Is there anything nicer than arriving somewhere new on a Friday night and waking up the next morning to a truly heart stopping view?
Lower Grimpstonleigh in South Devon is just this kind of place. Two beautifully converted barns (and another housing a spectacular indoor pool, more of which later) set in the most exquisite rolling countryside. There’s an ancient feel to this land, with its sweeping fields and burbling stream which cuts through the garden and, as we discover, it’s a treasure trove of archaeological finds dating back to the 13th century.
Lower Grimpstonleigh is a valley of 13 acres just outside the market town of Kingsbridge. You’re close to Salcombe here and the lovely beaches of Bantham, South Milton, Hope Cove and Thurlestone, yes this is proper holiday country.
There are two converted barns – Top Barn and Cider Barn and Apple Cottage adjoining the main house - all beautifully furnished.
The welcome hamper pretty much sums up the generosity of Lower Grimpstonleigh – home-brewed cider and apple juice (delicious on both counts), freshly baked bread and biscuits, a fruit box from Riverford Organic (apples, oranges, blueberries, bananas), organic milk, tea, coffee beans to grind (grinder and full monty espresso machine, of course) and a bottle of wine.
“We just like to make everything the way we would like it ourselves if we were arriving somewhere,’ say the owners Kevin and Lorraine.
Suffice to say, their standards are exceptionally high. For a family holiday in the South West, I’d say there’s nowhere better. No matter that it was a cold, wet February morning – all five of us couldn’t wait to head to the pool which was blissfully warm, almost hot tub temperature, with underheated tiles, volleyball, a whole jungle of woggles, bathrobes and towels and sun loungers to chill out on, every detail considered. Kevin installed the pool last year and it was a stroke of genius. We’ve all endured those torrential summer holidays when you’re shuddering under a towel on the beach or holed up in your cottage with bored, squabbling kids. On a bitterly cold, winter's morning we were able to enjoy the amazing views from the comfort of the pool.
It was tough to drag ourselves away from the laid-back indulgence of Top Barn – there’s a Wii and a full complement of DVDs (Billy Elliot, an unexpected crowd pleaser) – but we headed for Salcombe and a late lunch at the Beach House at South Milton Sands (a must, said Kevin and Lorraine, and they were right). Inside this tiny, packed beach hut, with panoramic views of the sea and a plate of perfectly crunchy whitebait in front of us, I thought we'd found holiday nirvana.
Back at Lower Grimpstonleigh, I found Kevin and a friend heading out across the land with a new fangled metal detector. Since living here archeology has become something of an obsession, he says, and his haul includes a 13th century stirrup now on display in the British Museum. He shows me a small clay bullet, the kind fired from a 17th century bayonette and a few delicate looking coins.
There are two gazebos in the garden with heaters (so you can still eat outside in the rain) and in the summer they rear pigs whom visiting children are allowed to feed. The summers are pretty busy here, with visiting families coming back for their 4th, 5th or 6th time and I can see why. When we were packing up to leave I found my seven year old staring forlornly out of the window.
'I only want to live here,' he said which kind of summed it up.