A Week At Holnicote House With HF Holidays
We recently stayed for a week at Holnicote House with HF Holidays on the National Trust managed Holnicote Estate in Selworthy, on the borders of Somerset and Devon.
We were lucky enough to stay in Guns Cottage, an amazing little cottage adjacent to the main building with its own enclosed garden.
The main building is immaculately clean, vast and spacious, and has its own heated swimming pool.
There are beautiful lawns at the front of the building and an even more gorgeous garden at the back – the perfect place to reward yourself with an amazing view of Exmoor National Park, whilst having a pint of the local ale or cider in the late afternoon sun.
After a torrid 7 hour drive from Folkestone to Selworthy we were warmly greeted by one of the walk leaders and the manager. The drive was soon forgotten as they made us feel so welcome, and they then gave us all the immediate need-to-know information before showing us straight to our accommodation.
There’s nothing worse than arriving at a hotel and not knowing what’s going on or where you have to be and when, or getting the full tour and over-detailed itineraries when your mind’s still frazzled from driving – HF Holidays have got their welcome greetings absolutely spot on!
We had to move our room around a little bit for Rose’s cot and Tedi’s bed, and the staff were superb. They didn’t leave us hanging around and were really attentive to all of our needs, regardless of how small they were.
Before dinner we had our safety talk and a good description of the three choices of walk for the following day – the Family Walk (slow-paced with plenty of stops for games and stories, and as buggy friendly as could be), the Easy Walk (slow-paced with plenty of stops) and the Harder Walk (regular paced with fewer stops).
We were also introduced to our walk leaders; Mervyn – the world’s best and everybody’s favourite grandad, Stuart – the wise old owl of walking who can spot wildlife from about 10 miles away! and Richard – who was fantastic with the children, calm, patient and incredibly passionate about walking and local history.
Meals are a very social occasion and everyone really gets in to the spirit of the ‘HF Holidays Family‘ ethos. After dinner there were games and the evening ended with a bedtime story for the children.
As this was a Family Walking Adventure week the children were very much the focus. Each day started with a huge choice of breakfasts, anything and everything you could possibly think of, to set us up for the day ahead.
Packed lunches were ordered the previous evening and collected before the walks started, again with a huge choice of fruit and snacks to go with them.
The details of each walk were clearly explained before we set off each day and the mileage and timings were very accurate.
This was an easy walk to start the week with and everyone seemed to have the same idea. A leisurely walking route from Holnicote House up to Selworthy Green, the White Church and then some woodland walking to the Exmoor Owl and Hawk Centre for a display and long lunch. Another walk through woodlands took us to the very picturesque postcard village of Porlock before returning to Holnicote House.
Walk Two: 4 Mile Family Circular Walk in Lynmouth
We departed Holnicote House to Lynmouth where we rode the Funicular Cliff Railway up to Lynton before walking to the Valley Of The Rocks along the South West Coast Path. A long stop off and games for lunch before returning to Lynton via woodlands. For the buggy drivers a trip back down in the Cliff Railway or there was the option of walking back down via the zig zag path to Lynmouth.
Free Day: Family Day To Lynmouth
On our free day we took the children back to Lynmouth for another walk around and trip on the Cliff Railway. We then drove to the Lynton and Barnstaple Steam Railway before going back to Holnicote House for Afternoon Tea and Scones, and a long swim.
Walk Three: 7 Mile Linear Easy Walk to Dunster
The weather on this day was gorgeous with clear blue skies and plenty of rolling green countryside to admire. From Holnicote House we walked up through Selworthy Green to the White Church and then followed the ridge all the way to Dunster Castle.
Walk Four: 8 Mile Linear Hard Walk to Lynmouth
The weather on this day was a stark contrast to the day before – wet, windy and miserable. We were dropped off at the start of a route that took us along a section of the South West Coast Path to Lynmouth. A part of the walk involved ‘mild exposure’ which I later learned meant walking along a thinly cut track right on the edge of the cliffs.
One of the activity leaders arranged to accompany Mary and Rose to Lynmouth so that Tedi and I could meet up with them after the walk. Another thing HF did for us that shows they really go that extra mile (pardon the pun) to make sure everyone has the best possible time under their care.
Walk Five: 11 Mile Linear Hard Walk to Dunkery Beacon
We were dropped off at Wheddon Cross with a walking route back to Holnicote House via Dunkery Hill and Beacon. This was quite a demanding walk but was well rewarded with a sighting of the local red deer, a group of about 20 or 30 at least. At the top of Dunkery Hill we stopped for lunch with an occasional glimpse of Wales through the thick mist.
For the last evening of the walking week there were certificates for the children, with Tedi’s being a highly impressive 34 miles – very good for a 4 1/2 year old – and a few fond farewells.
It really was a magnificent trip and even though some of the days weren’t the best for walking everybody still laced up their walking boots and got stuck in!