B&B and Beyond: Weeke Barton, Devon
An old longhouse in the Dartmoor countryside has been transformed into a sleek rural retreat
Sarah Baxter is part-time Associate Editor of Wanderlust travel magazine and a part-time freelance travel journalist and editor. She has written many features for The Independent, as well as for other newspapers, magazines, blogs and books. She loves exploring the great outdoors, and when she's not thinking travel, she's likely lacing up for a run instead.
Saturday 16 March 2013
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. Home-made 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 and bacon are all local.
Until 2007, Jo Gossett and Sam Perry lived in Hackney, Sam working in graphic design, Jo a manager for Conran Restaurants. But with their combined style and hospitality skills, not to mention drive, opening a B&B had long been an ambition.
East Dartmoor grabbed them on first visit and they bought and renovated nearby Higher Westcott Farm. In 2011 they made Westcott a holiday cottage and flung themselves into an even bigger project: last November, Weeke Barton was born.
The location is entirely rural but the interior is a successfully eclectic mix of second-hand, handmade, vintage and John Lewis.
Bring boots: Jo and Sam have walking guides and maps you can use to explore Dartmoor's wilderness. A circular walk from the Bronze Age settlement of Grimspound via Widecombe is recommended, with a stop at the Rugglestone Inn for lunch (01364 621327; rugglestoneinn.co.uk). If you fancy riding a Dartmoor pony, Babeny Stables (Poundsgate; 01364 631296; www.babenystables.co.uk) offers moorland hacks for all abilities – including a pub ride.
The Lutyens-designed Castle Drogo (01647 433306; nationaltrust.org.uk/castle-drogo), England's "youngest castle", is the wet-weather choice, with themed rooms and a great tea shop. Or book a plush pamper at Bovey Castle's spa (0844 474 0077; boveycastle.com).
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.
Down the road in Lower Ashton is the Manor Inn (01647 252304; manorinn.co.uk). Local Teignworthy Brewery beers are on tap, while food is good gastro-pub stuff: starters such as spicy squid or beer-battered Stilton (£5.75) are followed by fish of the day (£9.95) or steak and Jail Ale pie (£10.95); a strawberry cheesecake (£5.50) was truly memorable.
Weeke Barton, Dunsford, Dartmoor, Devon EX6 7HH (0117 942 8476; bookings through i-escape.com/weeke-barton for free bottle of ale/cider). Doubles from £110, including breakfast. Evening meals cost £18 for two courses, £25 for three. It's a 20-minute drive from Exeter, so you need a car.
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