Cider House

near Yelverton, Devon, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Lyndon Ashmore
An indulgent B&B in the prize-winning grounds of historic National Trust Buckland Abbey, on the edge of Dartmoor
Bearing down on a sweeping Devonshire valley speckled with longhorn cows and bleating sheep, it’s easy to see why Cistercian monks made this their home many centuries ago. Sir Francis Drake lived here during the 16th century, and when the Abbey and its 700-acre estate were later bequeathed to the National Trust, the opportunity arose for someone to transform Drake's old cider house.

Bertie and Bryony Hancock leapt at this once-in-a-lifetime chance, and relocated to Devon to turn the ancient stone building into a relaxed and spoiling B&B. Thankfully, they did away with any semblance of monastic asceticism in favour of luxury, and today the 4 guest rooms feature large Egyptian-cottoned beds, decadent bathrooms and plush pillowy carpets. Of all the building's guises, its current incarnation is our favourite - though we're glad they haven’t done away with the almost religious pastoral bliss.

Highs

  • Welcoming hosts and a serene, relaxed atmosphere
  • Neighbours don’t come much more illustrious than Buckland Abbey; there's even a Rembrandt to admire
  • A stunning garden maintained by The National Trust, plus free access to the Abbey, estate and its formal gardens
  • Delicious breakfasts: honey from the estate's bees, eggs from their rare-breed hens, bacon from free-range pigs
  • Great walks from the front door and up on Dartmoor; the unspoilt area is a haven for deer, owls, badgers and otters

Lows

  • The estate grounds can be busy during the day, but everyone disappears by late afternoon
  • Only breakfast served so you'll probably need a car (although there are pubs with food a 15-minute walk away)
  • 10.30am check out and a fairly strict cancellation policy
  • The estate is closed for 10 weeks a year. The upside is the grounds are peaceful and deer roam close to the B&B

Best time to go

Dartmoor’s beauty is resplendent at any time of year. The gardens are most beautiful in the spring and summer, but in winter (when the neighbouring National Trust building is closed), the area takes on an utterly tranquil atmosphere. We love the idea of returning at the end of a year, when the lounge's fire is roaring and the friendly nearby pubs are steamed up with mulled wine and festivities.

Our top tips

If you’re looking for a truly spoiling meal, try Michelin-starred The Treby Arms, or visit one of the many seafood restaurants offering a gastronomic perspective of the English Riviera. Bryony and Bertie can advise; you'll need to book in advance.

Great for...

Eco
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 4
  • Breakfast (restaurants a drive/good walk away)
  • Children over 12 welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Honesty bar
Room:

Rooms

The 4 spotlessly clean rooms are simply decorated in a country style, with elegant and carefully chosen furnishings. They seem slightly spartan, but what they lack in frills, they make up for in quality. Each features a statement wall of ornate paper, and huge beds with Hypnos mattresses are wrapped in crisp Egyptian cotton sheets.

The attention to detailed luxury extends to decadent bathrooms which, with the exception of Langworthy, have double-ended rolltop baths. You can also expect Ren toiletries, cosy robes and excellent showers (it was a challenge to leave my heavenly pin-you-to-the-floor drench).

We stayed in Woodbine, the pick of the bunch with its super-kingsize four-poster bed. We also loved Pippin for its large bathtub that looks out over the gardens. Smaller Langworthy shares the same tremendous view but only has a shower. Northwood looks out over the estate and the neighbouring cottage with its charming tower.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Hairdryer
  • Safe (on request)
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

A regimentally planted kitchen garden, pretty beehives, free-range pigs and a cluck of hens provide ingredients for Bryony's excellent country breakfasts. We happily gorged on her homemade bread and fruit jams, glasses of apple juice from the orchard, and creamy West Country yoghurts. The lovely cooked menu included home-reared bacon and sausages, freshly laid eggs and Groats pudding (a traditional Devon recipe), as well as smoked salmon.

Though no other meals are served at Cider House, the surrounding countryside is dotted with characterful pubs. Many of them require a drive, but the welcoming Who’d Have Thought It? (The Who’d’y, to locals), is a 15-minute stroll away in Milton Combe. We enjoyed a dinner of belly pork in the ribald and jovial bar (there’s a separate restaurant area, too), along with live music. The Drake Manor Inn at Buckland Monachorum is also walkable (20 mins), with simple, tasty food.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Visit Buckland Abbey's ancient chapel and high altar, and admire Sir Francis Drake's snare drum, which he took with him on all explorations. There's also a newly discovered Rembrandt on display
  • Outside, stroll around the estate's beautiful gardens, visit the cathedral-like Great Barn, or walk countryside trails (the bluebell trail in spring is incredible). All of this, including Abbey entry, is free to Cider House guests
  • Falconry experiences can be held in the garden!
  • Neighbouring village Buckland Monachorum is home to the wonderful Garden House, regarded as one of the best gardens in the country
  • Stunning Dartmoor with its excellent walking and quaint villages is on the doorstep. There are great opportunities for mountain biking and horse riding, or get back to basics and try wild swimming or hiking around highlights such as Lydford Gorge
  • Tavistock, an ancient stannary town with independent shops and a pannier market, is a 20-minute drive away
  • Plymouth and its spectacular aquarium (the largest in the UK) is just a bit further

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Falconry
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Wildlife

Kids

This is not a family-focused hotel although older children are welcome, however there are no additional beds available.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Children 12 and over will need their own room

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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