Surrounded by 65 acres of the cream of Devonshire countryside, in a place so rural that the squirrels make their own chutney, sits Holwell Farmhouse. This a nature haven, a winter respite for the wintering, wandering red deer, and the perfect intimate retreat for families, weddings and young groups of up to 16 ready to congregate and celebrate.
Holwell can trace its roots back 750 years, but there’s nothing medieval about the standard of finish today. Lines are crisp and clean, with the medieval hall and inglenook fireplace the survivors of a devastating fire. They meld sympathetically into the modern ambience of the farmhouse kitchen and the palette of muted natural colours.
Inside, homely warmth abounds. Holwell is all open fires, comfy armchairs and big tables built to host the glug of wine and the tearing of sourdough. There’s table football in the games room, books and quiet spots for escapees, a piano for the soulful, and unlimited Wi-Fi for streamers and surfers. Not too wild, then.
Modern comforts mean that this isn’t quite Bear Grylls territory, but you’re close to Exmoor beneath accredited dark skies with only visiting animals for neighbours. So say hi to 200 ewes, six horses and rabbits that wander the meadow, as well as the wintering wild red deer that call this lovely valley their home.
You’ve 65 acres of your own greenery here. Eat out on the terrace with meat from the gas barbie and wine from Corks and Cru, with lawn rounders or croquet for dessert. As darkness falls, crowd around the firepit with a bottle or two and watch nature’s fireworks light up the sky.
Things are wild outside, where the wintering deer gather to shelter in the valley and the ewes graze in the meadows, but there’s a hearty contrast inside Holwell. There’s a homely warmth within its walls that radiates from the open fires, from the aroma of cooking from the farmhouse kitchen, and in the banter and bonhomie that you’ll bring.
Plenty of space here for family groups and young people to get together or slide apart into your own space. Unwind and uncork in the living room with its soft sofas, oak coffee table and unlimited EE Wi-Fi at 24mbps. Get some wood burning in the hearth and put your feet up with a paper.
In the evening, the drawing room’s the big draw for movies and matches. Get around the wall TV, get the woodburner going and get out the corkscrew. Restless souls can take each other on at table footie in the games room, and there’s a study for shyer types to sneak a few pages in, plus a piano for Chopin fans to show off.
There are kitchens and then there are kitchens. And this is definitely the latter. It’s a mean, moody, beamy monster of a space with a slate floor and a chunky, hunky slab of farmhouse-kitchen table in the middle that’ll seat 16. Cook on the electric range fan oven with five induction rings, then just butter the bread and pass the Prosecco.
Aiding and abetting your culinary prowess, you’ve got two fridges to fill, a microwave, toaster and two dishwashers to do the dirty work afterwards. If you’d prefer to cook under bright-blue Devon skies and eat on the terrace, the gas barbecue awaits your return from the butcher’s shop in Bampton.
Want to leave it to the experts? Try Paul Berry for a fully catered break or Sam Salway or Ben and Isabella for fine-dining celebrations. Looking for takeaway treats? Call Smokehouse in the Square, Bampton Fish Bar or Tamarind Bay. Pile in to Bawden’s the Bakers for pies, pasties and bread.
Pop out to AA Four Star Gold Classic English country inn The Swan for breast of Creedy Carver duck or fillet of Newlyn hake, to The Anchor Inn in Dulverton for carveries and hand-made gelato, and The Exeter Inn for Wensleydale cheese, roasted leeks and clotted-cream crown served with pommes noisettes. Mouth watering yet?
There are traffic wardens and tax inspectors who could sleep the sleep of the just here. All is silent, bar the hoot of an owl or the chomping of the ewes. Pick from six generous bedrooms sleeping 16 plus up to three more in travel cots.
Bedroom one is an en-suite comprising a superking and two separate guest beds, while bedroom two offers a superking with a private bathroom, and bedroom three a superking and guest bed with a private bathroom.
Bedroom four is an en-suite that provides a superking and two separate guest beds, and bedroom five is a superking en-suite. On the ground floor, bedroom six is a single en-suite with ramp access that works for anyone with mobility issues.
Children should always hold memories of West-Country holidays: breaking the journey for a nap in a Somerset layby with inquisitive cows leaning over the fence, cream teas and crab sandwiches, beach-combing for firewood, and bagging the best bedroom. But sometimes the holiday let can let you down.
Not at Holwell. Times have changed and you’re competing for their attention with several hundred pounds of technology. But a big old house, wide-open spaces, fresh air and family fun will always win the day. When that all comes wrapped up with farm friends that include wild deer, ewes, horses and a friendly farm cat, so much the better.
There’s enough space indoors for endless hide-and-seek and a games room for the all-important table-football competition. You’ve got books and Bluetooth, a TV in the drawing room for keeping up with your favourite programmes, and unlimited EE Wi-Fi, just in case the screens win out.
Then there’s the indefinable magic. Like gathering around the firepit with mum and dad and gawping at the ever-expanding stars. Staying up late around a loaded log fire with cards or Cluedo. Watching your grandad punish the piano and joining in with an impromptu sing-song. This is the stuff that spawns memories.