Friday, 17 December 2010

We've won a gold green award

Here at Exmoor House we had our latest Green Tourism assessment a couple of months ago, and we got the results the other day. To our delight, we've achieved a gold award. In fact, we are the first accommodation provider on Exmoor, and the first guest house in Somerset, to do this. The only two other places in Somerset to have achieved gold so far are Wimbleball Lake, near Dulverton, and Tordown Bed & Breakfast, in Glastonbury. As well as accommodation and attractions, the awards cover other businesses such as pubs, information centres, tour operators, events venues and language schools.

We've always done our best to run Exmoor House in such a way that we minimise our effect on the environment. To me, as well as being something I really believe in, this is just plain old common sense. At the risk of sounding a bit jargon-y, the Green Tourism accreditation process is a very good way for businesses to benchmark themselves against a comprehensive set of standards.

The assessment visit is thorough, helpful and positive, with credit given where it's due and useful tips provided for how to improve where necessary. Green Tourism assess each business every two years, and since our last inspection in 2008 they had revised their assessment scheme criteria, making the standards even more rigorous. So it's even more pleasing that we've improved on the silver award we gained two years ago. Now we're shouting about it!

There's more information about the scheme at

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Winter on Exmoor

It's pleasing to see that there's been quite a lot of media coverage about Exmoor recently. Johnny Kingdom's series about birds makes charming viewing (I particularly liked the shots of the wren colony that were apparently trying to break the record for the most birds to fit into one nesting box).

The November issue of Country Walking magazine carried an article on the Exmoor deer rutting season, as well as details of one of our favourite walks (from Simonsbath along the Barle Valley, via Cow Castle & Pickedstones) - where you can see deer if you're lucky.

BBC Countryfile magazine (December) has a comprehensive feature about Exmoor in winter, with a number of suggested walks and other things to do and see.

And Exmoor the Country Magazine's latest edition, as ever, includes some wonderful seasonal pieces, pictures and recipes. This time they also included a free supplement, Winter Wonderland, giving details of things happening soon (including Snowdrop Valley, in February) and Christmas gift ideas.

As I write this, there's a beautiful silvery dusting of snow on the fields, under a clear blue sky...

Why not pay us a visit?

Friday, 19 November 2010

Village life on Exmoor

One of the interesting things, for us, about moving to the country is that there's always so much going on. In our small village there are lots of clubs and societies (which, because of the nature of our work, we don't manage to join in with much - though I did get to one of the WI meetings last year).

The village hall is very well used (drama groups, keep-fit classes, Parish council meetings, parties, exhibitions...) and for special occasions (Snowdrop Valley, the Exmoor Food Festival, the village fete) it becomes a cafe. Last week the hall hosted an IT clinic, with workshops and one-to-one consultations available. Along with many other local small businesses, we went there to get information and advice - and very useful it was too.

Speaking of local small businesses, there's so much enterprise here: crafts, web design, complementary therapies - you name it. Several of the craftspeople will be at an event held by one of our larger village businesses, the Rest and Be Thankful pub, next Wednesday (24th November). Their Christmas Fair is from 9.30am to 2.00pm and then again from 6.00pm to 9.30pm; there'll be jewellery, hand-crafted pens, cards & stationery, pictures and much more. There's also a tabletop sale at Cutcombe School this Saturday, 20th November; so plenty of opportunity for a bit of retail therapy and Christmas gift buying. Why not come on over?

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Candlelight and starlight - early December on Exmoor

The first weekend of December sees the very popular Dunster by Candlelight, when shops and restaurants in the Exmoor village of Dunster switch off their lights, and candle lanterns are lit instead. On Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th December this year, most of the village shops will be open in the evening and there'll be street entertainment, food stalls and more. The event starts at 5.30 on 3rd December with a candle-lighting procession, and shops will be open until 9pm on both evenings.

Dunster village won't be accessible to traffic on these two evenings and there's no parking allowed; there'll be park & ride buses from various places including Minehead and Wheddon Cross.

For even more merriment and festive shopping, there's Dulverton by Starlight. Dulverton's a unique little town with a good range of interesting shops and some lovely cafes and restaurants, and in December it's full of Christmas trees and twinkling white lights. Sunday 5th December is an extra-special day, when the fun starts with Father Christmas arriving at 2.30. There'll be carol-singing at 6.00 and a firework display at 6.30 (more entertainment is promised too, but the full programme will be available nearer the date).

Exmoor House at Wheddon Cross is a great place to stay if you're visiting Exmoor for either of these events - you can enjoy all the fun, do your Christmas shopping and then escape to a peaceful haven afterwards. The Park & Ride for Dunster village is only a very short walk away from Exmoor House. We've great-value special packages available.

Book your room now, or just give us a call if you'd like more information...

Friday, 5 November 2010

Snowdrops at Wheddon Cross

Snowdrop Valley, near Wheddon Cross, is always a wonderful sight. The snowdrops are normally at their best in February (though obviously this depends on the weather!). It's about a mile and a half to Snowdrop Valley from the village and is a lovely - though quite steep and sometimes very muddy - walk.

If you don't fancy the walk, you can take the bus. Each year a park & ride service runs between Wheddon Cross car park and the valley; in 2011 the dates for this are Saturday 5th February to Sunday 27th February inclusive. Please note, though, that the road down to the valley willl stay closed until 6th March (so from 28th Feb-6th March you'll be able to walk down to the valley to see the snowdrops but the valley won't be accessible by motor transport).

For latest news about Snowdrop Valley, visit or the village website at

As usual, at Exmoor House Wheddon Cross we'll be opening our dining room as a tea room (or tearoom!) during the day at Snowdrop Valley time. We serve home-made cakes, scones and teacakes, lunches (e.g. ploughman's, filled home-made rolls, soup) and you can also enjoy Somerset ciders, local beers and a good choice of wines with your meal - as well as coffee & tea of course.

If you like the idea of a short break on Exmoor to see the snowdrops and explore the area, at Exmoor House we do special dinner, bed & breakfast packages. Lots more details on our website at  - we are also open to non-residents for dinner in the evening: come and try our fabulous food, all home-made using lovely local ingredients. Advance booking is essential!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Exmoor Pony Gatherings

Autumn's the season when the free-living ponies on Exmoor are rounded up, inspected and the foals are branded to identify them. Each Exmoor pony herd has a different mark (for example, the Winsford herd's is an anchor). All the ponies have an owner and all are registered with the Exmoor Pony Society which, among other things, monitors and safeguards the ponies' gene pool (Exmoor ponies are listed as an endangered species). Amazing to think that these small horses are, in effect, prehistoric animals; sturdy and very well adapted to a moorland climate, they haven't needed to evolve any more. 

The nearest herds to Exmoor House and Wheddon Cross roam around the Dunkery Beacon area, so you may well see ponies if you're walking up on Dunkery Hill. They seem happy to pose for photographs, but don't annoy them by trying to get too close, especially if they have foals with them.

You can learn more, and ride one of the ponies, at the Exmoor Pony Centre, near Dulverton, run by the Moorland Mousie Trust (it's necessary to book in advance to visit the centre because parking is limited).

Friday, 22 October 2010

Sports, entertainment and shopping!

As ever, there's a lot happening on and around Exmoor. Here's a taste of some things coming up over the next few months...

The Exmoor Beast (an annual charity fundraising cycle challenge) is on 31st October. This ride lives up to its name; it's definitely a beast of a challenge! Participants can do either a 100 mile or a 100 km route, both passing through some of Exmoor's finest scenery. The deadline for entries is midnight on 23rd October.

It's carnival season in Somerset! The biggest is Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival, on (you've guessed it) 5th November. The most famous part of it is the procession, with its illuminated floats, but there's much more going on besides.

Shopping (and entertainment too)
Dunster by Candlelight, this year on 3rd & 4th December, is another well-established tradition. The festivities begin with the Lantern Lighting Procession at 5.30 on the Friday; there'll be music and dancing in the streets and plenty of retail therapy/Christmas present choosing options. The village will be closed to traffic; there are park & ride buses (including from Wheddon Cross).

At Exmoor House, we've special offers in October and November - see our website for more info! Why not take a short break and enjoy some of the festivities... or just have a couple of days' relaxation?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Rum baba, anybody? (In which I discuss The Exmoor Files, by Liz Jones)

The extracts of this book I’d read before – inevitably, the ones featured in the papers – gave the impression that it portrays Exmoor as a terrible, unfriendly place. Not really: it’s evident that the author does appreciate Exmoor’s beauty, and that she has made some good friends during her time here, as well as upsetting and offending some people. (’Tis ever thus with the media: when we lived in Worcester, I was intrigued to read in the local papers that all the residents of our street were being terrorised by hordes of rampaging students. I think we once heard somebody swear, rather mildly, on their way home from the pub, but can’t be certain that it was a student. Be that as it may though…)

If you’ve never been to Exmoor, do not be put off visiting by the fallout from this book. It is indeed one of the loveliest places on earth, and certainly the friendliest place we’ve lived in. Liz Jones’ main issues are not with Exmoor at all. She much prefers animals to people, including herself. Her chronic low self-esteem combines with a hope that one thing will make her life perfect (getting married? Moving to the country?), to ensure that she won’t be really happy anywhere.

The Exmoor Files is a good read; very funny in places, although cringe-inducing in others (she really lays herself bare, as you’ll know if you’ve read any of her columns). Some things should’ve been better checked – she refers to the Valley of Rocks as the ‘Valley of Stones’, and talks about ‘the’ Tarr Steps. And – wild goats on Dunkery Hill?

Jones writes well, though to me a jarring note is that she is always sat rather than sitting, stood rather than standing (why? why? as the author herself might ask). And some of the running jokes (calling Brian ‘Brain’ and her ex-husband’s flat a hovel) do wear thin.

I’m curious about another recurring motif (or obsession?): rum babas. Never seen one anywhere on Exmoor, Liz, though they’re good when done properly and have a Proustian effect on me, conjuring up memories of sunny holidays in France in the 70s. Maybe we should start featuring them on our menu, as the LJ Special.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Red deer rutting on Exmoor

It's the red deer rutting season on Exmoor, as stags round up harems of hinds. Early morning, and evening, are the best time to observe the deer - caution is advised as the stags will charge if you get too close, and they are big! The sight of the stags fighting is quite spectacular - though you may hear their roaring (bolving, or belving, as it's called round here) without actually seeing them.
You can book a wildlife safari through various companies, and there are also guided walks available.
Here at Exmoor House, Wheddon Cross, we're ideally placed for trips out to go in search of the deer herds - right in the heart of Exmoor National Park and just a few miles from Dunkery Beacon. For a great short break on Exmoor, check out our special dinner, bed & breakfast packages - from only £174 for a three night stay.

Friday, 1 October 2010

October on Exmoor

Here on Exmoor the autumn colours are just starting to show, although our view of Dunkery Hill still looks quite purple with heather. October's a season of festivals: the North Devon & Exmoor Walking Festival, the Exmoor Food Festival* (see my last post for more information about both of these) are just about to start. But there's more:

The tenth Two Moors Festival (30th September - 9th October) features an amazing range of concerts across Exmoor and Dartmoor. Originally planned as a one-off event in 1991 to support areas hard-hit by the foot & mouth outbreak, the festival has gone from strength to strength ever since.

On a more localised scale, the Lynton & Lynmouth Comedy Festival, on 15th-17th October, promises a fabulous (and free) feast of fun.

It's also the start of carnival season; Somerset's illuminated carnivals are quite unique. Catch Dulverton Carnival on 2nd October...

* It's not too late to book a Tasting Platter lunch at Exmoor House: we have some tables available every day (2nd - 10th October inclusive).

Friday, 24 September 2010

Exmoor Walking Festival and Exmoor Food Festival, October 2010

October is festival time on Exmoor!

The North Devon & Exmoor Walking Festival is from October 1st to 4th. There is a great range of walks, from gentle strolls to challenging hikes. Find lots more details, and book your places on the walks, at

The Exmoor Food Festival, from October 2nd to 10th, has some fabulous events all over Exmoor - more info at

At Exmoor House, we are offering Exmoor Tasting Platters - lunch with a difference - a chance to try our great food that combines lovely local ingredients with expert cooking!

Choose from our delicious pates, terrines, flans, also some local cheeses (and more), all served tapas-style with salad plus our home-made bread and pickles, and all for £9.50. If you still have room after that, there are some fabulous puddings, including our home-made ice creams.

To go with your meal we've a good choice of local beers & ciders, a nice wine list and some lovely organic soft drinks; plus tea and coffee from our local suppliers.

Tasting Platters are available every day of the Food Festival, from 12-2pm (last orders 1.30pm). Advance booking is essential - just call us on 01643 841432.

If you can't make it for lunch, do remember that we are open most days for dinner - again, it is essential to book in advance.

And if you want to stay over on Exmoor, where better than Exmoor House at Wheddon Cross? Visit our website at for details of short breaks and more.

See you soon?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Tour of Britain at Wheddon Cross

Great excitement in the village on Tuesday, as lots of people lined the street to cheer on the Tour of Britain contestants. That day's ride started in Minehead, so the cyclists had only done one King of the Mountains challenge by the time they got here (2 more to go). Weather not that brilliant so they were a bit soaked!
It seemed to me that there were fewer competitors than in previous years. But that could be to do with it still being early in the day and the riders being less spread out.
It's always as interesting to watch all the entourage - marshalls, support vehicles, outriders, media folk, police, medics, sponsors, etc - as the race itself; quite an operation!
Our guests watched the race with us from the dining room - we had a grandstand (and warm & dry) view, and could wave majestically while having our coffee.

Friday, 10 September 2010

September's a great time for travelling

It occurred to me today that September is a really good month for going to... more or less anywhere. Seems that in most places in the world, it's a month when the weather is (relatively) kind. Here in England, of course, children have gone back to school and adults who are child-free start thinking about peaceful getaway breaks.

In the middle of Exmoor National Park, where we are, the traditional holiday season doesn't necessarily mean crowds of people (they tend to congregate more in coastal areas). So, generally it's fairly peaceful at any time of year. You don't get the 'footpath as motorway' syndrome (you know what I mean...) that can afflict other national parks.

And, yes: September is a wonderful time to visit Exmoor too. Temperatures should be good for walking; the  moorland is just beginning to show some autumn colour; there's plenty going on in the towns and villages (e.g. Porlock Arts Festival this weekend).

Why not come on over for a few days? See our website for details about short breaks packages at Exmoor House.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Some things happening on Exmoor soon

Here on Exmoor there are lots of good things coming up in the next month or so. Here's some brief info:

Porlock Arts Festival (9th - 12th September)

Exmoor Bike Marathon (11th September)

The Tour of Britain stage 4 - Minehead to Teignmouth (14th September)
This passes through Wheddon Cross, home of Exmoor House

The West Somerset Railway Autumn Steam Gala (30th September - 3rd October)

The Two Moors Festival (30th September - 9th Octobet)
It's the Festival's tenth anniversary year

North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival (1st - 4th October)
There's a Food Walk from Wheddon Cross, which includes lunch at Exmoor House, on 2nd October. Places are limited so do book as soon as you can.

Exmoor Food Festival (2nd - 10th October)
You can enjoy Tasting Platter lunches at Exmoor House, Wheddon Cross, each day of the Festival (advance booking is essential)

Thinking about an Autumn getaway? At Exmoor House in October and November, we're offering weekend breaks for the same price as midweek - for example, a 3-night dinner, bed & breakfast package starts from only £174 per person. Enjoy a fabulously relaxing stay and some excellent food at a bargain price.

See you soon!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Tallest tree in England on Exmoor

Did you know that Exmoor is home to England's tallest tree? It's a Douglas fir, on the Dunster Estate, near the Nutcombe Bottom picnic site. It's 197 feet (60m) high, and still growing. It can be seen on the Tall Trees Trail, a gentle walk through what was originally planted as an arboretum in the 1870s. Among the other trees (including other gigantic Douglas firs) there is the country's tallest magnolia too.

We did the Tall Trees Trail as part of a longer walk, via woodland, combes, open moorland and hillforts. As an added bonus, when we got to Bat's Castle, high above the coast, we saw a display by the Red Arrows over Minehead.

Walks taking in the estate could range from a short stroll to a full day's hike, and there are also cycle trails and bridleways. There's plenty of wildlife (and some chainsaw sculptures of wildlife too, if you don't manage to spot the real thing). Definitely worth a visit.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Frank wins the cup

It was our village fete the other weekend. As usual, Frank entered some of his cakes, jams, chutneys and other food, including a flan of local goat's cheese, smoked bacon & tomatoes.

We went along to the prize-giving and were delighted to learn that he'd won the trophy for best baking - the flan was a triumph! This is quite an honour, as there are some great home bakers in the village. The cup is away being engraved at the moment, but will be on display as soon as we get it back.

So the prize-winning flan will go on the menu (not the actual flan that won the prize, obviously - apart from anything else, it was sold in the auction). Book dinner at Exmoor House one night and you may get to try the recipe.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Christmas and New Year house parties at Exmoor House

I know, it's too early to be thinking about Christmas... or is it?

If you want to get together with family or friends, it pays to plan in advance. Have you thought about a different kind of celebration? You can book Exmoor House exclusively for your group (up to 12 people) for a Christmas or New Year house party, staying 2 or more nights on a full-board basis; we'll tailor-make menus to your requirements.

Imagine... spending some real quality time with the people you want to be with: relaxing by the fire, chatting, enjoying some fabulous food, taking bracing winter walks in Exmoor's beautiful scenery.

We guarantee... no TV repeats (no TVs in any of the guest rooms!); no organised entertainment; there'll only be turkey and Christmas pudding if that's what you want - and of course we do all the cooking and washing up. All you need to do is to turn up and have a great time.

What are you waiting for? See our website for more info, or give us a call to arrange a quote.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Exmoor Food Festival & Exmoor Walking Festival: more info

Exmoor Food Festival
This year's Exmoor Food Festival is from 2nd - 10th October. Here at Exmoor House we are doing Exmoor Tasting Platters - lunch with a difference - each day from 12 - 2pm. You can try a selection of our delicious pates and terrines, some local cheeses, salads, home-made bread and pickles, all served tapas-style. There are some lovely puddings to follow, if you still have room! The local theme continues with drinks: we've a good choice of local beers, Somerset ciders, even some wine from Exmoor; as well as Luscombe organic soft drinks, and tea and coffee from DJ Miles of Porlock.
Booking is essential for the Tasting Platters - just give us a call.

North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival
Another date for your diary! The Autumn Exmoor Walking Festival is from 1st - 4th October. 'A Taste of High Exmoor' is a circular guided walk from Wheddon Cross with a Tasting Platter lunch at Exmoor House (plus a free tea or coffee) included. The walk's on Saturday 2nd October and places are limited, so do book early at

Monday, 26 July 2010

Exmoor Food Festival 2010

The Exmoor Food Festival is from Saturday 2nd October to Sunday 10th October this year. Everything's just being finalised now and the details should be on very soon, with a brochure coming out shortly afterwards. There's always a great variety of events.

Here at Exmoor House we're doing our Exmoor Tasting Platter lunches again: you can choose from (for example) a selection of our lovely pates and terrines, plus some local cheeses, all served tapas-style with salad, our home-made pickles and breads. There'll be delicious puddings to follow, if you still have room. Our drinks list includes Somerset ciders (of course) and local beers; even some wines from Exmoor.

The tasting platters are served every day of the festival, from 12 to 2, at £9.50 a head; advance booking is essential. On one of the days you'll be able to take a guided walk from Wheddon Cross to work up a good appetite for lunch. More details of this in the next week or so!

Monday, 19 July 2010

August special offer

In need of a break? Come and visit beautiful Exmoor National Park, staying in a characterful, award-winning village guesthouse, where everything's designed for maximum comfort, minimum fussiness. Spend a few days walking, exploring, cycling... or just relaxing... and enjoy some fabulous food that combines lovely local ingredients with expert cooking.

Sounds good? It gets better:
We've extended our summer special offer. Book 3 or more nights dinner, bed & breakfast, any weekend in July or August (except for the bank holiday weekend starting Friday 27th August) and pay the same price as the equivalent midweek break. So, for example, a three night stay starts from just £174 per person. This offer is only available for telephone bookings directly with us (see our website for contact details).

See you soon?

Monday, 12 July 2010

Happening soon on Exmoor

One of the lovely things about Exmoor is that it never gets crowded (comes of being the 'least visited National Park', I suppose!). It's always very easy to escape, and a haven for walkers and cyclists. Of course, you might not wish to be that active. The whole point of your visit  may simply be to relax, potter around and enjoy some wonderful scenery - for which Exmoor is the perfect place.

However, there's always plenty going on, too. For example, here are just a few events coming up later this month:

Our village hall at Wheddon Cross - just a short walk from Exmoor House - plays host to the National Park's Exmoor Archaeology Forum on July 17th. Pre-booking is essential.

The Tornado, a modern steam locomotive, returns to the West Somerset Railway on July 12th to 16th (and September 13th to 17th).

At Wimbleball Lake, Lakefest 2010 (July 14th - 18th) features a great range of watersports and more.

Dunster Country Fair, at Dunster Castle, includes pony and dog shows, falconry displays and craft stalls. It's on July 28th.

There'll be orchestral and chamber music at a variety of venues during the Minehead and Exmoor Festival (July 25th - 31st).

Don't forget, at Exmoor House we've a July special break offer: more info on our website.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Liz Jones vs Hope Bourne?

I was reading an article the other day which suggested that Liz Jones' book about living on Exmoor is still deterring some people from visiting the area. What a shame if that's the case! Exmoor has so much to offer - and is easily the friendliest place we've lived. We feel privileged to be here.

Now, I've read extracts from Liz J's book (which were, it has to be said, obviously chosen to suit the agenda of the articles in which they were quoted), and these were pretty negative about the area. But not having read the whole thing yet, I don't know whether she does get more positive. I read some of her 'Mail' columns during the time she was splitting up with her husband - brave of her to make public so much (wincingly too much) very personal information - but that's by the bye. Will have to read the book and report back!

But if you're looking for a completely different perspective, try what I'm reading now: Hope L Bourne's classic 'Wild Harvest'. It's a manifesto for self-sufficiency in which she shares her life philosophy and paints a loving, warts-and-all portrait of Exmoor in all its moods. I'd recommend her book 'Living on Exmoor' too. What a remarkable woman.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Midsummer madness special offer at Exmoor House

Wow - we've been having proper summer weather over the last couple of weeks - no Glastonbury or (so far) Wimbledon monsoon, either. The Exmoor scenery is looking absolutely wonderful.

In our garden, the herbs are soaking up the sun, the rocket's rocketing and the tomatoes are starting to flower. And I've never seen so many fruits on our wild strawberry plants. Normally, there are only enough to use as a garnish, but we've treated ourselves to several bowlsful over the past few days. The flavour is quite delicate, yet somehow more intense than the 'domesticated' strawberries, and creamier as well (in fact you don't really need cream or anything else with them). Because the fruits are often hidden away under the leaves, we can often get to them before the birds, too. A cheeky blackbird did pinch one from right under my nose yesterday though. Does all this fruitfulness bode well for the rest of the summer? Let's hope so!

OK, enough garden ramblings: as you can see from the headline, we've a special offer on. Yer 'tis (as they say in Somerset): weekend stays of 3 (or more) nights in July are the same price as our midweek short breaks... which means you can book 3 nights dinner, bed & breakfast from only £174 per person. So if you feel like consoling yourselves with a getaway short break after England's exit from the World Cup - and of course if you just want to escape for a few days - just give us a call or drop us an email (all contact details are on our website - see link). See you soon?

Monday, 21 June 2010

Ironmen and ironwomen on Exmoor

Yesterday was the half Ironman, starting at Wimbleball Lake (about 8 miles from Wheddon Cross). Everybody staying with us over the weekend was either competing in the event, or supporting somebody who was.

So we were up at 3.45am yesterday, feeding carbs to everyone so that they could go and jump in the lake at about 6.30. The water's always pretty cold, but I'm sure they will have warmed up after their run and bike ride! From the reports we've had so far, it all went pretty well.

We're thinking maybe we should start doing breakfast at 4.30am every day - would it catch on, I wonder? It was fantastic seeing the sun come up, but possibly the view wouldn't be so welcoming in midwinter. It would be great if there were always that many hours in the day, though - we'd done a full day's work by 11!

Congratulations to everybody who completed Ironman - we hope to see some of you next year (if not before).

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Who ate all the pies?

Er, well, actually... we did! All in the interests of research, you understand.

Frank's been making proper pies, which now feature regularly on the dinner menu at Exmoor House Wheddon Cross. They're going down a storm.

Why proper pies? Well, the ingredients are baked in the crust; they're not that kind of 'pie' that's more like a casserole with a bit of puff pastry plonked on top. And speaking of pastry, Frank makes a great all-butter shortcrust.

As you might expect, in keeping with our 'traditional with a twist' food philosophy, we offer some slightly different fillings in our pies... like duck & apricots; or Somerset cheddar with shallots & herbs.

Like the sound of them? Why not book dinner one night - or better still, book a few nights' stay! Hope to see you soon.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Don't go abroad - come to Exmoor!

Like many other people, we had family and friends stuck at home or elsewhere because of the volcanic ash problems... and were very glad that we didn't have to fly anywhere at that stage.

With all the speculation that these eruptions could go on disrupting things for a while, and the fabulous weather we've had here, if I were planning a holiday I'd certainly be thinking in terms of avoiding flying... and discovering more of the UK maybe.

Blatant sales pitch coming up: where better to stay than Exmoor? More specifically, Exmoor House? Right in the heart of Exmoor National Park, with some beautiful countryside to explore (that never gets too crowded), fabulous food to enjoy and a lovely peaceful atmosphere.

Come on over - we'd love to see you.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Simonsbath, Wheal Eliza & Cow Castle

The weather was perfect for walking last Saturday, and we had a couple of hours to spare in the afternoon, after going to visit a friend and her two new pigs (the pigs destined for bacon and sausages eventually, but having a lovely time meanwhile)... so off we went to Simonsbath.

There's a lovely walk from there along the Barle Valley, past the remains of the Wheal Eliza mine, round the Cow Castle hillfort and then up to Pickedstones and back through the fields and woods. Beautiful and varied scenery all the way, including panoramic views from up near Pickedstones. Part of the route follows the Two Moors Way (and waymarking is good along the whole walk).

We both got a bit surnburnt (my nose is peeling now!) although it didn't feel overly hot - just right for walking, as I said! The sunny weather - along with a cool breeze - has continued most of this week, so our guests have been having a great time getting out and about on Exmoor.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Exmoor Walking Festival coming up soon

Just a quick reminder about the North Devon & Exmoor Walking Festival, which starts on 29th April and runs through to 7th May. It's the tenth one, and also the biggest so far. There's a great range of walks, from easy to strenuous, covering coast, countryside, woodland... A good number of the walks are accessible by public transport, too.

In the heart of Exmoor National Park at Wheddon Cross, Exmoor House is a great place to stay as a base if you're visiting for the festival.; as I write, we've still some rooms available on most of the days. If you can't make it this time, there is another walking festival in Autumn (1st to 4th October). This coincides with part of the Exmoor Food Festival, and some walks incorporating the opportunity to try local food will be included. Fresh air and food - two of my favourite things...

By the way, don't be worried that Exmoor may get crowded with all these walks and walkers! Places are limited on the walks, and it is always very easy indeed to escape in this area. It's not unusual to walk all day without seeing anybody else. The beauty of guided walks, of course, is that there's no chance of getting lost (we've all done it - haven't we? Or is it just me and Frank?) and you have the benefit of the guide's local knowledge.

There are fabulous walks you can do on Exmoor all the year round. In previous posts I've included some we've done, and I'll post more as we discover them.

Friday, 9 April 2010

The gorse is in bloom

We did the Hunters Inn to Heddon's Mouth walk the other day. The river was quite high (not surprising really) and the waves dramatic. But what really caught my eye was the gorse, which in a couple of weeks has really come on. I always think that gorse flowers look as if they have some sunshine caught in them.

Gorse is used as one of the Bach Flower Remedies (you might know that I'm a Bach practitioner) - it's to help relieve states of despair, gloom and pessimism. Just looking at the flowers, and inhaling that heady coconut-type scent, always makes me smile.

You can see one of the photos I took when we were walking on the 'Pic of the Week' page of our website.

It looks set fair for a great weekend here on Exmoor. We've still rooms left, so why not pay us a visit?

Friday, 2 April 2010

More signs of Spring...

Just a couple of weeks ago when we were out walking, the grass on Exmoor was the same colour as it gets in Africa (good camouflage for the Exmoor Beast, perhaps). But now everything's a lot greener, the promroses and daffodils are well on their way and the snowdrops are finally finished (they lasted incredibly well this year). Lots more Spring lambs too, and the birds are still nesting like mad.

We have had some snow over the last couple of days, along with some amazing cloudscapes. The snow didn't last too long, but while it did, Dunkery Hill looked like a proper mountain. Funny how the snow makes it look much higher, and much further away. From our dining room window, I can see a tiny bit of snow still lingering in some of the more sheltered combes and dips.

Easter seems to have fallen at a strange time this year - it feels as if it's way too early. Maybe because it's been such a long, cold winter. Bring on the sunshine!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Walking on Exmoor - some walks we've done recently

Frank and I found ourselves with a bit of free time over the last week or so, and we've discovered some walks we hadn't done before....

...From Exford, along the river Exe towards Nethercote, then climbing up to Room Hill and Road Hill and back to Exford via Court Farm (this was on a perfect frosty morning - lovely)

...Up over Dunkery Hill via the Rowbarrows, along the lane then across Bagley Combe and back over Dunkery again (the scenery is very different on the two sides of Dunkery Hill you see on this walk - an amazing contrast)

We revisited some old favourites too: including Snowdrop Valley (of course!). Some of our guests were down there yesterday and report that the snowdrops are still looking great. The primroses are out too and the daffodils are on the way.

And we did the walk down Putham Lane and over to Hart Cleeve, up to Lype Hill and then following the Coleridge Way back to Wheddon Cross. Quite a brisk wind on the hills - very refreshing!

The moor still looks quite wintery, but the signs of spring are here: apart from the flowers mentioned above, we spotted the first few gorse flowers and some catkins, and the beeches are in bud. The new lambs are arriving now, of course, too.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Events coming up on Exmoor

Here is a preview of just some things happening soon on Exmoor. Being more or less in the middle of the National Park, Exmoor House is very well situated, so is a perfect place to stay if you're visiting Exmoor for any of these events.

The Exmoor 4x4 Jaunt and Challenge, a charity fundraising event which starts from Wheddon Cross, is on March 19th, 20th & 21st.

West Somerset Steam Railway's Spring Steam Gala takes place on 20th-21st and 25th-29th March, with visiting locomotives and lots going on.

The North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival takes place from 29th April to 7th May. There'll be a range of fabulous (and varied) guided walks.

This year's Golden Horseshoe endurance ride, which starts a few miles down the road at Exford, is from 16th-18th May.

The half Ironman triathlon is on 20th May at Wimbleball Lake (just over 8 miles from Exmoor House). We don't have any rooms left for Ironman weekend itself, but for participants who are planning to do a recce before the race, Exmoor House is a great place to stay! We'll also be doing a high-carbohydrate dinner for Ironman participants - featuring our home-made pasta - on the evening before the event. People who aren't staying here are also welcome to join us for dinner (advance booking is essential).

Looking way ahead, December sees the very popular Dunster by Candlelight, on 3rd and 4th December. Very atmospheric, with street entertainment and Christmas shopping. The town will be closed to traffic but special buses will be running.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Is spring here at last?

Wow - it's been absolutely gorgeous here these past few days, with those fabulous clear skies that Exmoor does so well. We finally made it down to Snowdrop Valley, which is looking spectacular. Even better than last year! I think the snowdrops should still be good for the next week or so. If you're walking down there, I'd recommend avoiding the last bit of path and going on the road instead (watch out for tractors etc) as it's very slippery.
Yesterday we went to Lynton & Lynmouth - we drove there the Simonsbath way, then back via the coast road. There was an icy wind - very refreshing, not to mention bracing - and the views from the top of the cliff railway were as good as we've ever seen (often, Wales gets lost in the haze but it didn't yesterday).
Here's to a lovely weekend...

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Snowdrops in the snow

What an interesting few days, weather-wise! It's been snowing... and thawing... and snowing... and thawing... you get the picture. We seem to have had today's snowfall now, and the thaw is happening. There was glorious sunshine over the weekend and lots of people visited Snowdrop Valley (and our tearoom). Frank's scones - we have a secret recipe - are getting rave reviews.
The Park & Ride has finished now for this year, but of course the path down to the valley is open and the signs will be in place for the rest of this week at least (note that you can't drive down to the valley at the moment - the road remains closed till the end of the month).
Paths are very muddy, so do bring appropriate clothing and wellies or walking boots.
The Exmoor House tearoom will be open until Sunday, so do call in if you're in the neighbourhood. We've accommodation available for all nights this week too.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Update on Snowdrop Valley

The snowdrops are looking better every day just now! The Park & Ride from Wheddon Cross ends in a week's time but the road closure stays in place until the end of February and the information point in the village car park will still be open too.

It's a lovely walk down to the valley (and back up again!) but it can be quite muddy - so good, strong, non-slip footwear is essential.

Our tearoom at Exmoor House will be open most days, so do come in and try some of our lovely scones, teacakes, ploughman's lunches, soup, rolls - everything home-made.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Snowdrop Valley, Wheddon Cross

The Exmoor snowdrops season is here! The Wheddon Cross park & ride service to the famous Snowdrop Valley runs from 30th January to 21st February. The narrow road that goes to the valley will remain closed for ordinary traffic until the end of February, but the snowdrop walk from Wheddon Cross will still be open and signposted.

At Exmoor House we still have rooms available for most days in February - just contact us.

We're also opening our tearoom again, just for Snowdrop Valley. It'll be open most days, from 11am to 3pm. We'll be serving homemade soup, delicious homemade rolls, cakes, scones, teacakes, as well as Exmoor House ploughman's lunches - and teas, coffees, soft drinks and alcoholic drinks of course.

Looking for somewhere for dinner? Try Exmoor House. We combine lovely local ingredients with expert cooking. The daily-changing menu, from £20.50 for 2 courses + coffee/tea, is great value. Booking is essential. Come and find out why we've twice been nominated for the UKTV Food Local Hero Awards...

Friday, 15 January 2010

Our January newsletter is out now

If you'd like to receive a copy of our January newsletter, just let us know and we'll email one to you. It has details of a 'recommend a friend' discount for people who've stayed with us before. There's also information about our new 2-course dinner packages (we've added these because several people have commented that they'd rather not eat 3 courses every night). Plus we've restructured our house party prices, so that they're fairer for smaller groups.

The snow's melting fast here now - not much left!

Friday, 8 January 2010

What's happening on Exmoor over the next few months

Here are just a few events on Exmoor in 2010...

* Coming up soon (30th January to end of February) is Snowdrop Valley: don't miss it! We'll be opening our tearoom most days in February, and are offering our special breaks packages too - they're now even better value.

* If you're taking part in the half Ironman triathlon at Wimbleball Lake (20th June) then you should book your accommodation soon: it will sell out very quickly. Exmoor House is the ideal base; Wimbleball is easily accessible from here. We'll be doing a high-carbohydrate dinner for Ironman competitors - featuring our home-made pasta - on the evening before the event.
Exmoor House is also a great place to stay if you're doing a recce or practise before the event.

* The West Somerset Railway's Spring Steam Gala is on 20 & 21 & 25 to 28 March and will form part of the 'GWR 175' celebrations.

* The North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival takes place from 29th April to 7th May. There'll be a range of fabulous (and varied) guided walks.

* This year's Golden Horseshoe endurance ride, which starts a few miles down the road at Exford, is from 16th-18th May.

At the moment it's very snowy here, with more forecast. It looks beautiful...