Forget the South of France, on a beautiful summer’s day there are few finer places to be than the English countryside, and nowhere finer to stay than the Highbullen Hotel.
Neither Dartmoor nor Exmoor; Riviera-esque south coast or surfer cool north, Highbullen Hotel sits in grand isolation in the heart of the glorious Devonshire countryside. Set in its own estate of 127 green acres, the hotel boasts some of the best leisure facilities in the area, with an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool and spa.
Pulling up outside its deep porch we are suitably impressed by the Gothic manor house, which houses the main hotel. With its gabled roof and dramatic stone archways, it was built as a family home in 1879 by architect William Moore, taking inspiration from the Victorian Arts and Crafts movement.
There are 11 individual rooms within the manor house, each lavishly decorated with antique furniture and chandeliers, and 26 contemporary estate rooms in various buildings around the estate. Wherever you lay your head, though, there is no doubting that Highbullen offers the ultimate in sophisticated luxury.
We spend our first morning exploring the vast estate; marvelling at the abundant wildlife and feeling our city stresses melt away. Later, retreating to the Laura Ashley Tea Room, we while away the afternoon enjoying a Devon cream tea (cream before jam, naturally). Replete, we head to the sun loungers on the veranda, where we sip on cocktails, mesmerised by the uninterrupted views of rolling greenery.
There’s just time before dinner for a little extra indulgence at the Highbullen Spa, where I am pampered with an Elemis Superfood facial and the most divine aromatherapy massage. Afterwards I float between the serene indoor pool and Jacuzzi, both offering panoramic views.
As night falls, there are more delights to be discovered at Highbullen. With its striking blue and gold palette and exclusive atmosphere, the Devon View Restaurant is the place to be. We enjoy a bottle of expertly selected wine and tuck into an unforgettable dinner experience. Executive Head Chef Stephen Walker has created a menu that blends flavours, aromas and textures from the local countryside. Slow-cooked rump of Exmoor lamb, locally-reared pork, Skrei cod and seabass served with different styles of potatoes and steamed greens all make an appearance and nothing disappoints.
Settling down in our supremely comfortable bed, we reflect that it is easy to see how this stylish hotel has made a name for itself as ‘the’ place to stay whilst in this region of Devon.
Bed and breakfast is priced from £110 per room per night. Chittlehamholt, Umberleigh, North Devon, EX37 9HD, (01769 540561; highbullen.co.uk)