LLM travel writer Genevieve Madeira heads to the depths of Devon to discover the rural escape that is Longlands – the ideal off the beaten track type of trip required in today’s world.
If the truth be known, I am a total country girl at heart. When living within the bright lights of the big city of London, despite loving it and living it to the fullest, I also constantly yearned for the freedom and space of my childhood days, running wild (and rather feral) in vast green expanses of land and wild, unspoilt nature.
This is most likely the reason that, at least once a year, my family and I go on a wonderful, remote British staycation. It is the kindest break we can embark on for our planet, while at the same time, doing wonders for our economy – win-win!
Longlands is easily accessed by train and upon arrival at Barnstaple there is just a short taxi ride to the location at Combe Martin. Once off the main road, the landscape is breath-taking and the private driveway extraordinarily hilly, in a lovely Postman Pat kind of way. Once out of the car you find yourself immediately immersed in nature – bees, bird song, and wildflower meadows – as you look down upon the rooftops of some rather intriguing tented rooftops.
Think picture postcard Devon; a divine rural location with rolling hills all around, nestled in a glade, which looks out to Exmoor and the sea, where the sun rises and sets in all its beauty and the stars at night, blindingly spectacular and bright.
A wonderful stilted African-style safari lodge (there are five in total, accommodating up to six people in each), resting in a glorious floral meadow with decked terrace, was just perfect.
The interior was deliciously rustic, with fresh cut flowers in vases and complimentary herbs for the kitchen ready for use, while a wood burner fired up the stove (nice off grid touch). Along with the well-stocked kitchen, with Champagne on ice (one of my personal favourites) there was a cute cabin room with raised double bed, which was very cosy and fun.
There are two further, more private rooms; one with a king-size bed, the other being a twin and the whole lodge is laden in sheepskin and lit by candlelight. I must say, while being the most amazing location for family, I can certainly see how Longlands might lend itself to couples looking for a romantic getaway.
Each lodge has a highchair, changing mat, toddler loo seat, travel cot, children’s crockery and board games with ladder sides for the cabin bed to convert into a cot or playpen. Each lodge can have up to two dogs at a concession of £25 per dog and a bed and treats are supplied complimentary.
There is also free Wi-Fi across all accommodation and owners Jeremy and Tammy Smith, who took over the business in September 2019 could not do more to guide us before and during our stay, they are very personable and passionate about what they do and nothing was ever too much.
With crisp white linen, pillows so squishy you literally melt into them and just the sound of night owls to sooth you to sleep, after a candle lit read, is there any wonder that for the first time in as many years as I can remember, I slept through until 9am the first morning?
Food and drink
If, like my family and me, you tend to get through a fair amount of food and beverage, there is the option to bring your own and cater for yourselves from the well-equipped kitchen, but note that Longlands does not accept supermarket deliveries due to steep driveway. Alternatively, Jeremy and Tammy have been selected as the first travel partner for wonderful B-Corp, chef-based business, COOK.
COOK offers a selection of home cooked meals that rival any upmarket kitchen and I strongly recommend the classic fish pie. All other local food and drink produce can be found in the stone built, newly transformed farm shop at Longlands, including Exmoor blended Wicked Wolf Gin, Luscombe Tonics, Willies Chocolate from Tiverton, Wortleberry jam, a selection of chutneys From Brendon Hill Farm, plus owners Jeremy’s number one favourite (so he informed us), Sandford Orchard cider from Crediton.
I’m not usually one for hot tubs, but at Longlands I made an exception and booked the sundowner slot, it was literal heaven and the sunset view down to the sea is not to be missed. We enjoyed a family moment there on the second night, which will be ingrained in our memories forever; we chattered, giggled, shared stories and dreams, and reconnected.
Aside from the hot tub, we enjoyed Pétanque on the lawn, a rather competitive game of table tennis, a gentle row on the boating lake, and dinner in what is known as the party barn. A gorgeous, light and contemporary barn, it can hold events for up to 35 people – such a nice idea for an exclusive birthday celebration take over. We also enjoyed plenty of on-site walks and the woodlands at Longlands are a delight.
Longlands is, this year, due to unveil a sympathetic face-lift, which will include the introduction of a lake-side, hand-built yoga circle, and a handy studio space converted from one of the old barns, which, with fire pits to light the way, will make an ideal covered space to do a workout or meditation.
There will also be the introduction of new rustic, corrugated metal wet rooms with glass panel inserts and, for individuals wishing to benefit from the tranquil location Longlands offers but not quite ready for the off-grid vibe, Tammy and Jeremy are opening the brand new fully equipped cottage, which sleeps up to four, with two bedrooms, a kitchen/diner and lounge room.
Nearby, you can enjoy the big skies of Exmoor National Park or just a stone’s throw away there is Ilfracombe, where Tunnel Beaches has a natural bathing pool. For fine dining take a look at Thomas Carr at The Olive Room in Ilfracombe, while Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park is also so close that, you can sometimes actually hear the lions roar. For some extra outdoor activity, you have Active Escape, who provide SUP adventures and Woolacombe Surf Club for surf lessons.
Prices start at £595 for a four-night mid-week stay and £645 for a three-night weekend. In high season, a mid-week break starts at £645 and a long weekend is £695, with a full week costing £1,695.
Address: Longlands, Coulsworthy, Combe Martin, North Devon EX34 0PD
Phone: 01271 882004 or 07931 470395
Image credit at top of article: Atitude58