Muddy Review: The Old Dairy at Dunsford
A stylish, bijou bolthole, set on the banks of the River Teign, full of little luxuries and for less than a hundred quid a night. That got your attention, didn't it?
I’m a fervent fan of ‘The Mini-Break’. For me, nipping away even for just a night or two is all about stepping out of the monotony of the daily grind and getting some headspace, what’s not to love about that? The trouble is, it can become an expensive hobby if you appreciate your little luxuries and you’re not careful. Unless, of course, you’re a Muddy reader and you fancy hearing about a country bolthole that isn’t a million miles away from home, and it’ll set you back less than a hundred quid a night. Dig out that weekend bag and pack your walking boots, we’re off to The Old Dairy.
The Old Dairy is exactly what it says on the tin, but the cows have long departed and what remains is a stylish and cosy riverside conversion, set up as self-catering for two. It’s the masterpiece of Mark and Barrie, who live in the old Mill Barn adjacent and have clearly had some fun restoring its character, while adding a dollop of Devon charm.
With its own access, guests have plenty of privacy, but your hosts are just a few steps and a knock away should you need anything, including a cuppa with cake, or a G&T on your arrival.
You’ll find this little barn burrowed deep in the beautiful Teign Valley, just outside the village of Dunsford and just tiptoeing inside Dartmoor National Park. You’re an easy 8 miles from Exeter and within a short drive, you’re enveloped by the moors and tors, so it’s accessible, while being easy to escape civilisation for a while. If you’re driving, you have your own parking space and if you fly or take the train, both options from Exeter, you’re just a couple of hours from London.
This part of the world is all about mystical woodland, rolling hills and epic views. There really is nothing quite like throwing open the barn’s French doors and listening to the babbling waters swirling around the ancient Dunsford Stepping Stones.
Barrie and Mark have excellent taste! The Old Dairy is the ideal blend of rustic and modern, with a definite nod to this barn’s former life. Things are gadgety and high tech where they should be and characterful elsewhere. Just stand in the centre of the space and do a 360˚ spin and you can take it all in: paintings, exposed brick and quirky old relics, with plenty of touches celebrating this special location and its history.
The kitchen and bathroom are beautifully finished and a hot shower after stomping the moors, aptly luxuriating in the Cowshed’s ‘Knackered Cow’ is the perfect prelude to an evening snuggled up with a glass of wine and one of the films on the Ultra HD TV (to Mr Muddy’s utter delight).
And don’t forget, this is just the winter we’re talking about; in the warmer months, you can throw open the doors, and sit outside until darkness falls, listening to all the wildlife. I love somewhere that’s enticing in all seasons.
The good thing about having one open-plan space is that all your luxury comforts are pretty much within arm’s reach. Here, you have a super-comfy kingsize bed, positioned in front of the log burner and TV, with views out to the River Teign from your pillow.
The kitchen is steps away, ideal for putting the coffee on in the morning. As we’d hoped, linen is soft, pillows plumpy and the zzzzzz’s plentiful. There’s nothing to complain about, here.
SCOFF & QUAFF
This is self-catering, but with plenty of lovely touches to ease you into it. You’ll discover a welcome bottle and a sweet treat on arrival (we scoffed down some fruit cake); plus, breakfast ingredients for your first morning are provided – homemade bread and marmalade (scrummy), eggs, butter and milk. You’d think Mark and Barrie had been doing this all their lives, they’re clearly natural hosts.
Just ask for some recommendations on eating out while you’re there, but as you’d expect, there are plenty of good country pubs a short drive away. We opted to pop into Moretonhampstead (10 mins drive) and eat at The Horse, a busy pub with a great atmosphere and really good food – we highly recommend the enormous pizza’s.
OUT AND ABOUT
Forget your wellies or walking boots at your peril, because this area is ripe for exploration on foot. You’ll find plenty of local information and walking guides in your barn, but step outside your door and you’re well on your way. Hop across the Dunsford Stepping Stones and you’re immediately in the medieval Bridford Wood, where you can take any of several interesting footpaths. Also within a few minutes’ walk, is the Steps Bridge and Devon Wildlife Trust’s Dunsford Wood. I defy you not to fill up your Instagram feed, since it’s so pretty in these parts.
If you want to drive off, the roads afford picturesque views, over humpbacked bridges and around sweeping bends, but you can reach the city and the south Devon coastline in no time.
Not this one. The open-plan set-up leaves little room for cots or extra beds. It’s best enjoyed as a couple. Shame, that*. (*looks up to the heavens and mouths ‘thank you’ while already texting the babysitter).
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Couples, walkers, wildlife watchers, those who want affordable luxury (huzzah!)
Not for: Dogs and children. The Old Dairy isn’t suitable for either.
££: At just £90 a night, it’s a total bargain! Plus, stay 4 nights or longer and you get an extra 10% off. Yes, there’s a minimum stay of 2 nights, but at this price, why the heck not?
olddairydunsford.co.uk. For enquiries email: firstname.lastname@example.org .