It’s already been a massive hit on the stage and now Stephen Spielberg’s screen version is about to launch at cinemas worldwide. The War Horse phenomenon started off from chance conversations between British author, Michael Morpurgo and some octogenarian First World War veterans in a quaint village inn, the Duke of York at Iddesleigh in Devon. Their stories about the county’s horses being commandeered for service in the war inspired Michael’s hugely successful book and the rest is history.
As with so many other films, which were set and shot in the West of England, War Horse’s big screen debut has already triggered a growing flood of visitors to the factual and fictional locations associated with the story. The beauty of exploring the War Horse trail is that it will take you to some of the most scenic corners of the land so it fits in extremely well with a short or extended break in the region.
The trail involves visits to the two counties of Devon and Wiltshire and it is a matter of personal choice in which order you choose to cover it.
The only place to see in Wiltshire is the archetypal English village of Castle Combe which was chosen by the film makers to portray a typical village in Devon. In many ways, this seems an odd choice but, there again, the 350 inhabitants are no strangers to Hollywood having already hosted Dr. Dolittle, Stardust and The Wolfman.
Moving on westwards to Devon itself, the first thing that visitors notice is how big the county is by UK standards. Also, the roads tend to be narrow and twisting so it seems like an eternity to get from one place to another. However, this is all part of the charm and why tourists should plan on staying for a few days at least.
To savour the authentic War Horse experience, one should, of course, stay at one of the many farms which offer comfortable holiday accommodation and wonderful local food. Failing this, there are some very pleasant hotels along the way.
You will need to look at the map and plan your route but, what better place to start than Iddesleigh itself. You will find it almost smack in the centre of the county slightly to the east of Okehampton. It is really no more than a hamlet but has the obligatory church and public house, the Duke of York, where the War Horse story was born. The inn is most atmospheric and everyone should enjoy a drink here while admiring the view out towards Cawsand Beacon and the rest of North Dartmoor. However, if it’s a well cooked, reasonably priced meal you want, you might find the New Inn at nearby Sampford Courtenay more to your liking.
Now you need to think about getting over to the South West of the moor to see where many of the rural scenes in the movie were filmed. Sheepstor is the tiny village featured at the beginning of the trailer while other scenes were shot at nearby Meavy. Close to Sheepstor is Ditsworthy Warren House which was used as the Narracott family farmhouse in the movie. This empty building and the area around it is owned and used by the Ministry of Defence for military training purposes but visitors can enjoy a good view of it from Legis Tor.
For those intrigued by country holidays and are looking for a comfortable stay, they should consider the Two Bridges Hotel near Princeton, which boasts the Vivien Leigh suite where the Gone with the Wind star once stayed. From here, visitors are also highly recommended to take a stroll over to the magical Wistman’s Wood.
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