Like everyone we love getting away for the weekend, and often it's just for a bit of peace and quiet in the country. Sometimes, though, you want to get out of town to somewhere special to live it up with your friends and family – for special occasions, birthdays or anniversaries, or sometimes just for the sheer hell of it. There's something about having your own country estate or living out your own rock star country house fantasy that's irresistible, even if it's only for a weekend. We've teamed up with our friends at West Country specialist Helpful Holidays to offer you some of their best big houses in Devon with up to 35% off for selected dates in April and May – the only challenge with some of these places will be raising the numbers…
With accommodation for no less than 38 people, Alston Hall (pictured above and above right) is the perfect place to live out your Downton Abbey fantasies. Formerly a country house hotel, it has a grand gravel drive and a spectacular, balconied main hall with vast fireplace and baronial style wood panelling. Outside there are huge lawned gardens encompassing a croquet lawn and tennis courts for your more energetic house guests; while relaxed layabouts can enjoy a game of snooker or watch one of 12 TVs. You can also enjoy a swim in large indoor or outdoor pools. With all this on offer, it's hard to imagine you would want to leave, but just in case you do, it's worth knowing that the house is in a lovely part of south Devon, and close to some good beaches at Mothecombe, Challaborough and Bigbury.
Situated in a tiny hamlet outside Barnstaple, this Grade-II listed watermill is a beautiful stone property, full of beams and character, with a cosy sitting room with wood-burning stove and room for 11 people in its 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. Not only that, it has satellite TV, DVD players, an indoor swimming pool and a games room for rainy days, and for when the sun shines a suntrap patio and an acre of beautifully landscaped garden, full of nooks and crannies for games of hide and seek. Plus you're only 8 miles from the beaches at Saunton and Croyde.
A fabulous complex of barn conversions and cottages the Roundhouse can accommodate no less than 18 people in its 8 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms. With that much space, you may want to spend your time pootling around at home; the beams in particular are magnificent, the indoor swimming pool is large and well-appointed,and there's a games room with pool and table tennis. But this property is also brilliantly situated in the heart of the South Hams – indeed we can hardly think of anywhere better for a big weekend house party: just 6 miles or so from the scenic coastal town of Dartmouth, the beach at Blackpool Sands, and Kingsbridge and Salcombe and their glorious estuary.
A couple of miles north of the appealing market town of Holsworthy in far west Devon, this lovely farmhouse is still actually part of a working farm. It sleeps up to 11 in 4 large bedrooms, and has 3 bathrooms, a games room and a decent-sized indoor swimming pool (with hot tub). The garden is lovely, full of flowers in spring and summer, and you can also visit the farm, feeding the hens and other animals. It might be hard to tear yourself away from this rural idyll, but Bude is just 10 miles away and the glorious beach at Sandymouth in Cornwall just a few miles further.
Not just any old large house, but shortlisted as one of the country's 'Thousand Best Houses' in Simon Jenkins' book, and it's not hard to see why when you arrive at this 16th-century Tudor mansion, situated just outside the small town of Ottery St Mary in East Devon. Fabulously well-preserved but also boasting all the mod cons you'd expect for a comfortable stay, and some breathtakingly gorgeous grounds and gardens, we guarantee you won't want to leave. Invite everyone you know – it's got 13 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms!
Locations don't come much better than the one that this large stone cottage enjoys, deep in its own valley in the heart of Exmoor. The house itself is beautiful, cosy and nicely furnished, with 7/8 bedrooms and 3/4 bathrooms, and it has an indoor pool for those dreary Exmoor days; when the sun is shining it couldn't be better placed for walks through this beautiful national park and to the nearby dramatic North Devon coast. A piano too, for those Victorian musical evenings in.