Beneath the beautiful, bleak and breath-taking hills of Dartmoor, seemingly tucked away in its very own tranquil little valley, is the Jacobean splendour of Lewtrenchard Manor.
With a history that stretches back to the 1600s, Lewtrenchard is a property replete with legends and famous family associations (you can sleep in the bed the once belonged to Queen Henrietta Maria – the wife of Charles I – or sip a fine whisky in the drawing room where the First World War anthem ‘Onwards Christian Soldiers’ was composed). Brought back to its original Jacobean splendour in the late Victorian era by Sabine Baring Gould (who’s love affair with a local mill worker was apparently the inspiration for George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion), Lewtrenchard Manor is a place to relax, breathe the clean Devon air and thoroughly forget the cares of the 21st century.
With a log fire crackling in almost every public space, imposing family portraits adorning every oak-panelled wall, and library walls groaning with beautifully-bound books, Lewtrenchard really does feel like its own yesteryear universe. The beautiful grounds that stretch in every direction around the property offer leafy walks, babbling fountains, the hush of wind in the trees, and the warm smell of flowers on the evening air. If ever the words ‘country retreat’ were spoken, they could not be better embodied anywhere than by Lewtrenchard Manor.
With only ten rooms and four suites in the property, Lewtrenchard feels comfortingly boutique.
Each bedroom is individually decorated and has its own unique character; from the gentle country elegance of the Nonington suite (where we stayed) to the old-world grandeur of the St. Gertrude Gallery Suite, but each generously-sized room manages a cosy warmth and a feeling of complete privacy. All boast views of the beautiful grounds and have ample bathrooms (many with separate showers and a more than plentiful supply of toiletries). And when it comes to the actual sleep itself, the deep-pillowed beds have a sinkable softness, and the absolute calm of your surroundings should ensure that you drift of without so much as a cricket to disturb your peace.
The most modernity you’ll find at Lewtrenchard comes undoubtedly from its excellent kitchen, headed up by chef Matthew Peryer. If you sit down to dinner here, each plate of classically English food (with more than a few inventive twists) arrives so exquisitely plated and is so mouth-wateringly delicious that it’s hard to believe this restaurant doesn’t boast a Michelin star. The quality of the food attracts more than a few non-resident diners, and it is heartening to know that all of the herbs and most of the restaurant’s vegetables are grown right on the Lewtrenchard estate.
We opted for the Surprise Menu (a tasting menu by any other name, but without a hint at what the dish would be until it arrived), pared with a matching wine flight. Everything we ate – from the decadent Devon crab ravioli through to a wild mushroom and parmesan tart so delicious I didn’t want it to end – was a triumph! In fact, my dining companion, while we both ate petit four we absolutely didn’t have room for, confidently declared “I think that was the best meal I’ve ever eaten”. And our matching wines, perfectly chosen by our excellent sommelier (most notably a delicious 2014 Alsatian Riesling) were some of the finest I’ve drunk in some time!
Who goes there?
Anyone looking to get away from it all! The hotel is both family and dog friendly and is a very popular location for weddings (exclusive hire of the Manor is available, and of course includes excellent catering).
Out and about:
This is clearly a place to kick back and unwind, and to help with that Lewtrenchard offers a whole range of relaxation therapies on site; from aromatherapy massage to Monu facials. But if you do feel like stretching your legs there are also a whole host of outdoor activities on offer. Through the hotel you can arrange a hands-on falconry class, clay pigeon shooting, horse-riding, private fishing, or cycle hire. Okehampton village itself is roughly a 15-minute car drive away, and several
National Trust properties are close by if Lewtrenchard has whetted your appetite for yet more history. And of course, the panoramic beauty of Dartmoor is right on the doorstep!
The worst thing:
The downside of such a historic building is there is occasionally the overly rickety bedside table or the slightly dodgy bit of plumbing.
The best thing:
Beside our exceptional dinner, it is very much the staff. It is hard to overstate the warmth and friendly professionalism of everyone we met at Lewtrenchard manor. The hotel is still family run and it shows; their love and pride in this hotel shines out.
Double rooms start at £180 per night; Suites start at £235 (including breakfast); Lewdown, Okehampton,Devon, EX20 4PN; 01566 783 222; www.lewtrenchard.co.uk