Lympstone Manor, I've Got A Crush On You
There's a treasure trove of places I want to lose myself in to escape the noise, escape the humdrum. And if an escape to the breezy coast, a vineyard's vintages to sip on, and an exquisite culinary journey to dine out on are what your tired soul seeks, then I know a place that has this written all over it. I've got myself on the guest list and will, too, join in the 'write-home' about it.
I say guest list, as it feels like a private members club with coveted membership. Whose location is a twenty-eight-acre exclusive helping of the gentle slopes above the Exe estuary. You certainly don't want for peace or privacy here.
Like a lady, Lympstone Manor country house hotel, sits aside its stately mount with an eye-widening view of the Exe Estuary.
This lady, once a stately home, now an exciting country manor, has had less than the stately beginning. One that should it have been mentioned in certain circles would have been the ultimate scandal.
But Lympstone Manor's centuries-old cradle, a paltry farmhouse (scandalous), has long been buried under plush carpets, dimmed out by sparkly chandeliers, flushed with warm hospitality and accepted by Relais & Chateaux.
Now graciously restored, its simplicity is its ultimate sophistication.
In the courtyard, feet crunch the gravel underfoot, but inside, RLLs give way to quiet taps on the parquet floors indoors. There's nothing loud or brash. Instead, illuminating off low lights, soft shades of grey (not as much as fifty) echo off plush carpets, plump cushions and the ceiling height upholstery lining the windows. The air is a little perfumed, and some lounge music, beautifully pitched, adds to the otherwise hushed atmosphere.
Decidedly unpretentious - puts a smile on.
I am so excited; I am buzzing. You probably would too if you booked to dine or stay here. The type you experience when you meet your crush for the first time. Because Lympstone Manor has been hanging out in my little book of secret crushes. And since being hit by this stroke of luck, I'd scarce been able to contain myself. A top-of-the-wishlist place I'd go for that big 'O'. Where you'd mark that special anniversary or extend the honeymoon with a pre-honeymoon.
Today, however, there's no such marker, simply living out a dream. And so far, this one is all sweet.
Bed and Bath
Any of Lympstone Manor's twenty-one rooms and suites is a prize. But I'd stolen serious glances at the suite with its twin double-ended copper baths, entertained doing away with the shrinking siren for a ground floor room. Outdoor hot tub and fire pit as standard, a glass of something bubbly and some Freddie McGregor to fix a mood. Though the base coming out of my Bose and the unknown level of my wild abandon may be better suited to the Romany way in one of their six sensational shepherd huts in the woods. Dancing hurricane lamps come to mind.
Nearing the suite, I got quick heartbeats, and when we stopped in front of the door, opened it... gasped. Times two. Both from yours truly. Mr Check-in-come-personal-concierge looks back at me. He's satisfied I'm in no way dissatisfied. That he has no need to call the paramedics and ushers me in. I'm drawn in, down the hallway, then out again to a private balcony at the other end.
Ohh. Myy. Gawww. Pinch. Pinch. Pinch. Out there, this is the view.
An unfurling widescreen to the vineyard below, the Exe Estuary and village beyond. There's a dark cloud threatening, but mentally, I've reserved my seat on this balcony with a Nespresso from the in-suite machine in my brand-new mug picked up from the Seaglass Gallery on my way here.
I go back indoors to where I left Mr standing. There's something vanilla-esque on the nose, whisking my being off to Seychelles' exotic powder blue shores. Mr points to the diffuser in the living area. I give it the attention it requires and note its roots are in the nearby Dartmoor Soap Company. A little more Devon than I'd imagined.
The patio doors bestow free natural light on the living area, where a coffee table sits, basking in it. Three church-sized candles fill a fireplace at one end, and a sofa covered in a light throw looks out the doors to a portraited view of the bay. If the British weather stays British, this is where I'll put my feet up.
At fifty square meters, this suite is the size of a one-bed apartment, where a balcony trumps a scullery. And with the living area separate from the sleeping area and separate from the bathroom, its the business. It's the space where the argument on the drive down about who went left instead right, or who read the satnav incorrectly can dissipate.
The Gin and Tonic tray is on the house. He points out.
As you do. I respond. Or even if you don't. Tapping the side of my nose.
And he laughs.
A nook in the wall separating the living and sleeping areas in turn bestows some of that daylight into the bedroom.
There's a party of pillows and cushions across the twin beds, enough for two five-a-side teams. And two of those are near mattress-sized. Ran my hands over the bed and linen, they said come to bed.
Okay, but first...
At the opposite end, a wardrobe with Relais & Chateau slippers and a Lympstone Manor beach bag hangs for added convenience.
In the bathroom, an 'Amazon-Esque' rain shower head stands seductively tall next to a hand held one, inside a borderless walk-in shower. And I am seduced. Long, long, Amazon hot shower, here I come. But it (Reminds me of the one in this chapter, where Lemara was in ultimate despair). But this one, blissfully removed from any of that.
A stand-alone bathtub sits proud and twin white sinks lie felicitous within black marble.
Aged brass taps everywhere, add a touch more glam to an almost all black and white marble bathroom. The sinks, bathtub and shower each treated to their luxury toiletries are extra touches of convenience.
I spot fluffy bathrobes and agree we want for nothing, leaving Mr to see to his next guests.
Just inside the door, two coat hooks, another nice touch.
It's not the suite with double copper baths, or outdoor hot tub but the crush is still on.
To Dine For
Food is celebrated here in both restaurants with differing offerings. Where the main restaurant, named for the hotel, plays the leading role, and the Signature and Taste of the Estuary menus are the crowd pleasers. Both eight-course journeys.
The gourmands are here for this.
And had we been dining here, would have gone for the exciting seafood culinary experience of The Taste of The Estuary.
So happy were Relais & Chateau of their visit; they gave their approval stamp, and Michelin, too, left a starry token.
On our way to dinner, we glimpse the Chef supremo himself, Mr Michael Caines doing cheffy things in that kitchen. I waved, hoping to catch his attention and make pretend I was my sister from a few weeks back. But I can report he gave his one hundred per cent cheffy attention to the plates in front of him.
But if Chef Caines is at the main restaurant, who is overseeing the Pool House Restaurant? No thunder stolen there.
Dress hem flirty and heels an inch too high for that meander, we cross to the Pool House. Glass doors open, letting in the evening air and me smelling like a Jo Malone boutique—the one at Heathrow Terminal three.
Billie had come to greet us, not at our table, but outside, as we walked along the pool with one of the hotel's iconic umbrellas. I'll tell you now; she's not losing that job anytime soon - so personable she is.
Seats us at a table inside/outside the restaurant with a menu. And a view similar to our suite.
And as I'd been eyeing all of Lympstone Manor for a little, I'd known exactly what I'd order. Except eyes strayed when I read that line-up of produce from the surrounding Devon farms and waters, once more. The duck confit caught eyes this time, and that was that. Mushroom tagliatelle and truffle fries completed the order for the teenager.
Uncomplicated. That's the two page Pool House Restaurant's menu and the wine selection is one half of that. Bottles are in buckets or on tables nearly everywhere because wine is taken very seriously in the Pool House Restaurant too.
Paired back, spartan, the interior of the pool house redirects conversations outdoors, where the British weather is being salty. And we watched as the rain charged across the bay like a band of white horses. Inside/outside is now inside for certain. But I can imagine this space opening up all bright and breezy to the rafters in the warmer, balmier evenings.
The atmosphere is chilled, as I suspect, all day, every day, from 11:30 on. From brunch to lunch, dinner and drinks beyond. You step from a dip in the pool to a sip at a table, between smashed avocado on toasted campagne bread and octopus carpaccio off the menu.
Billie is back, plates in hand to accompany our fruity drinks. I'm straight in with a fork-full. Didn't speak. Actually, no one spoke, just in case the act of speaking tarnished the meal. And I'd been halfway through that plate of crispy duck and cassoulet before breaking the silence. A wholesome dish, packing bags of flavour and chunks of meat into a tummy-filling cassoulet. And when I did speak, it was to share, but only so I could try the tagliatelle and truffle fries, I didn't order.
All three gluten-free but such eye-openers on the taste buds—the uncompromised truffled fries, the seriously good tagliatelle. And having finish my dish and help to finish the remaining two, the temptation was there to try the fish which was my original choice.
You know, the only real concern with the food here is overeating. Overeating because I want to try it all.
I return my gaze across the bay, where the white horses have sufficiently disbanded to see a train making its way along the coast to Cornwall.
If after dinner, the plan is to retire but not to bed, Barings Bar with its curved copper Bar and caramel hues is where you up the ante.
On The Door Step
Rain-filled skies followed us to the Devonshire coast. The sun did its best to cut a window but failed, so we made no plans 'to-do'. Not for a splash in the outdoor heated pool, a ride around the village on the hotel's bikes, a fresh face from a paddleboard or a thwock of a ball or two on the tennis court.
Though a walk around the manor will satisfy an art fix. Dramatic coastal paintings hang from the walls throughout the property. So too are paintings of the birds in the estuary. All by local artists. The rooms themselves are named and decorated for the birds. Ever been interested in Ornithology? This is a most pleasing entry into it. Thinking of it, the colours of the pillows on our beds were representations of both the male and female Bullfinch.
Along the hallway to the rooms, the chandeliers remind me of sea corals.
Throughout the property, you'll note the hotel's championing of its Devonshire area, from the menu, to the bath products, gin and bottled water.
And for a sheer unadulterated wine indulgence, there's a wine room for private wine tasting sessions. Here the wine list runs into the hundreds.
But with all this peace, space, tranquillity, you're free to do as little or as much as.
The sun showing no sign of winning the weather battle, I put the Nespresso machine to work and return to my position on the sofa. Indulging in another of my new reads while nursing my intense, dark, smooth South American. Plus, you'll never guess the protagonist's name in this read. Yes, he, too, is called Joshua, and much unlike our very lovable 747 captain, it is he who is in violation of his relationship.
Chapters in, some summer sun cuts a little opening, and I part ways with that indulgence. Like the landed gentry we weren't; we donned hoodies instead of tweed, picked up the hotel's brollies, borrowed their wellies and conquered another path along the vineyard and down to the estuary with speed.
Down by the river, we take a pace more slowly. Now, I feel a Morgan Heritage coming on.
Has The Fancy Passed?
When check-out loomed, it was difficult to accept. I toyed with writing this beautiful country manor into a contemporary romance. But having sat long enough with the view out to the bay and the fresh coastal air, a personal account best suited.
In this peaceful pocket of Devon on the South West coast of England, Chef Caines and his slick in-house team have a good thing going on. Lympstone Manor feels like a sanctuary, a place to escape and readily lose yourself or find it. Where, if you choose your spot carefully, digitally detox too. I felt wholly spoilt as if it was a birthday or some special celebration.
Everything at the Manor swirls with R+R, enticing you to stay longer, steal a few more moments. Actually, I'd encourage it. Not simply a hotel stay but a space for reprieve, indulgence in seriously good food, and an experience. Celebrating a milestone or, maybe too, need perspective on that relationship heading for the rocks? Lympstone Manor is where you go.
A place where even the tainted British weather is a charm. This stay has not simply materialised from the crush on my little list but has launched itself straight to a covetous position in my bucket of best bucket list experiences.
Lympstone Manor, the crush hasn't passed. I'll come again, and do it just the same. Actually, I'd try staying longer.
Would I change anything here? Not readily, though I recommend Lympstone Manor mugs branded with their symbolic heron. But that's solely so I could indulge in my unintentional souvenir collection.
What about you? Is Lympstone Manor now on your wishlist, bucket list and list of crushes?