Holiday cottage breaks in the South West are a wonderful opportunity to escape drudgery, take a literal breath of fresh air and explore wild, unspoiled countryside. And with the region home to the highest points south of the Brecon Beacons, there are all sorts of peaks to get your cheeks glowing and gain altitude for stunning views across a patchwork of fields, moors and little toy farms to the horizon. In the words of Flaubert, 'you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world'. These are our favourite spots for drinking in buzzard-eye views which go on forever:
High Willhays, Dartmoor, Devon
High Willhays is the highest point in the region, topping out at over 2,000ft. Unsurprisingly, the sights from the large, flat summit plateau, which is connected to the marginally lower Yes Tor, are superb. On a clear day, expect 30 to 40-mile views from the 621m peak into Cornwall and North Devon, as well as to Great Mis Tor to the south. You can access High Willhays from Meldon Reservoir, just outside Okehampton. From there it's a gently sloping, but sometimes boggy climb to the summit. The hill lies within an army live training zone, so don't attempt it on a day when red flags signal live firing.
Stay at Lily's Pad on the outskirts of Okehampton.
Dunkery Beacon, Exmoor, Somerset
[Image: Kerry Garratt]
Second only to High Willhays in terms of height, the vistas from the 520m-high summit near Minehead are just as spectacular. If the sun is shining, you'll enjoy views across the Bristol Channel into Wales, including Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons, as well as over Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor, the Severn Bridges and even to Cleeve Hill, some 86 miles away in Gloucestershire. The summit is close to the road, so it's very easy to find your way to the top, but this short walk is a pleasant one through thick blankets of purple heather. There's also a tremendous amount of wildlife in the area, including deer and kestrel.
Stay at West Huckham Barn, 2 miles from Dunkery Beacon.
Brown Willy, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
[Image: Donald Macauley]
The drolly named Brown Willy - guaranteed to elicit a tee-hee, but originally from the romantic Cornish 'Bronn Wennili' meaning 'hill of swallows' - is Cornwall's highest point at 420m. It can be climbed from the village of Bolventor, home to the legendary haunted smugglers' pub, the Jamaica Inn, and is accessed by a tramp across the marshy moor. After you've scaled the heights of Brown Willy you can head back to the inn for a hearty steak pie or Sunday roast.
Stay at Tumrose Cottage, in wooded farmland on the edge of Bodmin Moor.
Lewesdon Hill, Dorset
[Image: Claire Cox]
Although relatively tiny compared to the other hills listed here, the 279m Lewesdon Hill is well worth climbing if you're in the Beaminster area. Accessed via a footpath from the village of Broadwindsor or Coombe Lane, much of the walk is through woodland with glimpses of fantastic views over the surrounding area. You can also see the remains of an Iron Age fort and in the spring the ground is covered in a carpet of bluebells. If you climb Lewesdon in the autumn, interesting fungi will be growing on the huge old beech and oak trees.
Stay at Blackbird Cottage, beside the village green in Broadwindsor.
Although Lewesdon Hill and Dunkery Beacon are fairly straightforward ascents, for both High Willhays and Brown Willy, which involve several hours walking over rugged moorland, carefully plan your route via waypoints and be prepared with an OS map, compass and waterproof walking gear for fickle moorland weather which can descend quite suddenly and the bogs which are famously treacherous.
But don't be deterred though - it's more than worth it when you're on top of the world!
[Main image: Archangel12]