Wind your way through the undulating whims of the Whiddon Valley. Just outside of Barnstaple, the Devon lanes get tighter as you get closer. And there it is, almost hidden in the hills – Taw Valley House, a ten-bed manor sleeping 24, nestled into the greenery and just a three-iron from the greens of Portmore Golf Club.
It fits right in. The ornate gardens, alive with features, weave a little magic around the house, the wrought-iron pillared portico adds colonial charm, and the lawn, set within 1.5 acres, looks ready for croquet and Pimm’s. The elevated hot tub bubbles away, waiting for nine of you to get your cossies on and pop open the drinks.
Eat for England in the monster dining room. Take a tipple on the terrace. Wind down in piping-hot water in the freestanding bath. Then try not to bicker over the bedrooms. Whichever you choose, you’ll nod off in soft-cotton comfort to the gentle sound of the wind in the trees.
The rolling Devon hills might be garden enough, but there’s a treat in store, because the grounds of Taw Valley House wrap themselves around the whitewashed walls like dazzling jewels around the porcelain neck of a princess. Arranged in a series of external rooms, they’ve won an award or two in Barnstaple in Bloom.
On summer days, on any days in fact, this is the place to hang out. This is a horticultural haven of stone terraces, wonky steps, wild trellis and ornate planters that sprawls for and acre and a half. Behind the wrought-iron portico, the lawn arcs away towards the trampoline and the undulating hills beyond.
You can drink and dine out here, warmed by the southern sun or the chimnea, with the barbie in its own summer house. Even better, you can laze and lounge in the hot tub while you switch on some sounds, thanks to the built-in speakers. Live the high life in the Devon hills.
Live like Lords and Ladies beneath the twinkling chandelier in the drawing room. Gather up the logs, then gather round for games or books or just the happy sound of laughter let loose.
Potter over to the games room for a spot of pool, or to catch the big match on the wall-mounted TV. Pull yourself a pint in the on-site Frog and Pheasant, or pre-order a keg.
There are enough spaces here to be as social or as solitary as you please. Bag a book and pick from the sitting and drawing rooms, with logs to burn and doors to open onto the loggia and garden.
There’s a huge family room in the annex that’s perfect for, well, huge families. Relax in reception rooms built for kings and queens, live to the manor born and sip your claret down to the very last drop in the land of the landed gentry.
Collaborate over the cuisine around the Aga and electric ovens in the sociable island kitchen that’s ideal for chopping and chatting. Or send in the chefs and put your feet up as we roll up our sleeves and get stuck in to lasagne or lamb rack. Call us for a one-off celebration, a fully catered break, or anything in between.
Eating is a sociable affair at Taw Valley House. Break the bread and pour the wine around a dining table that deserves its own postcode. There’s room for two dozen here, so gather, linger and loosen your belts.
Eating out? Just a lick of the lips away is Lilico’s tapas bar. Share a cocktail on the squishy sofas, then settle back for pitta, humous and paella. Elsewhere, the New Inn is a brilliant bistro, you can go gastro at The Olive Branch, or try fine fish and seafood at Fatbelly Fred’s.
For fine dining, Lord Fortescue offers a choice of bistro, Italian or traditional. And half an hour in the car gets you to the Mason’s Arms in South Molton, for a sparkling Michelin star that lights up the Exmoor surrounds.
Sleeping 24 in ten bedrooms and with just the eight plush bathrooms, this is accommodation plus. You’ll bathe in piping-hot water in freestanding baths and sleep like a log in soft-cotton comfort to the gentle sound of the breeze through the bucolic boughs.
Bedroom 1, on the second floor, comes with two single beds and an en-suite with bath. Bedroom 2 offers a double bed and cot with en-suite shower. Bedroom 3 is a twin, while bedroom 4 is a large double with bath en-suite and a balcony.
Bedroom 5 is a suite that’s perfect for young families, with a large double, two singles and a cot arranged around two rooms. There’s an en-suite bath and shower. Bedroom 6 offers two singles, plus en-suite shower room, while bedroom 7 provides a large double bed plus an en-suite with bath and shower .
In bedroom 8, you’ll find an extra-large double and a cot plus an en-suite with shower. There’s plenty room here for other kids’ beds, too. Bedroom 9 offers a double bed and its own bathroom next door. Finally, bedroom 10 forms part of the family suite in bedroom 5, with two single beds and a bunk.
You can add Little Sandford for an additional cost to sleep 7 more people in 4 bedrooms.