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Free-range family holidays in North Devon

Tue 10 May 2022

Inspired by their own happy memories, the East family ventured west to Combe Martin where they have created their very own holiday haven by the sea.


When Luke and Alice East moved to Coulscott House with their two children in February 2021, they knew they’d be sharing the property with its 27 existing residents; a charming brood of alpacas, goats, guinea pigs, chickens and ducks. Relocating from Surrey to this 15-acre pocket of North Devon countryside, this bold move would offer the East family a lifestyle they could only dream about in the Home Counties and, as one little girl waits to bottle-feed a new orphaned lamb before collecting freshly-laid eggs for her breakfast and heading for a dip in the indoor pool, their dream of sharing a slice of this lifestyle with their lucky guests is becoming a reality.

The couple were originally planning to take on a holiday business in Kent, but when that fell through and the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, they set their sights a little further afield. “We agreed that space and location, not just for our holiday guests but for our family too, was incredibly important to us and you just can’t beat the West Country!” Alice recalls. Although they were originally looking for something slightly smaller in scale, when this coastal resort came onto the market boasting a Grade II-listed farmhouse, five-bedroom barn conversion and three holiday cottages surrounded by peaceful grounds just one mile from the coast at Combe Martin, they knew it was for them. “While neither of us had any experience in tourism, my marketing and PR work for TV combined with Luke’s career in HR made for a useful set of transferable skills! Perhaps more valuable than that, we have a lot of experience in staying in holiday cottages and know what we like and what works so had a pretty clear idea of what we wanted to offer our guests.”

With their 11-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son taking care of animal duties, it was down to Alice to update the holiday cottages before the arrival of their first guests this spring. “Luckily for us, everything was left in really good condition by the previous owners, which meant we could turn our attention to adding extra features to enhance our guests’ experience. This included adding a pick-your-own kitchen garden, a fire pit for toasting marshmallows, pirate’s ship for little ones and a few new animal friends for them to get involved with.”

Knowing that every booking begins on a screen, Alice has also created a new user-friendly website full of enticing imagery of both Coulscott and its local coastline and countryside. Alice has also partnered with a range of local businesses to create guide books containing useful information about Coulscott and the surrounding area. Keen to offer her guests a holiday to remember rather than just a place to stay, Alice has ensured that they have everything they might need at their fingertips, from the nearest surf school to catering companies, local brewers and artists whose works are proudly displayed in the cottages.

Taking on a holiday complex of this scale in the midst of a pandemic, with its ever-changing regulations and long list of protocols, has been far from straight-forward, but for Alice this move was always about more than just business. “It hasn’t been as daunting or as hard as I thought it might be and being able to give my family this lifestyle is so rewarding. This isn’t a nine-to-five job and it is hard work but despite that, I really do feel like I’m on holiday every day!

For advice buying or selling holiday complexes please contact Stags specialist Holiday Complexes department at holidaycomplexes@stags.co.uk

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