Set in the midst of the North Devon countryside (sandwiched between Exmoor and Dartmoor) it’s a long and windy road to the Highbullen Hotel, Golf and Country Club. Following the hotel’s directions rather than SatNav – at the advice of website – there were a few moments when we were not convinced we were ever going to arrive. But when the gateposts suddenly came into sight and we made our way onto the drive of this 125 acre property, the peace and quiet of our remote location washed over us and drove our travel worries away.
The hotel is home to a Par 68 golf course
The main hotel is a stunning gothic building, its grandeur instantly warm and welcoming thanks to the addition of a line of brightly coloured welly boots at the door, stretching from toddler to adults, with all sizes in between. We arrived on a Friday night, just in time for dinner so after being shown to our home for the weekend (Deer View Cottage – a stunning 3 bedroom home from home a minute’s drive from the main house) we returned to the dining room for dinner.
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The hotel’s fine dining restaurant - The Devon View - promises vistas but as it was pitch black, the delights outside the window would have to wait until the morning. The view inside the restaurant (a roomy, modern space which opens out in ceiling height quite surprisingly after you've made your way downstairs into the basement and through the cosy cellar bar) was more than enough for us that evening. The service was attentive and flexible – we combined a delicious a la carte meal (sea bream for me, Exmoor lamb for the other half) with a bar meal for the children (lasagne and chips). The locally sourced meat and vegetables were superb.
There are half-sized tennis courts for children
Grounds and amenities
We’d been told wild deer roamed the areas in front of our Deer View Cottage at dawn but sadly we couldn’t quite pull ourselves out of our incredibly comfortable beds to confirm this. When we did manage to get up though, and wander up the hill to breakfast, we were able to concur that the views all over Highbullen – from our cottage, the dining room and everywhere in between – were quite stunning. There’s a lot to do here for adults and kids alike. The swimming pool complex is modern and large – the pool long enough for proper lengths and the gym equipped with a great range of cardio and weight machines. It was a little too chilly for us to make the most of the outdoor sports facilities but they are plentiful and very family friendly; there are 7 tennis courts (3 half sized so perfect for kids) and private tennis coaching can be arranged.
The indoor pool is a great size for a hotel
If you’re into golf, the course looks stunning (I’m not, so all I can pass on the information that it’s a Par 68 course and the apres-golf at the Laura Ashley Tea Room is fabulous!). In fact, the afternoon teas deserve a mention of their own. All dietary requirements are catered for – vegan and gluten free guests are welcomed with open arms. Savoury versions include mini fish goujons and scotch eggs alongside traditional Devonshire cream tea treats. And the kids’ version comes in its own little wooden chest of drawers, each drawer containing something yummy, with a candy floss stick and a milkshake on the top.
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Kids' afternoon tea is a treat for the senses
The spa is small and intimate, making for a very relaxing environment (but also making forward booking essential if you’re hoping for a treatment during a weekend break). The Elemis anti-ageing facial is 45 minutes very well spent.
The surrounding area
A weekend could easily be spent in the local vicinity, walking on the grounds and exploring local villages. But Highbullen’s location – within reach of the coast and the moors – mean those wanting to venture further afield for a Devon adventure are well placed to do so. We headed for the North Devon coast and had what can only be described as a wild time! We headed to the National Trust’s Baggy Point (this area of the world has been inspiration to many a British author – Henry Williamson, author of Tarka the Otter, was particularly fond of this bay).
As the Atlantic waves crashed into the cliffs and the wind whipped around us, nearly knocking us over, we experienced the full meaning of fresh country air. But even though the weather was distracting, the beauty of our location was not lost on us, and as we curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea later that afternoon, our wet clothes drying on various radiators around our cottage, we were very glad we’d made the effort to explore.