Saturday, 30 August 2014

Gluten free and dairy free lemon cake recipe

The other day Chef Frank was out and we had guests checking in who don’t eat wheat or dairy (you might already know that at Exmoor House we specialise in catering for special dietary requirements). So I adapted a recipe from the back of a packet of Dove’s Farm gluten & wheat-free white self-raising flour blend, in order to offer our guests something to eat with a cup of tea when they arrived. As an aside: interestingly, many ‘free from’ recipes are either wheat free / gluten free or dairy free, but not both.

Here’s what I did.

125g gluten/wheat-free self raising flour
100g dairy-free margarine (we like the PURE sunflower one)
125g caster sugar (granulated also works fine)
2 eggs
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp poppy seeds
for the topping: juice of half a lemon; icing sugar

Put all the ingredients (except those for the topping) into a large bowl and beat or whisk really well. Pour into an oiled/greased and lined 500g loaf tin.
Bake at 170-190°C (according to your oven) for 45 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean. Leave the cake in the tin, on a cooling rack.
Now for the topping. Add some icing sugar, bit by bit, to the juice of half a lemon, mixing all the time, until you get a light syrupy consistency and it tastes sweetish but still nice and lemony. Make lots of little holes in the top of the cake with a cocktail stick and pour the syrup over it; leave the cake to cool completely before turning it out of the tin.

Of course, for quality control purposes I had to try a piece, and then had to resist the temptation to scoff the lot…

Read more about the food at Exmoor House

Friday, 25 July 2014

Music and ponies - two festivals coming soon to Exmoor

Minehead & Exmoor Music Festival, Sunday 27 July – Saturday 2 August
The 51st Minehead Music Festival includes (as ever) a good range of orchestral and chamber concerts. The programmes feature not only internationally-known soloists but up and coming stars including local young people. You can book tickets for all the concerts from the Regal Theatre Minehead. Here are the details:

Exmoor Pony Festival, Saturday 9 – Sunday 17 August
There’s something different happening every day of this year’s Exmoor Pony Festival: for example rided, walks, special open days, safaris and pony shows. It’s a must for anybody who’d like to see these famous little horses in their native area – Exmoor’s wild moorland. Find all the information here:

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Lunches and meetings at Exmoor House Wheddon Cross

Do you like the sound of a private lunch with friends or family, made especially for you? Do you need a local Exmoor venue for a small meeting, with catering? You could reserve exclusive use of the lovely dining room (or the comfy guest sitting room) at Exmoor House for your group.
Prices would depend on what you would like to eat and drink. We’ll cater for a minimum of four
The dining room at Exmoor House
people and a maximum of about twelve and we will design a menu around your requirements. Tailor-made food: quite appropriate, since Exmoor House was originally a tailor’s shop.

We take pride in our food, all properly home-made using good local ingredients. There’s more information here:
and here:

And of course if you'd like to discuss your ideas, or come and have a look around, do get in touch.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

On the Levels: visiting Somerset’s lowlands

Dunkery Hill, near Exmoor House Wheddon Cross
Somerset is – to use a very hackneyed phrase – a county of contrasts. Our guest house on Exmoor is more or less in the middle of the National Park and surrounded by rolling hills and moorland. Dunkery Beacon, Exmoor’s highest point, makes a great walk from here. The coast is less than ten miles away; to get there you go through farmland, ancient woods and very pretty country villages (more contrasts). Wheddon Cross, our village, is Exmoor’s highest – so we’re definitely in the highlands of Somerset.

If Wheddon Cross is part of the highlands then the Somerset Levels, about an hour’s drive from Exmoor House, are the lowlands. They have been in the news lately, although (sadly) for all the wrong reasons.

We decided it was about time we paid another visit, heading first to Martock. This small town is full of honey-coloured hamstone houses and is home to Yandles, an excellent place to buy wood and woodworking supplies. At Yandles you will also find a huge range of crafting books and materials, a very good craft centre and a nice coffee shop / tea room.

Muchelney Abbey on the Somerset Levels
Then on to Muchelney to visit the Abbey (a very atmospheric English Heritage property).  The nearby Priest’s House, owned by the National Trust, is also well worth a look but opening days are limited so do check before you go.

Muchelney means ‘great island'; it unfortunately became an island again for a while earlier this year. In the church we found a truly heartwarming display of cards and letters from people and organisations all over the country, offering practical and moral support to all the people who were affected by the floods.

On the village outskirts is John Leach’s Muchelney Pottery, with a showroom full of John’s unique pottery in lovely earthy colours (some of his work is on display at the Abbey too). The adjoining gallery features exhibitions by local and international artists and craftspeople.

That was just a taste of part of this very interesting area in Somerset, which is well and truly open for business again. You could easily explore the Levels during your stay at Exmoor House, or maybe visit on the way here or on the way home.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Coleridge Way: a walk through Exmoor in Somerset and North Devon

The river at Lynmouth
Exmoor’s wonderful scenery has inspired many artists and poets, prominent among them Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In recognition of this, the Coleridge Way walk, starting at Nether Stowey in the Quantocks (where the poet lived for some time) opened in 2005, attracting many walkers to discover the area. Previously a 36 mile walk, entirely in Somerset and finishing at Porlock, it now continues to Lynmouth, taking in some of the North Devon part of Exmoor too.

The new section of the walk was launched on 21st May, and I joined other people from the tourism industry, local communities and organisations including Exmoor National Park and local councils, to walk part of the route. The weather was absolutely perfect, with the waters of the Bristol channel looking as blue as I’ve ever seen them, and spring flowers blossoming along the route.

Starting at Broom Street, near Culbone, we walked down past Oare, taking a short detour to join more people at the Lorna Doone Inn, Malmsmead (more literary associations!) for a cream tea. There we met some very special guests: members of the Coleridge family, including the poet’s great-great-great granddaughter, who cut the ribbon to officially open the path.

The route notes now include the new section and they have been rewritten to make it easy to follow the walk
A glimpse of Cutcombe Church from the Coleridge Way
in either direction, starting at any point along the way. View and download all the details (with or without maps) from the Coleridge Way website

The Coleridge Way passes through our village, Wheddon Cross & Cutcombe, making Exmoor House an ideal place to stay whether you are walking all or part of the route.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Exmoor events: Simonsbath Festival

‘When the world comes to Simonsbath in the heart of Exmoor’

The third Simonsbath Festival started on 5th May and continues until 20th June. Taken place already (to give you some examples): the quintet Westcombe Brass in concert with children from local schools; the film premiere of How Many People see the Stars as I do? about remarkable Exmoor writer and artist Hope Bourne; a talk by Lord Douglas Hurd.

Still to come (to mention but a few): gypsy swing & jazz; traditional songs and stories about Exmoor; a Latin American evening; drumming and poetry workshops; talks by local authors; guided walks by the Exmoor Society.

Take a look at Simonsbath Festival for more information - and if you want a lovely place to stay during your visit, check out Exmoor House.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Exmoor and Somerset are always open for business

There has been much media coverage of the very unfortunate flooding on the Somerset Levels, and you might be forgiven for thinking that the whole county was under water. This, of course, is not the case.

 Without wishing to make light of the very real problems and hardships faced by people who did get flooded out, the Levels form a small proportion of the county of Somerset, and only part of the Levels has suffered from floods (which is something to be thankful for). It has been heartwarming to see how local communities, and the farming community nationwide, pulled together to help.

The latest initiative is headed up by the Porlock Visitor Centre and FLAG (Flooding on the
At Porlock Visitor Centre. Photo by Maureen Harvey
Levels Action Group). Fifty or so tourism businesses on Exmoor – including us at Exmoor House - have got together to offer free two-night breaks (and other goodies such as visits to attractions) to some of the people directly affected by the floods. You can hear more on
Emma Britton’s BBC Somerset show of 26th March (5 more days from today to listen to it) and watch out for other media reports.

Meanwhile, the other 97% of Somerset remained open for business throughout all the extreme weather. With motorways and other main road networks unaffected, visitors have been able to travel to and around the area as normal. 

But where were the visitors? Normally, Snowdrop Valley, here at Wheddon Cross, is buzzing in February. This year, only a fraction of the people we might expect came to see the snowdrops – which were looking wonderful - very disheartening for the many people in the village who work hard to make the event a success.  

Businesses throughout Somerset and the South West have been spreading the word via social media that it’s business as usuaI. If you take a look at the @SouthWestUK twitter stream or search for the hashtag #openforbusiness then you’ll see what I mean.  

On the plus side, from a tourism point of view, the whole sad affair has at least let people know that Somerset exists – too often the county is unjustly ignored in favour of Devon and Cornwall. Believe me when I say that Somerset has an incredible amount to offer, and that Exmoor is always a wonderful place to visit – come and see for yourself!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Exmoor events: West Somerset Railway Spring Steam Gala, Exmoor National Park Big Adventure days, Simonsbath Festival

Whatever time of year you visit Exmoor, there is always something going on. Below are a few examples coming up in the next few months.

Steam train at Bishops Lydeard station
 The annual West Somerset Railway Spring Steam Gala runs from March 27th - 30th in 2014, with guest engines reflecting this year’s theme, the Atlantic Coast Express. There are special events, exhibitions and attractions to visit at stations along the route between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead. And, brand new this time, visitors can download a free augmented reality Heritage Hunter app. 



Exmoor National Park’s Big Adventure
Woodland near Nutcombe Bottom
for all the family start on April 16th with an adventure on Haddon Hill. You can take a moorland safari, learn bushcraft skills or join the hunt for the Exmoor Beast! If you can’t make that date, the next adventure is at Nutcombe Bottom on May 29th: build a woodland den, visit the tallest tree in England and explore Dunster Forest.


Simonsbath Festival, from May 5th to June 20th, is now in its third year and going from strength to strength. As well as a great range of concerts, the programme includes film nights, guided walks, poetry, historical talks and family fun days: something for everybody.  

Exmoor House is at Wheddon Cross in the heart of the National Park: if you stay with us you will be very conveniently situated for getting to all the events, and of course you can enjoy our wonderful food.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Exmoor events: Snowdrop Valley, Golden Horseshoe, Walking Festival, Ironman

Exmoor National Park really is a place for all seasons and all reasons. Partly this is because the ever-changing scenery is beautiful all year round, and partly it is because there is a huge range of events, to suit everybody. For example:

Snowdrop Valley, Wheddon Cross (February and early March): hosts of snowdrops in a
Snowdrop Valley, near Exmoor House
wonderful woodland setting. It is a very special place to visit; many people come back year after year. Read more about it on our website and the Wheddon Cross website

The Golden Horseshoe Ride (May) is based at Exford, about 5 miles from Exmoor House, This famous endurance ride attracts competitors and spectators from far and wide. There is also a sponsored pleasure ride. Exmoor ponies and their riders compete in some of the classes.

Exmoor Walking Festival logo

Enjoy walking? Have a look at the North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival (normally in late April and early May). It covers many areas of Exmoor, giving a good flavour of the amazing variety of landscapes here in Somerset and Devon. There are guided walks for all ages and abilities. At Exmoor House we are almost in the centre of the National Park, so you could take a break here and book several of the walks to do during your stay.

Ironman 70.3 UK
takes place in and around Wimbleball Lake
Wimbleball Lake
(about 8 miles from Exmoor House) in mid June. Again, people come to Exmoor from all over the world to take part and to support the competitors. It is a ‘half Ironman’ because it involves running 13.1 miles (as well as jumping into the lake for a swim of 1.2 miles at a very early hour of the morning, also cycling 56 miles). In the full Ironman triathlon, the distances are twice the above. We take our hats off to all the Ironmen and Ironwomen for their focus and dedication, which we’ve observed first hand as quite a few of them have stayed with us over the years.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Exmoor accommodation for Snowdrop Valley: dinner bed and breakfast breaks

Exmoor’s valley of snowdrops, once a well-kept secret, is becoming more well known. About a mile fromWheddon Cross, this beautiful wooded Somerset river valley is a wonderfully natural setting for drifts of snowdrops and perfect for a February visit.

If you want to celebrate these early signs of spring with a few days away, why not book a short break at Exmoor House? We’re within walking distance of the snowdrops (but if you’re not a walker there is a special bus service that will take you down to the valley and back).

We have a special offer for the snowdrop season: £10 off the normal price of our three night Exmoor dinner bed and breakfast breaks (making the cost from just £164 per person) plus a free cream tea and a free bottle of house wine during your stay. Find more information here:

If you are local to Wheddon Cross you might like to visit our February tearoom… proper home-made food,expertly cooked using good local ingredients. Here are some details:

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The History of Exmoor House

One of the things that attracted us to Exmoor House when we were looking round for an Exmoor bed and breakfast or guest house to buy: it has a very interesting history. You might think that Exmoor House, with its large picture window, looks a bit like a shop, and you’d be right: it was built as a tailor’s shop for Robert Melhuish, back in the early 1900s. Not just a shop, though: as well as the fitting and cutting rooms, and plenty of living space for the tailor, his family and staff such as apprentices, there was a village reading room attached.

The house, like much of the area around Wheddon Cross, was part of the Bouverie Estate, which was sold off in 1926. At that time the reading room was described as the ‘Village Club Room’ and there was also a skittle alley at the back of the building. Mr Melhuish paid £20 a year for the Exmoor House lease (‘a very low rent’ according to the sales particulars) and the village club committee paid a nominal rent of £1 a year.

Exmoor House tailor's shopMr Melhuish specialised in making hunting gear, which would have been in big demand at that time, though we know that he did make other garments too (we’ve met somebody who had his wedding suit made here). Dunkery View, the house next door, was also a tailor’s shop and there was plenty of work for both businesses.

A neighbour tells us that Mr Melhuish sometimes used to ride his pony over to the  Brendon Hill chapel (also known as the Beulah Chapel) near Ralegh’s Cross, to preach there. Another neighbour has memories of their grandfather cycling up the hill from Dunster, carrying a bolt of cloth on his back.

Exmoor House stopped being a tailor’s shop in 1945. For a while it was an ‘open all hours’ general store. Some people in the village remember the reading room being set up as a kind of Christmas grotto each year so that children could go there to choose their presents.

In the 1960s the house was split up into flats and bedsits, and we believe that it became a guest house in the late 1960s or early 1970s. An advertisement from the Exmoor Review of 1973 proclaimed that there were ‘three bathrooms with a continuous supply of hot water’. We have a few more bathrooms now! Intriguingly, though, some old photos taken when the house was still a tailor’s shop show ‘guest house’ signs on the wall. We think that the family probably rented out rooms to passing journeymen.

Nowadays we have people from all over the world staying in our lovely – and charmingly quirky - house to enjoy this beautiful part of Exmoor. The former shop is now the dining room for guests and the reading room is our guest sitting room. There are plenty of books and magazines in there  - and no TV - so it’s still a good place to read. I wonder what Mr Melhuish would think if he came to visit?

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Snowdrop Valley Exmoor: tearoom, lunches and dinner at Exmoor House

Exmoor House at Wheddon Cross is for locals as well as visitors to the area! Once again we're opening the Exmoor House dining room as a daytime tearoom for Snowdrop Valley (our 2014 dates: 1st February to 2nd March inclusive). Come and enjoy our fabulous mega ploughman's lunches or some delicious soup. Popular sandwich fillings include home-smoked breast of chicken and real corned beef (not like the stuff that comes in a tin). There are home-made cakes and teacakes, and of course our sweet and savoury cream teas. 'The best scones I've ever tasted', says Julie atThe Wedding Genie. Find her review of Exmoor House here:

If you are taking part in an excursion, for example the West Somerset Railway's Snowdrops and Steam days (more details: )   you might like to combine it with lunch at our place. Booking is advisable.

Remember that you can enjoy our great food in the evenings too: we’re open for dinner most days during the year. Frank the chef combines lovely local ingredients with expert cooking and everything is home made, including bread, ice creams, and our famous proper pies (‘exceptional evening meals’ – Hilary Bradt, Slow Devon & Exmoor). Advance booking is essential as we plan each day’s menu around our dinner guests’ dietary requirements and preferences, to make sure everybody has a good choice. To go with your meal, we’ve a nice selection of wines (including some from Exmoor), local beers, Somerset ciders…

Planning a celebration? You can reserve sole use of our lovely dining room for private lunches at any time of year, subject to availability of course. The minimum number is 4 people; maximum about 12. We’ll devise a menu to suit your group. Call Rosi and Frank on 01643 841432, we’re happy to help. 

Try Exmoor House and find out why our food and hospitality get rave reviews.

Never been to Snowdrop Valley? Here's why you should go there: