Holidays on Dartmoor

Our guests, reviews and journalists are better at letting you know what they really think about us. The winter 2022 edition of Dartmoor Magazine features a story about us as a Dartmoor Business. We thought Chrissy Harris summed us up brilliantly in her story, so we’re sharing the full, unabridged version here. Sit back, relax and then we’ll begin…

Marcus Bailey and Ryan Lynch have lived and travelled all over the world, visiting more than 140 countries between them. That’s a lot of accommodation.

“We know what we like, we know what works and how things should look and feel,” says Marcus, taking me on a tour of The Cottages at Blackadon Farm. He and Ryan have used their years of research to create a series of luxurious holiday lets on the southern edge of the moor.

“We’ve realised that it doesn’t have to be the fanciest place around with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling,” adds Marcus. “It just has to have really nice extras, like a decent coffee machine, good showers and comfy mattresses.”

This simple but winning formula has seen Blackadon Farm, part of Moorhaven Village near Bittaford, scoop multiple awards, including self-catering accommodation of the year 2021-2022 in the South West Tourism Excellence Awards.

That’s not bad going, considering Marcus and Ryan only set up their business in 2019.

The couple had been living and working in high-powered careers in Dubai when family commitments meant they had to consider returning to the UK.

Marcus had spent endless glorious holidays in North Devon and Ryan is originally from Newton Abbot.

“Devon was definitely our preference,” says Marcus, describing the decision that led to them buying the run down Victorian farm buildings, once part of a Plymouth Borough Psychiatric Hospital.

Moorhaven Hospital, as it later became known, closed in the 1990s and the historic, locally-quarried stone buildings have been redeveloped into a now thriving village. Marcus and Ryan knew they could create something really unique here by turning the bunkhouse into a luxurious retreat.

“This is a fascinating place,” says Marcus, who used a Facebook group of former hospital workers during Blackadon’s four-month long renovation process to appeal for information about the farm’s history and its connection to the hospital. “We had lots of responses from people who used to work here,” he adds. “One woman said she used to be a nurse at the hospital and would come down to the stable building to ride the shire horses.”

Marcus opens the door to The Stable as it is now, a beautifully finished, one-bed holiday cottage with ensuite, smart TV, Nespresso machine – all the comforts of home, except better. “Look at the mattress,” says Marcus lifting the cloud-like, feather duvet to reveal the same kind of mattress that’s used by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. “It’s these sorts of touches that really make a difference.”

Thoughtful extras are available in all of the cottages at Blackadon, which range from a cosy one-bed retreat to a Great Barn that sleeps 24 in ten bedrooms.

The site also includes a ‘den’, created in one of the outbuildings to provide indoor games (and space for yoga), plus a cleverly landscaped garden with picnic areas, vegetable plot and fruit trees.

Marcus and Ryan really have thought of everything – and for everyone. Some of the accommodation is fully accessible for wheelchair users, dogs are also welcome, large families, corporate groups, you name it, you can all stay here, all year round.

“We’ve got a walking group here this week and we had holistic retreat staying recently,” says Marcus, adding that Blackadon is often booked as a venue for different retreats, including yoga. Community events, such as a Christmas market and live music gigs have also been held in the courtyard and gardens. “But often it’s just families and friends who want to get together and have a great time,” says Marcus. “We want to be able to take people back to that feeling they had from their childhood holidays.”

Just when you think things couldn’t get any more idyllic, we walk over to meet Freddie and Tiny Tim, Blackadon’s two resident rare breed miniature donkeys.

“Do you want to feed them an apple each?” says Marcus, picking two windfalls up from underneath one of the trees. Freddie and Tiny Tim have become star attractions here, with guests young and old taking great delight in helping with grooming and even taking the handsome pair out for treks to explore the local area.

While the donkeys munch away, overlooking their enviable view over the fields and hills towards the sea at Mothecombe, Marcus talks about the plans for Blackadon’s future. He and Ryan want to build on their sustainability ethos, which has already seen them win gold at the Green Tourism awards for their commitment to biodiversity and nature, recycling, energy saving, as well as working with their local community.

“There’s always more to do,” says Marcus. “But I feel really positive about everything we’ve achieved so far. We just have to make sure that we keep doing what we’re doing really well.”

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(Condensed version published in Dartmoor Magazine, Issue 148 Winter 2022.)

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