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This weekend has been all about taking it really, really slowly and relaxing to the max! It’s also been about feeling proud of myself for actually having the guts to take a holiday by myself and enjoying it, without worrying what anyone else thinks.
Before I start, I will admit that my reason for going to Devon wasn’t actually a choice but rather a very last minute work requirement. However, I decided that if I was going to get up at 5am to catch a flight for work and spend a few days away from home, I may as well take advantage of the situation and stay in Devon for a couple of days afterwards.
Taking it Really Slowly
As I was throwing myself into a slightly different type of holiday (i.e. solo), I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to adjust my travel mindset. Instead of cramming as much in as possible in a bid to see, eat and drink everything the area had to offer, my main focus would be to rest, relax and do exactly what I felt like doing. I made no plans whatsoever and simply played it by ear.
In similar vein, I also tried to use my phone as little as possible and avoid social media at all costs! This weekend would be about me, not about what everyone else was up to. Writing this now, I can honestly say I can’t remember the last time I felt this relaxed or… happy!
Getting away from it all was definitely made easier by my choice of accommodation. I booked a last minute Airbnb and possibly should have read the description before doing so, not quite realising that I was booking a shed in the middle of a field with no electricity or plumbing (there was a shower block a few minutes walk away, don’t worry!).
As it turned out, ‘The Snug’ at Highfield Farm couldn’t have been any more perfect and I can 100% say that it’s my favourite place I have ever stayed. I was greeted by my host Rosie, who was not only extremely friendly and helpful but also absolutely gorgeous! She explained how the solar panel fairly lights, camping stove and compost toilet worked before leaving me to settle in.
The Snug was ridiculously cosy! Inside my shed was a wall to wall bed with the comfiest mattress, a super thick duvet, a fur throw and 25 million cushions. The bed not only looked beautifully inviting, every night I slept in it (including the nights when I was working and a little stressed) I slept solidly, gently waking naturally each morning feeling refreshed. Also inside The Snug were the all the essential including plates, bowls, mugs, tea bags, a cool box and most importantly, wine glasses.
My daily routine at The Snug consisted of the following:
- Wake up naturally to gentle sunlight and the sound of birds
- Pull on a hoodie and venture outside for a cup of tea (water boiled on a camping stove, GO ME) whilst admiring the beautiful countryside views
- Wander to the shower block and to get ready for the day ahead
- Spend the day either working (Thursday/Friday) or having fun (Saturday/Sunday)
- Return to the Snug and immediately put my PJs on
- Light a fire (still can’t believe that I successfully did this more than once, without too much difficulty)
- Enjoy a glass of red wine and a picnic of bread, cheese and charcuterie by the fire… cooking utensils were provided by I wasn’t brave enough to cook over the fire.
- Curl up in my cosy bed with a book and then fall asleep under the fairy lights
This is something I was a little nervous about, especially as I’d vowed to minimise my phone usage! What would I do whilst waiting for my food? Would people wonder why I was eating in a restaurant alone? Is it ok to drink wine on my own or does that make me an alcoholic?
I needn’t have worried at all. On Saturday I enjoyed a solo lunch at The Galley in Topsham, which was fabulous! The Galley is a fish restaurant (there are other dishes if you don’t like fish) that prides itself on good quality, local produce. My waiter recommended the baked hake with roasted scallop, sea vegetables and a lemon emulsion. The fish was locally caught, the vegetables were sourced from literally right outside the restaurant and the whole dish was cooked to absolute perfection. Enjoyed alongside a glass of cold white wine and some freshly baked bread, this meal was bloody incredible.
The waiter sat me in the window which meant that I didn’t once get bored or feel the need to look at my iPhone screen – the views were gorgeous and who doesn’t enjoy a spot of people watching? As the restaurant was fairly quiet (my usual excitement for food meant I was there at 12pm on the dot, the earliest acceptable time for lunch) I chatted to the waiter for a while, and to my surprise two out of the three other tables in The Galley consisted of solo diners too!
On Sunday, I opted for another fish restaurant for lunch: Rockfish in Exmouth. This time I read my book whilst I waited for my food, but mainly because I couldn’t put it down rather than because I felt the need to be entertained.
Rockfish aims to provide super fresh fish, with a slogan of ‘tomorrow’s fish is still in the sea’. In addition to the main menu, there was a large paper menu on my table with numerous fish listed and upon seating me the waitress circled all of the fish that were being served that day. I chose the ray wing, served with chips and a side of green beans. I’d never had (or even seen on a menu) ray wing so couldn’t wait to try it: served on the bone it was silky, sweet and delicious.
My number one highlight was actually relaxing at The Snug! I loved drinking wine by the fire, reading my book (which was Dry Hard by Nick Spalding incase you’re wondering, which you can buy here), snuggling up in bed, taking MANY naps and surprisingly enjoying being alone with my thoughts. But I did manage to squeeze in a couple of other very enjoyable activities.
Who can resist a farm shop? Definitely not me! I’d heard about Darts Farm when I’d been working during the week at the Devon County Show so of course had to check it out. I was not disappointed! With every type of chutney you could ever dream of, the most amazing butcher’s counter and a HUGE wine section I was in my element here.
There were even various tasters dotted around the shop such as cheese, hummus and various olive oils! The Darts Farm restaurant has a great reputation, and there’s also a fish shack in the courtyard but I’d only just had breakfast so stuck with the samples on this occasion.
Pebblebed Vineyard and Winery
When I was checking out the local wines at Darts Farm, I spotted one from just a couple of miles up the road which mentioned tours and tasting on the label. It goes without saying that I immediately Googled the vineyard and booked onto a tour for later that day.
The tour of this family owned vineyard started with a full sized glass of Pebblebed sparkling wine and a short history of the vineyard and winery, before a wander through the fields of vines whilst learning about the year-round process of cultivating the grapes. It was amazing to hear how much work goes into growing the perfect grapes and how the business is totally at the mercy of the weather.
We then continued into the winery where we learnt about the fermentation and ageing process whilst trying four more wines. They were so good that I checked in a bag for the flight home so that I could take some with me! Turns out you can actually buy it on Amazon so I’ll be able to top up my supplies here!
The tour was £20 per person, and you can choose to have tapas afterwards in the tasting room at an additional cost – usually I wouldn’t be able to resist this but I was keen to get back to my fire and shed.
To finish with, here’s what I learnt from my first solo trip:
- I can build a fire all by myself! It’s surprising what you can do when you’re on your own – if I’d been with Billy I’d have let him take charge of the fire, so I’m glad I was forced to cope on my own.
- Sometimes it’s ok to do absolutely nothing. Often if I’m somewhere new I feel the need to constantly be out exploring, I can read and nap at home after all! But it was lovely to just sit and enjoy my surroundings and only go out if and when I wanted to. No feelings of guilt here!
- Dining alone is fine. I missed Billy and I missed sharing the joy of eating and drinking with him (and stealing his food), but being on my own meant that I focused on every mouthful of food with no distraction and fully appreciated the flavours. Fully mindful eating I suppose!
- Compost toilets are weird. I’ve already told you that The Snug didn’t have plumbing – instead there was a compost loo. It was nice enough (Rosie had really put the effort in with a lovely wooden toilet seat and soft toilet paper, but the concept of liquids in the front and solids in the back (waheyy!) made me feel weird. What if my aim was off?!
So tell me, do you prefer travelling alone or with company? What has been your favourite solo trip? I’m already excited for my next solo adventure in just a few weeks… Trento here I come!
P.S. if you fancy booking The Snug for yourself (and I highly recommend that you do!) you can find it on AirBnb, and if you haven’t used Airbnb before you can use my referral link and get £25 off your stay!