When my fiancé Chris and I needed to escape from the stresses and strains of urban life, a sneaky midweek break at rural Devon retreat Hotel Endsleigh proved just the ticket…
Somewhere along the winding lanes of west Devon, in the 15 minutes between leaving the A30 and pulling up outside the flower-flanked hotel entrance, we left the 21st century behind and entered a fairy tale.
Hidden in private parkland above the River Tamar, with views out over a densely wooded valley and not another building in sight, Hotel Endsleigh is a magical place indeed. It was built as a hunting and fishing lodge for the Duke of Bedford, who once owned a third of Devon, and is now run by the renowned Olga Polizzi and her hotel-inspecting daughter Alex.
The 18 rooms – some in the main house, others in the old stable block (and one in the thatched, Hansel-and-Gretel-esque gamekeeper’s cottage) – are wonderfully restful. There are no snazzy gadgets; just elegant antiques, hand-stencilled wallpaper, stacks of books to browse, and – the biggest luxury for us city dwellers – total silence. Ours was nestled under the eaves at the very top of the building, and we loved looking out over the jumble of gables and chimney pots from the armchair by the window.
As soon as we’d settled in, we headed out to explore the grounds (well, some of them – the estate covers 108 acres in total). We wandered for hours, stumbling across a rose-covered walkway, a parterre garden centred around a burbling fountain, a vine-entwined terrace paved with sheep’s knuckles (really!), and a shell-encrusted grotto that looked like something from the pages of Hans Christian Andersen.
Once darkness began to fall, comforting whiffs of wood smoke lured us back inside, where we found fires crackling in the grates and candles flickering on every surface. We made straight for the drawing room, where we lingered over pre-dinner drinks and pretended we were in Downton Abbey.
Then it was time to move into the panelled, white-tableclothed dining room for a seasonal feast of celeriac velouté, roast guinea fowl and saffron potatoes, followed by a cheese platter and a decadent gateau oozing with rich chocolate ganache. We finished up with another round of drinks by the fire, before retreating upstairs for deep, uninterrupted sleep in our blissfully comfy kingsize bed.
Morning arrived all too quickly, but there was time for one last treat before we had to drag ourselves back to the modern world: a delicious breakfast of eggs Benedict, pastries and fruit, accompanied by birdsong and steaming cafetieres of coffee.
As we wound back up the driveway towards the road, the hotel vanished into the autumnal mist behind us, almost as if it had never existed – a fitting end to a fleeting stay at a place that truly feels hidden from the world.