Dartmoor National Park, Devon. With stone fireplaces, duck-down duvets and organic local food, Higher Westcott Farm is an Enid Blyton- like.
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This chic converted longhouse, in idyllic pastures on the edge of Dartmoor – great for walkers – the work of two ex-Londoners, who poured their heart and soul into creating the kind of intimate bolthole they used to hanker for when dreaming of a country weekend. In the evening, you can dine here: anything from a simple meal to a five course feast, all made using local ingredients.
Higher Westcott Farm, Dartmoor National Park, Devon. This 300 year old granite longhouse, snuggled among the dramatic Devon landscape, is at the heart of Dartmoor National Park. With its four charming bedrooms, owners Sam and Jo’s vision of an intimate country getaway has been realised. Halfway between a B&B and a glamorous boutique hotel the farm is both cosy and luxurious with a spacious living room-bar area.
Breakfast is a local affair: eggs are from a lady ‘down the road’ and delicious bacon and sausages hail from the next village. Dinner includes Devon crab, West country lamb shanks and organic vegetables from the garden. Go horse riding, fishing or even fungi foraging. After all, you’ll need to work up an appetite for Jo’s homemade clotted cream teas.
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Jo Gossett and Sam Perry came to Dartmoor to create a contemporary guesthouse, but locals have also cottoned on to Jo’s cooking, so the kitchen of their traditional longhouse is busy-busy. After
Homemade canapés in the lounge, with its tiny connoisseur’s bar, up to 10 guest can eat rack of local lamb or fillet of Devon beef, pear tatin and petits fours. Ask for a pinic in a rucksack and off you go in the morning, trekking,cycling, rock climbing, riding…Three course dinner £30. Doubles from £80.
Rolling hills, beautiful woodland and Dartmoor National Park are on your doorstep. For somewhere so hidden, it’s amazing Exeter’s only a 15 minute drive away. Couples and young families come here to enjoy its sense of cosy isolation. Jo and Sam escaped London to bravely renovate this thatched 300 year old Devon longhouse. Immersing themselves in all things local, the result is a thoroughly homely boutique guesthouse: 4 comfy contemporary bedrooms, views across the valley through crittle windows, a magnificent granite fireplace, squashy leather sofas and a well-stocked bar offering biodynamic wines.
This isn’t just an excellent base for taking country walks: beyond the garden’s stone wall, they’ll organise mushroom foraging in autumn or even informal rough shoots. Even if the weather’s bad, you’ll come back to a wood-burning stove and a hearty dinner. Jo worked in top London restaurants. Her penchant for fresh, local, seasonal, organic food makes for some very tasty fair indeed.
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November has its charms – principally cashmere knitwear and flagship TV drama – but it isn’t the most tempting time to relinquish central heating and hit the countryside. But so popular is Higher Westcott Farm, Mr Smith and I couldn’t get a reservation earlier in the year. So, with an avalanche shovel in the boot (somewhat de trop, perhaps) we head for the wild west – Devon.
Some hours of driving later, we pass a church hall positively incandescent with welcome and a board outside saying ‘Country Fair’. Inside, the massed elder ladies of this village have set out their stalls to challenge London as the ultimate Christmas shopping destination. We collapse at a table and demolish a saucer of free digestives with our instant coffees. We depart laden with home-made flapjacks, a jar of mincemeat, and a knitted nativity scene. Beat that, Westfield!
A few miles on, a steep lane leads us to the tiny hamlet of Westcott, tucked away in the Dartmoor National Park. A discreet sign on a stone wall identifies Higher Westcott Farm, and inside a walled garden we find a handsome and unpretentious 300-year-old thatched Devon longhouse. We are greeted at the door by Jo and Sam, who moved here from Hackney in 2007, leaving behind their respective careers as Conran restaurant manager and graphic designer. They brought those skill-sets with them, though, and they have brilliantly combined the urban aesthetic of a chic boutique hotel with the cosy charm of a country home.
Inside, they’ve kept some gorgeous old timber features – a rustic door in the hallway, an original oak muntin screen (which would have kept the animals out of the humans’ living quarters) in the dining room – and exposed granite slabs in the fireplaces, but the effect is brought bang up-to-date with modern leather furnishings and neutral tones. This scheme extends to the classic-contemporary bedrooms. We are the only guests when we visit, so Jo gives us the nicest room – an immaculate and bright retreat in the eaves, under the original roof timbers. Colour is kept to a calming minimum – the odd splash of red on a cushion – otherwise it is black and white photographs on the walls, crisp white bed linen, dovegrey throws. The view from the cosy window seat, however, is pure Technicolor: wild yet tranquil, with emerald fields (mottled with bracken as russet as orang-utan fur) carpeting the hills surrounding Westcott’s few buildings.
Before our visit, Jo e-mailed us a bespoke supper menu for our approval, so we know we’re in for a three-course treat, but the pre-dinner glass of fizz and canapés in the lounge are an unexpected bonus. Said lounge is a gloriously relaxing space, with logs crackling in the wood-burning stove, yards of chocolate brown leather sofa to sprawl on, a proper, honest-to-goodness little bar stocked with spirits, a handpicked selection of biodynamic wines and an iPod shuffling Sam’s eclectic playlist – Gang Starr one minute, a gentle accordion waltz the next.
We take our seats at the communal table in the dining room, eager to taste Jo’s cooking and confirm our hunch that Conran’s loss is our gain. And so it proves. Jo’s philosophy is to follow the seasons and minimize food miles. As much produce as possible is sourced locally and tastes the better for it. We start with some startlingly fresh and flavoursome mushrooms on toasted home-made bread, followed by partridges stuffed with chorizo and sage, and a memorable apple pie to finish. After supper, while I snaffle all the homemade chocolate truffles, Mr Smith browses through the DVD library and selects The Departed for our evening’s viewing. We take it up to the flatscreen TV/DVD in our room and watch from under the covers.
Next morning, up to my ears in bubbles (courtesy of knockout Jason bath products) in the colossal freestanding en-suite bath, I remember Jo’s advice not to feel any pressure to do or see anything; that Higher Westcott Farm is a good place to do nothing. Could I get away with just taking hot meals and hot baths for two days? As if in answer, the smell of pork sausages calls me downstairs to join Mr Smith for breakfast, with which again Jo does us proud.
Much as Mr Smith likes to think of himself as a rugged outdoorsman, truth is he is far from heartbroken that the November weather isn’t conducive to epic yomps across the moors. Instead we go in search of sights to see, but get the distinct impression that the locals have battened down the hatches until next season. Castle Drogo is closed for restoration, the Miniature Pony Centre is shut (presumably for reminiaturisation of the ponies), but we hit paydirt with Becky Falls. This woodland park has a pretty waterfall that won’t be giving Niagara any sleepless nights, a tangle of nature trails, a café and a petting zoo staffed by the most wonderful people on earth. When the keeper brings Mrs Merlin (an enormous European Eagle Owl) out of her cage just for us to stroke her, it is a truly unforgettable experience.
By now we’re getting peckish, so it’s time for a legendary Devon Cream Tea. We luck out at The Gateway Tearooms in Moretonhampstead where a garrulous ex-marine serves up army-surplus portions of clotted cream and jam – not the usual micro-ramekins you get at tourist clip joints. ‘The Wife’s’ delectable scones are mountainous, but heroically we scoff the lot.
For our last night, on Jo and Sam’s recommendation, we eat at The White Horse Inn in Moretonhampstead. This is a pubrestaurant with genuine culinary ambition, and really impresses with dishes such as pan-fried scallops with cauliflower pannacotta and tomato confit, and Lancashire Hotpot Revisited, which reimagines the old favourite into several separate, fabulously tasty components.
Leaving Devon for home, we wish we could take some of the countryside’s simple pleasures and decency back to our crime-addled borough. We pass a local newspaper billboard: ‘Sheep Rustlers Fleece Local Farms’. Aw, even the crime round here has a certain charm.
I’m intrigued. Higher Westcott Farm’s website promises the sort of urban-sexy rooms I’d expect in a Shoreditch boutique hotel but it’s all happening beneath the rustic thatch of a Devon longhouse. And when I book, the owner, Jo Gossett, emails me a simple but self-assured dinner menu, too. “No thanks,” to Devon crab, I reply, but yes and yes to spring lamb cutlets with crushed new potatoes and lemon mousse. She swaps seafood for pea and tarragon soup - yum.
It’s a glorious evening, and there’s a promise of summer in the air when Tom and I turn off an A road from Exeter on to the green patchwork of Dartmoor. We spot the farm, a sturdy, granite longhouse, poking above a stone wall wrapped around a garden.
Moments later Jo and her partner Sam are settling us into the sitting room by a modern woodburner. Clutching tea while sprawling on an L-shaped leather sofa, I spot a bar in the corner - a proper shiny vinyl number with a retro soda siphon, printed drinks list and two bar stools. An iPod docked on a shelf is providing an unidentifiable soundtrack. It feels like a private club.
Jo and Sam relocated from Hackney in east London last year to create a B&B based “on the aspiration of what we wanted to find when we went away.”
We have the run of this spacious sitting room and bar, but there’s also a “snack station” in the hall with square jars of teas, fresh fruit, and a stack of Green & Blacks. There are no kettles in the rooms, Jo explains, because they can’t stand the look of all that. I’m keen to ascend to mine but there’s one more to see down here - the dining room.
Wow. What’s this - Stonehenge?
A monstrous granite fireplace and lintel loom over the dining table. One guest, a geologist, has already informed them that the white markings on the stone would have been made by lava. Coo.
Opposite, a shiny wall of ancient oak separates the kitchen. This is called a muntin screen and would once have partitioned the family’s quarters from the animals’ while allowing the bestial body heat (and probably other things as well) to permeate the building. Thank goodness for progress.
Finally, we discover our rooms, unrepentantly contemporary under the beams and eaves, with great details such asfragrant Trish McEvoy orange ginger candles, knitted slippers (like Mabel Lucie Attwell shoes), tiny silver jugs of daffodils and window seats piled with cushions for comfortable stargazing.
Dinner, at the foot of Stonehenge, would be a communal affair were we not the only ones here. “Not sure about that,” says Tom. No question, though, about the quality of the food, Jo’s cooking, and service. Sam brings cutlery out on a plate between courses, which is obviously how things are done when your wife used to run a restaurant in the City.
We dine to a bluesy soundtrack, then I retire with Audrey Hepburn on DVD. Breakfast is accompanied by Bob Marley and the Wailers. Fruit, granola and fresh juice (like the spring water, served from a stoppered bottle), all go down very well. Next Sam ferries in two full English breakfasts. Only later do we realise that we didn’t actually order them, but by then we’re over the hills and far away, agreeing on how remarkably well this hip Hackney graft has taken to its Devon host.
A cossetting B&B on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, with chic rooms, crackling fires and fabulous home-cooked food
When Jo and Sam swapped their hectic London life for the wilds of Dartmoor, they set about opening the hip yet homely rural retreat they’d always dreamt of - the kind of place where guests can kick off their shoes and unwind. You’d expect a former Conran restaurant manager and a graphic designer to know a thing or two about hospitality and style, and their first venture, Higher Westcott Farm, proved such a hit that they soon decided to move things to a larger building a couple of miles down the road. After a year of negotiation and careful restoration, their B&B was reborn in its new home, The Longhouse, in 2012.
The address and the name may have changed, but the couple have stuck to the same winning formula: beautiful interiors, total tranquility and a refreshingly laid-back vibe. Their latest property - almost 500 years old and rumoured by locals to be the longest longhouse in Devon - is delightfully quirky, with ancient nooks and spiral staircases offset by sleek furniture and a smattering of contemporary art. The 5 bedrooms have beamed ceilings, deliciously comfy beds and sheepskin-covered window seats; one even has a decadent double-ended bathtub. Downstairs, Jo’s excellent home cooking is served up in front of a blazing wood-burner, and drinks await in the bar. Whether you’re a city couple in need of a countryside fix or a familyseeking lung-fulls of fresh air, it’s the stuff perfect getaways are made of.
A weekend at the longest longhouse
Just two months old, the longhouse in Exeter has everything an overworked city couple could want and that’s probably because the owners once had hectic London lives themselves. The 500 year old, five bedroom property took 1 year to restore and is believed to be the longest longhouse in Devon. Inside you will find spiral staircases beam ceilings, open fireplaces, modern furniture sheepskin covered window seats. Breakfast is an indulgent affair: expect homemade granola local jams, Devon sausages and eggs from the neighbouring farm. Dinner can be organised by prior request and the honesty bar containing local ales, cider, and bio-dynamic wines is always open, the perfect tonic after a hectic December.
The cool hotel guide
For a moment I wondered if i,d come to the right place. I was on the edge of Dartmoor National Park overlooking a quiet wooded valley, but it felt as though I was in Shoreditch (well a version of it). Soft hip -hop music was playing from a speaker next to a row of arty portraits of people dressed in their work clothes. Russian dolls were placed on a shelf, next to a mounted ostrich egg and a collection of original James Bond paperbacks.
Through a doorway, I came to a lounge with a cowhide rug and a blazing fire, around which 1930’s-style leather armchairs were clustered near an old poster advertising a Spanish bullfight and a striking image of a fox with butterfly wings. Piles of art books were placed on a side table.
The hip-hop fused into reggae as I met Sam Perry, who was wearing a flat cap and designer glasses. Sam, a Graphic designer, runs the Longhouse, which opened six weeks ago, with his partner Jo Gossett, who used to work at the Bluebird and Coq d’Argent restaurants in London. “we’re going for the urban, East London look,” he said “it’s a bit different for building that’s 400 years old.”
He was right-but it’s a style that works. Each of the five rooms had a touch of artistic flair, with posters by Tracey Emin and Edward Hopper and designer lamps dotted about. My room had a wide window alcove with a faux-fur-rug and throw cushions; a perfect spot for peering out across the wooded valley or reading a book. The walls of this terrific longhouse-which stretches for about 40 metres and is about 10 metres across- look thick enough to enough to withstand a rocket attack. There were eccentric touches too: tartan slippers were placed next to an enormous bed, while amid the muted colours of the bathroom was a shower cap shaped like a tea cosy.
Sam and jo have adopted a free-and-easy style for their B&B (the English breakfast was hearty and spot on, served with fresh coffee and apple juice to the accompaniment of soul music). There’s an honesty bar in a snug room near the lounge, with a stack of DVD’s on one side. None of the rooms have locks, “though a few guests have said something, so locks are coming in the New Year”. And they cook evening meals on request: £25 for three courses such as crab salad, fish pie and homemade ice cream (although as there was no other guest when I visited, they had the night off). It’s so laid-back it’s almost horizontal (and a lot of fun too).
Room 9 out of 10. Food 8.5. Service 9. Value 9. Cool factor 9.5. Score 9