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We hit the road and headed south-west. For once it wasn’t south-west London, but the south-west of our green and pleasant land. We were Devon-bound, heading down to the child-friendly Gitcombe estate, a cluster for four- and five-star holiday cottages set up with families in mind. We’d been before with the children and so the mood in the car wasn’t just end-of-term-Christmas-is-coming-high-jinks but more end-of-term-Christmas-is-coming-we-can’t-contain-ourselves-with-excitement-we’re-going-back-to-Gitcombe-high-jinks.
Given the atmosphere in the car, the journey went surprisingly fast and we were winding our way down narrow lanes before we knew it, feeling a bit like Alice in Wonderland falling into her adventure. The road had been wide, fast and direct, and it was only the last 10 minutes or so that set the scene for our rural escape tucked away on the edge of Dartmoor. And it is a happy sight to behold as you emerge from the little lanes into an open expanse of rolling grass and beautiful houses, at the front of which is the stunning Georgian rectory which sleeps 12. Other cottages of varying sizes dot the area, all brick and flint, all with great outlooks and set in a well-tended landscape with the odd sculpture here and there of boxing hare and elegant antelope. Upon arrival you see the outdoor pool, the tennis court complete with basketball net, a wooden playground and a swing with a view hanging from the branches of a tree. The view out over the rolling hills seems never-ending; our countryside idyll found.
More treats were in store as we were shown by owner Peter into our incredible home for the next three nights. Over the last year, he has overseen the design, building and development of the newest addition to the collection of houses, Gitcombe Retreat. To say it should have featured on Grand Designs will give you a sense of what it’s like. Expanses of glass, a stunning internal oak frame, exceptional attention to detail with beautiful fixtures, fittings and furnishings, the kitchen, the bathrooms…oh the bathrooms (complete with REN products), succulents here, hydrangeas and eucalyptus there, hurricane vases, flickering candles…This is 5* luxury via OKA, Neptune, Miele, Ashton and Bentley and an abundance of taste and thoughtful design. We had stepped into a five-star hotel, but it was our very own house, if only for a while (sigh).
First stop: the indoor pool, just a short hop, skip and jump from our front door. The pool is in a building with large picture windows overlooking the lovely view and a terrace complete with steamer chairs – no doubt a gorgeous spot on sunny warm days. The pool is a great size for lengths if you like or play if you prefer, and we all took the plunge instantly, hopping into the outdoor hot-tub soon after. I can confirm it’s great fun sitting in lovely warm water breathing in the freshest air while your children are beside themselves about whether it’s better with bubbles or just jets, or both, let’s press the buttons again…Back inside and there’s a sauna and steam room for the grown-ups, a soft-play area for the under 5s, and a great table football for everyone. By the pool there’s a travel cot complete with changing mat, set up and ready for anyone with wandering toddlers. They’ve really thought about it and gone the extra mile to help those juggling small children.
In the same vein, back in the house, we discovered under the stairs (with wooden stairgate should it be needed) a pair of Bumbos, a pair of travel cots, two changing mats and a baby bath, and in a kitchen cupboard is a complete and colourful set of plastic plates, cups and cutlery. This is luxury for children as well as parents. Nobody puts baby in the corner.
So, we lived our days away from it all in the lap of luxury (did I mention the house has its very own hot tub with a view, a dock for your music and underwater disco lights?). The kitchen and living area, as with all the bedrooms, overlook the great outdoors where big skies and rolling fields reach as far as the eye can see. In the dark (and boy is it dark, says the city girl) you can see just one light on the horizon. Gitcombe really is a great escape. An escape from the crazy days of real life, from the non-stop schedules of both parents and children, from The Big Smoke with neighbours living cheek-by-jowl, from the bright lights of the big city. We inhaled the fresh air deeply, took in all the time and space, and had fun together.
We played basketball and tennis, we swam, we hot-tubbed, we swung on the swing, we explored Dartmouth and ate the freshest of fish and chips at Rock Fish, we donned wellies and walked from the front door through the woods and over the rushing river (Pooh sticks) to the Maltsters Arms for a delicious Sunday roast, and back again to collapse on the comfy sofas to watch a movie followed by one of the great board games provided (Wordsearch: both fun and educational…). We rested, we slept, we cooked well-earned suppers in the fabulous kitchen which is so well stocked with equipment that it outdid my own (sigh). We didn’t make it to Dittisham for crabbing, or to Salcombe, or to any of the blue flag beaches dotted around the nearby coast. But we’ll be back to do some more exploring, maybe when it’s warm and sunny. I might even try to get my whole family to go together because it couldn’t be more perfect for that – from the age of 80 to 8 and even just 8 weeks. Gitcombe has family-friendly in its foundations, family-run by a team with an exceptional eye for detail and great taste, who know exactly what’s needed when you take time out together to get away from it all.
Managing Editor, Charlotte stayed at Gitcombe Retreat with her family in December 2018
For more details or to book any of the Gitcombe properties for a stay in 2019 at 15% off (offer valid until end April 2019), contact Emma on 07597 398127 or email email@example.com
See more about Gitcombe Retreat here https://nappyvalleynet.com/gitcombe-retreat-in-2019/
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