The Jewish Chronicle



IT WAS as I was standing with my almost two-year-old daughter watching a urinating goat that I realised we had done the right thing. “Goat! Goat!” she shouted, her face beaming despite the chilly wind nipping around her rosy cheeks.

The prospect of spending a wintery Shabbat on a farm in the remote Devon countrysid­e was not one I had initially relished. For a city boy accustomed to home comforts, there had been a question mark over the prospect of wobbling through mucky fields to engage with cattle, chicken and the aforementi­oned goats. But I hadn’t anticipate­d just what our weekend at Red Doors Farm would be like. How wrong I had been.

Set in the Blackdown Hills above Honiton, around 25 miles from Exeter, this handful of child-friendly holiday cottages is an oasis of calm.We were staying in Cider Barn — a twobedroom detached property with French doors opening onto rolling countrysid­e, yards from the indoor swimming pool and sauna, not to mention play areas. The cottage could not have been more homely. We entered to find a high-chair and hamper of goodies (including homemade scones) in the kitchen. In the fridge there was fresh milk from the cows outside.

Self-catering was perfect for us, allowing us to bring kosher food, organise our own Shabbat dinner, eat breakfast at the unsociable hours a toddler demands, and enjoy cosy romantic dinners once the little one was in bed. The comfortabl­e lounge, with leather sofas, television and panoramic views of the freezing fields, led — via stairgates — to the two bedrooms (one en-suite) and the family bathroom. The second bedroom’s three single beds meant the cottage could sleep five. With two adults and a toddler space was ample. Two adults and three teens might find it snug.

Our Shabbat morning was spent out in the fields with owner Gill, accompanyi­ng her as she fed the animals. Chatty and welcoming, she made sure our daughter had time to see the guinea pigs munching on their carrots and watch the ducks, chickens, goats and other farm friends tuck into their brunch.

The games room had toys for children of all ages, alongside a cleverlypl­aced pool table, which allowed us to enjoy a quick bit of cue work while our daughter played nearby. During the afternoon I counted around 200 DVDs and probably as many books, with dozens of board games also available to take back across the cobbles to the cottage.

Living in a city as busy as London, you forget how dark it is out in the countrysid­e at night. With no street lights, traffic or sirens, bedtime provided a rare moment of complete silence and total darkness. In fact, after Shabbat it turned out we were not as cut off as we had thought — a drive-through Starbucks was barely half a mile along the A30. A day trip to Exeter via the Jurassic coast was a perfect opportunit­y to roam further.

But the true joy of a stay is having a luxurious rest from the rat race and the experience of farm life without needing to get your hands dirty — even if watching the animals gives your little ones hours of joy. RATES: Three nights in Cider Cottage costs from £455 booked with Premier Cottages premiercot­


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