Owl of delight
THERE aren't many places where you can relax in a bijou thatched cottage, enjoy first-class food, make friends with a goat, and hear bird song for miles around.
But just an hour up the road from my home in Plymouth, at Little Owl Cottage, you can do just that.
Situated in North Devon, halfway between Tiverton and South Molton, sits sleepy Knowstone – a quaint historic village bursting with character.
And staying at Little Owl Cottage, with my cousin Gemma Ainsworth and her miniature Schnauzer Freddie, provided the perfect base from which to explore.
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Little Owl is a 16th-century, Grade II listed thatched character cottage hidden away in the small village, on the edge of Exmoor.
The village boasts a Michelin-starred pub, The Masons Arms, ideally located less than 50 yards from Little Owl's front door.
The cute cottage dates back to 1580 and exudes charm and character. The warm and cosy lounge is perfect for an evening in with a glass of wine in front of the large inglenook fireplace with original bread oven and a log burner – something Gemma and I were keen to exploit.
And we thoroughly enjoyed watching the world go by in the comfy window seat, celeb-spotting at the guests going into the popular and renowned local public house.
The restoration of the cottage has been tastefully completed, keeping original beams and features, but adding small and intricate touches like hand-made wall lights.
The lounge also has the home comforts you would expect of a luxury country retreat, from an extra comfortable Laura Ashley leather sofa, complete with a snuggly soft throw, to an LCD TV and Bose sound system.
The honesty bar and well-equipped kitchen, complete with a fridge boasting a chilled bottle of champagne, were also a welcome surprise.
Arriving late on Friday afternoon, a wander through the village with its views of the rolling countryside for miles and miles was the best way to start. And as evening fell we nestled down on the sofa, glass of red in hand with Freddie at our feet and relaxed – the stresses and strains of the last week blown away by the fresh country air.
Leading from the lounge up the character oak staircase, complete with rope banister, the bedroom encompasses the first floor.
It oozes character with its original wonky cob walls and a wonderful window seat in which to sit and look at the stars.
The shabby-chic style bedroom's main focal point is the double white iron bed with luxury mattress and Mulberry throw. And as we tucked ourselves in, we were soothed to sleep by the sounds of the village's resident night owl.
Awaking to the sound of a cockerel, followed by a brief bout of barking from Freddie, we made a fresh pot of coffee and enjoyed warm croissants in the sun-filled private garden.
Following a relaxing al fresco breakfast we made our way into South Molton, a small market town on the River Mole, only nine miles from the cottage.
Saturday was market day and we were able to peruse a large selection of local produce, flowers and plants, fish, meat, cheese, fine goods and jewellery.
With a wide range of shabby chic shops and unusual cafes, South Molton was the perfect place to feed our shopping addiction and cake habit.
Returning to the cottage content with our purchases, we kicked off our pumps and donned some wellies before taking Freddie for a lovely afternoon stroll in the countryside.
And we hadn't ventured more than 100 yards when we made a friend – the resident goat. Daisy, as we named her, belongs to the local farmer who also has two rather friendly horses.
Continuing on our walk after a brief interlude petting the animals, we rambled down country lanes, over meandering streams, and through wonderful woodland before stopping to rest in a large sun-kissed field.
On returning to the cottage, suitably tired from our afternoon adventure, we popped open the Pimms and soaked up the last of the sun in the garden.
Dinner that night consisted of an array of local cheeses, more red wine and some locally baked bread – the perfect cosy night in.
Little Owl provided us with a much-needed relaxing weekend getaway where work and the stresses of life are gently blown away by the fresh Devonshire air. All three of us very much enjoyed our weekend and will be looking to book another short getaway in Knowstone very soon.
Sophie, Gemma and Freddie stayed at Little Owl Cottage, Knowstone, Devon EX36.
A stay at Little Owl is priced at £399 for a four-night mid-week break, arriving on a Monday, or £399 for a three-night weekend stay, arriving on a Friday.
For further information visit www.littleowldevon.co.uk, call 0800 298 11 22 or 01769 629069, or email email@example.com.