Devon

Wild luxury at Thornworthy Barn in the heart of Dartmoor

Friday afternoon saw us leave Cornwall and head along the A30 towards Devon and magical Dartmoor. After a busy week in the office, we were really looking forward to a tranquil getaway at Thornworthy Barn, our abode for the weekend.

Passing gorgeous countryside and pretty villages dotted with thatched cottages and characterful inns, the gentle landscape began to change as we drove up on to the moor. Wild, untamed and beautiful, we gazed at heather-strewn hills, stony embankments and flowering gorse and once we had driven over the cattle grid, cattle and sheep grazing freely.

Passing a bubbling stream, brown with peat, we arrived at the gate to Thornworthy House. I jumped out to open it and we drove in, passing through a beautiful verdant tunnel of trees then turning into the breath-taking grounds of our retreat.

Perched high on the moors and literally at the end of the road, Thornworthy Barn lies in the gardens of a former hotel and was also previously the home of Mary Wesley, the author of The Camomile Lawn.

As we stepped out of the car, we were warmly welcomed by owners Robert and Lisa who quickly led us into their homely, warm and cosy kitchen.

After a chat about Thornworthy and all the amazing things to see and do in the area, Lisa took me to Thornworthy Barn (or ‘The Barn’ as they call it) whilst Paul and Robert got our luggage in.

Stepping through the door, we were immediately enveloped by a warm, beautifully scented home. With a reverse-level approach, the two en suite bedrooms are situated on the ground floor. I 'bagsied' the gorgeous, opulent teal bedroom with en suite bath, whilst Paul had the equally lovely, country-chic sage green bedroom with en suite shower room.

I followed Lisa upstairs to the main living area, where it was toasty warm on the cold autumnal evening. The wood burner was lit, the ambient lighting on, and classical music played on the radio. There was even champagne on ice, ready for our arrival.

She led me into the kitchen where the most amazing hamper had been left, filled to the brim with local goodies, whilst in the fridge was everything we needed for an English breakfast, all thoughtfully wrapped up in brown paper, string and labels.

After Robert and Lisa left us to it, we made a cup of tea and sat on the sofas, listening to the soothing music and the crackle of the fire before heading to bed.

The next morning, after a blissful nights’ sleep in the super-comfy king size beds, we woke up early, keen to make the most of the day. Using the delicious local produce left for us, I made us a hearty, delicious English breakfast, enough to fuel us for our day out exploring the moors.

As we pulled on our boots and headed out, Robert met us and kindly gave us a useful map for us to navigate a route. It was so nice to be able to walk straight from the property without getting in the car. Within ten minutes we had climbed up to Frenchbeer Tor, breathing in the pure, clean air and gazing at the beautiful moors that pitched and rolled into the distance.

Accompanied only by sheep, we walked to Middle Tor and Kestor Rocks, passing marshy pools and stricken trees, blasted by extreme weather. From there we went a little ‘off grid’, and after a pleasant hour rambling, we found our way back on track and walking along the North Teign River, a ferocious, bubbling cauldron of brown peaty water following some very recent heavy rainfall.

We had a break here, sitting on a rock and watching the water dance past us, before traipsing over the huge expanse of boggy moor towards Thornworthy Tor, passing Fernworthy Reservoir as we went and then finally back to our retreat.

We’d been out for about five hours, so we were tired but exhilarated from all the fresh air and incredible scenery. We lit the fire and popped the kettle on for tea, accompanied by some delicious cake left for us by Lisa.

A little while later, I began prepping dinner. The kitchen is just amazing and proves you can have style and substance – it has everything I needed to cook a roast dinner, and the fab range cooker and five-ring hob was just a dream.

We had a laid-back meal accompanied by music, chatting all the while, before moving to the sofas to enjoy our champagne we hadn’t managed the night before in front of the fire and reading the lovely books and magazines left for us to enjoy.

The next morning, after a long lie-in and a breakfast of coffee, croissants, fruit and yogurt, Paul went for a walk to Fernworthy Reservoir whilst I relaxed in the garden.

The Barn has its own private courtyard to the rear, plus a grassy area with seating. However, I went into the beautiful shared garden which boasts a lovely pond, cute wooden roundhouse with its own wood burner, kitchen garden and greenhouse, plus a grand tennis court.

I sat myself in the round house for half an hour or so, gazing out over the moors. I kept eyeing the sloe gin left enticingly on the site for us, but refrained bravely, being only eleven in the morning.

Paul meanwhile reached the reservoir easily on foot and walked some of the footpath that circled it. The reservoir is an important haven for wildlife and is home to some rare species of butterfly and moth. Blown away by the impressive views, Paul followed the path for a while before heading back to the Barn.

After meeting back up, we headed out in the car for a mini tour of the surrounding area. First on the list was Chagford, a pretty village and the nearest to where we were staying. With a square, tea rooms, an inn or two plus an impressive church, this quintessential Devonshire village also boasts a surprising open-air swimming pool.

Next, we passed through the unspoilt village of Drewstaignton, then on to Fingle Bridge – an idyllic 17th century stone bridge over the River Teign and the gateway to Fingle Woods and Castle Drogo.

Set within a picturesque gorge, the trees cling to the steep hillside it’s an impressive sight. We walked over the bridge and along the river, enjoying the dappled light and fast-flowing river. There are lots of paths to follow, some which climb on to the top of the gorge where the views are just incredible.

The evening was drawing in, so we headed back to Thornworthy Barn for our last night by the fire, enjoying the tasty treats left for us and once again chatting away for the rest of the evening before bed.

The next morning, we sadly had to say goodbye to beautiful Thornworthy Barn after our all-too-brief break. We’ve fallen in love with this exquisite home stay and its wonderful setting and combined with the incredible welcome from owners Robert and Lisa, makes for a memorable holiday indeed.

This is an exceptional, getaway perfect for those seeking a secluded countryside escape but without compromise on luxury or top-notch service. ‘Wild luxury’ is a term that comes to mind, and country-chic is the name of the game. The true definition of a boutique hotel experience within the privacy of your own home. We will be back!

Feel inspired? Take a look at Thornworthy Barn here or its sister property The Bothy, a gorgeous open plan retreat also for two, here.

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