Step into The Oval in Dunster and you're taking a step into the distant and fascinating past

The Oval is a beautiful holiday cottage in the wonderful village of Dunster. It is part of the excellent Exmoor Character Cottages and so different to its sister cottages that we have visited, but no less charming.

At every turn, the cottage shouts 'history', but watch your head as it seems people may have been a lot shorter in 1366.

Great British Life: You can see the history that runs throughout the cottageYou can see the history that runs throughout the cottage (Image: L Green)

The Oval, which is situated at the heart of the charming Somerset village of Dunster, is watched over by Dunster Castle and is a stone's throw from all that this gorgeous part of our county has to offer. Step inside and you will find original cruck beams, oak screening, stone floors and many more features reminiscent of bygone times.

However, do not think that this holiday cottage is simply stuck in the past, as sitting alongside all its period features are all the mod cons you need. Sit in front of the log burner and watch Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Or cook dinner in the superbly equipped kitchen. I have said it once and I'll say it again; Exmoor Character Cottages supplies every little thing you need from kitchen foil to matches, to umbrellas and dishwasher tablets. The kitchen is so well equipped that it puts my kitchen at home to shame. It is a joy to cook in.

Great British Life: The kitchen is so well equipped that it puts mine at home to shameThe kitchen is so well equipped that it puts mine at home to shame (Image: L Green)

The master bedroom at The Oval is like something from a fairytale, with its grand traditional four poster bed, heavy drape curtains and chaise longue. Channel 4’s Time Team has dendro-dated the cruck beams in the main bedroom to the winter of 1366 and I felt like one of Henry VIII's wifes settling down for the night. Except my head was still intact in the morning.

Great British Life: The lavish master bedroomThe lavish master bedroom (Image: L Green)

The master bedroom has a handy en-suite, as does the other double bedroom upstairs. This lovely double, is gorgeously decorated in light blues and is, in my opinion, the cosiest bedroom in the house.

Great British Life: The second bedroom is done out in beautiful hues of blueThe second bedroom is done out in beautiful hues of blue (Image: L Green)

Mind you, the third and final bedroom at The Oval must have been pretty cosy too, judging by the way our four-year-old slept. Being a twin, it is an ideal room for two children or a couple of friends.

I absolutely adore the weighted duvets that owner Lucy Green uses at Exmoor Character Cottages, they are luxury personified and seriously fabulous, a real aid to a good night's sleep.

Also downstairs is a delightful dining area with more than enough room for six guests and a four-legged friend or two and this is where we found a lovely chocolate cake and some goodies for the little one waiting on our arrival.

Great British Life: There is also a snug to escape toThere is also a snug to escape to (Image: L Green)

But it was the sitting room that was my favourite 'hang out', in front of the log burner on a cold night, settled down, in front of the flatscreen TV or curled up with a book. A perfect combination of contemporary and ancient living you might say!

Great British Life: My favourite spot was the sitting room - in front of the fire - curled up with a bookMy favourite spot was the sitting room - in front of the fire - curled up with a book (Image: L Green)

We had a marvellous week in Dunster, exploring a slice of history at The Oval. I cannot recommend these cottages enough, Lucy is an amazing host, with extensive knowledge of the area. But each of her cottages has unique charms. She goes over and above to add special 'extras' according to the time of year and she can help you build an amazing agenda.

Or simply spend the week, doing absolutely nothing, blissfully unaware of the outside world, in this ancient haven in the beautiful village of Dunster.

While you're there

We loved our time in Dunster, exploring its independent shops and historic streets. But here are a few of my top things to do when you're staying in the village.

⦁ Eat at Reeves.

Great British Life: The restaurant was decorated for Halloween when we visitedThe restaurant was decorated for Halloween when we visited (Image: M Skidmore)

This restaurant is one of my absolute favourites. You will not be disappointed by its superb food and service.

⦁ Take a pottery lesson.

Great British Life: Jeni offers pottery lessons just next doorJeni offers pottery lessons just next door (Image: Copyright: Nina Dodd,, 07542 767128.)

Pop along to the rather marvellous Made in Dunster in West Street and browse the absolutely amazing handmade souvenirs to take home. Or why not try a pottery lesson like myself and my four-year-old. It was amazing fun and we ended up with some wonderful items to take home and remember our experience by.

Jeni does courses, generally three lots of two hours sessions; mugs, jugs and vases, then bowls, then trimming (neatening up), but she is more than happy to chat about single sessions or individual requirements. I have to say, I enjoyed it, but my four-year-old had the time of her life on the potter's wheel. Jeni was really marvellous and patient with her and so it could be a perfect family activity for visitors to The Oval, as it is literally next door!

⦁ Take part in a pirate academy.

Great British Life: Enjoying pirate-related activities with JackieEnjoying pirate-related activities with Jackie (Image: C SKIDMORE)

The marvellous Cap'n Jackie arrived with her two blow-up crocs, plank and a bag full of activities for the smallest visitor. The last time we visited, Jackie arrived in her elf costume, full of Christmas cheer and, once again, she managed to entertain our four-year-old with fun and games - and the adults had a good old laugh too (shhh).

Cottage owner Lucy can arrange a pirate visit in the summer and the elf workshop in November and December for guests.

⦁ Take a walking tour of Dunster.

Great British Life: Take in some incredible sights on the walking tourTake in some incredible sights on the walking tour (Image: C Skidmore)

With another hat on, Jackie does a fascinating tour of the village, taking in lesser known spots and revealing the hidden history behind so much of the area. You also get to take in some breathtaking views.

It's always important to me to get a feel for the area I am staying in, as well as the accommodation, and this tour ticks the box very nicely. It was a really interesting couple of hours that took in the working watermill, the ancient packhorse ‘Gallox’ Bridge, St George’s Church, the dovecote, the yarn market and some very Instagrammable sights.

To book, contact Jackie via email at

⦁ Visit the castle.

Great British Life: Explore the fascinating castle and gardensExplore the fascinating castle and gardens (Image: Copyright (c) 2020 Aleksandra McEvansoneya/Shutterstock. No use without permission.)

What's a trip to Dunster without a visit to the absolutely gorgeous Dunster Castle? We were all horrified to admit that out of the three generations that visited for this trip, none of us had been to the castle before. And my, what a history-packed, fascinating experience it was. Follow in the footsteps of 1,000 years of history. The gardens are equally as spectacular all-year-round as the main building and you could easily fill a day there with a coffee and lunch stop.

⦁ Take a day trip to Butlin's Minehead with the kids. Ok, so it might not be to everyone's taste to visit Butlin's in their time off, but it's the best sort of place to take a small child. There's a fairground, swimming pool with lazy river and water slides, countless shows and activities, crazy golf and every sort of food outlet to feed even the fussiest of small eaters. And it's five minutes down the road. Day visits are available to prebook.

⦁ Buy some doughnuts.

You will not be sorry when you see these amazing, mouthwatering creations from Castle Coffee House in the High Street. Simply the best doughnuts ever! You have to order them in advance though.

⦁ Take a trip on the West Somerset Railway.

This heritage railway never fails to astound me, as I sit aboard the train thinking about travelling that way in bygone years. This time we enjoyed a fish and chips and cream tea journey. I think that joyful journey I spoke about got even more joyful when the superb fish and chips was served aboard.

At lunchtime we went aboard at Bishop's Lydeard, where we were able to pick up a wheelchair for my mother and we enjoyed our fish and chips while chugging through the glorious countryside, as we travelled by train to Minehead. There we had around two hours to explore the town, before returning with a cream tea.

I'm surprised the train could carry the extra weight after all that eating! There will be more themed events coming up in 2023.