Devon's prettiest homes: Lee Byre B&B barns in Dartmoor
PUBLISHED: 11:25 16 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:42 16 October 2018
NATALIE MILLAR-PARTRIDGE relaxes at a family-run Dartmoor retreat where the emphasis is on the glorious environment it sits in
Lee Byre is a unique home-from-home retreat and family-run business with three generations of Barnes currently living on site – the oldest being 90 and the youngest just ten months.
A series of barns that were collectively used as part of a working farm, dating back to 1750, Lee Byre had a long history as a dairy farm until the 1960s when it closed and remained derelict until John and Judy Barnes bought it in the 1980s. The pair spent the following seven years lovingly renovating the property, with John taking on every element of the conversion, except the roof.
The farm, a labour of love for the Barnes family, has seen a complete transformation, with John, determined to retain the character, staying true to the heritage of the building.
Lee Byre now stands as a staggeringly beautiful B&B, offering tailored wellbeing and active breaks, including walking, cycling/mountain biking, and photography packages, situated in Devon, on the edge of the beautiful Dartmoor National Park, with close proximity to the rugged landscape of North Cornwall. The business, now in its third season, is run by second generation Guy Barnes and his wife Kathrin.
Lee Byre, meaning ‘protected sheltering barns’ situated on the side of a hill or woodland is located to the front of Lee Wood, on a valley side, above a meandering river. Guests will find themselves winding up the tree-covered lane, before stepping into breathtaking vistas across the front lawns, with plenty of opportunity to sink into luxury and rest minds and bodies, within the expanse of the Dartmoor landscape.
Located just 45 minutes from the coast, there are plentiful opportunities to explore the surrounds with ease, alongside a personable team, tailoring your guided walk and preparing a delicious homemade picnic. Guy and Kathrin offer personal guided tours, comprising day and night walks, along with pick-ups for those who want to go off exploring alone, adding a real fitness and wellness agenda to guests’ holidays.
Guy explains: “The vision was to create a beautiful, warm and welcoming place to stay, from which to explore Devon and Cornwall - from wooded mountain bike trails to open cliff top walks, this region has something exhilarating, mindful and fresh for everyday of the week.
“We live it and want others to use us as a base for mini-adventures across the region. We take an active interest in where guests are going, as well as offering guided experiences.”
For those looking to capture the surrounds on camera, Guy also offers organised photographic walks. These are designed to provide guests with the best scenic hotspots for capturing images of rugged coast and miles of winding country to the wilderness of the moorland and ancient monuments.
“At the moment, the photography walks are self-guided. We have developed a map of Dartmoor with photography highlights and hotspots to direct guests. This can be done in conjunction with a guided walk if preferred,” Guy explains.
During my stay, I was lucky enough to experience a guided photographic walk, led by Guy. We began at Wistman’s Wood, Two Bridges, where we explored one of the last surviving native Dartmoor woodlands. We then walked up to Littaford Tor, before looping back down to the car park.
We headed to Bellever Wood and settled at a beautiful meander in the East Dart River for a delicious homemade picnic. Afterwards we climbed Sharpitor, before continuing to Leather Tor, where we did a short scramble to the summit before walking to the edge where we took in the views that spread in all directions - over Burrator Reservoir to Sheepstor and beyond, and down towards Plymouth Sound and the Atlantic coast.
The walk also gave us the opportunity to take in much of the local wildlife, including listening to skylarks, chatting and nesting around us, watching a whinchat eye us up as we passed by Leather Tor and witnessing young foals and lambs enjoying their first summer days.
If it’s a more active break you’re after, there is plenty of opportunity to explore by mountain bike, either along the Granite Way or a variety of cycle routes at the Tamar Trails.
Food is also a focus at Lee Byre, with a large emphasis on local and the homemade. The Barnes family go to great lengths to produce as much of what they serve up as possible, from their bourgeoning vegetable garden.
“We make our own honey and artisan bread, serving this alongside foraged greens and flowers to garnish the evening meals, collected from the woodland and lane behind us,” says Guy.
Evening meals are regionally inspired with dishes including sustainably line-caught Cornish mackerel fishcakes and lamb and mint pie with foraged garnishes and seasonal offerings from the surrounding farmland. The converted farm is also home to its own source of fresh spring water which if filtered by the woodland behind the site.
A family home lies at the heart of Lee Byre and this remains a focus; the Barnes Family welcome guests into their home, allowing them the space to explore and unwind, whilst meals are served together around a long table in the kitchen, encouraging interactions that might not otherwise take place.
“Hopefully, this means that guests leave with a richer experience as a result, as well as new e-mail addresses and numbers to follow up with!” Guy enthuses.
Accommodation is made up of three en-suites - two double rooms and one superior double that can sleep a family of three, sleeping a total of seven guests. The beautifully styled suites can be hired for exclusive use, ideal for a multi-generational family, with the three rooms providing the ultimate family holiday experience.
The exclusivity of a stay at Lee Byre lies in the number of guests to the space provided. Stay in the converted barns and you will only ever be one of six experiencing a quiet, off-the-beaten track location for a truly restorative escape.
Top five picnicking spots on the Moors
Black Rock Falls: a natural pool in the River Lyd, directly below Brat Tor.
Bellever Wood: a scenic spot in the middle on Dartmoor, where it’s possible to picnic along a sheltered stretch of the East Dart.
Fingle Bridge: picnic alongside this 17th Century stone arch bridge before setting off for a walk through ancient woodlands, along the banks of the River Teign.
Haytor: Dartmoor’s most iconic tor. It’s possible to loose the crowds by exploring the disused quarries nearby or walking a little way along the old granite tramway.
Spitchwick Common: perfect for families wanting to combine a picnic with a wild swim and games on a wide flat stretch of short grass, on the banks of the River Dart.
Top five local photography hotspots
Tavy Cleave Tors: one of the most dramatic parts of Dartmoor, with tors littered along the edge of a ravine, with the River Tavy roaring below.
Down Tor Stone Row and Circle: my favourite early bronze-age site, with sweeping views over Burrator Tor Reservoir to Plymouth and the sea.
Wistman’s Wood: this ancient woodland is one of the last surviving native Dartmoor woodlands.
Brentor Church: the best spot to see the sunset in West Devon!
Lydford Gorge: witness the incredible play of light and shadow in this beautiful gorge setting as the sun filters through the trees.