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Being a journalist (that's my day job, for those that don't know) I get some pretty cool experiences - and one of the most recent examples was staying at the incredible Longlands Devon luxury glamping site near Combe Martin in North Devon. I've made a video of our amazing stay there, or scroll down for the full review, including of their incredible gluten free cheesecake!
Picture the scene: you're driving down a winding, rollercoaster-esque single track lane, waving at the cows in the field (yes, I did that) before emerging into a gorgeous valley, five safari lodges sat on stilts in front of you. Cold? Stoke the fire yourself and feel its glowing warmth envelope you. Sitting on the decking outside your lodge you can survey the lush greenery around you, or perhaps you'll curl up and play a game of Jenga on the sofa. That's the beauty of Longlands in North Devon - oh, and did I mention the gluten free cheesecake? I did? We'll get to that...
The safari lodges
Cosy, homely and full of every little thing you could think of, these luxury safari tents have all the home comforts you need, while still feeling like you're worlds away from the fast-paced 'everyday' life. From insect spray and board games to freshly ground coffee and hot water bottles by the bed, there is nothing here that hasn't been thought of already.
Longlands owner Bella will happily show you the ropes, including how to light the fire - and keep it going - as well as the sneaky, one-hob gas ring for if you want your dinner/cuppa a little faster! Each lodge sleeps six people, and behind the bedrooms are the toilet and shower room. The hot shower is very worthwhile - you have to stoke the fire yourself to get hot water!
These lodges feel so warm and cosy, and I absolutely adored the decor inside. From the fun quotes hangings on the wall to the handy emergency umbrella (they are dotted all around the site, just incase the great British weather catches you out!) and the box for 'Shoes and 'Choos', there is something to discover in every corner which will make you smile.
The (gluten free) food
One of my favourite things about our stay at Longlands was, of course, the food. Bella was so helpful beforehand, explaining the Longlands Larder to us. Here, you pre-order your food and then collect it from the larder each morning/evening, all labelled up with the name of your lodge, waiting for you in the fridge. All of the food options are labelled for allergens, and Bella was extremely helpful in answering any questions before our stay.
We pre-ordered the chilli con carne for our evening meal (you can bring your own food, but we wanted the whole Longlands experience!) as well as the CHEESECAKE. As soon as Bella told me it was gluten free I absolutely knew we had to have it - though it was a close call between that and the gluten free chocolate torte! For breakfast we ordered a fried breakfast.
Once you've received your food, it's up to you to cook it. You can bake in the oven in the lodge, it's a part of the woodburner, or we heated our food up on the gas hob (it was quicker, we were hungry!) and then kept the chilli warm on top of the stove while we cooked the jasmine rice. The chilli was delicious, and felt like the perfect hearty meal for our canvas setting.
The cheesecake was SO GOOD. We didn't realise it was actually going to be a whole gluten free cheesecake, and it was worth every single bite. We devoured the whole thing and I'd happily go back for more - it was baked with a spongey base and was just to die for.
The following morning, we collected our breakfast - bacon, gluten free sausages, tomato, baked beans and freshly laid eggs. You can even say hello to the hens as you walk down to the lodges from the car park! Again, it was delicious, and the perfect way to start the morning in our little lodge.
Things to do at Longlands
Sadly we only had the one day to explore around Longlands, but there is so much to do if you want to get out and about and away from technology! After our breakfast we put our wellies on and went for an hour in the hot tub - you can book an hour and it is right on the hillside, looking out over the lake and beyond. I can imagine the sunset sessions are beautiful, but there was something magical about sitting in the steaming water, not another soul in site, with a blanket of rain followed by bright sunshine and a rainbow in the distance. It was simply stunning.
We also went for a mooch around - we went down to the lake (but resisted getting in the soggy boats!) before wandering back to our lodge along the edge of the stream. If you were staying for longer you'd be in a prime position to explore some of the most beautiful parts of North Devon and Exmoor.
Longlands' tagline is: 'Unplug, Reconnect, Revive', and I can see why. After just one night here we were feeling blissfully relaxed and I know, had we had longer there, we would have felt even better. Sometimes I forget what a beautiful part of the world we live in, here in North Devon, and even though Longlands is only half an hour from my door, I'd happily come back here again for a weekend of glamping, pampering and relaxation. It was heavenly.
A huge thank you to Bella and the team at Longlands Devon for making our stay so amazing. Look out for my upcoming feature in Devon Life magazine soon!