Hotel Endsleigh

Tamar Valley, Devon, United Kingdom Book from

An elegant country retreat set in 108 acres of fairy-tale parkland overlooking the winding River Tamar on the Devon-Cornwall border
What a setting! From the oak-panelled drawing room where we sit with Earl Grey tea and cream-laden scones, our gaze sweeps over a rainbow of flowering borders and a neat croquet lawn, across the Tamar, and loses itself in the dark conifer forests of the far bank: the start of Cornwall. There is not another building in sight. Immense copper beeches and Douglas firs stand sentinel over tumbling brooks, a Victorian shell grotto and an octagonal dairy house surely inhabited by pixies.

It's little wonder that the Duke of Bedford, who 2 centuries ago owned a third of Devon, chose this spot for his hunting and fishing lodge. Now Grade-I listed and converted into an enchanting hideaway by Olga Polizzi and her hotel-inspecting daughter Alex, it draws a discerning, romantic clientele, who savour the fine cuisine, the private fishing, the landscaped grounds, the crackle of newspapers and fireplaces at tea time, and the deep, bucolic silence outside. In summer, those who can afford it block-book the place for lavish weekend weddings in the most idyllic of surrounds (married life, as my wife observed, could only go downhill after that). The 18 classically English bedrooms and suites are a study in painted wallpapers, roll-top bathtubs, book-lined shelves and snugly quilted beds; there's also a separate gatekeeper's cottage ideal for a couple with children.

Highs

  • A beautiful location midway between Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor; you've also got superb hiking and riding on your doostep
  • Wonderfully romantic (candles flickered throughout when we revisited in 2016), though families are warmly welcomed, too
  • The beds (many of them kingsize) are blissfully comfy, and the widely spaced layout ensures total silence
  • We loved the lavish afternoon teas, and lingering over pre-dinner drinks in the fire-lit lounge and library
  • Smiling, ever-helpful staff who are clearly passionate about the historic lodge and estate

Lows

  • The focus here is quiet refinement - it's not for those seeking a vibrant party atmosphere
  • Dinner is a set-price (though very tasty) affair, and it's a drive to other eateries if you fancy something more informal
  • A few of the bedrooms are under the eaves or on the small side, but this is reflected in the rates
  • You're as far from the sea as you can be in Devon or Cornwall (25 miles from Boscastle or Looe) - if you want seaside, try their sister hotel Tresanton

Best time to go

Any time of year. Summer is stunning, with the gardens in full bloom, but be prepared for some crowds on the coast. We really enjoyed our autumn visit, when the trees were shedding the last of their fiery red leaves and the Tamar was half hidden beneath wisps of mist. Winter would be ideal for a romantic break, with roaring fires, scones, books and frost-covered lawns.

Our top tips

If you're going back to Bristol or London, start along the country lanes heading northeast and stop off at Brentor to climb the windswept hill, which is topped by the ancient church of St Michael de Rupe and offers lung-cleansing panoramas over an emerald patchwork of fields. If time allows, you could even slot in a visit to the deep, moss-lined gorge at Lydford, before joining the A366 and then the A30 at Sourton Down.

Great for...

Family
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Country House Hotel
  • 18
  • Restaurant & bar (open daily)
  • All ages 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
  • Hunter wellies to borrow
  • Badminton, boules & croquet
Room: Bedford Room 8

Rooms

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.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • CD player (on request)
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

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.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore the magnificent grounds, landscaped in the early 19th century by Humphry Repton, pupil and successor of Capability Brown (a book of his hand-drawn plans is on display near reception). You'll find an immaculate parterre garden radiating around a fountain; a rose-covered walk; an endearing shell-lined grotto; a magical, octagonal dairy house hidden on the far bank of a tumbling dell; fiery Japanese maples, giant Douglas firs and weeping beech (Repton planted half a million trees!); and no shortage of blissful riverside walks
  • A little further afield are Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, perfect for windswept hikes and rides (the hotel can fix you up with horses and tack)
  • You can borrow a fishing rod and try your luck on the river: 8 miles of the best salmon and sea trout fishing in the UK. A ghillie is on hand to help (additional charge)
  • Game and clay pigeon shooting and falconry days can be arranged, too
  • It's only 25 miles or so (45 minutes' drive) to the stunning north Cornwall coast (Bude and Boscastle), and a similar distance to the south coast around Plymouth (we loved the sea-filled vistas around the Noss Mayo headland, especially when followed by lunch at The Ship Inn)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boules
  • Clay-pigeon shooting
  • Croquet
  • Fishing
  • Gardens
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Picnics
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Walking

Kids

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.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

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.

Babysitting:

Can be arranged at an hourly rate (as always, it rises after midnight). Prior notice only.

Baby listening:

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.

Baby equipment:

  • High chairs
  • Baby cots
  • Bottle warming

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

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.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Games cupboard
  • Table tennis
  • Lots of toys and books
  • DVD library

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Trethorne Leisure Park (20 minutes)
  • Climbing barn (10 minutes)
  • Adrenaline Quarry (45 minutes)

Families Should Know:

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.

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour (Exeter)
  • Hospital: 15 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

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