Fabulous Devon hotel for staycation afternoon tea

Country house hotel in Devon.

The views from Hotel Endsleigh are stunning. - Credit: Paul Massey

ANDY COOPER recommends a trip to a special hotel which offers so much to both day visitors and guests 

If you’re a fan of Devon AND Cornwall then reader, do I have a vantage point for you. And, while you’re at it, as you sit in my recommended spot you can have a classic cream tea brought to you and perhaps, in deference to your locale, have one scone with jam on first and an alternative the other way round. 

Or maybe – to avoid diplomatic incidents and the arrival of UN peacekeepers to arbitrate in the great debate – perhaps avoid the cream tea conundrum and just go for some fabulous fine dining instead. All are available from my advantageous vantage point. 

So, where is it, I hear you cry. Well, Hotel Endsleigh, I reply, just about one of the finest country house hotel experiences one can enjoy in either county...and most likely in the rest of the UK as well.  

A herbaceous border in a hotel gardens in Devon.

The centrepiece of the hotel's gardens is the longest continuous raised herbaceous border in England. - Credit: Paul Massey

The hotel is a Grade I historic house set in 108 acres of fairy tale woodland, follies and grottos created by Humphry Repton, one of greatest English landscape designers of the 18th century. The Duke of Bedford, who owned a third of Devon, laid the first stone in 1810 for his fishing and hunting lodge, ideally situated on the edge of Dartmoor, as he thought it the prettiest part of his estate.  

In 2004 Olga Polizzi bought Endsleigh and restored it as a luxury hotel, designing the rooms in a classically elegant English style, with period furniture, contemporary art, roll-top bathtubs and book-lined shelves. Many of the 19 bedrooms have magnificent views of the gardens, the River Tamar and the forests stretching beyond into Cornwall.  

We were lucky enough to stay on our recent visit and were billeted in one of the suites in The Stables across from the main hotel building. And what a magnificent space the suite was...a two-tier delight with a large bedroom, study, pantry and two bathrooms all featuring the elegant, tasteful interiors and furnishings which are the hallmark of Endsleigh. Understated, sophisticated luxury in all its forms. 

A table laid out for afternoon tea in a wood-panelled hotel room.

Afternoon tea in the wood-panelled rooms is a real treat. - Credit: Fritz von der Schulenburg

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To sit in the terrace at Hotel Endsleigh is a rare pleasure indeed. If you do this right, you will have arrived at the hotel a little before the appointed hour when you are dining and allow yourself time to take in those magnificent gardens. The centrepiece is the longest continuous raised herbaceous border in England with glorious rose walk which runs parallel above. Dogs are very welcome at Endsleigh, and they will love the many walks you can take through the gardens.  

If you really want to plan ahead and make the most of these magnificently curated gardens, then head gardener Ben Ruscombe-King has a wealth of knowledge and gives a guided tour of the many cascades and the numerous trees. Fishing has always been at the heart of Endsleigh, and the hotel owns rods that can be used across the six beats. The ghillie is always happy to show even a novice the ropes.  

The food at Endsleigh takes its inspiration from the surrounding countryside, and includes seasonal and locally grown vegetables, game and fish from the South West shores. There is a panelled dining room that is decorated with the crests of the Bedford family, their friends and relatives. Every day, traditional afternoon tea is served, offering an array of cakes, scones and sandwiches.  

Fine dining plate of food.

The food at Hotel Endsleigh takes its inspiration from the surroundings. - Credit: Bradley Coles

Our dinner was everything one would expect in this kind of hotel setting. A chance to enjoy a pre-prandial in the magnificence of one of the oak-panelled rooms before being taken through to an elegant dining room where the menu was a fabulous showcase of local produce, wonderfully cooked and presented. And all the while the attentive levels of excellent service which demonstrate the first-class nature of the Endsleigh experience. 

If the hotel’s terrace offers a choice of viewing two counties, then the drive to the hotel offers two rather different experiences. Driving down its long stretches one is eagerly anticipating a visit to one of the finest hotel experiences there is...driving back out one is full of delight at an amazing experience yet rueful at having to depart. There really is only one cure: a return visit – and soon! 

  • Rooms are available at Hotel Endsleigh from £240 including breakfast. 
    Wood-panelled hotel dining room in Devon.

    The panelled dining room is decorated with the crests of the Bedford family, their friends and relatives. - Credit: Fritz von der Schulenburg