If the idea of trying to maintain social distance on crowded coast paths and beaches – or even being able to book a hotel room or restaurant table – put the tin hat on plans for a South West staycation this summer, how about an autumn gourmet getaway off the beaten track?
The Luttrell Arms, Exmoor
One of the many charms of the Medieval village of Dunster is its hidden-away location in the depths of wild Exmoor. Being pretty remote, it’s unspoiled and pristine and well worth travelling to for its historic buildings, impressive castle and … The Luttrell Arms.
The small hotel oozes history, and authenticity runs through everything – from the smart restaurant to the comfortable lounge, ancient enclosed courtyard and Champagne bar. Chef Barrie Tucker has the wealth of the surrounding moorland and nearby coast at his disposal and makes excellent use of it when sourcing ingredients for his seasonal fine-dining menus.
While Dunster is a pleasing place to visit at any time of year, the moor comes into its own in autumn when the heather blooms in striking shades of purple and the red deer stags battle it out for prime position (it’s possible to take guided trips to watch this in action).
Two Bridges Hotel, Dartmoor
Another excellent excuse to dust off your deerstalker is a visit to Two Bridges Hotel near Princetown.
The hotel’s cosy interiors are absolutely perfect in this wilds-of-Dartmoor setting: roaring fires, grand old clocks and paintings, polished brass and copper and a well-stocked bar are just what you’d hope to return to after a day tramping over the moor. Even on a blustery autumn day the attractive hotel, nestled in a lush dip by a small river, is an oasis of comfort and hospitality.
Head chef Mike Palmer has built a loyal fan club of foodies who visit for his creative cooking. Start any meal with a board of fabulous homemade breads and flavoured butters, before indulging in exceedingly good multi-course menus. The dishes are crafted with elegance and ingenuity and served in a panelled dining room with stained glass windows.
Little Barwick House, Somerset
This attractive and well-regarded restaurant with rooms is a great find for a gourmet getaway in Somerset. Located in the village of Barwick, it’s well positioned for explorations of the surrounding countryside and in easy day-trip reach of both Glastonbury and the Dorset coast. Comfortable country-style bedrooms with fresh white linen and attractive furniture are complemented by a chorus of birdsong from the large mature gardens.
Make time for a glass of Champagne (Krug is served by the glass) and canapes in the garden or by the fire in the cosy lounge, before heading through to the dining room for chef proprietor Tim Ford’s excellent cooking. His menus deal in regional fare such as Forde Abbey ruby red beef and Cornish fish and shellfish.
The NoBody Inn, near Exeter
This charming 17th century inn in the rural Devon village of Doddiscombsleigh enjoys a solid reputation for excellent dining and drinks.
Off the beaten track in countryside not far from Exeter, it’s so tucked away you’d never just stumble across it. Those in the know visit for the incredible drinks collection: 250 wines and 240 whiskies at the last count.
Smart, hearty cooking and roaring open fires complement the whisky, wines, ales and spirits, while five attractive guest bedrooms deal with the inevitable quarrels over who’ll play designated driver.
Lords of the Manor, Cotswolds
Seeking the indulgence of a country house escape? This 17th century manor in the heart of the Cotswolds countryside is the quintessential experience.
In its rolling countryside setting, Lords of the Manor doesn’t only rate on location: elegant bedrooms, lush gardens, a well-stocked bar and two highly regarded restaurants combine to create the complete package.
At Lords of the Manor’s tiny The Atrium restaurant, head chef Charles Smith employs cooking skills honed at New York’s Per Se and London’s Petrus by Marcus Wareing to craft intricate dishes on his elegant tasting menu.