“An elegant country retreat set in 108 acres of fairy-tale parkland overlooking the winding River Tamar on the Devon-Cornwall border”
This 19th-century cottage orné was never intended to be a hotel, so the rooms and suites come in all shapes and sizes, some tucked under the eaves, others with glorious valley views (worth the extra cost). All have antique pieces - a marble-topped dressing table, an oval studded mirror - to lend a touch of elegance, but the best thing about them is their restfulness. There’s little gadgetry (just a flatscreen TV and DVD player); instead you get books to browse, calming Farrow and Ball hues or intricate hand-stencilled wallpaper, and - best of all - total silence.
We stayed in one of the spacious Bedford Rooms, which had gorgeous Chinese wallpaper, a deliciously comfy bed with a chaise-longue at its foot, and a deep bathtub in the ensuite. Other standouts include one of the Repton Double or Twins with Garden View, which was the Duke of Bedford's room (its ensuite, down steep steps, was his prayer room), and the 2 Suites with Garden View, which occupy their own wing at the end of a welly-lined corridor. We particularly liked the ground-floor option, whose French windows open onto a sheltered suntrap.
Other suites sit in the courtyard outbuildings, with lounges, wood-burners and kitchen corners; there’s also the thatched Gatehouse Lodge Suite, a mile up the drive, which would suit a privacy-seeking couple (with or without children) who don't mind the extra walk to dinner.
Afternoon tea is laid out in the library - a generous spread of delicate sandwiches and cakes, accompanied by champagne if you wish (tuck in, but be aware that it will appear on your bill). The library and neighbouring lounges, all warmed by fires and lit by dancing candles, are also the scene for evening drinks, served by smartly suited staff or available from the honesty bar.
Dinner, taken in the panelled dining room or outside under parasols, is an elegantly presented 3-course affair (set price), with service to match the setting. Ingredients are largely seasonal and local, with the odd exotic cameo (fennel confit, Italian burrata). We tucked into a creamy celeriac velouté with truffle oil, followed by breast of guinea fowl with dauphinoise potatoes and a burnt aubergine puree, and a tender lamb loin on a bed of glazed seasonal vegetables – all very tasty and very satisfying. For dessert we chose a decadent gateau opéra oozing with rich chocolate ganache, and a selection of delicious cheeses.
Breakfast is in the best English tradition, with everything from grilled kippers and eggs Benedict to Drambuie-laced porridge. There’s also a buffet of mueslis, yoghurts and pastries. Lunches are available, too, but if you're heading out staff can rustle up a picnic or advise on the best gastro pubs for miles around.
This is a child-friendly hotel, and the larger rooms can accommodate an extra bed (small charge) or baby cot (free) - some can take 2. The property is dog-friendly too, so perfect for a full family adventure.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)
The suites can fit an extra single bed and / or baby cot on request. Family Suite 18, located in one of the outbuildings, has a handy bunk-bedded room for kids. There's also the separate Gatehouse Lodge Suite (a mile from the hotel), which can sleep 3-4 in a double / twin room, a single room and an extra bed. The Bedford Double or Twin with Garden View can sleep 2 children on rollaway beds.
Can be arranged at an hourly rate (as always, it rises after midnight). Prior notice only.
The in-room telephones double up as listening devices, though the hotel describes them as "intermittent" - so if you're nervous about it, ask ahead. Baby monitors can be hampered by the thick walls.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
There's a kids' menu, or the chef can rustle up most dishes to order - though they do ask that younger children finish their dinner by 7pm.
The local shop in Milton Abbot sells limited supplies; for nappies, baby food and other gear you'll need to go to Tavistock (7 miles). There are a couple of open water hazards, including the trout lake and river, and mobile phone signal is patchy.