We decided to escape the parties and fireworks this New Year mainly due to our elderly dog who is no longer able to cope with the noises, which gave us the perfect opportunity to retreat to the Exmoor countryside with the family and enjoy some quality time before the rat race of work and routine had to begin again.
After hunting around on the internet I was over the moon when hubby found a little cottage in an idyllic setting which allowed dogs (and because my sister forgot to find somebody to look after her pet, we also took a hamster!) After a three-hour drive I was very happy to see this as we pulled up.
The cottage was modern but still retained it’s country feel and features, including a large fireplace with a wood burner and wooden beams.
It consisted of three bedrooms– one with a double bed, one with two singles and another with bunk beds for children. The only drawback to the children’s room was the fact it was on the ground floor and the other 2 rooms were upstairs. We had gone away with my sister and brother in law too so it would have meant that Jake would have been sleeping downstairs alone. I didn’t like the idea of this and even though I did try to put him to bed in there on the first night even he wasn’t happy with it and ended up sleeping in our bed for the three nights. If you had two children in there you may feel more comfortable leaving them downstairs but being a new place, in a remote area, I didn’t want to take any risks. Other than that issue the rest of the cottage was homely and warm with plenty of essentials provided (towels, bedding, books, toys, toilet roll, washing up liquid, leaflets on the area etc.)
The stunning Exmoor cottage is situated down the lane from a farm and surrounded by woodland, fields and 2 other cottages– although we didn’t see anybody else whilst we were there.
We had already looked online at what the area had to offer prior to going and checked the places which were dog-friendly as she wasn’t allowed to be left in the cottage alone. We arrived on the Friday and spent the afternoon looking around the grounds, unpacking and chilling out.
On the Saturday we took a 40-minute drive to The Valley of the Rocks in Lynton. The views, landscape and walks are just breathtaking. The coastal path is perfect if you have a child and dog. There is so much ground to cover and if you are a keen climber or rambler you could spend hours exploring the valley. We chose to stick to the main areas and enjoyed a very brisk and windy walk plus a climb up a couple of the larger rock formations.
Even our old girl wanted to climb to the top!
Jake enjoyed walking, climbing the rocks and jumping about.
We were so pleased to find that most tea rooms were also dog-friendly and the one we chose to have a cream tea in even had a doggy menu!
In the evening, once we had recovered from all the walking, we went to the local pub in the village of Wheddon– The Rest and be Thankful Inn. Again, the dog was allowed in and she quickly made herself at home…
We had a lovely New Years eve eating, drinking, laughing and playing games all whilst being entertained by an over-excited three-year-old!
We woke up the next day to heavy sleet which put a stop to our plans of a walk by a river. Instead, we watched films, played games and just relaxed. In the evening we visited The Royal Oak pub and had the most amazing meal. They even had free treats on the bar for Molly!
We needed to be out of the cottage by 10am on Monday but we still wanted to see a little more of the area and started it with a brisk walk up Dunkery Beacon. I say we, but really only hubby and my brother in law made it to the top because Jake started to cry about being too cold so myself and my sister sat in the car with him… and ate chocolate to pass the time!
We then went on to visit Dunster Castle. The castle itself wasn’t open inside due to the time of the year but the grounds, tea rooms and the educational areas were accessible. With the dog we wouldn’t have been able to go inside anyway but she was allowed on the grounds. This is a National Trust venue so if you are a season ticket holder you will get in for free. We had to pay £8 per adult and Jake was free.
Jake loved seeing a real castle for the first time. We began with a walk along the river, took a peek at how the water mill worked and visited the tea room for some lunch. We then explored around the top of the castle, the grounds, inside some of the medieval rooms called The Crypt and inside the reservoir.
Come on Mum, it’s a castle!!
Be prepared for a lot of walking and steps
The facilities here were very modern and I was really pleased to see there were plenty of toilets and even baby change stations included in both the men’s and the ladies. There was a chance to watch the flour being made which was available to buy. There was also a souvenir shop at the exit. If you have enough time you can explore the oldy worldy village of Dunster.
∗You can read my full review of Dunster Castle on the blog of Yorkshire Wonders.
On the way home we spotted the ruins of a building and couldn’t resist having a little look inside.
If you are looking for a short break I can highly recommend Exmoor as a destination. There is just so much to see and do, I could have easily stayed there for a week to explore this area further.
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