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Welcome to The Heath’s Hideaways, Hotels and Other Adventures

As a tight knit trio, family of three, the three musketeers – we have managed to experience many adventures, most not too far from our front door. The world has endless places to visit but blessed with incredible coastlines, as well as inland pockets of beauty, we have found ourselves making the most of what is around us.

Along with food blogging, writing, cooking and judging in different guises, we as a family adore food, mini-breaks and of course adventures.

This blog is for us to focus more on the family holiday side – not fortnights away abroad or weeks away costing us all our spare pennies, but one-off nights away, long weekends on the coast in a static caravan, B&B’s with nearby attractions, unusual boltholes, treehouses, hotels with spas. With a focus on child-friendly facilities and places aimed at occupying the boy and all of us so we have a genuinely relaxing time together, there may be some child-free experiences in there too.

As a single child family, Kyle has embraced what we enjoy; it has resulted in a mini-chef, nature-lover, ecstatic about anything water related and the outdoors. He knows what he likes but isn’t afraid of trying new things and at 9 years old, he appreciates all the things life has to offer in his own way.

So feel free to join us on this adventure – be it a staycation, mini-break, seaside escape or inland hideaway. We hope we can you let you in on some great places to lay your head, tuck into great food and have a cracking family time.

River Cottage HQ: Family Friendly Lunches and more

The Venue – River Cottage

We’d be pretty surprised if you haven’t heard of River Cottage; founder Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall found his way into many households living rooms via his television programme, when he brought his seasonal and ethical food ethos to the masses way back in 1999 would you believe! Originally having a HQ in Dorset, it then moved to its current location near Axminster, where the farmhouse and farmland has been featured on many a TV programme.

During this time, River Cottage kitchens and deli’s have popped up in various spots too, including the nearest town to HQ – Axminster, with 7 canteens, kitchens or delis currently spread across the country.

The famous farm location has now become a full time events site, with Hugh living elsewhere nearby and splitting his time between East Devon and Bristol.

River Cottage HQ has evolved over the years and now has a cookery school, holds dining events in the 18th century Thresher Barn (some of which are hosted by Hugh himself), has accommodation in the newly refurbished 17th century longhouse, they are licenced for weddings and also hold their seasonal fairs and festivals. It’s a hive of food activity, always with seasonal and ethical produce at its heart.

So why were we visiting? We were delighted to be invited along to experience a Mid Winter Feast over the ‘Twixmas’ period; a chance to have someone else cook for a change, escape the house and where children were very welcome, and on a reduced price too!

Part of the joy of visiting HQ, and due to the fact it is in a little valley surrounded by 65 acres, is that every visit includes a complimentary tractor ride! The ‘tractor shelter’ even has a wood fired oven in to keep you warm whilst you wait. So in we climbed, with anticipation building of a scrumptious lunch on a pretty chilly wintry day.

Accommodation

Did you know that River Cottage now has accommodation? The famous 17th century longhouse was refurbished and repurposed in 2019 and now has 3 rooms available under B&B basis with shared facilities, or you could go all out and hire the whole property for a countryside foodie getaway. It is also part of the wedding package if you get married onsite! With a style of minimalist country chic, views out to the veg patch, cosy fireplace in the sitting room and a gorgeous aga in the kitchen, it’s been refurbished beautifully and sympathetically.

Facilities

Once down on HQ soil, you head to the Yurt where a fire bowl is ready and waiting to warm you up, along with an equally hospitable welcome and a local cider brandy or apple juice, to awaken your tastebuds.

You have a little bit of time to wander around the farm, whilst they wait for everyone to arrive. A peek through the windows at the accommodation (although we were shown around for the blog, as per my pics above), see what’s growing in the veg garden, say hello to the chickens and pigs and also nosey in the cookery school.

The thresher barn, where communal dining takes place is a sight to behold; simple yet perfect. Two long tables laid up with fresh garden pickings, fairy lights strung across the a-frame ceiling, natural wreaths and herbs adorning the walls. A table plan lets everyone know where they are to be seated, amongst their communal dining buddies.

Food

One of the chefs came out and talked us through the menu, whilst the fresh homemade bread and butter was passed around; they even advised us all we were welcome to pop into the kitchen and see them at work (not all at the same time, mind!)

Menu:

  • Starter: Pan seared pollock with squash, herb oil and crispy shallots.
  • Main: Park farm beef two ways, parsnips, roast potatoes and cabbage.
  • Dessert: Almond cake, cocoa and ginger sorbet and pears

The food was INCREDIBLE. Just utterly delicious – every morsel packed full of flavour, every texture the best version of itself. Silky, delicious sauces, tender fish, earthy veg, moreish meat, devilishly divine dessert…and when you think you have eaten enough, they bring out tea, coffee and petit fours to tip you just over the edge…in a good way of course!

A fellow couple of diners who we got chatting to and who had been before, said it was “roast dinner with knobs on”. I couldn’t agree more. Of course the menu changes constantly depending on what’s available and in season, (and they can cater for most dietary requirements if you let them know in advance); even though the main was like a roast dinner on this occasion, which you may think you could go anywhere for, the accompanying compressed beef was rich, unctuous and as good as any top restaurant could make – River Cottage is about the whole experience as well as high quality, ethically and locally sourced or grown produce. We loved it all, and our son really enjoyed himself too and he loves his fish, meats, and puds too of course!

Service was really seamless, with staff being really attentive when required, and getting food out in an organised fashion.

Family Friendly?

Yes families are welcome, but practically it is dependant on age of course as these things are sometimes and how good the kids are at sitting through a long meal.

With a tractor ride down to the farm and back up at the end (thank goodness after eating all that!!), little legs won’t need to walk anywhere strenuous. We were made to feel very welcome as a family.

There are no children’s meal options per se, as they eat the same as everyone else, but that’s great for young taste buds to enjoy high quality, delicious ‘adult’ food amongst everyone else. To be honest, our son (aged 9) hasn’t eaten off a kids menu for a long time as what tends to be on those sorts of menus is not what we’d normally eat at home as we’re fairly adventurous.

I didn’t see any kids activities during dining (colouring etc.) but we always take out playing cards and top trumps with us wherever we go – perfect for keeping young hands and minds occupied in between courses, it’s worked wonders for the last few years for us.

Occasionally our son would get up from the table and go and have a wander in the courtyard to stretch his legs. It would be good to have some colouring fun for kids (although perhaps considered a waste of paper) but I think a map of where the food is from would be good to educate whilst occupying them – just a thought.

I noticed they hold hands-on cookery courses for kids during half-term which could be really interesting, if you have kids aged 7 – 12 years.

We had a really scrumptious and relaxing time. I hope to visit again very soon – it’s the perfect venue for a date, kids free lunch, family outing and even a perfect opportunity to get the wider family together for some seriously good nosh!

Further dining events at River Cottage can be found here.

River Cottage HQ, Trinity Hill Road, Axminster, EX13 8TB.

Our meal was gifted to us by River Cottage; we have given our honest opinion and the blog has not been seen by them prior to publishing. All views are our own.

Family Hotel Stay at Thurlestone Hotel & Spa, Kingsbridge, South Devon

The Venue

The Thurlestone Hotel is a family owned hotel, having been in the Grose family since 1896. With 65 rooms and suites (many with sea views and balconies), a fine dining restaurant, leisure facilities include the luxurious Voyage Spa complex and fitness suite, a nine-hole golf course and tennis, badminton and squash courts; it even has its own village pub!

Set in 19 acres, and on the South Devon National Trust coastline, it also enjoys a micro-climate for you, your family and even dogs (the hotel is dog friendly) to enjoy all year round.

The hotel is very clear about their family friendly offering, with a dedicated page on the website. They have various family rooms where there is room for a cot, or the room contains a sofa bed, extra bed or even their built in bunk beds. Child-friendly facilities include a play room, DVD and games selection and table tennis. There is also a ‘family kitchen’ with bottle warming facilities and more.

If that’s not enough to entice you, during the school holiday there is a Children’s Big T’s Surf Club which offers entertainment such as a Magician, movie nights, arts & crafts, Pizza making and so on.

The Family Room

The bedrooms are very comfortable, with a mix of modern and traditional interiors. What is really impressive is the built in bunk beds for children. They are built in against the wall, like shoe cupboards if you will, and the bunk can be closed or open as required. Children also get a child’s sized gown and slippers, and a little welcome pack with a few activities in which is a really nice touch.

The Facilities

The Voyage Spa: an awe-inspiring area reminiscent of an art deco cruise liner, featuring indoor pool, sauna, steam room, laconium, hydrotherapy pool and a fitness suite. One thing to note is when children are allowed in the spa; we arrived just before 5pm to find out they are only allowed in until 6pm in the evening so we had to rush to get a bit of swimming time in that evening but then squeezed in more splashing the next morning, pre breakfast. Really gorgeous, high quality and clean interior though, a real treat for any guest!

Child friendly play rooms: Impressive facilities include a games and movie room, a play room, a family kitchen with heating facilities and even a parent’s sitting room in between the play rooms for you to relax whilst keeping an eye on your little ones.

Outdoor facilities which we did not try due to the weather and timing of our visit include a heated swimming pool (open May – September), children’s play area, tennis courts, and croquet lawn. You can walk from the hotel to Thurlestone Beach within a few minutes, follow the South West Coast Path or head to Bantham Beach just a mile away.

The Food Offering

We decided to dine in their formal art deco inspired dining room – the Trevilder Restaurant. It is definitely petite a la carte food, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for hungry families and would suggest trying their very own Village Inn pub attached to the hotel. However, for a treat for the adults, this classy restaurant serves local produce and is a sophisticated treat; note dinner jackets are recommended for gents. There are wonderful views from the restaurant when the light or weather allows.

The Morning After The Night Before

Breakfast was delicious, although the hot food offering was also on the petite side (hot breakfast is normally one of the highlights of an overnight stay right?). The breakfast bar was very generous though and there was even a children’s table, at their height, with lots of yummy treats on for them to choose from.

Family Friendly?

Definitely – everything you need for a child-friendly stay and more. They make the child feel like the main customer in many areas which was great, and as we all know a happy kids means happy parents! Dogs are welcome too, so parents, kids and man’s best friend can all have a break from the norm and run wild on the nearby beaches together.

Thurlestone Hotel, Parkfield, Thurlestone, Kingsbridge TQ7 3NN

Thurlestone Hotel Socials:

Family Hotel Stay at Hotel Du Vin, Exeter

Hotel Du Vin, Exeter

With a night away in a former 19th Century Eye Infirmary, we hoped to come out the other side well fed, refreshed and without bags under our own peepers; the relaxed offering at Hotel Du Vin, Exeter delivered just that.

The Venue

Hotel Du Vin recently celebrated 25 years of the brand; we must admit we thought they had been going longer, but well done to them all the same!

With currently 19 venues across the country, the chain of hotels tends to choose buildings with individual style and have certainly done so here in what used to be a more clinical environment.

The Exeter venue is located on the south end of the city centre, and has some free parking on site, otherwise plenty of parking next door in the public car park.

The building itself is wonderfully grand – let’s step inside…..

Mosaic tiles Hotel Du VIn Exeter, Heath's Hideaways
Don’t Forget To Look Down At The Beautiful Floor as You Enter

The Hotel Facilities

The downstairs area is bright, modern and relaxed, and is accessible to all, residents and non-residents, business people and families, for meetings, coffee, or a full blown meal.

The hotel has a relaxed bar area with casual seating at the heart of the ground floor, where you can enjoy your usual tipple or even treat yourself to a cocktail. To the left is an airy casual lounge/eating area, with doors out onto a patio, and to the right is the unpretentious main restaurant with very high ceiling; tear drop lighting fills the space, without being over the top. The whole rear of the building is glass fronted, allowing plenty of light in, and the view out to the secure walled garden and some more alfresco seating, which is a nice surprise considering the location of this city building.

A fantastic facility is the ‘indoor outdoor’ heated swimming pool, perfect for young and old. A warm haven of bubbles and sunken jacuzzi seating indoors for relaxing, and enough room outside for a swim or float whilst contemplating dinner time. Our son absolutely loved it. They also have a small spa in the walled gardens if you have time for a pamper.

The Hotel Room

The floors with rooms on are more sumptuous and calm; soft lighting, a stylish palette of soft grey carpets and beige accents represent the modern day, whilst with curved walls and doorways remind you that this is a Victorian building.

In the room, there are a few hints to what once was, including drainage holes in the floors from back in its surgery days and the benefit of high ceilings, and tall windows giving the room a spacious feel. Yet modern touches have been included for the demanding traveller such as mood lighting and speakers in the bathroom – much to the delight of our son who chose the lighting scheme above his sofa bed.

A very comfy king size bed for us parents, in warm blue tones, with a perfectly sized sofa bed made up for the boy; a gown and slippers lay waiting for young sir, for his adornment before walking down to the pool.

Plenty of hanging space in the form of a built in wardrobe, caffeine by way of a nespresso machine for tired adults, and heavy blackout curtains to ensure a restful night.

Food Offering

There’s quite a good choice with something for everyone. For early evening dining, there is a prixe fix menu which represents great value, and a good sized children’s menu. Sadly our son now eats like a man, so the main menu it is for all of us. The menu changes around twice a year, with a few tweaks around it’s core offering.

Starters of moules frites and meat sharing platter kicked off our dinner, all very generous in portion size and tasty.

Cassoulet Classique for the main event consisted of a hearty casserole of white beans, confit duck, smoked Toulouse sausage and pancetta which kept hubby pretty happy! Our son and I opted for some red meat options, including ribeye steak and onglet steak. The rib-eye was cooked medium rare as requested and was juicy and tender, but the surprise of it all was the onglet steak – onglet (or hanger) steak is an incredibly tasty piece of beef not often used. This steak was a bit like a chopped steak burger, except it is incredibly herby which quite frankly resulted in a delicious bit of meat.

For dessert the boys opted for ice creams (hubby had no room left for the very impressive cheese trolley).

The Morning After The Night Before

We awoke the next day, well rested thanks to the comfy bed and high quality blinds and curtains keeping the light out. After squeezing in a quick morning swim we were treated to a delightful breakfast of omelette Arnold Bennett (smoked haddock and parmesan) and eggs benedict with bacon – they even happily fulfilled our request of a side order of fresh avocado, and it was all really tasty. The French Market Table had plenty of other lovely things to help yourself to as well.

Eggs Benedict, Hotel Du VIn Exeter, Heath's Hideaways
Breakfast of Champions

Family Friendly?

With good sized rooms, a lovely pool and within walking distance of the Quay, the charmingly independent shops in Magdalen Road, and 5 minutes walk into the heart of Exeter, it certainly is a great spot as a base for a city break or staycation. Our only critique is that the website doesn’t seem to allow you to look for a room for more than 2 people, so it’s best to call and speak with one of the very helpful staff. From a family point of view, our son was made to feel very comfortable and welcome, as any guest should be they young or old, and we will certainly be back.

It’s definitely worth a visit even for just a meal, with Sundays being a real treat thanks to their four course menu which includes a buffet style French Market Table.

Hotel Du Vin Exeter, Magdalen Street, Exeter EX2 4HY

Website & Twitter

Hotel Du Vin Exeter Frontage, Hotel Du VIn Exeter, Heath's Hideaways
The Grand Frontage of Hotel Du Vin, Exeter

Our stay and dinner was gifted to us by Hotel Du Vin, and has not been seen by them prior to publishing. All views are our own.

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