Stay here: Dart View Barn
Muddy had the honour of being first through the door at this brand new stay in the rolling South Hams hills.
Ready to hear about a completely brilliant find? Just before Christmas, the planets aligned and I was invited to be the first to come and review Dart View Barn. It’s a totally private, brand spanking new, self-contained holiday let which belongs in the pages of a home interiors glossy; but it’s actually a really great option for a short and peaceful break in one of the prettiest parts of Devon. I’ve got the keys, let me take you around for a looksie.
This is one of those idyllic little spots that you wouldn’t normally come across otherwise, the ones that you may pass nearby from a main road, look across the valley and think ‘wowser, that looks glorious, why don’t I live there?’ Dart View Barn is located in Aish, a tiny hamlet just above the village of Stoke Gabriel and about 5 minutes’ drive from the medieval market town of Totnes (where there’s a station that sits on the line direct to Paddington).
You’re really not far from civilisation (we’re talking g-o-o-o-d civilisation, too) and yet here, at nearly 300 feet above sea level, with views stretching for miles in all directions and virtually no light pollution all around, you could bolt the door, light the fire and be in no hurry to go anywhere, depending on how many pages you have left to read in the tome you packed in your case.
Think bijou, open-plan style, a rural 19th Century barn (originally a stable) brought up to date with a hit of mid-century and Scandi-influenced interiors, plus some welcome mod-cons. Owners Nick and Susannah have put an immense amount of graft into converting and preserving parts of this little pad, to create something special.
They’ve good eyes for detail, a great instinct for what guests want from their digs and, since they live next door, they’ve honed in on highlighting the best bits of living in this spot.
Exhibit A? “That” view. The single biggest feature of this barn is the double-height window, stretching from floor, right up through the mezzanine bedroom. The light is incredible; as we stayed just before Christmas, the wintry, watery sunlight gave us an ever-changing view out across the countryside. Don’t believe me? Just take a moment to ogle this sunset.
And then the early morning light – taken without even leaving my bed (oh yeah!)
Back inside and downstairs you’ll find a living space with a fully equipped bespoke kitchen (designed by a local artist), wood burning stove and under-floor heating. And wow, does this barn feel snug and cosy in the winter. Both kick out some serious heat right up to the bedroom if you want it, so you won’t need the hot water bottle thoughtfully provided; in fact you may even be grateful for the Velux windows in the roof!
The shower room is very cleverly concealed behind the kitchen and I loved the level of detail that has gone into the fixtures and fittings. It may even be my favourite bit of this barn, especially that very cool sink.
Me and Mr Muddy were seriously surprised at how well the space had been thought out. It’s compact and yet, everything you need is here without feeling remotely cramped or claustrophobic (the only thing missing which may only affect long stayer’s, is a washing machine, but you’re very welcome to use Nick and Susannah’s, on request, they’re nice like that).
We wiled away hours with the stove lit, looking out across the fields (where we were told you’ll often spot deer, or the resident male pheasant strutting his stuff on the garden wall).
The view only gets better, as you go up. The mezzanine bedroom, with stripped painted floors and simple styling, has a plumpy king sized bed, with luxury linen and towels from local company Beaumont and Brown.
Yes, it’s open plan, so you’ll be exposed to any noise downstairs, if someone is staying up with the telly on; but I quite enjoyed disappearing upstairs with a book, while Mr Muddy caught up with a U2 concert on the box, the dulcet tones of Bono wafting upstairs. We’re rock & roll like that.
Needless to say, we slept soundly, woken naturally by the morning light gently making its way in.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Since you’re self-catering, you’ll need to stock up in town (plenty of options for doing so, without even hitting the supermarket, including the UK’s only super-green and very cool Zero Waste Shop). And, to get you started, you’ll find the essentials like tea, coffee, milk and butter ready in the kitchen. There’s a full-size oven, microwave and hob, so you’ll be able to cook up a feast (in warmer months, you can spill out into the garden with a bottle of something fizzy and crank up the barbecue).
If cooking feels a faff and you’d rather dine out, then Totnes has a brilliant range of restaurants, pubs and quirky cafes, not to mention the vibrant Market Day on a Friday. We were lucky enough to coincide our visit with the festive Christmas Market, which was crammed with artisan stalls. But had we not filled our boots with a hog roast, we would have made a beeline for the chic and super-popular Italian Curator Kitchen at the bottom of town.
Further afield, good reports come from the Church House Inn at Rattery, one of the oldest pub sites in Devon. Muddy is a huge fan of the Riverford Field Kitchen for its super-relaxed vibe on the farm and shared fare. But if you’re hankering after a Michelin starred menu, then the Elephant in Torquay will sort you out.
If you’ve a baby and you’re looking for a mini-break away as a family, to prove to yourselves that travel is still possible, then Nick and Susannah will happily set the scene. They’ll provide a ‘baby kit’, including high chair, travel cot and any bits and bobs you might need (they’re parents to small people themselves). The sofa downstairs doubles up as a bed, too (a top-notch one, not one of those clunky fold-out types). But, honestly? We loved escaping for a pre-Christmas getaway as two. You can’t beat waking up to that view, along with the utter peace and quiet, broken only by the bubble of the coffee boiling on the stove.
AROUND AND ABOUT
Very conveniently, owners Nick and Susannah live next door and will happily share their knowledge of the area and tips on what there is to see and do nearby (and they have a brilliant curation of ideas, since Nick’s background is in travel writing. These two know how to produce a ‘best bits’ showreel). That said, they’re certainly not the types to lurk around outside your door, or intrude upon you. They’ll leave maps and relevant local info in the barn for you and for anything else, you just need to holler.
But for starters, from the barn you can walk thirty minutes in one direction to the picturesque village of Stoke Gabriel on the banks of the River Dart; and in the other to Totnes, a gorgeous green and pleasant hour or so’s walk, where you’ll be rewarded by what many reckon to be the most eccentric town in Britain. Great for cafes and people-watching.
For coastal walks and seaside potters, you’re not far from beautiful Brixham harbour on the English Riviera (above). It’s the largest in Britain by value and you can do a guided tour and have a fish breakfast there. For a hit of history, Greenway, once home to Agatha Christie and now in the hands of the National Trust, is an easy drive. Berry Pomeroy Castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Somerset is nearby; but be warned, it’s one of the most haunted castles in Britain.
But one recommendation from Nick and Susannah is a visit to the centuries old Sharpham Estate, which you can actually see from the barn just across the river, and where they make award-winning English wine and cheese. You can take the picturesque walk from Sharpham to Totnes and back, ending with wine and cheese tasting. If that alone doesn’t have you queuing up to stay here, I’m done!
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Romantics looking to steal a night or two away in peace and quiet; visiting family members who want a decent home-from-home experience; outdoorsy types, looking to walk, or cycle their way around, as they explore South Devon.
Not for: those wanting to walk to a restaurant, or escape to the hotel bar for a gin cocktail. Bring provisions and hunker down; enjoy the downtime!
££: A total steal, from £70 per night.
Book via Airbnb, Dart View Barn, Aish, Stoke Gabriel, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6PS