Keeping in touch with faraway friends when you have small children isn’t always easy.
Zero energy to host and usually not enough space to accommodate.
A self-catering weekend seems the only sensible solution but is that really a break for anyone? What usually happens to us is the girls in the group, keen not to leave anything too last minute, end up doing the food shop, meal planning, cooking… Basically running a hotel for a weekend.
Not my idea of fun. Especially now I have two toddlers demanding my attention 24/7.
What you need is some kind of magical place: big enough to accommodate a few families and friends but small enough to be exclusive. A place where you can eat, drink and relax without worrying about cooking and mess.
It just so happens we’ve found this place…a couple of miles down the road: Weeke Barton.
I’m going to struggle to distill the essence of Weeke Barton – its quirks, history, humour and delights but I’ll try my best and hopefully the photos will help.
Weeke Barton is many things: it’s a cosy guesthouse where you can enjoy a romantic weekend away (for reasonable B&B rates). I sent my sister and brother-in-law there for a night off from the kids last January.
On particular weekends throughout the year, you can hire Weeke Barton exclusively. It becomes your very own hotel. This is what we did.
For parts of the summer, Weeke Barton transforms into a self-catering holiday home if you want to enjoy it for a week.
This is the bit I can’t do justice. It’s hard to adequately describe the charm and history of this 500-year-old Devon longhouse, stylishly updated by owners Sam and Jo to create a cool but cosy retreat. If you want to read more about its eclectic interior and see some stunning pics, read this excellent blog on Weeke Barton from These Four Walls.
What I will say is Weeke Barton is a very grown up place – don’t expect stair gates popping up all over the place and wipeable soft furnishings.
This doesn’t mean it isn’t family-friendly. Sam and Jo (parents themselves), will make your kids feel welcome – bringing down boxes of toys which have been squirrelled away, leaving out an early bird Weetabix brekkie for any dawn risers and generally accommodating your family’s needs. It was a treat to be somewhere more grown up. Imagine Shoreditch House chic rather than the usual Cath Kidston twee (you often find in family-friendly spots).
Weeke Barton takeover
Twelve of us descended on Weeke Barton – two families of four (with toddlers in tow) and two other couples.
We lived like kings for a weekend.
We supped champagne (from our private bar) on the lawn, while playing boules with the glorious Teign Valley as our backdrop.
We dined on Jo’s delicious organic, locally sourced fayre and retired to a roaring fire.
We drank into the wee hours, stumbled to bed and awoke to a beautifully laid breakfast table and not an empty wine glass in sight.
It took a bit of getting used to – I felt compelled to tidy up but couldn’t find a bin or tray or anything really anywhere. This is a trick Sam uses to ensure you leave it be. Relax. Enjoy yourselves. Put your feet up. Enjoy the novelty of having your own hotel for the weekend.
I’m not going to lie to you, it’s hard going back to normal life after you’ve experienced this.
There are wonderful walks all around Weeke Barton and within driving distance. Amble through Dunsford Woods along the River Teign by Steps Bridge, or venture onto the moor. There are some good local pubs, such as the Teign House (with ample room for a run around if you have smalls), or the less family-friendly but very quaint NoBody Inn. There’s a sweet tea room with a walled garden in the local village of Dunsford. Moretonhampstead isn’t far (recommend The Horse for food). If you want to head to the beach, beautiful Ness Cove, Shaldon is only a 40 minute drive away. Whatever you fancy doing, Jo and Sam – who moved here from London about decade ago – will have recommendations of hidden gems.
But you might not want to leave the house and its beautiful grounds.
A special mention goes to Coco the dog, Weeke Barton’s gorgeous springer spaniel. She was like Nanny from Peter Pan. She entertained our toddlers for hours, by catching a ball and never giving up. Repetition and balls loom large in my small boys’ lives so they were content, which meant we were undisturbed. A resident dog as darling as this one made Weeke Barton feel more like home.
So, if you’re in need of a decadent weekend away with friends, playing Lord of the Manor without lifting a finger in a stunning setting, look no further. Weeke Barton will not disappoint.
Weeke Barton is located a 20-minute drive from Exeter St David’s, about 45 minutes from Exeter Airport and not far from the A30/M5. It may be Dartmoor but it’s surprisingly convenient. Prices start from £110 per room per night. Exclusive hire is from £600 per night.
*Disclaimer – we paid for two-night’s exclusive hire of Weeke Barton in the spring. We were given a small discount on one of the rooms in exchange for a blog post and some activity on Mumsnet Exeter. We chose to stay quite close to home because it meant we could host some meals at our own house. All opinions are my own – I fell in love with Weeke Barton’s charm that weekend. A world away from our own modern home.