Be your own lord or lady of the manor

Arriving at Northcote Manor is a magical experience – the long driveway unwinds through a dramatic wooded landscape pulling you deeper in and away from the humdrum stresses of everyday life. It was an impressive start to what we hoped would be a few days of calm and serenity, reinforced when we got our first view of the hotel itself. With a history stretching back centuries, this country house wears its past well, the sweeping lawns leading up to a grand ivy-clad facade.

First opened as a hotel in 1972, the estate itself has been inhabited by Benedictine monks, owned by Henry VIII and is mentioned as a manor as far back as 1103. Inside, the grandeur of the current manor house, built in 1716, is evident but the emphasis is very much on comfort, with book-lined walls, plush furnishing, beautiful rugs and wood-burning stoves creating a cosy, intimate atmosphere. Up a grand staircase, our suite was in a similar vein, spacious and well-equipped with tall windows framing impressive views over the North Devon countryside.

The wide comfortable bed was particularly welcome, and the separate seating area and large bathroom felt very much like a home from home. After settling in we ventured out to explore the grounds, stepping back in time as we wandered through the manor’s 20 acres of woods, orchards and walled garden. Despite the drizzly weather we had great fun following hidden tracks through the trees and stumbling across fairy-tale glades or stunning views across the Taw valley.

As if all of this wasn’t enough to relax the spirit, Northcote Manor now has another ace up its sleeve in the form of a brand new luxury spa, opened in May 2019. Separate from the hotel, the new building perches on the side of the valley with truly breathtaking views that stretch for miles. Its modern aspect manages not to jar with the traditional feel of the manor and takes the tranquillity up yet another notch.

But before sampling the delights of the spa the following morning, we had dinner to look forward to and headed back to the manor house to get ready. Read more: Six reasons to love a Bluestone break in wild west Wales Making our way back down for dinner, the attentive staff made us comfortable in front of a roaring fire, where we enjoyed delicious hor d’oeuvres as we perused the menu and deliberated over wine, with the help of friendly sommelier Mitchell.

The beautiful dining room was a delight with the quirky addition of three colourful murals on the walls depicting Northcote Manor’s past from the industrious monks to more sedate present-day activities. The real star of the evening however was the food, worthy of the certificates and accolades adorning the lintel as we entered.

Read more: Truck Festival finally announces its glittering line-up We tucked into three delicious courses, the highlights of which were the free range Crediton Aylesbury duckling starter, the marinated saddle of Exmoor venison, and my dessert of dark chocolate delice with an orange centre, honeycomb and marinated satsumas, which was recommended by Mitchell and sent my eyes rolling to the back of my head in bliss. The amuse bouche of mushroom soup was so tasty my partner would have happily have eaten it for all three courses.

Indeed, it was so memorable he interrogated our poor waitress for the recipe over breakfast the next morning. Still full from the night before, breakfast was a more restrained affair in the modern conservatory, where the sun graced us with an occasional appearance from behind the clouds. Then it was off to the spa for a massage.

Pockets of morning mist scattered across the valley made the view from the spa even more spectacular than the day before. You can enjoy the vista from the pool, hot tub, gym or sitting on decking that overlooks the valley. The hour-long Drift Away full body massage was exquisite, the masseuse applying just the right amount of pressure to sooth away tension, expertly getting rid of a particularly stubborn knot in my shoulder blade.

Rejuvenated and refreshed, we headed out for a country walk with directions supplied by the hotel that took us into the hills above the hotel and through some stunning landscape. Our stay at Northcote Manor was the perfect combination of beautiful scenery, comfort and relaxation. A special mention must go to the friendly staff, many of whom have worked there for years and gave the hotel a unique family feel.

Oh, and it’s dog friendly too –what more could you ask for?

  • STAY: Northcote Manor Country House Hotel, Burrington, Umberleigh, North Devon.

    01769 560770

  • BOOK:
  • Cost of a room, per night, based on two sharing with breakfast is GBP180 for a double, GBP235 for a superior and GBP290 for a suite.

    Dinner, bed and breakfast rates are GBP270 standard, GBP315 superior, and GBP360 suite.

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