WHO WENT Rachel Munroe, 36, partner Ed, 42, and children James, 6, and Zoe, 4
WHERE WE WENT A three-night weekend break in a luxurious yurt on a working diary farm nestled amid the West Country's stunning Quantock Hills
Keen to make the most of our weekend break, I decided to travel by train with the children in the early afternoon as Ed wouldn’t be finishing work until quite late and would drive down and join us that evening. The nearest station to Somerset Yurts is Taunton, just under 2-hours from Paddington, London, where we arrived by bus with plenty of time before our train departed. Thankfully Ed had all our gear in the back of the car, so we could travel light. That said, so much is already provided for you at the yurt that you really don’t need to take an awful lot – unlike traditional camping trips where you end up bringing everything bar the kitchen sink! Armed with sandwiches, drinks and magazines, we settled into our designated seats and happily whiled away the journey, arriving at our station before either James or Zoe had the chance to complain of boredom. Bundling us into a cab, I gave the driver the address to which he replied: “You do know that’s in the middle of no where, don’t you love?” Which was precisely why Somerset Yurts’ congenial owner Mark had suggested I call him as we approached Hill Farm, and sure enough there he was waiting by the secluded entrance ready to guide us in.
Set in a large semi circle in a remote field with breath-taking views of the West Country in all its undulating glory, Somerset Yurts comprises of just four such structures, allowing for a sense of space and tranquility that very quickly seduces. We had opted for Gotton Down, the yurt named after the field it overlooks and where Mark informed me his herd can be regularly spotted going in and out for milking (he currently has 120 cows over 300 acres). Built to an authentic Mongolian design, Gotton Down, like its nearby neighbours, is certainly impressive from the outside, but the real wow factor is experienced once through its Hobbit-like green door. From the intricate latticework paneling interwoven with fine horsehair braids, to the carefully painted wooden roof poles with fine flower detail, the yurts have clearly been created with much care and attention. The same goes for the interior décor, with the circular room dominated by a beautiful cast iron bed, complete with huge puffy quilt and plumped up pillows into which the children were soon diving. At the base of the bed is a traditional wood-burning stove whose pipe rises up through the roof, while a basket of logs sits invitingly nearby. A futon pulls down and doubles as an extra bed for the children, while furniture painted the same vivid green as the door and roof poles lends a gypsy vibe. To add to the cocoon-like cosiness, there’s plenty of rugs and blankets, while for cooking purposes there’s a gas barbeque situated outside near the decking on which sits a wooden table and chairs. However, should the weather prove inclement (which thankfully it didn’t on our visit), you can always cook in the Dutch Barn, a fully functioning barn complete with bales of hay on one side, and a long rectangular kitchen/dining/lounge room to the other, containing all mod cons including cooking utensils, cooker, microwave, kettle, toaster, fridge and freezer, plus a bathroom with proper flushing loos and power showers. Now that’s what I call glamping! Outside the barn there’s also an undercover area with seating, where you can also barbeque should the fancy take you.
In recent years, we’d only passed through Somerset on the way to visit its more touristy neighbours, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, so I was looking forward to actually spending some time in the county which was a regular childhood haunt and one I remember with great fondness. Once we’d familiarised ourselves with our immediate surroundings, I decided to take advantage of the late afternoon sunshine and the magnificent views by putting my feet up. James and Zoe had other plans, however, preferring to run around the field playing tag and relishing the wonderful sense of freedom the location afforded – a novelty that never wore off the duration of our stay. Indeed, within less that 12-hours they were barely recognizable to the pale-faced city children who’d arrived, having developed rosy red cheeks, unkempt, hay-strewn hair and mud-caked shins and sandals that would do a ragamuffin proud!
WHAT WE DID
That first evening, after Ed arrived and the children had excitedly shown him around, we decided that rather than cook, we’d take advantage of the close proximity and food on offer at the local pub, The Monkton Inn. The half-mile walk by torchlight down narrow country lanes was certainly an adventure, with poor Ed resorting to carrying Zoe on his back, but the superior standard of pub grub (burger for the kids, steak for Ed and a smoked salmon and prawn salad for me) made the exertion worth it. That night as we settled snuggly under the covers in our yurt, we were all struck by the incredible quietness, with just the soothing sound of crickets to disrupt the silence. Suffice to say we were all fast asleep in next to no time.
The following morning after a hearty cooked breakfast we decided to venture further afield and show the children Wookey Hole Caves and the attendant visitor attractions. James was bowled over by the stalagmites and stalactites, but Zoe was a bit freaked by tales of witches and much preferred the soft play centre. Ed and I meanwhile, were partial to the cave-matured cheddar on offer, which we washed down with a fine glass of local wine. A delicious barbeque was the perfect end to an action-packed day, followed by stories and bed for the children, after which Ed and I wrapped up in blankets and stared contentedly at the stars. The next morning we were up bright and early and heading for the West Somerset Railway (chomping on croissants in the car), just a 25-minute drive from the yurts. The children loved the old-fashioned steam train that chugged us merrily through the countryside to the postcard-perfect Medieval village of Dunster and back. On returning to the yurt, we were met by Mark and his lovely wife Emma, along with their super cute, mop-haired little boys, Will and Tommy. They had kindly arranged to show us around the farm, where we got to meet some of the cows, up close and personal, as they were led into the milking shed for their afternoon session. That evening, after a supper of jacket potatoes, we decided to light the stove and settle down for an early night. As Ed and I read our books under a lantern to the gentle sound of the children snoring, we couldn’t help but marvel at what a magical three days it had been, and that we would be very sorry to leave our rural idyll and return to the big smoke.
A three-night weekend stay for a family of four at Somerset Yurt starts from £250, but look out for special offers and late availability deals on Facebook (facebook.com/somersetyurts) and Twitter (@somersetyurts). For more details visit: somersetyurts.co.uk
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