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Middle Stone Farm
Tell someone you’re going on holiday to Brompton Ralph and they’ll probably look at you quizzically. Tell them it’s a few miles from Huish Champflower, Lydeard St Lawrence and Clatworthy and they’ll likely be none the wiser. While other villages in the South West are well known and bustle with tourists in the summer, those close to the north Somerset coast remain blissfully quiet. And, in the case of Brompton Ralph, that’s despite the fact that it’s just three miles from the edge of Exmoor National Park and 25 minutes inland from a beach with fossil hunting to rival the Jurassic Coast. Without the fanfare of some fancy tourist attraction, there’s not much to draw you here specifically – save for a little place called Middle Stone Farm. And what a place it is.
Despite its wonderfully middle-of-nowhere location, there’s nothing middling about Middle Stone Farm. It offers top-end luxury glamping in six safari lodges, a cabin and a holiday cottage; each has a log-burning stove, a fire pit and its own hot tub – should you choose to hire it. The site makes up for the lack of local village store with an on-site licensed shop (open spring–November) offering home-cooked meals and local produce including Somerset ciders and beers. And as for a tourist attraction; how about the farm itself? It’s a 32-acre idyll with rare-breed sheep, pygmy goats, chicken, geese and alpacas. A farm tour with a tractor ride will show you the lot. There’s also table tennis, badminton and football goals as well as two children’s play areas – and all that is apart from the accommodation which is a tourist attraction in its own right.
The space and sense of adventure that comes with the safari lodges is hard to beat, whether you come as a couple or as a family. Playing games in the log-burner warmed living space or out on the deck whilst looking over glorious Somerset countryside is enough to keep you occupied for days. The lodges are separated across two fields with the bird tents, Kestrel, Buzzard and Hawk, suited for dog-owners and families with younger children (as the play area is in sight). The beach tents, Klive, Porlock and Bossington are, perhaps, better for older children and couples, though there’s not much in it. The cute Deckhouse Cabin and colourful Stable Cottage are more secluded, more solid and open all year when the area is quieter still.
If you’re here for a weekend, the appeal of the on-site attractions might just stop you from exploring off it but that would be to miss the free-roaming ponies and mythical moorlands of England’s least-visited national park, the subtropical gardens of Dunster Castle, the picturesque fishing port of Porlock Weir and the fossil treasure-trove at Klive beach. If you don’t want to miss all that, our suggestion is to forget about a weekend in the middle of nowhere and to book yourself in for a week instead.
All tents, the cabin and the cottage provides self-contained accommodation with a private shower room and flushing toilet, a log burning stove, made-up beds, fully-equipped kitchen and more. Outside each is a barbecue, fire pit and a hot tub (available at an extra charge). There’s a licensed on-site shop which sells produce from the farm, home-cooked meals and other local items. There are two children’s play areas as well as table tennis, badminton and football nets and there are farm tours where you can meet the animals of Middle Stone Farm with a tractor ride at the end.
Glamping couples, families, dogs – yes. Groups, tents, campervans, caravans – no.
It's three miles to Exmoor National Park (01398 323665), home to some of the finest walking and scenery in the country, with Tarr Steps a particularly good route for families. Wimbleball Lake is another popular destination with walking and cycling routes around the water and watersports available on it (01398 371460). A little further north and you end up at the seaside, overlooking the Bristol Channel. Kilve beach, an area of Special Scientific Interest, is a top spot to go searching for fossils, while the sandy beach at Blue Anchor Bay is also popular – backed by the Driftwood Cafe serving excellent fish and chips. Within the national park, Porlock Weir, Lynton and the Lorna Doone Valley are also particularly stunning. There are good National Trust properties within a 30-minute drive too including Dunster Castle and Watermill, Coleridge Cottage and the vast Holnicote Estate.
Food & Drink
You can pre-order homemade meals, breakfast hampers and meat from the farm (all year) or visit the licensed on-site farm shop for local goodies including produce from the farm, homemade meals and local beers, cider and wine. Catherine and Patrick will likely suggest the best places to eat out but some consistently good local-ish recommendations include The White Post Cafe (01823 400322) seven miles away in Langford Budville and The Lost Kitchen (01884 242427), 20 miles away. There are also lots of lovely independent eateries in Porlock Weir. The closest shops to site are in Wivelscombe, four miles away and the nearest pub is The Bear Inn, a three-and-a-half-mile drive away; it’s not suitable to walk.
Deckhouse cabin & cottage: Open all year.
Safari tents: Spring to November.
You don't need to go on safari to stay in a safari tent these days. But with alpacas, goats and rare breed pigs and sheep, you can make a very British safari of your own at Middle Stone Farm. Binoculars aren't even required.
A rare campsite where putting the postcode in your Sat Nav actually works! It will bring you all the way and take the quickest route. If you don't have one, then, from Taunton, take the B3227 to Wiveliscombe. In Wiveliscombe take the B3188 which will take you through the village of Ford and up the hill to Pitsford Hill and past the cricket club. ¼ mile from Pitsford Hill take the lane marked Brompton Ralph on the left, Middle Stone Farm is the first driveway on the left.
A direct train from London Paddington (0845 748 4950) to Taunton (0845 748 4950) takes 1hr 45 minutes if you're on the fast train. The glamping site is still a 30 minute drive from Taunton train station though and there is no public transport to Brompton Ralph. You need a car to make the most of your visit!
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