Exmoor

Lydia & I wanted to get away from it all, so, we booked a long weekend in a “luxury” Exmoor B&B – Higher Riscombe Farm

As we weren’t in a hurry, we took the “old road” (M3, A303) for the drive down. That would have been fine, but getting across London on a Friday is never fun! It took us about 2 hours (in a hot car!) to get across to the M3!

But, once we got moving, all was good. Until is started to rain… Further slowing down what had been a tedious drive anyway! It cleared as we reached Stonehenge though, and we stopped for a bite to eat etc. at “The Bell Inn” in Winterbourne Stoke, which is just down the road. I have to say, it is one of the most unfriendly pubs I’ve ever been in. Not that the service was bad per se, but the staff felt jaded, what was on offer was rather over priced (I’ve had cheaper diet coke in Central London pubs!) and not really great quality and (worst sin of all) there were signs up all over the car park in inside saying that “facilities are for customers only”. Not exactly welcoming.  We ate fast and pushed on.

All of the delay and rain mean that we got to Higher Riscombe about 3 hours later than anticipated. AS we thought we would get there about 4pm, the owner of the B&B, Rachel, had booked us in for a 6.30pm dinner at The Royal Oak Inn in Withypool

Several phone calls whilst en-route ensured that the reservation got pushed back to 9pm, and our arrival at the farm at 8.15pm was a rather “get in, dump bags, sort it out later, get directions, bye!” affair.

Once slightly hairy drive down a very steep hill later, and we get to the pub for dinner… and I’ll tell you what, The Royal Oak was the exact opposite of The Bell Inn!!!

Welcoming and unhurried service, even though we were rather late and really rather fantastic food!

Menu at The Royal Oak in Withypool Menu at The Royal Oak in Withypool

Just such a shame I was driving, they had a really good selection of local Ciders!

So, we eat very well, get back to the farm and pretty much fell into bed, after planning what we might want to see in the local area in the morning.

However, nature it seems, had other plans. This is the view to which we awoke – a rather foggy & wet morning indeed!

View from the window - Foggy Saturday Morning

Most annoying!

So, instead of getting up and going exploring, as we had intended, we got up, had a fine helping of both cold and cooked breakfast

Higher Riscombe Breakfast menu Whortleberry Jam Devon Honey

and then took advantage of a day’s respite to be very lazy and indulgent, using the room’s facilities of a double Jacuzzi bath and huge shower to full unwind potential.

At breakfast, we’d chatted with Rachel about that evening’s dinner, and she recommended and booked for us an early place at The Culbone. Again, I regret driving, as the wine selection as awesome, but I was more than happy with the food, so I didn’t really miss it! The steak (& if you know me, I’m always going to pick a good steak!) of Devon Red cows was sublime!

The manager also allowed us to buy a bottle of the Malbec we had with dinner as an off-sale, so I got to try it later.

Mind you, I’m also very very glad that I hadn’t had a drink with dinner, because the way home again was an adventure trek to say the least! I’d had a sip of Lydia’s malbec, but I’d declined to have my own glass, as the journey home was going to be down narrow country road, but unlike on the journey out, in the dark. I’m a good driver, but challenging single track muddy country road surrounded by trees, not something you want to try with anything less than full reaction time.

We took the wrong turn off the A39, and after 3/4hr of driving ended up going around in a HUGE loop up hill and down dale (and via some very wooded tracks and some pretty and rather misty  highlands… and Exmoor ponies in the road!) and ended up back on the A39, but about 2 miles in the wrong direction for home!

So, we looked at the map, and decided that initially “going the wrong way” but using main roads via Lynton (A39 into Lynton, then the B3223 down to Simonsbath) would be a safer bet. It was much safer, but still definitely an adventure!

The safer route took us via Countisbury Hill, which we hit just at sunset. We got to see this very beautiful sundown over the sea, which we would have missed totally if we had taken the correct road from the A39:

Sunset at Countisbury Hill

The Pictures on my phone really don’t do it justice. We stopped in a viewing point for about 15 minutes, watching the sky change colours.

Anyway, we got home safe a while later, my having held my breath rather lots on the very dark drive home, and I had a well earned glass of wine whilst we watched a very silly DVD to unwind.

So, Sunday rolls around, and typically in all British holidays, the day dawned clear and beautiful.

20120708_090326

So, having a good breakfast, we set off for home, deciding that the A39 was as good a road to get us back to the A303 as any, which took us along the B322 via Dulverton, (Where we strolled, admired hand made jewellery, bought trinkets and gifts for people) Porlock, (Where we ate the packed lunch provided by Rachel, found The Big Cheese and bought Whortleberry chutney and, naturally, much cheese) and then a second lunch and a nose around the shops in Glastonbury.

From Glastonbury, it’s a small skip to the A303 and homeward. The Journey home was lots quicker… no hold-ups, traffic or rain, and, as you can guess, we avoided The Bell Inn!

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