Nestled away within the North Devon countryside, Highbullen Hotel is a magnificent country house estate set within acres of lush green grounds and an 18-hole golf course with views to die for. I’ve never really explored Devon much, other than a couple of quick fleeting visits over the years – but my latest trip has really made me rethink my choices when looking for a short break in the UK.
The hotel is stepped in history right back to when it was built-in 1879, but more relevant is October 2012 when Highbullen Hotel was purchased by Mr Frank Chapman who restored Highbullen to its former glory. The Hotel, Restaurant and many of the facilities have undergone extensive refurbishment to create what is now a Gold Award winning, leading hotel in North Devon.
The sun was shining when we arrived and the immaculate grounds looked stunning. One thing you’ll quickly noticed is how deceiving this property is in size. From the exterior it looks like a rather generous home, but step inside and you’ll find nothing but big spaces which extend even into the rooms. A quick check in later from the incredibly friendly staff, we climbed the wooden staircase which had light pouring in through the big glass windows and opened the doors to our room on the landing.
We were staying in the Louis Seize room which was an absolute dream and size wise, incredibly generous. With classic French style furniture, the main feature of this room is the huge 7ft bed with a crystal chandelier hanging above it. Admittedly it was a little creaky and so a few extra bolts could be added underneath, but the mattress and pillows were incredibly comfy and on both of our two nights spent here, we slept so well with absolutely no external noise coming into the room.
Another great feature to this room is the large bay window, allowing the daylight to pour in and to enjoy the views out over the rolling hills of North Devon and beyond. The view across the golf course towards Exmoor is one of the most spectacular in Devon I’ve been told and I don’t doubt it for one second.
The bathroom was modern, the toiletries were of good quality from The White Company and it was the perfect place to relax. The bathroom isn’t a feature as much as the bedroom was, but it still suited us very well. Long soaks in the bath weren’t what we were looking for because if you’re in Devon – it’s all about exploring.
Once we unpacked, it was time to explore this beautiful hotel and its lounges. My favourite was the red themed lounge with a small conservatory attached to it. The light pours in and the features of this room really come to life. Shields adorn the ceiling edges, a fireplace for warmth in the winter and wingback chairs to sip your favourite tipple in. I’m not sure if the lounges here have names, but I feel like they should have.
Next door is a much brighter room which felt as if it was purposely made for enjoying those views. Large gold mirrors reflect the light off the chandelier around the room, yet another fireplace and a chess table we were very pleased to see as we love a late night drink over a game or two. If I had to change one thing about this room, it would be replacing the Chesterfield sofa as for us it felt a little out-of-place and time in this room.
Having spent a good six hours in the car from London to Devon (a traffic accident on the motorway), we decided to enjoy the hotel on the first day and soak up both the views and sun. Outside on the lawn, there is a row of sun chairs and tables which you’ll discover is the perfect place to relax. The views right here are the best this property has to offer and so taking it all in slowly is something that shouldn’t be rushed.
That evening we had dinner booked in the hotels fine dining Devon View Restaurant. For those wanting to stagger their dinner experience, stop in the restaurants very own lounge or order a glass of bubbles at your table. The panoramic windows offer stunning views across the rolling Devon hills and is the perfect place to enjoy the sunset.
The team of chefs here have created menus using locally sourced ingredients where possible and you can really tell because it’s all about flavour and quality when it comes to the food. We started with a really lovely pressed terrine of slow cooked local ham hock, pease pudding, balsamic & red onion chutney. As well as some pan seared Cornish scallops with ricotta mousse, sea vegetables and lemon oil. This for me one of my favourite dishes during our evening and those scallops were cooked to perfection.
For mains, braised blade of John May beef with Chateau potato, braised carrots, spring onions and a silky jus. Though my favourite, fillet of Devon day boat sea bass with crushed new potatoes, samphire, bok choi and a lemon butter sauce. Such a mouth-watering dish, packed with flavour and freshness.
To finish, a passion fruit souffle which was nice enough, but quickly began to collapse at the table. Though the flavour was spot on. Better was the chefs selection of local & British cheeses. Some of which were outstanding. The apricot & ginger chutney was particularly memorable, the stuff I’d loved to have taken a jar or two of home.
For those looking for a more casual dinner, the hotel also offers a casual bar style menu in The Cellars Bar where you’re also find a snooker table, bar and outside terrace to enjoy that all important glass of wine. The hotel has also recently just launched The Supper Room, housed in the same space where they serve afternoon tea and will be offering a brasserie style menu such as sharing platters, pizzas, pastas, salads and steaks. For events, The Palazzo is something that really must be seen for yourself.
After an excellent nights sleep, we took to the road and spent a full day exploring North Devon – which was spectacular. Exmoor National Park is just an hours drive away from the hotel and is one place you really shouldn’t miss. It’s full of wildlife, with Exmoor ponies and red Exmoor deer running free. Head just a little further and another must stop is Porlock Weir. It’s a really magical little place with thatched houses right on the ocean front, pubs, restaurants, harbour and shops selling local glass and art. My only regret is not having enough time to explore more of this area and beyond.
One of the things we absolutely loved whilst staying here is afternoon tea in Laura Ashley the Tea Room. Located in separate building, which also houses the spa (where we had such a lovely head massage), gym, swimming pool and golf reception – this really is an experience in itself. It turned out to be one of the best afternoon tea’s we’ve had all year and on a sunny day you can enjoy it on the elevated terrace overlooking the golf course. Read my full review of this sumptuous afternoon tea.
Having spent a full day exploring what North Devon had to offer and tucking into a late afternoon tea, we were absolutely exhausted so in the afternoon we went back to our room, switched the TV on and ordered room service as the sun set. Could it get any more perfect? My shepherd’s pie was absolutely stunning and the chicken tikka masala (we really fancied some comfort food) was excellent.
Missing breakfast our first morning because it’s a meal we both never usually eat, I had to sample it on our second day – for research purposes of course. A good continental buffet selection to choose from and a really solid full English offering, showcasing some lovely local produce and buttery scrambled eggs. I asked for a small portion so if you’re having breakfast here, expect a lot more on your plate no doubt.
We had such a fantastic time at Highbullen Hotel and if I had the opportunity, I could have stayed here much longer. The room, the views, the food – it was all so lovely and the perfect place to enjoy the other halves birthday. If you’re looking for a magical romantic getaway or to simply get your walking boots on – then this couldn’t be more suited. Would we come back? Absolutely!