Travel / Weekend breaks

Tarr Farm Inn, Exmoor

By lou jones, Wednesday Mar 18, 2015

After weeks of busy work schedules, snatched conversations and rushed pasta dinners, it was time to escape the confines of our small flat, head off for the weekend and enjoy the thrills of fresh bed linen and a fully-working shower. 

Looking for cosy comforts amidst the wild of the moors we found the perfect spot nestled above an ancient bridge in Exmoor. 

Tarr Farm Inn has held its position overlooking the River Barle since the 16th century and is a popular refreshment stop for hikers and dog walkers converging around the Tarr Steps clapper bridge. 

Its five star accommodation and Michelin recommended food attract gooey-eyed couples and well-heeled folks looking for late-night relaxation after a day of field sports.  

When we turned off at Junction 27 after 50 minutes down the M5 a bird of prey took off from a skeletal tree – a welcome sign we were entering Somerset’s national park. 

Winding first along the River Exe, overshadowed by steep wooded hillsides, we headed up towards Dulverton and then down to the River Barle valley, pheasants comically stumbling out of hedges as we meandered towards the watery oasis.  

We entered the Inn’s snug hall to find a tastefully rustic interior with the snug bar-side area busy with lunchtime patrons, a sofa and bookshelf basking in warmth from a wood burning stove, and stuffed wildlife on the walls. 

It was very tempting to settle in for the afternoon but we headed out for a walk while our room was prepared and the sun was up. 

There are plenty of local walking routes but after dodging excitable dogs and children to cross the old bridge we were happy to find a signpost for an hour’s circular riverside walk. 

After another bridge crossing (great for those romantic selfies) we came across a felled trunk embedded with hundreds of pennies but didn’t spot any sessile oaks, said to be popular with the old druids 

Our room entrance was around the back of the inn in a more modern set up. We left our muddy boots outside and entered a peaceful, white room with views of grazing sheep on tawny hillsides through a large picture window. 

The plush queen-sized bed, roomy bath and separate power shower, organic lavender toiletries and homemade cookies were all that we’d hoped for. 

It would have been nice to have some herbal tea options however there was a copy of The Field magazine and a gun safe, so green tea drinkers aren’t really the target market. 

This was also evident when we dined in the back of the bar area, warmed by another wood burner and some gin and tonics. The starters and mains were mostly meat-based so I had two servings of scallops. 

Fresh bread and rose-perfumed Gewürztraminer were delicious accompaniments to the flavorsome food, but we were relieved we hadn’t gone for a large walk because the delicately presented morsels lined along rectangle plates weren’t quite enough to satiate our hunger. 

The trusty cheese board came to our rescue but wasn’t enough to soak up some lethal whiskeys gleefully poured by the helpful staff. 

The romantic highlight of our evening cost nothing. We headed out after our late-night dinks to look up at Exmoor’s famously unpolluted star-scape, just us, the sound of flowing water, and the sparkling cosmos above. 

It was a special moment, as was the breakfast which really was fare fit for a day’s hike – if we hadn’t been overpowered by hangovers.

The fresh uncut loaves, local honey and bilberry jam, and generous cooked English, washed down with Miles tea, nearly set us on the road to recovery.  

After finding the strength to stop off at the fairytale-grounds of Dunster Castle it was back to our little flat to dream of Exmoor again. 

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