A luxury stately home for hire in Devon that will make you feel like a lady or lord of the manor...
It was a chilly weekend in March when we trundled out of Paddington station down to Tiverton Parkway to spend a weekend at Huntsham Court, a glorious award-winning Baronial Mansion situated in the rolling Devon countryside on the borders of Exmoor National Park.
Now celebrating her 150th birthday, Huntsham has been given a new lease of life by her latest owners who have filled the property with stunning home furnishings and art, as well as personality and lashings of love. Restoring it to its former glory could have been no mean feat and yet the house feels as though it could have been in its current welcoming state forever.
With 35 bedrooms sleeping up to 85 people, it makes an ideal event venue, however, this isn’t your usual party pad. Although it’s packed with period character and oozing sophistication from every nook and cranny, it is essentially the ultimate home away from home (though potentially slightly larger than your actual home) … With weekend and weekday bookings available, guests can choose to go completely self-catered or opt for the fully staffed silver service with staff being as hands-on or hands-off as you please, meaning it’s perfectly possible to have the run of the house and play host for the weekend (i.e. pretend it is actually yours). What’s more, the owners have carefully handpicked a network of local suppliers in the years they’ve been there, so whether you’re looking for a catered curry night for a weekend with friends, or a full-on wedding banquet for 130 people with flowers, entertainment, activities, hair and make-up or on-site spa treatments, it can be all be arranged, though of course clients can (and do) also bring their own trusted suppliers.
Upon arrival our bags were whisked upstairs and as I swept down the staircase bedecked in black-tie finery with a glass of champagne in hand on my way to join fellow guests for a celebratory dinner to mark 150 years, it’s easy to see why I fell in love with this grand dame of country houses.
The spectacular dinner catered by Peter Mundy was the perfect opportunity to show off the Tapestry Dining Room to its full potential; sparkling under the light of dozens of candles, parties like that are what the room was meant for. We cavorted into the wee hours, indulging in piano-side singalongs and barricading ourselves into the Snug Bar as one by one the house’s guests tiptoed off to bed, those remaining wanting to squeeze every last moment of magic out of our weekend in this marvelous house.
For such a gargantuan property it’s incredibly cosy; from the roaring log fires to the library full of boxes, the shelves stacked with board games to the all-day help-yourself butler’s pantry fully stocked with snacks, it’s begging to welcome you at the turn of every door handle.
Each of the 35 bedrooms has its own distinct personality, from sumptuous Victorian-style rooms on the first floors, resplendent with romantic four poster beds, roll top bathtubs and views out across the five-acre private gardens, to spacious rooms in the attic with their own special homely touches. There’s even a dormitory-style space in the eaves, with a row of beds just begging for a party of bridesmaids or a gaggle of teens to throw a slumber party up there. One can only imagine the fun that would be had filling such a property with friends and family for a special occasion.
It’s impossible to be bored at Huntsham Court, even when spending an afternoon indoors. Whether curling up on the Snug Bar sofa watching the rugby, G&T in hand with the Saturday papers, pouring over the plentiful tomes in the library, nailing your rivals at chess or tinkling the ivories of the Great Hall’s baby grand, there’s more than enough to keep guests entertained.
Local entertainment - Clay pigeon shooting at the Shaldon Shooting School
The morning after our arrival, we enjoyed a hearty cooked breakfast buffet in the extraordinary Tapestry Dining Room and with bellies full, we prepared for a day of clay pigeon shooting. With snow forecasted for the day, we wrapped up warm in all the layers we could find and headed to the Shaldon Shooting School, one of several local activities the Huntsham Court team are able to arrange for you and your guests. Fun as it was busting some clays (and narrowly missing a pheasant) we were relieved when they called time on our efforts, given the mercury continued to plummet while the snow pelted down in flurries.
Enjoy a spot of lunch in Bampton
If you can pry yourself away from the house, head to the nearby village of Bampton. Here you’ll find The Ginger Peanut, a local restaurant with rooms from chef Peter Mundy, which is striving to become the best restaurant in Devon. The Ginger Peanut may be small but it’s dishes are big on taste, with every dish focusing on fine, locally-sourced ingredients served in a relaxed restaurant. With an enviable wine list and an impressive offering of gins it would be all too easy to while away an evening stuffing oneself silly with Peter’s mouthwatering fare before retiring upstairs to one’s chambers.
During our visit we dined on a veritable feast, a shared platter of starters boasting a sumptuous deep fried poached duck egg with pancetta; baby fennel and butter dressing; Portuguese-style pan-fried sardines with crispy shallots; ham hock ballotine with pickled carrots; Welsh rarebit toasts and curried dressing and a beetroot salad with candied walnuts; blue cheese mousse and balsamic dressing. My chosen main of a potato gnocchi filled with pesto, wild mushrooms, sun blush tomatoes, courgettes and white wine was a hearty bowl of comfort - just the ticket given the weather outside. The appreciative sounds emanating from every corner of the dining room however would imply that the pan-fried venison loin, rump of lamb, fillet of sea trout and 28 day matured Himalayan salt-aged rib eyes were all deemed more than satisfactory also.
This is a house that’s built for entertaining, a place that manages to feel both grand and lavish while also incredibly cosy and welcoming; I imagine even when packed to the rafters with guests it still wouldn’t feel imposing. There is a wealth of options when it comes to booking dependent on how many rooms you want and the level of board, but with prices akin to a three-star B&B for what is a five-star experience like no other with the chance to be your own Lord or Lady of the manor, Huntsham Court should be top of your list.
Prices from £127 pp per night (based on full hire of all 35 bedrooms for a two-night midweek dry hire).
A summary of our stay at Huntsham Court
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