2020 has been the year of the staycation. More of us than ever have been rediscovering the beauty of the British Isles, and realising that we don’t need to go abroad to enjoy spectacular scenery and absorbing culture. If you’re looking to book a staycation but aren’t sure where to go, why not head to Dartmoor?
Devon’s wild heart is famous for its dramatically beautiful, sometimes desolate landscape, a place where tinkling streams cut through heather-covered moors, ponies roam over the heath, and granite tors rise above swirling mist. But where should you stay? We suggest Thornworthy Barn. Stylish, romantic and wonderfully luxurious, it’s the perfect place to cosy up when those famous Dartmoor mists come rolling in.
Hidden away at the end of a steep country lane, Thornworthy Barn is ideally situated for exploring Dartmoor. It’s a 10-minute drive from the market town of Chagford, where there are shops, pubs and cafes, and close to the River Teign, where, if you’re brave enough, there are lovely spots for wild swimming. If you enjoy hiking, Kestor Rock, Fernworthy Reservoir and Thornworthy Tor are all within walking distance, as is the historic Warren House Inn pub. Bovey Castle, Becky Falls, Castle Drogo and Wistmans Wood are all a short drive away, so you won’t be short of things to do, if you can bear to drag yourself away from the cottage.
The barn itself is part of an estate dating back to 1840. Once a hotel, Thornworthy House was the home of the famous English novelist Mary Welsey, and if you’re looking for creative inspiration, you’ll certainly find that here. The views over the moors are outstanding, and walking through the gardens provides you with an instant sense of peace. In the grounds there’s a tennis court, kitchen garden, croquet lawn, a picturesque pond (with lots of happily quacking ducks), and a roundhouse with a wood burner, providing the perfect place to curl up with a book. Thornworthy Barn is tucked away in a courtyard on the side of the main house, providing plenty of privacy.
Style and character
From the moment you step inside Thornworthy Barn, you won’t want to leave. The invigorating bay and rosemary fragrance of the scented candles first draws you in; then it’s the welcoming ambience of the flickering fire, and the soft sound of classical music. Beautifully restored, the property is as stylish as it is cosy. The owner is an interior designer, and it clearly took plenty of love, time and effort to finish the barn to such a high standard.
The open-plan living area is so snug it’s no surprise that many guests don’t leave the property during their stay, preferring to hole up inside. The beamed, vaulted ceiling lends a sense of history – though with a Smart TV, Bose sound system, DVD player and radio, there are all the mod-cons you could want. In the evenings, you can dine at the antique dining table before retreating to the soft velvet sofas; draw the thick curtains, flick the lamps on, stoke the log burner, and pour yourself a drink. A wooden tray contains bottles of complimentary whisky and gin – and if you fancy a cocktail, there are limes, juniper berries and tonic water left out for you – just another example of the attention to detail seen throughout Thornworthy Barn.
Downstairs, there are two beautiful en-suite bedrooms. Both beds are king-size, with French linen bedding and plenty of plump cushions, and are wonderfully comfortable. The bedroom on the left is decked out with characterful antiques, including a wooden chest of drawers, a spacious double wardrobe, and a unique selection of artwork, and the en-suite has a freestanding roll-top bath that’s perfect to sink into after a strenuous country walk. The bathrooms are just as chic as the rest of the cottage, with dark walls, pristine tiled floors, and complimentary toiletries. If you prefer a shower to a bath, head to the second bathroom, where there’s a huge walk-in shower.
Back upstairs, the slate grey country kitchen is a joy to cook in. Whether you fancy yourself as an expert chef or a novice, there’s everything you need to cook up a storm while you’re here; a dual range cooker with five burner gas hobs, a dishwasher, microwave, Dualit toaster, Nespresso coffee machine, two fridges and a freezer. You can prepare your meals at the Georgian scullery work table, or if your guest is acting as chef, keep them company in the window seat while you sip on an aperitif.
Service and facilities
You can’t compare the service at Thornworthy Barn to that of any ‘ordinary’ luxury cottage stay. From the moment you arrive, owners Robert and Lisa provide a level of hospitality that’s more on par with a five-star hotel: you’re greeted warmly, your luggage is collected, and you’re given a full tour of the barn, where you’ll find a bottle of bubbly on ice waiting for you. But that’s not all; wander into the kitchen and there’s a whole hamper packed of treats – cordials, chocolate truffles, biscuits, chutneys, everything you could want to nibble on during your stay. All the ingredients to knock up a fresh cooked breakfast are laid out for you too, along with some more cakes if you can’t wait until morning. Nothing is too much trouble for Robert and Lisa – they even put together a special plant-based hamper for this vegan writer.
This is essentially a hotel-standard concierge service, a rarity among rural cottage stays. Robert and Lisa are more than happy to suggest the best places to eat in the area, book restaurants for you, give you advice on the most scenic walks, or even book you a private chef. Soon, they’ll be opening a spa in the main house where guests can enjoy pampering treatments like massages, making your stay even more indulgent. There’s an informative welcome pack in the cottage with everything you need to know about the property and area, and if you need anything else – whether that’s wax jackets or wellington boots – they’re more than happy to oblige.
In a nutshell
Thornworthy Barn is the perfect destination for guests who want to enjoy a private and romantic retreat with all the comfort and luxury of a top hotel. Dramatic landscape, cosy rooms, impeccable styling and generous service make this country cottage stand head and shoulders above the rest. Perfect for couples looking to unplug and enjoy some rest and relaxation.
From £1,019 for a long weekend or mid week break.