My thoughts are straying to short break ideas for the Spring. I am tempted to return to Weeke Barton, a fab and funky little B&B on Dartmoor where we stayed last Autumn.
It’s in an idyllic spot – only a 20 minute drive from Exeter and the M5, yet utterly peaceful and away from it all. Walk straight from the door into mile after mile of England’s best kind of countryside… rolling hills and valleys dotted with sheep, cattle and woodland and the occasional cutesy village.
Weeke Barton itself is a traditional 500 year old Dartmoor longhouse. It belongs to Jo and Sam – she formerly a restaurant manager at Terence Conran’s Bluebird Café on London’s King’s Road, he a graphic designer. They moved here from deepest Hackney when their son was a baby, looking for an escape from the Big Smoke.
They first bought a rundown house down the road, did it up, then ran it as a successful B&B for a few years. Then they felt inspired to do the same thing again, bigger and even better, so they bought this place (and kept the old one as a holiday let).
First appearances can be deceptive. From the outside it is white washed and traditional. If you enter expecting frilly bedspreads and crocheted doilies, however, you will be sorely disappointed. Instead, Jo and Sam have brought a little dose of urban cool to Dartmoor. They stripped Weeke Barton back to its bare and beautiful bones, then put things back in, thoughtfully – not minimalist, but not cluttered either.
In the living room, there’s a big fireplace with a woodburner, cowskins and squishy leather sofas, a few games to play and books to read. The adjoining dining room also has a woodburner and a huge slate topped table. There’s a tiny little snug with a full loaded honesty bar and a decent library of DVDs which you can take to watch in your room. Master and Miss Gallivant were very happy bunnies…it doesn’t take much!
There are five bedrooms and they vary. Some are bigger and can have extra beds put in for families – but these were all booked by the time we organized our stay. I was secretly relieved – as I have said in a previous post, once your kids get to a certain age, sharing doesn’t have quite the same appeal.
We got two bedrooms between the four of us, which was perfect. They weren’t particularly large, and neither had a bath, although I know some of the others do, but – the acid test – we all slept incredibly well here. I need to ask them where they buy their gorgeous, marshmallow-soft bed linen. Master Gallivant, who would not normally have the vaguest interest in such things declared them the best beds ever and demanded that I buy him a duvet the same. Mmm, at the age of 15 I don’t think I’d ever get him out of it!
The showers were also pretty good – powerful and with lashings of hot water at all times.
Oh, and there was the view. There’s something so magical about arriving somewhere in the dark after a long drive, having a great night’s sleep then waking up and throwing open the curtains to discover a glorious view and, luckily for us, a glorious sunny day, too.
What’s even more magical is looking forward to a long, leisurely breakfast…that someone else is cooking. I can confidently say that this is one of the best breakfasts I have had in a B&B. There’s nothing fancy but, as with everything at Weeke Barton, it is all done exceedingly well.
It kicks off with home made granola and toast made from home made bread and kept warm in cute little insulated toast bags (must find out where they bought those, too!). There’s local apple juice, then a Full English, perfectly executed. Even the eggs were amazing – so full of flavour and with deep golden yolks. Again they are local – I am guessing from very happy chickens who get to roam free around the Dartmoor countryside.
Speaking of which, Jo and Sam have helpful walk maps and directions starting direct from the house. We planned to do a circular stroll that would take around two and a half hours and include a trudge up a high tor, with rewarding views over Dartmoor from the top, plus a tea shop stop along the way.
The first hour or so was wonderful – and I congratulated myself on the fact that my children were not at all moany about walking. Another hour later…they were not so co-operative. Mister Gallivant and I had the first of several disputes (OK, rows) over the route. Mister Gallivant told me my sense of direction was shockingly bad and confidently led us the ‘right’ way….which of course turned out to be the wrong way. I have to concede that my right way possibly wasn’t the right way either! Master and Miss Gallivant commented that we were behaving rather like children and should grow up a bit. That told us.
Three hours later – and having found neither tor nor tea shop, we arrived back at Weeke Barton. Biggest cause of annoyance for us all was missing out on the Devonshire Cream Tea we had promised ourselves, so we jumped in the car and headed to said tea shop (The Walled Garden in Dunsford) for a feast of scones, cream and jam. All was right with the world again.
When we got back to Weeke Barton, with full tummies and tired limbs, we chilled out in the living room for a bit and listened to some of the trendy house playlist.
Come dinner time, it is possible to eat at Weeke Barton if you pre-book. Jo will cook up a feast for a very reasonable price. Early children’s suppers are also available so this is perfect if you have younger kids who can sleep while you come downstairs and enjoy some adult company.
This didn’t quite work for us with older children, though. There was no way they were going to eat with the tiny tots then go dutifully to bed by 8pm. So instead we went out. Jo and Sam can recommend lots of places nearby – we had some rather refined pub grub at The Horse in Moretonhampstead and the Nobody Inn in Doddiscombsleigh.
After two utterly relaxing nights it was time to head home. We felt sad – it would have been good to attempt another walk – and more successfully. Or we could have hired bikes, or gone fishing.
We figured there’s always next time – and if we go when the weather is good we could fit in a trip to the beach, too. There’s so much to like about this B&B – including Jo and Sam themselves. We’ll be back!
Prices start from £110 per night for a double room. Extra beds £20 per night, cot beds £10. Two course dinner with tea or coffee £18 per person; children’s supper £7.50 per person. Visit www.weekebarton.com