I've stayed in plenty of hot tub cottages in my life, but nothing has felt quite as luxurious as Stone Barn in the Somerset town of Minehead
My previous cottage reviews have been pre-Covid and pre-toddler, so the whole experience was bound to be very different from the start. I wondered how comfortable I'd feel staying away from home when we're still in the middle of a pandemic. I wondered whether I would actually get to use the hot tub with a nearly-three-year-old 'mini me' in tow. But by the end of the weekend, I was wondering whether I could stay forever!

Stone Barn is part of Exmoor Character Cottages in Minehead. The accommodation has been rated Five Star Gold by VisitEngland and it is very clear to see why.

Let's begin in the kitchen. This is THE best-equipped kitchen I have ever stepped into. Lucy Green, who owns the cottages, has thought of everything you could possibly need during a stay. The equipment is such high quality, and there's even an extractor that rises out of the kitchen side - very impressive!

Great British Life: Top of the range equipment in the kitchenTop of the range equipment in the kitchen (Image: ANDY PRIDDY)

The layout is sociable and open plan, so the designated chef needn't feel out of the loop when cooking.
The lounge has a 55-inch smart television complete with Sky, plus a selection of DVDs, if you prefer to do things a more traditional way. And the windows look out towards Exmoor and the nearby church; a magnificent sight on the horizon.

Great British Life: Cosy up in the lounge area at Stone BarnCosy up in the lounge area at Stone Barn (Image: ANDY PRIDDY)

The lounge is modern, but cosy, with plenty of throws, cushions and mood lighting. It was our sanctuary for three wonderful evenings. The flame effect fire really is the cherry on the cake - even on the warmer evenings we used it without the heat as it helped us feel even more snug (or is that 'smug'?) whilst sitting on the sofa watching the giant television screen.

The cottage is also great for children; a gate is put across the top of the stairs and Lucy can supply travel cots and highchairs too.

There is one smaller double bedroom upstairs, which has use of the next door toilet and shower room. It is plenty big enough for a couple.

Great British Life: The upstairs double bedroom is plenty big enough for two adultsThe upstairs double bedroom is plenty big enough for two adults (Image: ANDY PRIDDY)

Downstairs are the two wonderful king-sized bedrooms. With gorgeous linens, curtains and fittings, these bedrooms really are top quality. I loved the weighted duvet; what a treat!

Great British Life: Another beautiful downstairs bedroom with king size bedAnother beautiful downstairs bedroom with king size bed (Image: ANDY PRIDDY)

One bedroom, with en-suite shower room, can be made into a twin.

Great British Life: One of the downstairs bedroom can be a king size or twinOne of the downstairs bedroom can be a king size or twin (Image: ANDY PRIDDY)

The other has an en-suite bathroom; both had lots of lovely goodies waiting for us - even some marshmallow bath bubbles and a cuddly 'doggie' for our daughter (Lucy didn't mind that I couldn't prise it off her at the end).

Great British Life: 'Doggie' had to come home with us'Doggie' had to come home with us (Image: ANDY PRIDDY)

Outside the cottage, there is a secure, flat garden, which is really beautifully adorned with flowers. It also has some garden furniture - ideal for a bit of al fresco dining.

Of course, also outside is - the hot tub! Many an afternoon and evening were spent submerged in the bubbles - such a wonderful piece of luxury to come back to each day. It is cleaned daily; well I'd expect nothing less at these fabulous cottages.

Great British Life: Take a dip in the fabulous hot tubTake a dip in the fabulous hot tub (Image: ANDY PRIDDY)

Speaking of cleaning - I needn't have worried about coming away mid-pandemic - everything was spotless for our arrival - and I mean spotless - not a speck of dirt in sight.

The worst bit for me - having to go home. Our daughter cried when she had to leave her 'holiday home' - and I felt her pain. What a wonderful place to escape to. Well done Lucy and team - I can clearly see why everyone rates you so highly.

Private dining

Why not sit back and relax and let someone else do the cooking while you chill out in the hot tub?
THIR13EN’s private chef Ben Richards and his partner Isabella celebrate local produce, and their services are being sought as far as London. They can organise anything from canapes to a seven-course tasting menu for you.

We had the pleasure of tasting some of Ben's food during our stay. Due to Covid restrictions, he dropped off the ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions, but is hoping to get back to being a private chef in the cottages very soon.

He left us with pressed duck leg with pistachio, rhubarb and pickled beetroot to start. The main course consisted of spring Somerset lamb loin, dauphinoise, smoked onion, pea, red wine and wild garlic. The meat was top notch - it simply melted in my mouth and the flavours of the wild garlic and smoked onion really set it off. All the flavours really 'popped' as a combination.

Great British Life: The lamb main dish was deliciousThe lamb main dish was delicious (Image: Charlotte Skidmore)

Ben left us with the perfect chocolate dessert to finish, with Exmoor stout, miso and caramel ice-cream, peanut and raisin.
Ben and Isabella are a delightful couple and I'd highly recommend trying out their services.

Other experiences

Lucy offers a number of different 'experiences' to guests. You can book wreath-making workshops, candle workshops and cooking lessons to name just a few.

For a minimum of four you can have a three-hour candle making session, with materials, tutorial and a glass of bubbly (or non-alcoholic alternative) for £50 each. Ellie will give you a customised cotton dust bag to protect your creation on your journey home and you’ll receive a complimentary wax melt and a 10 per cent discount code for purchases direct from Ellie’s company, Kakara & Co.

Conveniently the workshops will take place at your Exmoor Character Cottage.

The best takeaways in Minehead

We were recommended both Alcombe Tandori and China Garden and both lived up to expectations.

I recommend the chicken tikka masala from Alcombe Tandori, which when regulations allow, also offers a dine-in option.
My top dish from China Garden was the chicken and cashew nuts.

Both takeaways are collection only.

The best days out for families in Minehead and surrounding areas

Great British Life: Kilve is popular for its fossils and being on the route of the West Somerset WalkKilve is popular for its fossils and being on the route of the West Somerset Walk (Image: acceleratorhams)

Exmoor Pony Centre

What a wonderful place this is.
The centre in Dulverton cares for orphaned Exmoor ponies and you can take a wander around and see these wonderful animals in their home. Entry to Exmoor Pony Centre is free, but you can book a grooming session for £10, which our daughter loved. Donations are welcome and there is a small gift shop raising money for the charity.

Great British Life: We had a fabulous day out at the centreWe had a fabulous day out at the centre (Image: Charlotte Skidmore)

Dunster Castle
Not only is Dunster Castle a fabulous day out for all the family, but it is also situated in a beautiful Exmoor village, which is worth exploring at the same time. Take a walk through the castle’s subtropical gardens, or the wooded garden, which leads through to the watermill. Take a trip back in time at this National Trust-managed site.

Great British Life: Dunster Castle is a former motte and bailey castle, now a country house, in the village of DunsterDunster Castle is a former motte and bailey castle, now a country house, in the village of Dunster (Image: Getty)

Tickets, priced from £5 for a child’s ticket to £25 for a family ticket (free for members), are available from the website.

Blenheim Gardens
Right in the town centre and a short walk from the cottages is this oasis of calm, with stunning floral displays and lots of open space for children to play (carefully). There is free parking right next to the Blenheim Gardens.

Great British Life: Check out the lovely floral displays in the gardensCheck out the lovely floral displays in the gardens (Image: Getty)

The cafe wasn't open when we visited, but there are plenty of coffee shops and food outlets a short walk away.

Discover rockpools and fossils

From Blue Anchor Bay and Watchet to Kilve, this stretch of West Somerset coast is great for discovering fossils and rockpools. There’s plenty of parking, space and a choice of some great beaches for all the family to choose from. Just follow the road signs from the A39 towards Bridgwater.

Great British Life: Kilve beach at sunsetKilve beach at sunset (Image: getty)

* Lucy has provided the most comprehensive guest information book that I have ever seen and it is packed full of further inspiration and ideas, as well as practical information.

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