Cross Lane House: Somerset's modern medieval marvel

Cross Lane House has been leased from the National Trust by two of hospitality's most attentive hosts

A firm mattress, plump pillows, a steaming shower and a breakfast brimming with freshly pressed juice and bacon from pigs reared just down the road. Cross Lane House, on the eastern fringes of Exmoor National Park, ticks every box in the contemporary B&B book. But it's the thoughtful add-ons that have guests racing down the M5 to reach it.

From room keys that come with little torches to homemade macaroons at bedtime, the frills are taken care of to such an extent here that you come away with the impression that the owners, Andrew Stinson and Max Lawrence, are two of the most exacting honchos in hospitality. Ask them about some obscure attraction in the area and they won't just have heard of it, they'll have been there to recce it in person.

The Bed

In conjunction with the National Trust, from which the medieval farmhouse has been leased, the couple undertook a thorough but sensitive refurbishment. Original oak panelling in the hallway has been given gleaming new life, walls have been painted with distemper, and the kitchen gardens have been replanted.

Of four bedrooms, the three at the front are surprisingly quiet given the A39 passes right by, while, at the side, there's a two-bedroom suite. All are designed in keeping with their heritage: chalky green and putty-coloured walls, Colefax & Fowler fabrics, antique desks, local history books to read in bed, and bathrooms stocked with soft cotton robes and full-size Cowshed products.

Downstairs is a pretty lounge, dressed with fresh flowers, magazines and an open fire. In the summer, a cobbled courtyard hides quiet pockets of tables and chairs, plus a little interiors shop.

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One of its rooms

The Breakfast

If you don't fancy the "full Exmoor" or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, there are bacon or sausage sandwiches, boiled eggs with soldiers, fresh fruit, local yoghurt, and lashings of toast spread with the B&B's own jams.

The Hosts

While ex-restaurateur Max keeps a low profile, choreographing the business side of things, Andrew does such a kind and courteous job front-of-house that you'd never guess he'd come to hospitality via a career in banking.

The interior design is also Andrew's work, and his passion for the site's history shines; in the dining room is a single exposed brick, carved by an anonymous ancient graffiti artist, while the room that I stayed in has a 17th-century metal wig cupboard built into one wall, cleverly re-commissioned as a home for the kettle.

The Weekend

This corner of West Somerset and the stretch of Exmoor coast that runs westwards into Devon is so postcard-perfect it's hard not to let a weekend here drift into one long game of "name that period drama" (BBC series The Land Girls and The House of Eliott were both filmed in the area, as were episodes of Miss Marple and Poirot).

With its little packhorse bridge, Allerford is part of the National Trust's 12,000-acre Holnicote Estate, a quaint patchwork of babbling brooks, woodland pathways, open fields, rolling coastline, and clusters of cottages.

Strike out to the sea at neighbouring Bossington and follow the coast for a pint at the Ship Inn (01643 863288; shipinnporlockweir.co.uk), in Porlock Weir. Drive east and you come to Dunster with its 11th-century castle. Go west and, if you're game to swing up Porlock's precipitous hill, you'll be rewarded with moorland, sea views, and the pretty twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth.

The Pit-stops

Cross Lane House styles itself for now as a B&B first and a restaurant second (the latter is open to non-guests) but the emphasis on food is likely to grow. In February, Rob Blackmore (latterly of The Criterion in London) took over as head chef and the kitchen has moved up a step from rustic, seasonal cooking to dishes such as duck liver parfait with pomona gelée and clotted cream brioche.

Save space for fresh local oysters at the Rising Sun in Lynmouth (01598 753223; risingsunlynmouth.co.uk), a Devon Red burger at The Culbone above Porlock (01643 862 259; theculbone.com) or pan-roasted Cornish plaice at The Combe in Minehead (01643 700322; thecomberestaurant.com). Minehead's Friday farmers' market is small but ripe for picnic gathering (mineheadfarmersmarket.co.uk).

The Essentials

Cross Lane House, Allerford, Minehead, Somerset TA24 8HW (01643 863276; crosslanehouse.com). Double rooms start at £115, including breakfast.

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