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

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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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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.

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Activities for the family in and around St Ives

Most people have childhood memories of going to a beach, building sandcastles and eating ice-creams and fish and chips by the sea. If you fancy re-igniting your memories and starting some new ones for your family then head to the beautiful beaches of St Ives in Cornwall.

St Ives, Cornwall Photo: RStacker on Flickr

St Ives in Cornwall

Beautiful beaches abound

There are a number of coastal resorts in Cornwall but St Ives is one of the most popular, being voted the “Seaside town of the Year” by Guardian readers. St Ives is nestled on the northern Cornish coast that keeps its traditional fishing roots but blends them seamlessly with modernity. It is somewhere that will be able to entertain the whole family whether you want relaxation or adventure.

The beach at St Ives Photo: Uncle Bucko on Flickr

The beach at St Ives

One of a major attraction with any coastal resort is the beach. St Ives has various beautiful sand beaches all of which are close to the town centre. St Ives Harbour beach is sheltered due to its proximity to the harbour and has sand even at high tide. Its central location is ideal if you want to combine being at the beach to being close to shops and eateries. If sitting watching the boats come into or leave the harbour isn’t enough you could always embark on a boat tour.

Water sports from passive to active

Porthemor beach is also very popular. If you fancy taking your four legged friend on holiday then Porthemor is ideal as it is dog friendly for part of the year and allows plenty of opportunities for long walks. If you fancy venturing beyond the sand and into the surf then there are life guards on hand throughout the summer. Perhaps a little paddle isn’t enough and you fancy doing some water sports? Surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and coasteering are all on offer at St Ives.

Cornwall is renowned for its surfing and with lessons ranging from a beginner’s taster session to advanced classes you will have every opportunity to catch a wave. Sea Kayaking is a fun alternative to surfing and you’re likely to spot local wildlife such as seals, dolphins and sea birds. Some companies may even take snorkels so you can explore the clear waters fully. Paddle boarding is increasing in popularity thanks to celebrities such as Pierce Brosnan and Rihanna who have been snapped completing the activity. Coasteering will appeal to adrenaline junkies everywhere as it combines climbing rocks, jumping into the sea and swimming into and exploring caves and gullies.

Sea Kayaking in St Ives Photo:

Sea Kayaking in St Ives

Culture from theatre to art galleries

If you can drag yourself away from the beach and all the fantastic water sports on offer, there are a variety of activities in St Ives town itself. If you fancy an evening activity (whatever the weather) there is a quaint little cinema or alternatively see what plays are showing at St Ives Theatre. If the weather is good you could visit The Minack Theatre which is one of the most famous outdoor theatres in the UK and well worth a visit.

The Minack Theatre Porthcurno Photo: Martin Hartland

The Minack Theatre Porthcurno

If museums or art galleries are where your interests lie then you may be surprised to learn that there is a Tate Gallery at St Ives. As well as showcasing a variety of modern art it also houses the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gardens. Due to its popularity the gallery is being extended in 2014 so even more works of art can be brought to visitors. The St Ives museum will help you better understand the local area with exhibitions on local subjects such as mining and boat building. The museum has excellent reviews so is worth a visit if you want to better understand the local culture.

Barbara Hepworth Museum, St Ives Photo: Matt Brown

Barbara Hepworth Museum, St Ives

People watching and cafe life

To complete your relaxation you could enjoy a relaxing drink in one of the various cafes or book a table at one of the beachfront restaurants like the Porthmeor Beach cafe and watch the stunning sunsets that the area is famous for.

Porthmeor Beach Cafe in St Ives Photo: David Bleasdale on Flickr

Porthmeor Beach Cafe in St Ives

St Ives truly does cater for everyone as all these options are available without even getting in your car. If you want a relaxed beach holiday with the perfect blend of activities and culture then you really need look no further. St Ives will provide a memorable holiday for everyone involved and give memories to cherish in years to come.

This article was brought to you by Aspects Holidays who provide self-catering accommodation throughout Cornwall and have a large selection of stunning properties in St Ives ranging from traditional cottages to modern beach front apartments.

Photo Credits: St Ives harbour by RStacker, St Ives beach by UncleBucko, Sea kayaking by , The Minack Theatre by Martin Hartland, Barbara Hepworth Museum by Matt Brown, Porthmeor Beach Cafe by David Bleasdale 

More things to see in Devon and Cornwall

Primroses and Daffodils – a spring weekend in North Devon with Premier Cottages – video
Is this the perfect sea view? Our luxury weekend at St Mawes in Cornwall – video
Take an Autumn break in Cornwall – Coastal walks, surfing and you might see a basking shark

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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

The Top Things to do in Covent Garden, London

Covent Garden always appears on the “must visit” list of tourists to London and is also popular with the locals who are drawn there by its great variety of leisure activities. There are so many things to do in the area that we have compiled a list of the top things to do within the vicinity of Covent Garden.

Covent Garden Apple Market Photo: Neil Howard on Flickr

Covent Garden Apple Market

The Covent Garden Markets

Covent Garden is possibly most famous for its market which has reputedly been in existence since around since 1654. The original fruit and vegetable market (New Covent Garden Market) has now moved out of the area and relocated to an area called Nine Elms but it has been replaced with the Covent Garden market we have today. Apple Market is housed in a stunning nineteenth century, colonnaded piazza and stocks a wide variety of items from jewellery and toys to stationary and ties. Many of the items will provide something a little different to what you can get on the high street so you are bound to find a quirky gift to take home.

Jubilee Market in the South Piazza sells items that fall more into the antique category. If antiques are your thing then head there on a Monday for the antiques market. Saturdays and Sundays sees around 200 stalls open which are generally aimed at arts and crafts. The Real Food Market occurs every Thursday where you can get your hands on treats such as homemade cakes and macaroons, fresh olives and specialty breads.

Piazza Covent Garden Photo: SPakhrin on Flickr

Piazza Covent Garden

Shopping in Covent Garden

Covent Garden is also famous for its shops. Although there are high street brands there they are generally higher end suppliers and fit with the hip image that surrounds the area. For fans of designer ware you will be spoilt for choice. Brands such as Chanel, Paul Smith, Mulberry and Burberry sit alongside more regular high street favourites such as Reiss and Jigsaw. For the more adventurous out there you can peruse outdoor shops such as Cotswold Outdoor and Field & Trek. If you fancy a mid-afternoon snack then you could treat yourself to some macaroons from Laudrée. You could get a box to take away but why not sit in and take advantage of their champagne or savoury snacks.

Shopping in Covent Garden Photo: Alison Fancon

Shopping in Covent Garden

Museums near Covent Garden

The British Museum is one of the top museum attractions and it is only a short walk from Covent Garden. In a world dominated by money you might be pleased to hear that it is free to get in and there are free tours and talks during the day. This makes it an ideal choice if you are travelling with a large family as individual entrance prices quickly add up. The museum houses a variety of artefacts from a range of locations and eras and often has exhibitions on which you may be required to pay extra for. Recent exhibitions include the Vikings and some beautiful Egyptian mummies. Due to the popularity of some exhibitions it might be worth pre-booking tickets rather than being disappointed on the day. If you are visiting with children they will often put free events on such as object handling, art tasks and museum trails. This is bound to spark the interest of any little explorer!!! If transport is more your thing then head to the London Transport Museum which has buses, trams and railway carriages on display.

London Transport Museum Photo: Snapshooter46 on Flickr

London Transport Museum in Covent Garden

See a show in the Theatres near Covent Garden

Covent Garden is bursting at the seams with theatres so it is hard to choose which one to go to. The Theatre Royal is one of the largest theatres in Covent Garden and has hosted some of the most famous shows. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Matilda might appeal to children (and adults!) or perhaps a tear jerker such as The Bodyguard or War Horse would be preferable. No matter what you choose to see you will be amazed and with two Royal boxes you never know who you might see there! The Aldwych Theatre is worth visiting just to see its stunning façade and was home to The Royal Shakespeare Company for a number of years. If there is a certain show that you would like to see then it is probably best to research the show and find out which theatre it will be on at as there are so many theatres in the area that it would be a shame to miss out on your favourite show.

War Horse theatre in Covent Garden Photo: Andy Roberts on Flickr

War Horse theatre in Covent Garden

Your theatre visit might keep you up late so what could be better than staying in your own luxury apartment in the vicinity of Covent Garden so you don’t need to worry about getting a bus or the underground. Rather than stressing about heading “home” you could enjoy a few post theatre drinks or even head to a club completing your weekend.

If you fancy a trip to London be sure not to miss out on the delights of Covent Garden just be prepared for a positive assault on all your senses!

This article was brought to you by London Serviced Apartments who provide luxury serviced apartments in a variety of prestigious locations across London, including Covent Garden.

Photo Credits: Apple Market by Neil Howard, Shopping by Alison Sanfacon, Piazza Covent Garden by SPakhrin, London Transport Museum by Snapshooter46, War Horse by Andy Roberts

More London Attractions

High in the Treetops at Kew Gardens
Three great ways to spend a day in London
Fine dining favourites at the top London Hotels

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