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Short break: Bossington Hall, Porlock, Minehead, Exmoor

The windows are aglow with welcoming warmth Photo Bossington Hall
The windows are aglow with welcoming warmth Photo Bossington Hall

‘The sat nav says turn right here, oh no, that’s not correct, it can’t be up this sweeping driveway, surely?’ My partner and I are involved in that usual in-car ‘directions debate’ which couples tend to have, and although the conception of Google Maps must have saved many a marriage, we’re questioning if the software has hit a blip and we’re contemplating pulling a U-Turn. Since when has a B&B had a driveway so lengthy that you notch the car up a couple of gears? Curiosity taking the better of us, we ooo and aah as we admire the gently sloping lawns either side of the drive before slowing to a halt on the cobbled parking area outside a very handsome house. The signage confirms we are in fact at our destination; and whilst our trust in the Sat Nav is reinstated, any pre-existing ideas and connotations connected to the term ‘B&B’ are now vastly recalibrating because Bossington Hall is quite frankly, swish!

It’s getting dimpsey outside, the windows are aglow with a welcoming warmth and as we push open the magnificent oak door Guy Dewdney is there to greet us into his ‘home’. We tell him about our in-car ‘discussions’, how we simply couldn’t believe that a house of such grandeur can be a ‘B&B’, and he laughs, ‘There really ought to be a new word termed for us! We’re definitely offering our guests a lot more than a traditional B&B, but we’re not a hotel, so we decided to call ourselves a ‘Luxury B&B’.

Great British Life: Bossington Hall was built in 1911 by a 19th century ship ownerBossington Hall was built in 1911 by a 19th century ship owner

Guy tours us around the house, telling us how it was built by the chairman of the New Zealand Shipping Company, Allan Hughes and as such the whole place has many nautical links, whether it’s the old wooden beams or even the ships insulation which has be found lining the floors of the house. The plans of the original build project of 1911 are framed and on display and Guy even has a ledger with a daily account of the build’s labour and materials detailing rock and stones from nearby Blue Anchor, Hawkcombe and Treborough, bricks from Alcombe near Minehead and freestone from South Somerset’s Ham Hill. The quality of the build is tangible and as I run my hand admiringly along the oak banister, Guy laughs, ‘Ah, another wood fondler! So many of our guests love the wood, they literally walk around the house fondling door frames and banisters! We get through epic quantities of wood polish; I really ought to buy shares!’

The house is spacious but despite the vastness of the high-ceiled breakfast room, it doesn’t feel cold ‘that’ll be the ships insulation for you’, and with several reception rooms being offered for guest use, you can easily make yourself at home. ‘The ethos of the house is friendly and homely, we’re not formal and we’re not fuddy-duddy. There’s chit-chat with the staff and a bit of joking around, if you want that interaction. People feel comfortable here, we’ve had some guests come downstairs in their pyjamas and pop their feet up on the sofa and that’s perfectly OK. One guest said to me, ‘It’s like coming to stay with a rich uncle!’ and that’s great. Equally, if you want some quiet time, the house is big enough to find that too.’

Great British Life: The slipper bath has private views across the gardens Photo Bossington HallThe slipper bath has private views across the gardens Photo Bossington Hall

As we get shown to our room, ‘Kinsford’ we are led down a short corridor, passing well-stocked bookshelves (and back copies of Somerset Life magazine!) for the guests’ enjoyment. Our door opens into a huge bedroom boasting a super king size bed, chesterfield sofa and there at the centre of a box bay window; stealing the show; is a slipper bath. Despite the failing sunlight I can tell that the view from both the bath and the window seat; across the lawns and down to towards the tennis court is going to be corker in the morning, and Guy points out the binoculars thoughtfully on hand for enjoying the wildlife that also calls Bossington Hall home. After unpacking our belongings we head back downstairs and meet some fellow residents, a mother and daughter who have travelled from Switzerland to explore Exmoor, ‘ It’s just beautiful here, we may have mountains where we live but the landscape here is so unique, and the English villages are so special, and to stay here is wonderful, in fact we have just extended our stay by two nights as we love it so much.’ Guy couldn’t ask for a better testimonial and as we head to the ‘honesty bar’, we pour ourselves a tipple to accompany us on our house tour.

Great British Life: The honesty bar is stocked with night caps aplenty Photo Rachel Mead The honesty bar is stocked with night caps aplenty Photo Rachel Mead

Our footsteps lead us from one honesty bar to another; though this one is displaying a selection of local cheeses, crackers and charcuterie for any guests with the late-night munchies; before we find ourselves in the main lounge. With comfortable sofas arranged around the marble fireplace, the large coffee table at centre stage offers itself to a game of backgammon, Chinese checkers or draughts (which are all hand) whereas the two armchairs in the bay window have their backs to the room as they invite guests to sit and enjoy the garden views during the day. After a game of chess, we head back to the bar to refill our glasses and in doing pass some more guests in their white fluffy robes who have just returned from a sauna. They are glowing and highly recommend we give it a go, so in addition to booking a post-hike massage we also book a sauna for our return from tomorrow’s walk and Exmoor explorations.

As expected, we both slept soundly, and with a full day’s hiking ahead we were eagerly anticipating breakfast. The dining room has a gentle buzz about it, Andrea Bocelli is being streamed through the speakers and as you take a seat at a table, you’re suddenly aware of the landscape which is beckoning from beyond. The leaded windows are remarkable in themselves, and as they frame the views across to Dunkery Beacon and Porlock Bay, you can’t help but be thankful for our national park. I’m itching to get exploring as the sea is also in sight but first, we are lured to the buffet table which is generously loaded with fresh berries, Greek yoghurt, cereals, croissants, cheese and hams. Service, as expected is served with a smile; we chat about the local must-sees and as we order from the cooked breakfast menu (bacon and sausages from neighbouring Little Oak Farm and eggs from Fenton Farm), it’s great to see Somerset fayre is topping the bill. Add in vegetarian options, pancakes or smoked salmon; along with locally sourced Miles tea and coffee, and the term ‘luxury’ certainly wouldn’t go amiss here either.

Great British Life: The private sauna offers relaxation after a day's hiking on Exmoor Photo Bossington Hall The private sauna offers relaxation after a day's hiking on Exmoor Photo Bossington Hall

Before you go…

• Bossington Hall is open from February to December and boasts 9 B&B bedrooms. Two of which are dog-friendly and one is a self-catering apartment which is suitable for wheelchair access.

• The Luxury B&B is aimed at adults only with the majority of visitors using Bossington Hall as the perfect base for exploring Exmoor on foot. A short walk of about twenty minutes will see you to the coast where you can pick up the South West Coast Path and extend your walk along to the idyllic village of Porlock in one direction, or the National Trust village of Selworthy in the other.

• Bossington Hall boasts extras such as a tennis court, squash court (the oldest in England) as well as a sauna and wellness therapies including hot stone and Indian Head massages.

• In spring the sloping orchard near the entrance and the bank on the right of the driveway form a carpet of daffodils. One local woman even remembers picking these and bunching them together, ready to send to Covent Garden.

 

On the doorstep...

MUST EAT: Porlock Bay Oysters have recently opened a rustic style restaurant welcoming walkers to eat cooked seafood and oysters.

MUST SEE: Culbone Church: The smallest church in England only reachable on foot.

MUST PHOTOGRAPH: Time it right and head to Porlock Marsh to photograph the ‘tree’ and derelict barn which gets surrounded by the sea. It’s an Instagram favourite.



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