Stay the Night: Longlands, Devon
They may be under canvas, but these lodges offer country elegance and comfort, as James Litston discovers
Sunday 24 February 2013
Even the most committed urbanite cannot fail to be won over by Longlands. Opening on Friday in rural North Devon, right on the fringes of Exmoor National Park, this intimate retreat is the latest incarnation of the ever expanding "glamping" phenomenon.
Don't be fooled by their canvas roofs; Longlands' three sturdy lodges may look like tents but their stylish interiors and en-suite facilities will satisfy the softest of city dwellers. They combine all the romance of camping with the stay-at-home comforts of a country B&B.
Tucked into a sheltered valley with views across rolling hills to the sea, the lodges make a handy base for exploring the 17-acre property and the attractions on its doorstep, from Exmoor to Victorian resorts, cliff-top walks, and the wonderful beaches at Woolacombe and Croyde.
The three (there will eventually be five) lodges have been thoughtfully positioned to overlook the surrounding countryside rather than each other. Each is dug into the hillside to provide protection from the elements and comes with its own private barbecue platform and broad, elevated wooden deck. Inside, it's all about country elegance. This translates into vintage leather sofas, beautiful fabrics, antique dressers and a blanket box filled with family-friendly games. There's an activity pack for children, too.
The identical lodges each sleep six (one king bed, two singles and a further double housed within a cosy cabin) and have wooden flooring, a fully equipped kitchen with wood-burning stove, another wood-burner for the en-suite shower, luxury bedding, a separate loo/washroom ... in fact just about every convenience (except electricity, of course – that would be cheating).
Out and about
For outdoor antics, Longlands has its own nature trails and small boating lake, while the national park's perimeter lies just over the next hill. Experience Exmoor (01271 889316; experienceexmoor.co.uk) offers exploratory adventures in this wide, open space (both on foot and electric bike), or take a 4x4 safari to seek deer, wild ponies and perhaps even the legendary Beast of Exmoor.
Children can interact with creatures great and small at the Wildlife and Dinosaur Park (01271 882486; wildlifedinosaurpark.co.uk) or find their own among the rock pools at Ilfracombe's Tunnels Beaches (tunnelsbeaches.co.uk). Adults can make up their own minds about Verity, Damien Hirst's controversial, 20m-tall bronze statue, which was permanently installed atop the harbour walls last October.
The Tarka Trail is a popular cycle path along a disused railway line that the fictional Tarka the Otter followed in Henry Williamson's novel (Rent bikes from Biketrail: 01271 372586; biketrail.co.uk.) Or hit Woolacombe Sands for a walk or a surfing lesson (01271 871337; nickthorn.com), then warm up with lunch at the Sands on the Beach in nearby Saunton (01271 891288; sauntonsands.co.uk).
The food and drink
The lodges come stocked with larder essentials, plus pots of fresh herbs and a bowl of fruit. Top up with supermarket shopping in Ilfracombe (a 15-minute drive away), or opt for local produce from the farm shop just up the road. Even more convenient is the Longlands Larder, an on-site honesty shop selling everything from apple chutney to "zingy zucchini" pasta sauce. There's also a menu of home-made dishes (lasagne, Thai curry and vanilla cheesecake) that can be ordered in advance and warmed up in the stove; plus the Longlands Cellar has local and international wines, beers and ciders.
A DIY breakfast is delivered in wicker baskets (featuring eggs and sausages sourced from the neighbouring farm), plus there's the option of a barbecue basket with burgers, marinated chicken drumsticks, coleslaw, salads and marshmallows for toasting.
Of course, you can't come to Devon and not have a cream tea. Lynton and Lynmouth are pretty Victorian seaside towns filled with naughty-but -nice cake shops for that essential fix of scones and clotted cream. They'll be joined this summer by Longlands@Lynton – a deli featuring "best of the west" local produce in the form of salads, pasties, biscuits, pies and other picnic-friendly fare.
As for eating out, The Hunters Inn (01598 763230; thehuntersinn.net), hidden away at the bottom of wooded Heddon Valley, is a great bet for hearty pub grub.
Longlands Farm, Coulsworthy, Combe Martin, North Devon EX34 0PD (01271 882004; longlandsdevon.co.uk). Three-night breaks from £475. Up to two dogs are welcome per lodge, at an additional cost of £25 per dog (bed, towels and bowls provided).
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