The Bradt team stayed in the wonderful Bossington Hall at the absolute insistence of Claire, our Commissioning Editor, who had enjoyed a family visit to this very special accommodation a few weeks before. Claire describes that first visit below, and shows just why this is the perfect base for a group trip to Exmoor, whether you’re with friends, family or work colleagues.
Fifty-eight… Fifty-nine… SIXTY – Coming ready or not!
Fourteen kids, ranging in age from four to fifteen burst out of the kitchen into the corridor of Bossington Hall in search of Alex, who had sped away from the door a minute earlier. Looking right and left, the children ran in all directions and within a few seconds there was no one to be seen; the sound of thundering footsteps and excited giggling echoing through the house. I decided to follow leisurely, to search for the designated sardine. In a house the size of Bossington Hall, the game might take a while.
We’d arrived at the house the afternoon before for a week-long holiday with a group of university friends celebrating the return of one of our number after decade in Africa. We had driven up the driveway and admired the imposing grey edifice of the hall set up high on the side of wooded Exmoor hillside, surrounded by manicured lawns and specimen trees. The grey, limestone Arts-and-Crafts building was bathed in sunshine and was reminiscent of the glory days of pre-War house parties and Hercule Poirot.
Arriving before the rest of the party, I had the pick of the 15 double bedrooms on offer, each with its own dedicated bathroom. As the others arrived, we raided the kitchen for glasses, opened the bubbly and congregated on the terrace at the front of the house, taking in the magnificent views down over the gardens to the village and the sea beyond.
Rising above the valley was the vast open hills of Exmoor National Park, the colours of the moorland tinged with the colour of autumn. What a wonderful setting for a fantastic week. Children spilled out of the house exploring the toddler’s play area next to the tennis court, a maple-clad (and listed) squash court, while the adults chatted, laughed and resumed conversations that had started in 1996.
Now, ostensibly supervising the game of sardines, I decided to explore the house more carefully. I set off down the old nursery corridor and poked my head into some of the ground-floor rooms. The first was a games room with a pool table for older ‘kids’.
We’d all played a bit in our youth and several of our group were checking to see if they still had the gift. I left them to it. The next room I came across was a pretty bedroom, which sported a wet-room, obviously set up with wide-access doors, a raised toilet and a pull-down seat in the open shower for those with mobility issues.
I met Jamie and Thomas, both eight, closing a door loudly. They ran off, assuring me that no one was hiding in the vicinity, so I made my way back to the sitting room, the main living room where the party had continued the night before.
I checked behind the large, comfortable leather sofas – it took a while as there were several. But it was too open here for several children to hide out of sight – the space was big enough to comfortably hold 150+ for a cocktail party – so I headed towards the front door. A home-cinema room and one dedicated to board games provided lots of cover, but there were no youngsters here, only a couple of adults nursing rather fragile heads.
After checking out the laundry facilities and boot room (with dedicated towels for any muddy canines arriving back after exploring the extensive nearby walking trails) I decided to head upstairs, where the children’s excited squeals were quietening a little. I was getting warmer.
Five bedrooms ran along the south-facing front of the house, each with the same supremely comfortable bed as the one I’d slept in the night before. Each room was furnished in period furniture, the gleam of polished oak matching the crisp white cotton bedding, but differences in décor gave each an individual feel.
Houses built in the 1913 weren’t designed with en-suite facilities, yet now each room had its own private bathroom – perhaps not en suite, but for sole use – and lockable. Just as well, as I found 12-year-old Zain trying to open a door to a bathroom that was obviously occupied.
Zain and I headed down through a doorway into another corridor to be joined by Alice and Katie, both trying not to look too relieved to find us – the house was ominously quiet now. We found ourselves whispering to each other as we opened the first door on the right. Here was another games room: a huge screen and PS4 were accompanied by dozens of games for all ages, and an arcade game machine blinked at us from the other wall. Teenage heaven.
Gradually the four of us realised that the house was silent – we were the only ones not to have found the hiding crowd. We headed towards the final unexplored bedroom on the southwest corner of the house but there was nowhere to hide. We cautiously opened the door into the bathroom were met with a cacophony of cheers.
Now it was my turn to hide. I headed downstairs.
One. Two. Three…
More information on Bossington Hall
Bossington Hall is now run as a bed and breakfast. You can book your stay at bossingtonhall.co.uk.