An Exmoor-loving couple thought they’d never again find any holiday cottages in Minehead Somerset to live up to the standards of their old farm stay. How wrong they were…
Guest blog by Heather McCombie
We fell in love with Exmoor many years ago. We used to stay at the old farm at Greenaleigh Point, spending lazy days gazing at the ever changing patterns of the sea and sky. When the farm sold, we resigned ourselves to never finding anywhere else quite as special. But we found Pilgrim Corner.
About Pilgrim Corner
Pilgrim Corner is one of a number of quaint whitewashed, thatched cottages in the oldest and most charming part of Minehead. It is located at the foot of Church Steps, just a short walk from the track to our beloved Greenaleigh.
To one side is a tall sandstone building which used to be the town’s ‘poor house’. Pilgrim Corner adjoins ‘The Old Sweet Shop’. This is a similarly pictureseque residence, which is also now a wonderful getaway retreat. Other homes fronting onto Church Steps have evocative names like ‘Old Lantern’ and ‘Smugglers’ Cottage’.
The imposing tower of St Michael’s church looms above this historic little enclave, visible for miles around at night when it is floodlit. The bell ringers practise on Friday evenings. Consequently, the sound of the bells drifting through the air as dusk falls amplifies the sense of returning to slower, simpler times.
The special appeal of the Greenaleigh home was the external space and stunning views across the Channel. However, Pilgrim Corner in a sense has the best of both worlds. It boasts an historic setting and a beautiful garden rising up at the back. Similarly, it also has an exceptionally attractive interior space. This is something which is very important to us as a family. For this is not somewhere just to have time out. We were looking for a tranquil environment in which to get away from normal routines and (to an extent) carry on our normal lives and activities.
Looking for holiday cottages in Minehead Somerset big enough for large families?
We have four grown up children who accompany us in various combinations (and so far we have enjoyed eight stays). As a result, a good arrangement of the internal space is pretty important, as is good Wi-Fi and a bit of space to work if needed. Open plan living is not really for us. We like smaller, individual spaces so that people can do their own thing!
Things to do during your stay
So what do we do when we stay here?
There are so many beautiful walks just from the front door. It’s nice not to have to get the car out. The walk to Greenaleigh is the favourite, and there are a number of different paths which crisscross the hillside and end up there. For instance two separate paths lead to Greenaleigh beach, and beyond the farmhouse the footpath continues to the ruins of the Burgundy Chapel. The South West Coast path continues upwards from the farm, soon giving spectacular views.
A walk down to Minehead Quay from home is another favourite. Indeed, it is particularly enchanting at night with the harbour lights flickering across the water. Further afield, our favourite visit is to Cleeve Abbey, one of the best preserved Cistercian monasteries in the country. It is tucked away in Washford, well off the beaten track and therefore almost always very quiet and peaceful even in high summer. There are some well-preserved medieval wall paintings, and a rare tiled floor dating from the 14th Century.
Local food and drink spots
A short distance beyond the Abbey is the Tor Cider Farm. This is an excellent café and shop, with a few farm animals in pens to entertain children (and adults!). Dunkery Beacon and Hurlestone Point are favourite outings. Indeed, they are atmospheric in all weathers. Spectacular views stretch out for many miles across the sea. However in autumn one can expect ethereal mist and visibility of a few yards. The heather seems always to be in full bloom – and there is usually a bracing wind. We often shop in Dunster for candles, presents for friends, and oats from Dunster Mill to take home. Similarly we head to Porlock, which has a gallery, craft shop and a PO doubling as an excellent ‘outdoor’ shop. We like the tranquillity of Saint Dubricius Church, and the sense of local history it evokes.
Some of the more energetic members of the family like to go for runs from Pilgrim Corner up to Selworthy Beacon – but not me!
On winter getaways in cold weather it’s very enjoyable just to stay indoors with the log burner blazing. The process of lighting the fire and tending it is a real pleasure in itself. I swear we get through a whole bag of logs daily during January visits! As a result we make frequent trips to the farm shop to replenish the log basket, and perhaps to pick up some treats, too. The dining table in the rear lobby is big enough for two people to set up laptops, and for someone else to keep a jigsaw out. I am a calligrapher and always take practise to do, either here, looking out over the garden, or on the kitchen table. The lounge window seats are favourite spots for reading and watching the world go by at a very leisurely pace.
Pilgrim Corner has a special charm in the winter when the days are short. The glow from the lantern across the path casts a magical light which peeps through the shutters. After supper strolls up Church Steps in the crisp air are the perfect prelude to evenings by the fire. Some of the younger generation use the hot tub even in the middle of winter. I hear that the view of the stars from it on a clear night is magnificent!
So it turns out that perfect holiday cottages in Minehead Somerset can indeed be found. In short, a stay at Pilgrim Corner is therapeutic in every way.
So many of our guests have enjoyed memorable stays not just at Pilgrim Corner, but all our other Exmoor Character Cottages. Please enjoy reading more guest blogs about why they love returning.
All photos courtesy of Heather McCombie. Not to be reproduced.