Fiona Sanderson finds the perfect escape for a wedding weekend in Devon….
Arriving at this Jacobean Manor in a secluded valley in Devon, you really feel as though you are stepping back in time. With its staples – stucco ceilings, wood-panelled halls, creaky floors, portrait-lined walls and blazing fires – Lewtrenchard is filled with a colourful history. There are tales of an Admiral of the Fleet, a dead bride, a king’s confidante, an arctic explorer, gun fights, gamblers and hidden tunnels, as well as this being the ancestral home of Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, who was best known for writing the hymn Onward, Christian Soldiers. I immediately felt at home and was looking forward to soaking up its history amongst the comfortable sofas surrounded by interesting antiques.
My bedroom overlooked a wisteria-clad courtyard with its own terrace. Its chintz wallpaper, deep pillows and luxury bed linen were warm and cosy. I was glad to see a large contemporary bathroom with a deep bath and large shower, rather than an old pipe system which is so often the case in these country hotels. Sadly, I didn’t get to stay in Melton Suite with its ornate wooden four-poster bed which belonged to Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. However, there are 14 rooms to choose from which I believe have all been updated but are equally filled with a little history.
My dinner was served in a wood-panelled dining room lined with old family portraits. I understand why people come just for the Chef Matthew Peryer’s menus as my food was very fresh and delicious. I started with a ceviche of Cornish monkfish, with flaked crab, pickled ginger and Thai puree followed by a citrus fillet of cod, with garden greens and new potatoes. The vegetables were so fresh that it would not surprise me if they had come straight from the hotel’s walled garden. My pudding was a bitter chocolate ganache with garden mint ice-cream, followed by a cheeseboard that was a picture in itself. I can honestly say that the whole experience was utterly delicious. The hotel also offers a ‘‘chef’s table dining experience,’’ in which diners can watch dishes being prepared for £49.50, and I am sure is well worth it if you have the time and the appetite!
I happened to be there at the same time as a small wedding party. With Lewtrenchard’s backdrop of wood-panelling, ornate ceilings, stained glass windows and ornamental carving around the Manor, it proved to be the ideal wedding setting. As the hotel has a civil ceremony licence, the couple were able to get married and have the wedding reception all under the same roof. Even though I could see the staff were under a little pressure, they were more than helpful in taking the time to plan my itinerary for the following day. Sadly, I didn’t have time to explore the nine acres of gardens, lake and walled garden. I will be back, however, and soon….
Double rooms from £180 in low season and from £200 in high season (breakfast is included and there is free Wi-Fi).
Lewtrenchard Manor Lewdown, Okehampton, Devon EX20 4PN.
+44 (0)1566 783222