Every Spring the Whitehead family find somewhere big enough to house all of us and we escape for a week. We’ve been to Greece, Cyprus, and our all time fave, Majorca. In 2021 we ended up closer to home, in the middle of nowhere ie. the Devon countryside.
As this was our first family trip in a looooong time (thanks COVID), we splashed out on a fancy manor hotel for lunch en route. Pascoe House, a “boutique country house hotel” between Crediton and Okehampton, feels like the sort of place a Victorian lady would retreat from society to finish her novel. Except the interior has been quirkily modernised with geometric wallpaper and, in one room, an ostrich.
Staying at: The Arches
This is not the year for spontaneous staycations! England is full. Amazingly, my mum managed to find us this airbnb – a converted barn in the middle of nowhere in Devon, which could miraculously fit all 14 of us and even boasted its own gym.
You definitely wouldn’t be able to stay here without a car – it would be a two hour round trip to the nearest shop otherwise. Although weirdly only half an hour to the nearest train station at Eggesford (perhaps the smallest station I’ve ever seen). Of course, the remoteness is its own benefit, as the farm is surrounded by beautiful countryside.
Our first day had pretty bleak weather, and we drove through torrential rain on our way to Dartmoor. But we were determined to make the most of this holiday whatever the weather.
We weren’t really sure how to get into Dartmoor, or which area would be best for a little family day trip. We decided on Meldon Reservoir since it had the advantages of a car park and a nearby town where we could stop for coffee and stock up on Cornish pasties.
Surrounded by steep sided banks and approximately 900 feet above sea level, Meldon Reservoir offers some of the most breath taking scenery that Dartmoor has to offer. Enjoy a leisurely walk and explore the network of off-road footpaths, bridleways and old tracks that cross the valley. For keen ramblers, navigate open moorland and experience a real adventure in Dartmoor.
A must do on your day in Devon – enjoy the stunning views of Okement Valley from Meldon Reservoir and walk or cycle the Granite Way, crossing the impressive Meldon Viaduct.
Popular with families, bird watchers, wildlife enthusiasts and fishermen alike, Meldon boasts a rich abundance of wildlife. Keep an eye out for adders, grass snakes and herons or bring your rod and fish for natural brown trout.Visit Dartmoor
It turned out to be a pretty wet day, but we still really enjoyed ourselves as we trekked around the reservoir and over the valley. It was a nice 3.5 mile walk with not too much climbing, so walkers of all levels were happy. Read more and get the full walk route on my post about Meldon Reservoir.
RHS Garden Rosemoor
Our second day the sun was still refusing to come out, but we took our chances and drove out to the Royal Horticultural Society Garden at Rosemoor. Helpfully they checked us all in as a big group and gave us a little group intro the garden with guidance on which route to take through the landscape. We stocked up on sandwiches at the cafe and set off.
We started in the cool garden (D), formerly known as the Spiral Garden. It was redesigned in 2019 to show how a landscape can help deal with heavy rainfall and flash flooding – a regular occurrence in Devon and now the rest of the UK due to climate change.
With a cool, calm colour palette and focus on water, the newly opened Cool Garden is the perfect foil for the fiery planting of the neighbouring Hot Garden.RHS Gardens
We then headed to the Hot Garden. The idea here is a prairie-style garden, with many of the plants from the grasslands of North America. To tie the design together and give it more impact and intensity, bold blocks of the same plant are repeated throughout the garden. We were there in May so we didn’t catch it at its best, which would by July-September.
We then made our way through the Foliage Garden, where “strong structural conifers and evergreen shrubs are interwoven with lighter and more graceful grasses”.
The effect is dynamic and softly colourful, with shades of grey, blue and silver foliage interspersed by green and occasional splashes of purple.
On the other side we found the Stream Garden, Rock Gully and Lake.
Careful planting around the lake’s margins has created a lush oasis, with imposing gunneras and many other moisture-loving plants thriving around its banks and in the adjacent Stream Garden.
We especially loved all the Irises in a rainbow of colours that were flowering around the edges of the water.
At the lake, we got out our sandwiches to enjoy looking out over the water. Unhelpfully, this is when the heavens decided to open (our lunches are cursed apparently).
The bad weather then really settled in, so we decided to make a hasty retreat to the car, choosing the Lower Woodland Walk back to the main buildings in the hope that the trees would give us at least some cover.
The next day we split into groups, with some going to play golf and Matt, Rosie, Gabbi and I taking the opportunity to explore a local town – Bideford. We explored the cobbled streets and stumbled across the Bideford Pannier Market, which was pretty quiet but very charming. Then we did some shopping at Josie’s Interiors and had sandwiches and cold cokes for lunch at the Secret Garden Cafe.
After lunch we headed the Old Bideford Bridge to find the Railway Museum and Chudleigh Fort. Luckily the blue sky stayed with us and we got a spectacular view back across the water.
After treating ourselves to proper Devonshire clotted cream ice creams, we headed back to our airbnb. Check out my post to find out more about this cute little town.
Chulmleigh Golf Course
Meanwhile, at Chulmleigh Golf Course, the rest of the Whitehead clan were having a whale of a time. This 18 hole par 3 pay-and-play has to be one of the most accessible golf courses. At only £10 to play the full 18 holes, you can hire clubs from the club house and even wear jeans and trainers. Perfect for inducting Luke into the family sport.
That afternoon, we made tracks for the nearest pub.
With the surrounding countryside so picturesque, Chulmleigh makes the perfect destination for a nice family walk. We headed out with Matt in the lead. The route was only 2.2 miles (have a look on Mapometer), but with some pretty challenging hills we were all exhausted by the time we got to Chulmleigh.
Luckily the weather was still beautiful, the woods giving us dappled shade from the sunshine as we walked, with the added benefit of bluebells and stunning views.
When we got to Chulmleigh the Red Lion was closed, so we ended up at The Old Courthouse instead, where they served us cold G&Ts and pints of local lagers and ales. We absolutely wolfed down the packets of crisps they brought us, in preparation for our walk back in time for dinner.
On our last day in Devon we scheduled the Whitehead family’s favourite sunny day activity – a beach trip. Starting at Down End car park where we were able to hire wet suits and surf boards, we grabbed the mandatory morning coffee before heading down to the sands.
It was little Iris’s first time at the beach and she absolutely loved it – playing in the sand, paddling in the rock pools and watching her dad surfing the waves. This beach is absolutely massive, so even though it’s super popular, there’s plenty of room for everyone.
At lunch a group of us made our way to the nearest town – Croyde – where we found pubs, cafes, ice cream parlours, a craft fair, and Blue Groove, the restaurant recommended to me by a colleague.
The menu had something for everyone, no matter your appetite, and they were even able to sit us all together out on the deck. If you’re in the area I couldn’t recommend this place enough, whatever time of day it is. The whole menu looked insanely good, and I was very jealous of the people who had room in their stomachs for Devonshire cream tea.
The highlight of our whole week in Devon, no doubt, was this day at Croyde Bay. If you’re looking for a sandy beach in North Devon then you can do no better, with all the amenities needed for a large group to fulfil all their various needs. Check out my post about it for even more info!
If you’ve got a car with you then Devon has so much to offer in terms of family-friendly activities. Find yourself an airbnb that suits you and start exploring!
For beaches, I couldn’t recommend Croyde Bay enough, or you’ve also got Westward Ho! with its arcades and crazy golf, or Bude and nearby Widemouth for sands and surf.
If you like gardens you can check out the beautiful Endsleigh.
Dartmoor is obvious for walks, or you can have a crack at any section of the South West Coast Path or the hills of Exmoor. Blackdown Hills are another great walking location if you’re over in East Devon.
There are plenty more family holiday ideas where this came from too – have a look!