Welcome to heaven, by way of Devon. If you could dream up the perfect place to escape for a weekend with all your friends, it would definitely look rather like Higher Brownstone Farm, one of the National Trust‘s lovely collection of holiday homes.
A STAY AT HIGHER BROWNSTONE FARM
It’s futile to resist the sundrenched charms of the South Devon coast, and the National Trust’s Higher Brownstone Farm makes the dream base for exploring its wild corners, riverbanks and chilled-out beaches.
Higher Brownstone was once the home of a gentleman farmer, and it still retains a feel of old-fashioned comfort and charm. The house is hidden at the end of a quiet country lane, and arriving here feels like leaving the real world behind for a simpler, storybook version of country life.
Inside are huge, airy rooms, beautifully decorated and including an enormous pool table, a sitting room with a fire and lots of comfy sofas, a grand dining room and an enormous farmhouse kitchen. Upstairs are big bedrooms (the house comfortably sleeps 12), art deco bathrooms and lots and lots of light streaming in. Definitely no ghosts here.
As wonderful as the interior of Higher Brownstone is, on a weekend as sunny as ours you might struggle to spend any time inside. You don’t have to go far, though – the gorgeous, sunsoaked garden, with views stretching down the valley to a far-off glint of sea, is the perfect place to laze away a day. We sat around on blankets on the lawn, played rounders and croquet (there’s a whole box of games goodies in the house), found pastel-blue bird’s eggs in the grass and generally acted like we were in an Enid Blyton book, only with more gin. When evening fell we decamped indoors to sit by the fire and to play massive games of sardines (the house comes with some seriously good hiding places).
And exploring further afield is just as rewarding. Walk one way along the coast path from the front door and you’ll wind down to pretty Kingswear, where you can catch a ferry over the estuary to the delights of Dartmouth, the perfect place to sit with an ice cream and watch people crabbing on the harbour, or walk up to the castle to gaze at the ocean. This is the good life, English Riviera style.
Walk the other way from Higher Brownstone and you’ll reach a wilder section of the coast path, passing the strange sight of the Daymark tower, built to help ships find Dartmouth harbour, and down to a beautiful slice of the coast dotted with strange relics from the Second World War. At Froward Point batteries, observation posts and even a small railway are now overgrown with grass and wild flowers. It’s an eerie and beautiful spot to explore before climbing up the hill, back to the welcome sight of Higher Brownstone nestled in its green valley.
Thank you, National Trust, for all the delights of a stay here – I think you’ve spoiled me for all other cottages.
WHERE TO VISIT
Man Sands beach
It makes sense that my dream house would have perfect beaches nearby. Just down the lane from Higher Brownstone is Scabbacombe beach, where you can park up, and from here a leafy path winds down the hill to Man Sands. It’s a bit of a walk but it;s totally worth it when you emerge on this pretty, quiet beach, with rocks to scramble on and clear blue water to paddle in. From here the steep coast path continues along the seashore, and there are more empty coves perfect for a dip, and wild moorland ponies to try to make friends with.
My longstanding obsession with Agatha Christie’s intricately crafted murder mysteries has only grown stronger after finally getting to visit her beautiful Devon home. The white, cake-like building which is Greenway stands proudly over the River Dart and is an extremely peaceful pace to wander. You can walk here easily from Higher Brownstone, and When we visited at Easter, children were racing around searching for chocolate eggs in the grass whilst parents napped in the deckchairs set out in the shade of the magnolia trees. The house itself is like a time capsule from the fifties, and the huge grounds include a wonderful greenhouse and walled garden, a tennis court where you can play a match or two (I still cannot believe I played tennis on Agatha Christie’s court), a lovely cafe and a little boathouse perched above the river. The last may look quaint but it was the scene of a fictional gory murder in Dead Man’s Folly, one of my favourite of Christie’s books.
Higher Brownstone Farm sleeps 12, plus two dogs, and costs from £1,047 for a three-night stay (about £30 per person per night), including entry to the Trust’s English Riviera properties. After something smaller? The National Trust offer plenty of other lovely holiday homes, sleeping from two people.