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Into the Wild: Road Trip to Dartmoor


Dartmoor, focal point of Spielberg’s movie War Horse, but also the backdrop to one of the best road trips I have ever taken. We’d discovered Great Burrow Cottage through the Sunday Times (Sunday Times 50 Cool Cottages of UK and Ireland) and booked on a whim. Arriving on a cold, grey February day, down a network of lanes that became thinner and thinner, finally we reached the middle of nowhere.

Yes this place really is off the beaten track. Great Burrow Cottage is an old linhay which is chocolate box perfection on the outside but cool and contemporary on the inside   - think oak and slate floors, a spiral elm stairase and cute window seats which just beg for a quiet half hour with a book. The main thing here, though, is the extraordinary views over Dartmoor’s wild northern tors. Great Burrow is run by Mary and Justin, a young, ex-London couple who live in the next door farmhouse and appear to have an enchanted Good Life existence, roaming chickens, a wildlife pond, row upon row of neat, organic vegetables and those killer views. You are very much left to your own devices but it’s worth asking for information about the best local walks (which comes with the loan of a pair of binoculars). We managed two pretty substantial hikes – to Widgery on the first day where we crossed an idyllic river dotted with large stepping stones and spanned by a picturesque bridge  (very Spielberg).  Further down stream we discovered a plaque in memory of a soldier and poet who died aged 23 in World War 1.  One of his last poems is inscribed on the plaque (very War Horse). The next day we settled for the relatively short 40 minute hike to The Clovelly Inn and were rewarded by the perfect combination of real ale and home-made steak and kidney pie. We should have visited the beautiful and crumbling Castle Drogo nearby or at least the cascading waterfall at Lydford Gorge but the comforts of Great Burrow Cottage were too tempting. The owners have clearly put in a lot of thought  - in good weather there's a fire pit ( very Hugh Fearnley Whittingshall), a ping pong table and a hammock to laze in, while for the winter there's wifi and a well chosen stack of DVDs and books. Mostly, though, we just wanted to chuck another log on the woodburner, pour another glass of wine and leave it all behind. It’s that kind of place. The killer view at Great Burrow Cottage And other great places to stay... Spielberg and co were rumoured to have rested their heads at the wonderful Olga Polizzi designed Endsleigh Hotel and if it's good enough for him.... Percy's Hotel famous for its seriously good, seriously local organic food and row upon row of wellies outside the back door urging you to get out and explore And if you're feeling flash then of course there is the gastronomic heaven that is Gidleigh Park    

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