Sunrise at Stonehenge – inside the stone circle

The air was chill but the rising sun surprisingly bright as we reached Stonehenge at a much-too-early hour when any sensible person would have still been in bed. Everything around us was still; no coaches, no crowds, not even an open gift shop. This was Stonehenge as you imagine it to be, standing alone in the Wiltshire landscape as if the builders had abandoned the stone circle for us alone to find.

Stonehenge featured

But sadly the Stonehenge experience isn’t always like this. A couple of years ago I had visited with my blogging friend Barbara – she wrote about our day here. Although we were lucky enough to be first in the queue as Stonehenge opened and had the monument to ourself for a brief 5 minutes, it wasn’t long before the perimeter of the circle was flooded with other visitors. This is one of the major tourist ticklist sites and a convenient coach tour destination for day trips from London, so by the time we left, the experience was far from magical.

Inside the stone circle at Stonehenge

Inside the stone circle at Stonehenge

On a typical visit to Stonehenge you can skirt around the stones and photograph them from a distance, but without walking among them. This time our early morning tour allowed us to walk into the circle and hear our excellent guide Pat Shelley of Stonehenge-Tours.com tell us all about the stones and the stories and myths that surround them. But first a warning; don’t touch the stones, don’t kiss the stones, don’t hug the stones, don’t lick the stones! Those of us who visited Stonehenge as children will remember that this was once an open monument where you could walk among, sit upon and even picnic by these stones, but these days they are now treated with almost religious care for their preservation.

Stonehenge at sunrise Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Stonehenge at sunrise

The stone circle was a masteriece of engineering with the sarsens weighing up to 50 tons being brought on rollers from the Marlborough downs and the smaller blue stones used in the inner circle being brought by river from the Preseli Hills 150 miles away in Wales. The lintels that sit balanced on the top of the larger stones are held in place with interlocking joints and were slightly curved to make the circle – you can see the bulge on top of some of the stones and the hole on others that have fallen. While it is clear that Stonehenge was built to be aligned with the sun and is part of a wider landscape of other stone circles and burial barrows, no-one really knows why it was built or exactly how it was used.  Our guide Pat confided that Stonehenge is believed to have been built for ceremonial and ritual purpose which is archaeological code for ‘we’ve absolutely no idea!’

If you’d like to visit on a special sunrise or sunset tour of Stonehenge that will enable you to have that magical experience without the crowds, you need to plan well ahead. The early morning visit including access to the stone circle can be requested in advance at a cost of £30 per person via the Stonehenge website (this does not include a guided tour or even an audioguide) but guides like Pat Shelley also offer the special tour including transport from Salisbury and a guide for £98 per person. Twice a year you can walk within the stone circle during the winter and summer solstice but you will still be sharing the experience with thousands of other visitors. The normal entry price is £14.50 and is bookable in advance, by timed entry. A free audio-tour is available for download on iTunes here.

While you’re in the area there is plenty more to visit, so I would make a weekend or few days to stay in Salisbury while you explore the surrounding area – more information on the Visit Wiltshire Website.

Silbury Hill

On the road from Stonehenge to Avebury you will pass Silbury Hill, which at 40m high is the largest man-made chalk mound of its kind in Europe. The flat topped cone shape is too regular to be natural, yet no-one knows why it was constructed and no burial chambers have been discovered. There’s no public access to the base or top of the hill but on the opposite side of the road you can walk up the hill to West Kennet Barrow. This Neolithic long barrow or burial mound has a stone chamber at one end that you can enter and you are free to walk along the top of the barrow, with the wind blowing in your hair.

Silbury Hill in Wiltshire

Silbury Hill in Wiltshire

 A more personal experience of the stones at Avebury

If you were disappointed at having to share Stonehenge with crowds of other visitors, I recommend that you drive 40 minutes north to Avebury, a larger site of standing stones that is also managed by English Heritage. Visiting Avebury is a much more personal experience and while the individual stones are not as impressive as Stonehenge, you can wander among them, touch them and hug them at will. The stones are well spaced out, making large stone circles across the landscape and a village has grown up in the midst of them, making for a pleasant visit, since you can wander freely around the stones, banks and ditches and then finish off with an excellent pub lunch at the Red Lion.

The standing stone in Avebury, Wiltshire

The standing stone in Avebury, Wiltshire

Salisbury Cathedral

The beautiful cathedral is as much a living place of worship and community as a tourist attraction, and the spire can be seen for miles around as you approach the city from any direction. If you are spiritually inclined I’d recommend attending evensong or the Sunday morning service to hear the beautiful music and choral singing. The cathedral has undergone a major repair programme over recent years and you can read the cathedral blog to find out what’s been going on behind the scenes. You won’t find a crypt or hear a peal of bells here, since the cathedral is built on shallow foundations due to the high water table and too much vibration could make it unstable.

Salisbury Cathedral from across the water meadow Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Salisbury Cathedral from across the water meadow

A perfect photography spot can be found from the footpath that runs in between the water meadows, leading to the Mill House Hotel at Harnham a pub and restaurant where we had supper, in a 15th century building with a garden, with views of the river and mill pond.

Salisbury Cathedral Photos: Heatheronhertravels.com

Salisbury Cathedral Photos

 800 years of Magna Carta

In the chapter house of Salisbury cathedral you can see the best preserved of the four original copies of Magna Carta, sealed in 1215 by King John in an agreement to preserve the constitutional rights of his nobility. The ‘Great Charter’ guarantees certain rights, including the right to a free trial and copies were sent around the kindom after King John made peace with his barons at Runnymead, to ensure he didn’t change his mind (which of course he did).

Cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral

The interactive exhibition has been created within the Chapter House to commemorate the 800 year celebrations with films and displays about the charter’s history and volunteer guides on hand to explain everything. Within a darkened enclosure, you can see the actual Magna Carta, written on vellum and with the mark where the seal would once have been, which signified the king’s approval.

Magna Carta exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Magna Carta exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral

 Salisbury Cathedral Close

The cathedral is enclosed in a grassy close of 80 acres, surrounded by the houses that were constructed in the middle ages to house the clergy but have since been enlarged and beautified with grand Georgian facades. The houses, walls and gatehouses form a barrier that was designed to separate town from gown in troubled times – normally when the church was charging to local people too much in taxes. There’s plenty to see within the close including Mompesson House, an elegant Queen Anne style town house that is open through the National Trust, The Rifles (Berkshire & Wiltshire) Museum that tells the story of the County infantry regiments and the Salisbury Museum that houses local archaeological collections found in the area.

Mompesson House in Salisbury Cathedral Close Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mompesson House in Salisbury Cathedral Close

Visit Arundells, home of Sir Edward Heath

While you’re in the Salisbury Cathedral Close, be sure to visit Arundells, the former home of British Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath who lived here from 1985 until his death in 2005. The Grade 1 listed house has all those ingredients that make a perfect country gentleman’s residence; the gravelled courtyard with wrought iron gates, the honey stone Georgian frontage and the gardens leading down to the river. Inside the house is preserved as it was when Sir Edward lived there and reflects the passions of his later years. In the hall you’ll see models of his yacht, Morning Cloud and he described the rich man’s sport of ocean racing as ” like standing under a cold shower tearing up £5 notes.”

Arundells in Salisbury, home of Sir Edward Heath Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Arundells in Salisbury, home of Sir Edward Heath

In the sitting room is a grand piano which visitors are invited to play, covered with silver framed photos of the great and the good, while the terracotta formal dining room, filled with Chinese artworks, saw many a Sunday lunch with everyone from pop stars to royalty. As you walk up the stairs you’ll admire the  hand painted wallpaper depicting Chinese fables and stand behind Sir Edward’s desk in the study looking along the length of the garden towards the river. This is certainly a house that oozes the personality of its owner.

Arundells in Salisbury, home of Sir Edward Heath Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Arundells in Salisbury, home of Sir Edward Heath

Stay within the cathedral close at Sarum College

I stayed at Sarum College while attending the Social Travel Britain conference and highly recommend it if you are looking for tranquil and comfortable accommodation right opposite the cathedral. Parts of the college date back to the 18th century and it is now used as a Christian study and conference centre, but anyone is welcome to book one of their 40 rooms. This is the only place that you can stay within the cathedral close, so you can drink in that cathedral view in the early morning, before other visitors are allowed in. The en-suite bedrooms are fresh and simply furnished and there is a refectory that serves excellent home cooked meals using local ingredients. Should you wish to venture out of the cathedral close to eat at one of the nearby restaurants, you can borrow a key to get back in after the gates are locked at 10.30. Probably not the place for party animals though.

Sarum College in Salisbury

Sarum College in Salisbury

More places to visit in the South of England

10 ways to spend a wonderful weekend in Winchester
Dorset days of summer at the Acorn Inn
Sir Frances Drake and the Rembrandt selfie – at Buckland Abbey in Devon

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Read about sunrise at Stonehenge on a special tour to skip the crowds

I visited Salisbury and Stonehenge as part of the Social Travel Britain conference and some of the experiences mentioned were provided by English Heritage and Visit Wiltshire.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Sea views and springtime in St Mawes – our weekend in Cornwall

There’s something magical about waking up in Cornwall in springtime with a view of the Fal estuary from your bedroom window. “Tide’s in” says Guy as we open the curtains and lie in bed watching a tanker chug past St Anthony’s lighthouse and the St Mawes ferry heading for Falmouth.

Sea Views and springtime in St Mawes, Cornwall

From our luxury holiday house, the aptly named Dreamcatchers booked through St Mawes Retreats, we have a view of the sea over the slate rooftops of the cottages, where people are waking up this fine morning. I can walk out from the living room, through the French windows, onto the deck with a cup of coffee in hand and bask in the spring sunshine, just drinking in the view.

In spring the sea has a wild and mesmerising charm, as little ruffles of white speed across the grey-blue water and subside again. I’ve stayed here before of course, at Stargazers, another St Mawes Retreats property and have been hearing the call of the sea and Cornwall ever since – read about our last visit here.

I hope you enjoy the video below from our spring weekend break at Dreamcatchers in Cornwall with St Mawes Retreats

If you can’t see the video above of our stay with St Mawes Retreats, see it on my blog here or Youtube here and please do subscribe using the button above

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Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house with St Mawes Retreats

Dreamcatchers is one of five luxurious holiday houses in the St Mawes Retreats portfolio, four of which are in St Mawes itself, the fifth in nearby Fowey and all have spectacular views of the sea. The house is beautifully furnished with oversized Designers Guild florals, white walls and a sprinkling of sparkle and glamour. It’s light and airy yet warm and cosy and with those fabulous sea views, you really want to just curl up on the sofa or sit on the deck with a glass of wine and never leave. The houses are perfect for groups of friends like us who want to get away from our city lives for a relaxing short break by the sea.

Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house in St Mawes, Corwall through St Mawes Retreats  Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house in St Mawes, Corwall through St Mawes Retreats

Luxury and the Wow! factor

While we’re staying at Dreamcatchers for the weekend I reflect on how ‘luxury’ means different things to different people. For the girls in our party it’s the fabulous decor, the huge baths and walk-in showers within the bedrooms that have the Wow! factor. “I want to go back home and paint everything white!” declares my sister-in-law Clare as she dreams of recreating that ‘by the sea’ feeling. “I love all the colour” sighs my friend Penny and reminisces about wet camping weekends in Cornwall of the past that didn’t quite have the Dreamcatchers magic.

Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house in St Mawes, Corwall through St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The bedrooms at Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house in St Mawes, Corwall through St Mawes Retreats

As for the men, the house brings out the cave man spirit as Guy’s eyes light up at the wood burning stove, with logs set by ready for him to stoke it up. Meanwhile, my brother-in-law Andrew spots the enormous gas fired BBQ on the deck, and immediately starts planning our dinner around it, since he’s been known to cook the Christmas turkey on the BBQ before. My teenage son and friends fiddle with the sound system that defeats the rest of us and are duly impressed by the flat screen TVs in every room – there’s even the one above the bath in their own en suite bathroom.

Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house in St Mawes, Corwall through St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The living rooms at Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house in St Mawes, Corwall through St Mawes Retreats

Dreamcatchers is beautifully liveable as a holiday house to relax with friends and family. The house seems to swallow us all effortlessly, with a second sitting room that the teenagers can make their den.  We lounge around on the squashy leather sofas, play cards, drink wine, admire the twinkly lights in the oak staircase, gaze out to sea and generally catch up on everyone’s news.

When it comes to mealtimes, the kitchen has so many cupboards that we spend ages opening them all just to find a coffee cup or a plate. With two large fridges, a wine chiller, a super duper coffee machine to bring out your inner barista and pretty mother-of-pearl mosaic tiles this kitchen is made for a party.

St Mawes in Cornwall staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

St Mawes in Cornwall staying with St Mawes Retreats

Along the seafront

On Saturday morning, we wander down to the harbour at St Mawes that we had surveyed from the deck of Dreamcatchers. The narrow seafront road is lined with whitewashed cottages with blue shutters and daffodil window boxes and further on towards the Tresanton Hotel we pass pretty pastel villas with fanciful sea-faring names. I can’t resist stopping in the Waterside Gallery, filled with lovely glassware, paintings and sculptures from Cornish artists where I give the wooden seagull sculpture that hangs from the ceiling a pull to make it sway hypnotically up and down.

St Mawes harbour in Cornwall staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

St Mawes harbour in Cornwall

St Mawes Harbour

Around the harbour at St Mawes there are plenty of pubs, cafes and gift shops, although in March everywhere is quiet since the main holiday season starts at Easter. I imagine that in August the village is packed out but I quite like visiting places like this out of season before the crowds arrive. A racing gig comes onto the beach since the all-female crew have been out training and we watch them heave the boat out of the water.

In the past these pilot gigs were working boats, used to take a pilot out to a ship coming into the estuary and the race was to see who could get to the ship first to win the business. Now the pilot gigs are raced for sport along the Cornish coast and you’ll spot the Rosaland Gig club in the centre of St Mawes by the vintage petrol pumps standing outside.

By the harbour in St Mawes in Cornwall staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

By the harbour in St Mawes in Cornwall

The St Mawes Ferry

Last time we visited St Mawes, I’d seen the blue ferry passing by, but there were so many other places to explore that we didn’t have time to try it out. The ferry has the appearance of an old fashioned wooden toy boat, only life size, and it runs every day of the year but Christmas (more information here). On boarding the ferry we sat in the sunshine on the open top deck, enjoying the wind on our face and the fantastic views of St Mawes Castle and the boats in the estuary as we made the 15 minute journey across to Falmouth.

St Mawes ferry to Falmouth Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Taking the St Mawes ferry to Falmouth

Reaching Falmouth Harbour

Falmouth is a town that faces a deep natural harbour with a history that has for centuries been linked to the sea. As we approached on the St Mawes Ferry, we could see the marina with industrial cranes where they build Pendennis superyachts and the castle on the headland that mirrors the one on the other side at St Mawes to protect the estuary. The tide was out with seagulls making a constant shriek and shrill as they picked over the seaweed while the water lapped against the quayside.

Falmouth which we visited on the ferry from St Mawes when staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Falmouth which we visited on the ferry from St Mawes

From the ferry pier we turned left and passed a range of unremarkable high street shops, but further on these gave way to smaller art galleries and cafes, with plenty of places to buy your Cornish pasty or fish and chips. We thought Falmouth seemed like a great place to live, a proper town with plenty of charm without being too touristy or bijoux. We wandered past the Georgian shop buildings painted in shades of pale grey, lemon and sky blue with bunting strung between them fluttering  jauntily in the wind. From the main street we could follow small alleyways, leading up the hill or down to the sea, giving a tantalising glimpse of blue between the buildings.

Falmouth which we visited on the ferry from St Mawes when staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Down the alleyways of Falmouth with a glimpse of the sea

A Cornish pasty and a pint

This being the heartland of the Cornish pasty we were planning to try one for lunch, preferrably combined with a jug of Cornish Ale and a view of the sea. Down on Custom House Quay we spotted a sign in the pasty shop that said we could eat them in the pub opposite called “The Front bar on the quay” and entered the old style pub with a bar lined with Cornish ales and ciders that made Guy’s eyes light up. To get the view of the sea we had to sit on a bench outside, with a fine harbour view, only slightly marred by the constant stream of cars coming down the lane to park.

Falmouth which we visited on the ferry from St Mawes when staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lunch with a pint of Cornish ale and a harbour view in Falmouth

Having eaten our pasties, I went to explore the interesting Watermen’s Gallery with my sister-in-law, Clare and got chatting to the artist in residence, Sophi Beharrell who was working on a half finished painting of a cliff scene in Cornwall. There were many lovely Cornish seascapes on the wall, and other artistic gifts, but we made do with buying a few greeting cards of the paintings.

Falmouth which we visited on the ferry from St Mawes when staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Falmouth which we visited on the ferry from St Mawes when staying with St Mawes Retreats

St Mawes Castle

Returning to St Mawes on the ferry, we decide to extend our walk to St Mawes Castle, following the lane of well kept Edwardian villas, pastel pink or bright white with freshly painted blue windows. It’s rather sad that almost all seemed to be holiday homes, with not a light on and no-one at home. I wondered what it’s like to be a local around here, seeing these houses go empty for much of the year.

St Mawes Castle, Cornwall staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

St Mawes Castle, Cornwall staying with St Mawes Retreats

Further on, we reached St Mawes Castle, a petite fortress built by Henry VIII to guard the strategic Fal estuary from invasion, matched by its twin of Pendennis castle on the other side above Falmouth. The castle is now run by English Heritage, although it was just closing as we arrived, so we didn’t go in but continued up the muddly lane with the sea on our left. Here we passed more smart houses, with gardens full of rosemary, hydrangeas and camelias that would withstand the sea air, but again found all the houses in darkness. The path would have taken us to St Just in Rosaland but the fields were muddy and dusk was falling so we returned to Dreamcatchers for the scones and clotted cream tea that had been left for us by St Mawes Retreats.

Cream tea – Jam first or cream first?

If you ever meet a Cornishman be aware that the innocent cream tea has become a hot topic over how it should best be eaten. In Devon it seems that the scone is always spread with cream first then the jam on top while in Cornwall it’s jam first and cream on the top and there’s heated debate over which way is best. I remained impartial, tried both and found it delicious either way.

Cream ea at St Mawes Retreats, Cornwall Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cream ea at St Mawes Retreats, Cornwall

To the Lighthouse

On Sunday the blue skies and spring sunshine had turned to grey cloud and light drizzle but we pressed on with our visit to St Anthony’s Lighthouse which I’d visited on previous trips to St Mawes. In summer you can get a 10 minute ferry ride straight across from St Mawes, but we had to drive the 20 minutes around the headland and parked in the National Trust carpark at the end of the road.

St Anthony's Head lighthouse in Cornwall Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

St Anthony’s Head lighthouse in Cornwall

St Anthony Head is the site of many Second World War fortifications, concrete bunkers and observation posts with a fine view over the estuary. We walked down through the sheltered pines to the path to St Anthony’s lighthouse, which featured as the lighthouse in the TV puppet show, Fraggle Rock. You can’t get close up to the lighthouse which is still in use although there is a holiday cottage there that can be rented. We retraced our steps and walked along the sheltered path to the beach of Great Molunan, walking past the first cove and scrambling down to the next with the help of a rope. The tide was out with only us and a couple of kayakers on the beach and a view back to St Anthony’s lighthouse.

Walk to the beach near St Anthony's Head Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walk to the beach near St Anthony’s Head

After our blustery walk we drove back to St Mawes, diverting for lunch at Portscatho at the Plume of Feathers pub in the heart of the village.We installed ourself in a cosy side room and ordered some hearty pub fare – both the fish and chips and the roast Sunday lunch were excellent and ticked all the boxes for a proper Cornish lunch.

Fish and Chips at the Plume of Feathers in Portscatho, Cornwall Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Fish and Chips at the Plume of Feathers in Portscatho, Cornwall

Back at Dreamcatchers it was time to pack our bags again and take a  final look out at the window at those sea views, wishing we could stay a few more days. There’s something therapeutic about being within sight of the sea, the constant motion of the waves breaking on the rocks, the wind blowing away the mental cobwebs, and the rhythm of life on the water with the boats passing by. Our life in Bristol required us back but I know that it’s won’t be long before I feel the call of Cornwall, St Mawes and the sea again.

More information for your short break with St Mawes Retreats

St Mawes Retreats offers luxury holiday accommodation in Cornwall, with 4 properties in St Mawes and 1 in Fowey, sleeping between 4 and 12 guests. The larger houses are ideal for groups of family and friends to share and the St Mawes properties are all close to each other so are ideal for extended family stays and celebration events. The houses are available for short breaks and weekend stays in spring and autumn at surprisingly affordable rates, with special low occupancy rates for smaller groups in the winter, and the cost per person is well below that of a similar standard boutique hotel.

Dreamcatchers where we stayed has 5 en suite bedrooms, 2 sitting rooms, breathtaking sea views from the living rooms and master bedrooms, a south facing garden and is a short walk from St Mawes village on the beautiful Rosalind Peninsula. Dreamcatchers can be booked for short breaks from £952 in spring and autumn with low occupancy discounts in winter.

To book visit the St Mawes Retreats website or ring owner Amanda Selby on 0800 0886622 to discuss your requirements, as there are many concierge services available such as a private chef, beauty treatments, shopping services, childcare and help with organising your celebration event. For news and special offers follow St Mawes Retreats on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest |

Thanks to St Mawes Retreats for hosting Heather and friends for their weekend stay in Dreamcatchers.

More Cornish adventures

Is this the perfect sea view? Our luxury weekend at St Mawes in Cornwall
Cliff walks and country houses in Cornwall
Just me and the boys down on the farm in Cornwall

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Read about our luxury weekend break by the sea at St Mawes in Cornwall

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Fossil hunting and a weekend in the country at Red Doors Farm, Devon – video

A collection of 500 year old thatched cottages, set around a cobbled farmyard, Red Doors Farm in Devon has all the chocolate box charm that you’d wish for in a holiday cottage. However, we’ve learned from past experience that a centuries-old thatched cottage, picturesque though it may be, does not always mean warmth and comfort. Thank goodness the owners Gill and Adrian seem to have that cracked, with Byre Cottage where we stayed being kept at a cosy constant temperature by the biomass wood-pellet fired boiler.

Our stay was arranged through Premier Cottages who specialise in luxury holidays cottages and this one certainly lived up to expectations. Having arrived in darkness on a Friday night from Bristol, we wake up to glorious views of the Blackdown Hills and spot the red doors of all the cottages that seem to epitomise the cheerful spirit of the place.

A weekend in the country at Red Doors Featured

In the morning while the boys are cooking the bacon and eggs, Gill offers to show me around and tells me their story. She and Adrian gave up busy jobs in London to follow their dream of a calmer life in the country and took over the holiday cottage business of Red Doors Farm three years ago. “If we’d realised how much work it would be, we probably wouldn’t have taken it on!” Gill told me, since they have gradually worked through all of the six cottages, renovating them one by one.

I hope you enjoy my video below of our weekend at Red Doors Farm

If you can’t see the video above of our stay at Red Doors Farm, see it on my blog here or Youtube here and please do subscribe using the button above

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Our cosy cottage at Red Doors Farm

Furnishings have been upgraded, bathrooms modernised and now all the cottages meet Visit England’s exacting 5 star Gold Standard. Although Red Doors Farm is very popular with young families, it seems there’s a cottage for everyone down on the farm. The Swallows Loft is a one bedroom apartment on two floors with stylish mezzanine kitchen, luxurious modern bathroom and a four poster bed with an “Out of Africa” look, which suits professional couples looking for a relaxing country break. Meanwhile Holly Cottage is popular with older couples, or couples with a baby, since it’s all on one level with a terrace overlooking the croquet lawn, perfect to sit with your sundowner admiring the views of the Blackdown Hills.

Master Bedroom at Red Doors Farm in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Master Bedroom at Red Doors Farm in Devon

We’re staying in Byre which is a 3 bedroom cottage, sleeping 6 people in comfort, a spacious master bedroom for me and Guy and two twin bedrooms for my teenage son and two friends to spread out. No queues for the bathrooms either, since there’s a family bathroom upstairs and a shower room downstairs. We really can’t fault the cosy furnishings, well equipped farmhouse style kitchen and best of all the log burning stove in the sitting room. Since all men seem to love stoking up a real fire, and Guy is no exception, this is something we always love to see in a country cottage and we make the most of it with a fire in the evenings.

Sitting room in Briar Cottage in Red Doors Farm Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sitting room in Briar Cottage in Red Doors Farm

Feeding the goats at Red Doors Farm

Saturday morning is crisp but sunny with winter-blue skies and views over farmland to the valley beyond. Across the lawn is the swimming pool in a separate building for those (relatively) early morning swims which quickly become a favourite with our teenage boys. After breakfast and the swim we’ve arranged to meet Adrian and Gill for the 10.30 morning ritual of feeding the animals.

Swimming pool at Red Doors Farm Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Swimming pool at Red Doors Farm

For younger guests the farm keeps guinea pigs and rabbits in the covered play area but our teenagers are more interested in the goats, Charlie and Dora. “These are the most spoiled goats in Devon”, Gill tells me, since they have their own heated shed, decking walkways so their feet don’t get wet on the grass and a climbing frame which comes into its own at feeding time.

Feeding the goats at Red Doors Farm Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Feeding the goats at Red Doors Farm

Once Charlie and Dora have enjoyed their breakfast it’s time for the Muscovy ducks to have theirs in the next field. The ducks all have names beginning with D; there’s Dick, the alpha male of the group and Daisy, although we joke that Dyson might be a better name based on the speed at which they vacuum up the grain we hold out to feed them.

Feeding the ducks at Red Doors Farm in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Feeding the ducks at Red Doors Farm in Devon

Hunting for ammonites at Lyme Regis

Feeding time over, we decide to make the most of the glorious winter sunshine and drive the 25 minutes to Lyme Regis, the heart of the Jurassic Coast. Last time I was here with my blogging friend Barbara Weibel who is a rock hound and fossil lover if ever there was one and am determined to show the boys the ammonite pavement that we visited together.

The promenade at Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The promenade at Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis is a holiday town that I am continually drawn back to, having just the right balance of Jane Austen charm and fish’n’chips holiday fun, as well as being one of the top places on the Jurassic coast to find fossils. From the harbour, locally known as The Cobb, we walk along the rocky beach, with cliffs looming above us. The cliff face reveals the layers of sedimentary rock that were built up in pre-historic times containing the fossils, especially ammonites for which the beach is famous. “Don’t get to close” I call to the others, since there are frequent and dangerous rockfalls from the cliffs, especially after storms, revealing new fossils that have been trapped in the rock.

The ammonite pavement at Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The ammonite pavement at Lyme Regis

We clamber awkwardly over the boulders and squish through the black mud until we reach the ammonite pavement, a flat plate of rock where millions of years ago a shoal of ammonites settled on the bottom and were pressed down for eternity. Now at low tide you can see numerous little coils in the bare rock and spot them pressed into larger rocks along the beach. The local fossil hunters are to be seen tapping at the rocks with small hammers, splitting them open to reveal the ammonites trapped inside. As I walk, my eyes scan the pebbles that crunch under my feet and then suddenly I spot it, an ammonite on a smooth round pebble just lying there!

Ammonite I found at Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ammonite I found at Lyme Regis

A walk on the Cobb at Lyme Regis

We walk back to The Cobb where a broad wall casts a protective arm around the harbour and the colourful fishing boats are lying on their sides at low tide. It’s fun to walk along the broad top of The Cobb wall although the stone pavement slopes like a tipsy sailor towards the sea to catch out the unwary. It’s a steep drop on both sides and our friend tells us that their dog once fell off and rolled down the wall but luckily survived with nothing broken.

Tide's out at the harbour in Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Tide’s out at the harbour in Lyme Regis

The stormchasers might emulate Meryl Streep with swirling cloak in the film The French Lieutenant’s woman, standing on the end of The Cobb looking out to sea, although it’s not advisable or even allowed. Walking along to the end of the wall there are store houses for the fishing boats and we get the feel that this is still a thriving fishing community with plenty of notices advertising fishing trips and the blue and green nets piled up along the quayside. The notice above the door promises that ‘The Gods do not subtract from the allotted span of mens lives the hours spent in fishing”.

The Gods do not subtract from the allotted span of mens lives the hours spent fishing in Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Gods do not subtract from the allotted span of mens lives the hours spent fishing

Back on the quay, we check out the local fishmonger’s where I can’t resist buying some fresh squid while the boys browse in the second hand bookshop next door. Later that evening I fry it up in butter to eat with some of the orange, pepper and chilli chutney that we found in our welcome pack, although the boys turn their noses up at it. Guy has already drunk the bottles of Otter Bitter and Norcott’s Somerset cider without giving me a look-in but we all enjoy the local chocolate fudge and award winning ice cream that we bought from the freezer in the games room, made just across the valley. The fire is stoked up and the boys have a noisy monopoly game in progress, just as it should be.

A country walk on Dumpdon Hill Fort in Devon Photos: Heatheronhertravels.com

A country walk on Dumpdon Hill Fort in Devon

A climb to Dumpdon Hill Fort

Sunday morning and we take a last chance to explore some of the countryside around Red Doors Farm. Armed with instruction found in the Games Room, we walk up the lane towards the Dumpdon Hill Fort, an iron age fort which takes us on a steep and muddy climb up from the road. From the flat area of the top we can survey the many shades of green making a patchwork quilt of fields, then we turn back towards the farm and with rosy cheeks and lungs full of fresh air ready for our drive back to Bristol.

Morning view over the valley at Red Doors Farm in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Morning view over the valley at Red Doors Farm in Devon

A country weekend in Devonat Red Doors PinterestWhat we liked about Red Doors Farm;

  • The high quality furnishings and amenities with attention to detail and everything you need on the farm (even ice cream and meals in the freezer!)
  • The cheerful and helpful approach of Gill and Adrian who live on site.
  • Feeding the goats and ducks was a fun experience, even for our teens!
  • Lovely to have an indoor swimming pool on site and we made full use of it.
  • The beautiful Devon countryside and short drive to the coast at Lyme Regis or Sidmouth.

What you need to know;

  • The setting is quite rural so you do need a car and we didn’t find any shops within walking distance.
  • The free wifi is provided through a mobile in each cottage and you’ll need to give your credit card details as a deposit.

Booking at Red Doors Farm

Red Doors Farm have six luxury holiday cottages which sleep between 2 and 8 people, in the Blackdown Hills of Devon, set in beautiful countryside and only 30 minutes drive from Lyme Regis and the Jurassic Coast. A week’s stay in Byre Cottage at Red Doors Farm for up to six people starts from £775 and a short break starts from £540. Book Red Doors Farm through Premier Cottages here

Premier Cottages‘ collection features almost 1,000 four and five-star self-catering cottages across the UK. Properties range from small, romantic boltholes to large family-friendly country estates. The collection includes pet-friendly accommodation. It also offers the widest range of accessible properties in the UK and many properties have  onsite facilities like swimming pools, gyms, spas, indoor games rooms and children’s play areas.

Follow Premier Cottages and Red Doors on their Social Media channels below;
Premier Cottages: Website | Twitter @premiercottages | Facebook | Google+ | Pinterest | YouTube
Red Door Farm: Website | Twitter @reddoorsfarm | Facebook

Heather and family stayed as a guest of Premier Cottages and Red Doors Farm in Byre Cottage.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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