Although husband and I have enjoyed several city breaks over the decades we have been together, by far our favourite holiday is one where we can go for long walks each day in beautiful countryside. Exmoor is a destination we return to again and again. As we hadn’t been for a few years – for reasons anyone can guess – this was our choice when we were looking for an August break.
The Crown in Exford is a family run hotel that sits on a junction at the heart of the village. A small park is across the road. The River Exe runs to its left. From Exford there are footpaths and bridleways leading to many other pretty villages. These follow riverbanks, cross woodland, fields, and climb up onto the surrounding moorland. Exmoor is hilly but any effort expended will be rewarded with stunning views. These include a stretch of coastline with Wales visible across the Bristol Channel.
We had asked for a larger room with a king sized bed and were allocated one looking out to the front of the hotel. The ensuite had a large bath that was much appreciated after each long day’s walking. The hospitality tray was well stocked with essentials, including biscuits. We were told on arrival that housekeeping would only be provided on request. This suited us well as we feel no need to have fresh towels each day and take care not to make too much mess in the clean and carefully prepared room anyway. When we ran low on teabags and milk this was quickly replenished.
An important aspect of our holidays is the food. We do like to eat well when away. The Crown offers what it describes as casual dining. Although the atmosphere in the various eating areas was relaxed and convivial, the dishes prepared were impressively fine – freshly prepared, beautifully presented and cooked to perfection.
On the first evening we chose to eat at a table in the hotel vestibule. On subsequent evenings we ate in the public bar. This attracts many locals for drinks and chat, providing a lively atmosphere and a window into life in this beautiful but remote location.
Breakfasts were served in what had previously been the residents’ restaurant. These were made to order and served plated. A good range of options were available, including: fruit juice, tea or coffee, fresh fruit, cereals, porridge, various egg dishes, toast, a full English fry up. I was particularly taken by what was described as a superfood breakfast – smoked salmon or bacon, avocado and poached egg served on sour dough and sprinkled with seeds. This was both delicious and filling without being too heavy.
Adjacent to the breakfast room was a small gift shop stocking an interesting range of locally sourced products. This complemented the various artworks and sculptures that adorned walls and window ledges around the hotel – with price tags for those who might consider purchasing.
Although we were lucky with the weather and were able to be out and about each day, had the weather been less pleasant we could have relaxed in the hotel lounge. Games and reading material were provided here. For colder days, a log burner would keep the area cosy.
When relaxing in our room we were often distracted by the sound of horses being ridden through the village. Drivers of tractors and 4x4s would pause to talk to those sitting at the bar’s outside tables. Exford is obviously a friendly place where residents know each other and take an interest. As visitors we were welcomed, provided with efficient and friendly service, and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.