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UK cottages: A weekend trip to Somerset is the the perfect tonic for city-dwellers | Activity Holidays | Travel | Express.co.uk

somerset uk holidays countryside weekend breaks sykes cottages

UK cottages: A weekend trip to Somerset is the the perfect tonic for city-dwellers (Image: Getty Images/Sykes Cottages)

Standing on the porch, I look to my left. Over the top of a row of small brick cottages rises a rolling hill of green from which a large cloud of steam is billowing. I hear the unmistakeable clickety-clack of a steam train rumbling past and a loud whistle – and I cannot help but grin to myself at how idyllic this place is. It’s as though I’ve stepped into an Enid Blyton novel and my three friends, a dog and I are about to head off on a great adventure.

I’ve found myself in the tiny village of Samford Brett near Taunton in Somerset for the weekend. I’m staying in a house called Elmfield – booked through Sykes Cottages – and the best way to describe it is this: picture how an American would imagine an English cottage based on the films they’ve seen, and you’ve pretty much got Elmfield.

It’s a perfectly proportioned brick house with a bright red door, a white trellis-covered porch and two chimneys. Greenery creeps up the front and there’s a little gate in front of the house leading to a quiet road.

The interior of the cottage is no less charming. It features two large, comfortable living rooms with two fires. I’m spending the weekend with 11 friends my own age, but such a set up would be ideal for families with children looking to branch out into their own space (the games room in the garden stable is also great for this, coming complete with darts and table tennis).

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There are books and board games galore, too, for those looking for some downtime. We set to work getting the fire going as soon as we arrive, and it makes for a very cosy scene indeed.

There are plenty of bedrooms to choose from – five in total – and Maggie, the owner, offers beforehand to make two of them up into twins or doubles. The majority of the rooms come with their own sink, which is particularly handy come teeth-cleaning time.

The mini toiletries lend a hotel-vibe to the place and a plethora of towels are to-hand, an (often underestimated) bonus.

It’s the kitchen which is the highlight of Elmfield, however. The vast, traditional room has a large table in the middle big enough to seat 12 and there’s every piece of cooking equipment you could need, often twice over.

In fact, there are so many plates, glasses and cutlery that you can bung everything from breakfast into the dishwasher and still have enough left out for lunch.

We spend many a happy moment bustling round the kitchen, whipping up lasagnes and fry-ups over the course of the weekend, eventually sitting down to feast en masse at the table and making in-roads on numerous bottles of wine.

somerset uk holidays countryside weekend breaks sykes cottages

UK cottages: Elmfield It’s a perfectly proportioned brick house with a bright red door (Image: Sykes Cottages)

Fortunately, despite our fuzzy heads in the morning, a countryside walk provides the perfect tonic. On our first day in Somerset, we drive to East Quantoxhead to enjoy an invigorating, clifftop walk. The circular path takes in vast, beautiful fields and even a stately home.

The wind is up when we arrive at the cliffs overlooking the sea and we are veritably pummelled by the bracing breeze as we stare out across the grey, blue water to the coastline of Wales.

Somerset has an intriguing geological coastline and makes for some very dramatic coastal shots – as well as some comedic ones as we women of the group battle to keep hair from flying into our faces. Berries bloom along the hedgerows – a clear sign summer is behind us – and we inhale the fresh, countryside air with enthusiasm.

On our second day, inspired by the suggested walks Maggie has in a folder at Elmfield, we set off for a more local walk from Samford Brett. We don wellies and tramp forth along fields, into the woods and eventually across farmland.

In a painfully urban way we can’t help but express our delight at spotting sheep and horses and we stride forth in the sunshine.

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somerset uk holidays countryside weekend breaks sykes cottages

Somerset boasts beautiful scenery and a bracing walk is the perfect way to clear our fuzzy heads (Image: Getty Images)

somerset uk holidays countryside weekend breaks sykes cottages

Somerset: The vast, traditional kitchen has a large table in the middle big enough to seat 12 (Image: Sykes Cottages)

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At one point we spot a creature rather more incongruous to the traditional English landscape – an emu. If the sight of this large flightless bird isn’t surprising enough, we soon spot a small boy striding across a farm entrance holding two ferrets, slung across his palms like a pair of spare jumpers. Clearly we are a long way from London.

Back at Elmfield, it’s time for us to reluctantly pack up our belongings and pile into our rental car. We’d booked it through rentalcars.com and had conveniently managed to pick it up in a location just around the corner from my house.

A seven-seater Vauxhall Zafira, it’s perfect for helping to get such a big group down to the West Country. It is also impressively high tech – apparently traditional keys are a thing of the past – and boasts Bluetooth, built-in sat nav and front seats with an intriguing massage function, all very necessary for a long road-trip to somewhere new.

We were certainly sad to say goodbye to the house and Maggie. We’d loved the little touches around the house, such as the fresh flowers, as well as how amenable she’d been about popping round with dishwasher sachets when there were none left. We’d drawn the line at asking her to bring brown sugar when a fudge sauce craving kicked in near midnight, though.

With a final gulp of fresh countryside air and a wave to the goats in the garden, we set course for home.

Prices start from £819 for a 7 night’s stay at Elmfield bookable via  www.sykescottages.co.uk or by calling 01244 617683.  

Prices start from approx. £102 for a seven-seater Vauxhall Zafira (or similar) for a three-day car hire from London, bookable through Rentalcars.com.

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