Hotel Endsleigh

You don’t know what people-watching is until you’ve taken pre-dinner drinks in the bar of a smart weekenders’ hotel. Forget catwalk shows, forget singles’ nights – nowhere do guests check each other out with quite the same fervour witnessed over gin and tonics and olives around 8pm every Friday at stylish boutique boltholes all over the country. There is a very good reason for this, of course. Your choice of venue for an indulgent weekend reveals a great deal about you. Not only your budget, but your taste, not just your interests, but your aspirations. In theory, at least, you have a great deal in common with your fellow weekenders. These, my friends, are your people.

Guests at the Hotel Endsleigh are, while style-conscious, more Boden than Balenciaga, as you would expect of a clientele who choose to weekend in this remote and beautiful valley between Devon’s Dartmoor and Cornwall’s Bodmin Moor. They are moneyed, but of the old-school that prefers rolltop baths to Jacuzzis. (I distinctly heard the gentleman savouring a brandy digestif in the library describe it as ‘scrumptious’.) And they have one further thing in common: they look extremely happy to be where they are. And so they should, for Hotel Endsleigh is a class act. The house, a Grade-I listed fishing lodge, is insanely pretty, and the setting magical: it is easy to see why the Bedford family, who at the time owned a third of Devon, decided in 1812 that this was the prettiest spot in the county on which to build their house.

From the lawned terrace outside the drawing room, the view sweeps down to the rapid waters of the River Tamar, which divides Devon from Cornwall, and up densely wooded banks on the other side. Arriving on a dark, snowy November night, we hurried from car to hotel in search of hot baths and long drinks. Our room, no 7, was one of the less grand rooms, with one small window in the bedroom and none in the bathroom; nonetheless, it combined the assets of a chic private house (interesting art, a good selection of bedside reading) with those of a good hotel (huge, comfortable bed, plasma-screen TV), and boasted walls of a delicious duck-egg blue that has had me poring over Farrow & Ball charts since our return.

Hunger and curiosity soon coaxed us downstairs for drinks, snacks and, of course, people-watching. The ground floor of the hotel is a jigsaw of cosy, characterful rooms: a drawing room with a huge log fire; a pretty sitting room with hand-painted Thirties wallpaper; an impressively well-stocked library boasting everything from Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking to the Koran, and from The Jewel in the Crown to The Shadow of the Wind. Making a wrong turn while searching for a loo, I chanced upon a corridor stocked with Hunter wellies in every size, for ill-prepared townie guests. Dinner, served in the wood-panelled dining room, ranged from perfectly nice (a main course of roast monkfish, a fruit pancake dessert) to excellent (a starter of sea bream in watercress soup, a main of sliced seared beef).

The only low point of the weekend came the following morning. On the long drive down, we had compiled a wish-list for the perfect hotel weekend. Having parked our two-year-old son with Grandma for the weekend, top of the list was, of course, the chance to lie in. This was closely followed by being able to walk more than half a mile without the promise of a playground, and being able to browse the papers in a country pub instead of reading Thomas the Tank Engine stories out loud. (Naturally, there were a couple more elements, not suitable for publication.) And one more wish: breakfast in bed.

So imagine our disappointment on Saturday morning when, looking for the room-service menu, we found instead a note informing us that the Endsleigh ‘discourages’ in-room breakfasting, ‘because our layout is not ideal.’ In the light of this schoolmarmish diktat, we were a bit worried that Alex, the hotel’s impressive but rather formidable owner, was about to burst into the room, throw open the shutters and chide us for wasting such a glorious day, so we hurriedly dressed and made our way down for breakfast. (Good strong coffee, creamy scrambled eggs and crunchy brown toast with delicious marmalade: perfect, although it would have tasted even better in bed.)

But any grumpiness just could not last. From the moment we pulled on our wellies and stepped outside the hotel, resistance was futile: we were in love with Endsleigh. By the time we had explored the garden and grounds – a satisfying two-hour walk – we were decided that it was one the most beautiful places we had ever seen. A freak snowfall had transformed this very English scene into Narnia. A ping-pong table looked fabulously eccentric under a five-inch covering of snow; croquet hoops were half buried under the white-out, while the forest of evergreens on the far side of the river bowed under a frosting of snow, gently melting in the morning sun.

We made our way down to the icy, tumbling waters of the Tamar and back, discovering waterfalls and a picturesque shell grotto along the way. As we climbed back to the hotel, Alex’s pet Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, a handsome little thing with black spots on a sugar-pink coat (very Agent Provocateur) trotted through the snow to greet us. Truly, we thought, we have stumbled into another world, four and a half hours from London.

Having thus rediscovered our love of the countryside, we boldly ventured further afield for lunch at a local pub recommended by the hotel. This turned out to be a mistake: the food was good, but the service surly to the point of obnoxious, so after another quick walk (Kit Hill, nearby: good views, but nothing like as pretty as the hotel garden), we retreated to Endsleigh.

Picture the scene that greeted us in the library: a proper cream tea laid out for guests, complete with fruit scones and Devon cream and home-made jam; cake stands piled with tempting slices. All around, happy guests sat contentedly in armchairs, working their way through the weekend papers with pots of Earl Grey at their elbows. There was a delicious sensuousness to Endsleigh in this incarnation as a winter wonderland.

The sound of our boots crunching on virgin snow as we stepped out to explore the garden, the fragrant crackle of log fires in the lobby, drawing room and library, and the glow of candlelight on a dark afternoon. But then, summer must be magical too: the sloping terrace is perfect for an early evening Pimm’s; the river full of salmon (the hotel has a gamekeeper, and fishing expeditions are encouraged); the long croquet lawn marvellously Gatsby-esque. With a swimming pool planned for next year, we will be back long before the next snowfall.

Reviewed: Hotel Endsleigh

I’m starting this review with a stark warning: it’s going to be hard not to wax lyrical about this place. I mean, if you serve up history, romance and great big dollops of beauty what’s a girl to do?

THE LOWDOWN

Credit: Hotel Endsleigh

Hotel Endsleigh is one of renowned hotelier Olga Polizzi’s two hotels in the South West. While Hotel Tresanton on the Cornish Roseland Peninsula is all sea breezes, palm trees and timeless nautical style, this is the elegant and historic country retreat. Once owned by the Duke of Bedford, it’s a hideaway deep within Repton’s 200 year-old gardens (one of his last commissions), where the emphasis is on welly walks among the flora and fauna, roaring drinks by a crackling fire and indulgent, candlelit meals.

It’s one of those hotels that rolls with the seasons; where you and the family could batten down the hatches and feel perfectly content in the depths of winter, but come the summer months, when the gardens spring into bloom, life spills outdoors onto manicured lawns, with sun loungers, croquet and cocktails. If Gatsby did Devon, he’d have chosen somewhere like this for a raucous house party.

Credit: Hotel Endsleigh

THE LOCATION

Credit: Hotel Endsleigh

For those zipping into the county from Somerset and beyond, you’ll find Hotel Endsleigh right over on the western border as Devon becomes Cornwall, near the village of Milton Abbot. Unlike our seaside towns, this is a slightly less discovered spot, on the edge of Dartmoor, within the Tamar Valley, with views into Cornwall in places. The Duke of Bedford, who once owned a third of Devon and knew it well, chose Endsleigh for his fishing and hunting lodge, because he was savvy like that.

Once you’ve been lured this far into Devon, it’s tempting to experience the best of both worlds; stop at Endsleigh for a few nights to revive and then motor on down to Tresanton for some coastal action. I totally would.

THE VIBE

Credit: Hotel Endsleigh

If you’ve stayed at Olga Polizzi’s Hotel Tresanton, or any other swish Rocco Forte hotel around the world (the dynasty that Olga and her daughter Alex belong to), you’ll soon pick up on a very subtle signature style, one that you can’t obviously point out, but is definitely there.

While the interior design scheme is individual, bespoke according to the history and architecture (loads of original features here, like the wallpaper above), Hotel Endsleigh has that reassuringly colourful, classy – verging on playful at times – style that makes it feel more like a comfortable home than a hotel (yeah alright, a millionaire’s one, but still). You know when a room just looks casually thrown together and works? That, in every space. Somebody really knows what they’re doing and has a great eye for detail.

It’s peaceful – no music, just crackling fires and birdsong, along with the odd rustle of a newspaper, burble of chatter, clink of china or pop of a cork. It’s not hush-hushy in an intimidating kind of way; but visit and you’ll find you have no real reason to be shouting, either.

I came to stay with my husband just before Christmas, which was a perfectly relaxed time of year, like the calm before the storm. Behind the scenes, you could feel the excitement of guests arriving any day for the holidays (jealous, moi?) and yet, for the moment, it was twinkly and serene….very twinkly, with candles lighting every room, adding a fuzzy glow to proceedings. Or was that the red wine?

PILLOW TALK

Oh, the rooms. 18 of them, all individually designed in-keeping with the house and the landscape, with intricately painted wallpapers, roll top bathtubs, antiques and books, always books to hand, begging to be leafed through.

There are a mixture of classic doubles, larger rooms and suites, split across the house and just across the courtyard in the old Grade I listed stables. The two newest suites in the stables, one of which we snaffled for the night, are ideal for families and include a second bedroom and separate sitting room.

Ours, number 18, was split across two floors, like our own mini-apartment. Downstairs, you could snuggle down in front of a wood burning stove, fix yourself a cuppa in the pantry and, had we been with the Mudlet, we’d have tucked her up in the little bedroom.

Upstairs, the main bedroom was cosy, classy and that bed took some serious willpower to get out of, once you’re in, cocooned between an enormous thread count and plumptious topper.

The bathroom was gorgeous, with original freestanding bathtub, separate walk-in shower beneath a double-height ceiling going into the rafters. Honestly? You could happily hole up here for days without even thinking about the outside world.

SCOFF & QUAFF

Credit: Hotel Endsleigh

It’s here that I mustn’t forget to give special mention to the service – something I honestly reckon elevates Endsleigh to world-class standards. There’s nothing stuffy or pretentious here and that’s down to everyone you meet. Under GM Adam Cornish, everyone from the waiting staff to housekeeping play a part in keeping the atmosphere relaxed, welcoming but running faultlessly, which can’t be easy in an old listed house, when you think about it.

Afternoon tea is legendary here; every day the library table gets laid up with an array of scones, cakes and sandwiches and you’re free to help yourself and scoff, which we did.

Head Chef Jose Graziosi – a great character, whose passion for food is something else – came out of the kitchen for a natter. He’s fun, loves the creative license he has to be inventive with the natural larder on his doorstep and offered up a tasting menu for us at dinner.

Blimey, we went from duck to turbot and crab, through to an explosion of chocolate. I’m not going to lie, it nearly floored me into a coma but my God, what a way to go if you had to choose. The menu is all about fresh produce, delivered in a way that makes you talk about the dishes and their flavours. If you’re a local and you’ve not yet booked for dinner or lunch, then I would highly recommend getting in there soon.

KID-FRIENDLY?

Err, yes and didn’t we feel guilty for ohhh, five seconds, when we discovered the cute second bedroom in our suite, with bunkbeds (the Mudlet LOVES the novelty of a bunk!). Then we quickly had words with ourselves and decided we deserved a night away from incessant 4 year-old questions and popped a cork. If you don’t manage to bagsie a suite then z-beds and cots are available and actually fit most of the rooms, too. Worth mentioning though that, while families are warmly welcomed, I wouldn’t come expecting to be able to let your kids run riot inside the house, like they might do in other family-focused hotels; it’s not the kind of place where your littlies’ screams will blend in to the background.

There is however plenty to do outdoors, in a Famous Five kind of way. The gardens are full of little hidey holes and alluring paths to explore, not to mention full of wildlife. There’s a croquet lawn, ping-pong table and smalls can have a go at trout fishing on the river. If the weather doesn’t play ball, then there’s a games cupboard in the library, with plenty of books and DVDs to entertain, too.

OUT AND ABOUT

If you’ve checked in for a weekend, it’s unlikely you’ll feel compelled to leave the grounds. There’s a corridor full of outdoor gear and Hunter wellies for you all to borrow, and you can lose hours walking the gardens (guided by the head gardener if you fancy it or just with a map), exploring the historical grottos and follies.

You might want to venture further along the river to the local pub for a brief change of scenery, but the lure of afternoon tea and the papers back at base will be too strong to resist, I almost guarantee it.

If you’re staying longer, then rejoice because the Tamar Valley is ripe for exploration. Some of Dartmoor’s prettiest spots, National Trust houses, like Cothele and Buckland Abbey and the market town of Tavistock (with the best cheese shop in the world, Country Cheeses) are all nearby. And then there’s the rugged North Cornish coast to explore (but Devon’s always better, right?).

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Couples in need of a peaceful and restorative break; foodies who expect the menu to match the rest of the package; families are most welcome and the hotel really comes into its own for festive stays when the packages are carefully thought out to give everyone a blissful break.

Not for: travellers who get a bit wobbly when they’re miles from civilisation might feel they’re a little remote; and while plans are afoot for a boutique and a simple treatment room, there are no spa facilities. Just an abundance of fresh country air.

££: This is a special place with five star luxuries and service to boot and the price reflects that. Classic rooms start from £200 per night in winter and our suite starts at £350. Dogs are welcome everywhere except the restaurant and can stay for £20 per night. Dinner is available at £47 and there’s a set lunch menu at £22 for 2 courses, or £26 for 3.

Hotel Endsleigh, Milton Abbot, Devon, PL19 0PQ. Tel: 01822 870000. hotelendsleigh.com

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This Agreement and the rights granted and obligations undertaken hereunder may not be transferred, assigned or delegated in any manner you, but may be so transferred, assigned or delegated by ResDiary.

21. Waiver

Any waiver of any provision of this Agreement, or a delay by any party in the enforcement of any right hereunder, shall neither be construed as a continuing waiver nor create an expectation of non-enforcement of that or any other provision or right.

22. Choice of Law

The laws of Scotland govern these Terms of Use. You hereby consent to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Scottish courts in all disputes arising out of or relating to this Agreement. ResDiary may, and you may not, assign, convey, subcontract or delegate rights, duties or obligations hereunder.

23. Right to Erasure

If you wish to delete your data, please notify us at .

Winter 2019

Classic Rooms from £225 per night
Repton Rooms from £280 per night
Bedford Rooms from £310 per night
Suites/Gatekeeper’s Lodge from £375 per night

Spring 2019

Classic Rooms from £250 per night
Repton Rooms from £300 per night
Bedford Rooms from £330 per night
Suites/Gatekeeper’s Lodge from £400 per night

Summer 2019

Classic Rooms from £285 per night
Repton Rooms from £330 per night
Bedford Rooms from £360 per night
Suites/Gatekeeper’s Lodge from £435 per night

Autumn 2019

Classic Rooms from £250 per night
Repton Rooms from £300 per night
Bedford Rooms from £330 per night
Suites/Gatekeeper’s Lodge from £400 per night

(excluding Christmas, New Year, Easter, Valentine’s and bank holiday weekends).

All rates are based upon two people sharing and include VAT.
There is a 10% discount for single occupancy.
Some rooms can accommodate guest beds which are suitable for a child aged up to 13 years.
A charge of £40 per night is made per guest bed (excluding children three years and younger).
We require two night bookings at weekends.
Dogs are welcome everywhere in the hotel except the restaurant. Dogs are charged at £20 per night if they stay in the bedroom overnight.
Check in time is 2.30pm, check out time is 11am.

If you cancel within 48hrs of your stay you will be charged the full cost of your stay. If you cancel within 14 days of your stay you will forfeit your deposit and we reserve the right to charge you the full cost of the stay if we are unable to resell the room. We strongly advise you to ensure that you have adequate travel insurance in place to cover any unforeseen cancellation.

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