If you conjured up the perfect cottage it couldn’t be much more charming than Little Holme, one of English Country Cottage‘s properties nestled in the heart of Dartmoor. Take a thatch, roaring fire and roses round the door and add the wild beauty of the moors and you’ve got a pretty special escape.
And then there’s the cosier side to Devon’s national park, epitomised by the tiny picture-book pretty village of Lustleigh. Here pastel-coloured thatched cottages crowd higgledy-piggledy around a tiny green, along with all the other trappings of the perfect hamlet – a babbling brook, one little shop-cum post office, one pub, the Cleave Inn, and a massive stone surrounded by daffodils and bluebells where the names of each summer’s May Queen are carved.
Right in the middle of Lustleigh is the perfect place to play house of a weekend. Little Holme, one of English Country Cottages’ pick of cottage getaways, is small but perfectly formed. Outside is chocolate-box lovely, with a neatly thatched roof and a tiny garden with a bench for sunbathing amongst the wildflowers.
Inside there’s a galley kitchen and a big living room with roaring stove, plus two little bedrooms upstairs. Once a chapel, this dinky doll-house of a hideaway is the perfect base for a weekend exploring Dartmoor’s weird and wonderful countryside.
We were treated to a myriad types of weather, and blazing sunshine gave way to hail and thunderstorms at regular intervals. We accodingly lazed outside in the sun with cups of coffee and then retreated indoors to feed the stove and listen to the hail beat against the thatch outside.
Looming stormclouds couldn’t stop us from exploring, though, starting with the village. The funny thing about Lustleigh is that it was a friendly and sweet as it looked. The charming Roger in the cottage next door gave us a whole net of firewood for free, and the pub’s landlord bestowed a bag of kindling upon us and taught us some clever tricks for lighting our stove (did you know that beer mats make great firelighters?) The lady who lived across the green introduced us to her dog and told us where to go on the best walks, and everyone in the deli was chatting about the ‘funny weather we’re having’. It was so cute I wondered if I was in a real-life version of Postman Pat.
Dartmoor saves itself from death by cuteness as soon as you leave civilization. Lustleigh has only just tamed the wild moorland, and is surrounded by gentler farmland. We wandered the country lanes, spotting lambs figuring out how their legs worked and returning an escaped chicken back to her friends in a farmyard, much to her disgust.
I love it best on the wilder hills of Dartmoor, where there’s just orange heather and bizarre-looking rocky tors. We went on a few trail runs around Boweman’ Nose and Hound Tor, the wind buffeting our faces. I know lots of ghost stories from around the park, perfect for telling at night when you’re safe back by the fire. The little drummer boy is particularly haunting, but I think Dartmoor is one of the few places in Britain you can give yourself the heebie jeebies in broad daylight. It’s an eerie, wonderful landscape.
I like to shafe off Dartmoor’s demons with an afternoon spent doing a lot of nothing at one of my favourite pubs in Britain. The Warren House Inn, lonely in the middle of the moor, was bustling with happy people in the sunshine, so we took our pints of scrumpy out to sit on the grass and soak up some vitamin D. Come the storms you can hightail inside and warm up by the pub’s famous fire, which has burned since 1845, like a beacon in the wild.
Little Holme sleeps four and is available for seven nights from £483 via English Country Cottages, who list a whole host of gorgeous rentals around Britain. If you’re after somewhere special to stay, how about a party house with hot tub, a slick chalet, in Scotland, or a unique water tower.