Stay The Night: Big Barn, Devon
This converted Devon farm building has the wow factor
Sunday 31 May 2009
This former threshing barn at Larcombe Farm, East Allington, is a collection of stone houses surrounded by green fields that are grazed by rare breed Grey Face Dartmoor sheep. You approach the barn via a hedgerow and wildflower-hemmed track, which dips suddenly towards the large farmhouse and pond. So far, so rustic. But a private entrance whisks you around the pond to the upper floor of the two-tier barn. And that's where the wow factor kicks in.
Two sets of glass doors open to a 22m open plan living area, which runs from a kitchen to a living room via an enormous dining table. Huge skylights flood the room with sunlight. The exposed stone walls keep you rooted in your location, but the decor is on a par with any bona fide boutique hotel: Philippe Starck Eros chairs, chandeliers, giant candelabras, bright orange sofas, a sleek black gloss kitchen, edgy screen prints, a surround sound system and a flat-screen TV as wide as a trough. That's not to say that the owner, Caroline Murray, has bleached the barn of its character. Wood has been salvaged to create charmingly bowed doors ("The carpenter told me he'd seen better wood thrown on bonfires, but somehow it worked," she chuckled); the floorboards arrived from France as tree trunks; bedrooms are beamed and there's a (suitably retro-chic) wood-burning fireplace. The overall effect is a rock'n'roll bolthole with idyllic country views.
The barn sleeps up to 12 in four ground floor bedrooms, plus the "Crow's Nest", a glass-fronted eyrie suspended over the kitchen with a sofa bed and two pull-out beds. The downstairs rooms "Woods", "Lily", "Indian" and "Disco" are immaculately decked out in Cole and Son designer wallpapers, heated oak floors, en-suite slate and concrete bathrooms, flat-screen TVs and DVD players. Beds include a 5ft four-poster, a 7ft French-style rattan bed and an 8ft Victorian iron bed, and are draped in crisp, snowy linens, down duvets, and velvet throws. Windows overlook the surrounding countryside, with some opening directly on to a paddock.
The food and drink
There's a high-spec kitchen with a professional cooker, dishwasher and acres of fridge space. The long dining table is made up of salvaged floorboards from the Princess Theatre in Torbay and is perfect for a big get-together. We enjoyed a 30th birthday there and celebrated with a home-cooked curry for 10. For warmer months, there's a top-of-the-range barbecue and an equally large table for al fresco dining. Tesco will deliver groceries directly to the barn. Failing that, the area is saturated with great pubs and restaurants, from the Michelin-starred New Angel in Dartmouth and Effings in Totnes, to the Fortescue Arms in East Allington, just a mile away. Sharpham Vineyard and cheese-makers is also a short drive away and offers tours.
Linen, towels, kitchen basics and cleaning products are provided, as well as Wi-Fi and Cath Kidston soaps in the bathrooms. There's a large games room across the courtyard complete with a pool table, piano, dart board and table tennis. The pantry has a washing machine and tumble dryer and all the requisite bags and bins for recycling.
There is one set of stairs leading from the main living area down to the bedrooms, and a spiral staircase that winds up to the "Crow's Nest". The barn might look outwardly adult-oriented but is actually very child-friendly too, with plenty of games, toys, a steriliser and stair guards. A fenced paddock has a set of swings and is ideal for letting kids run riot.
Weekly rental ranges from £1,400 to £3,400, with short breaks dependent on availability.
Big Barn, Larcombe Farm, East Allington, Totnes, Devon (01548 521663; bigbarnholidayindevon.co.uk).
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