Nice house, a very big house in the country
Set in amongst sprawling trees, acres of fields and windy lanes, Northcote Manor is your stereotypical quiet getaway.
Once you turn off the M5 it becomes abundantly clear that you are visiting one of the more remote parts of the country. Shops, smooth roads and people become sparser as does decent phone signal.
There’s no Alton Towers or Drayton Manor to feed your excitement buds, nor is there an abundance of clichéd tourist attractions to keep the children entertained.
Realistically Northcote isn’t particularly near anything of note, especially if you’re without a car.
With this in mind there’s great pressure on the hotel to deliver and be the focal point of the trip. Deliver it does.
Why do you need to queue for hours for a theme park ride when you can spend your days eating tasty food and rambling through the countryside?
Upon arriving at Northcote you’re met with a imposing and steep driveway. It seems to last forever as you wind your way up and round, passing huge, over-hanging trees like something out of Lord of the Rings before suddenly this mammoth country house hotel is upon you.
Walking in through the front door you are met with big, warm smiles off all the staff and it’s difficult not to feel at home.
The decor is more your aunty’s living room rather than five-star country retreat but it’s perfectly pleasant on the eye and helps to add to the homely feeling.
The country house is well laid-out and features numerous living rooms – something that is important given how much time you could easily find yourself spending in the hotel.
The dining room may have decor from the 1970s but the bedroom was sleek and modern, featuring a spacious double shower and a bath tucked away in an alcove, while also keeping true to the hotel’s classic theme with a tartan couch, brown-leather chairs and floral curtains.
As you walk around, the hotel’s attentive staff are checking up on you and your stay, always asking if there’s anything they can do while also being careful to be not too over-bearing and keeping a respectful distance.
The food is definitely Northcote’s biggest draw, and you can see why locals happily book into the restaurant regularly.
Not only are there plenty of courses and well-sized portions on offer, but the menu has plenty of choice while also keeping the food delicious. The separate vegetarian menu was a very good touch and one you hardly find at restaurants these days despite the rising number of non-meat eaters.
I could not fault the crab I had to start nor the beef as a main, and the vanilla ice cream and blueberry Baked Alaska I had to finish ranks as one of the best desserts to ever touch my lips.
Northcote knows it is perhaps slightly dated but is not resting on its laurels, building a new state-of-the-art spa within its grounds, something that will definitely add an extra-dimension to this quiet country retreat.
Northcote may also be isolated, but that doesn’t stop you exploring and heading off to the coast.
I headed 40 minutes west to Northam and Appledore, taking in gorgeous sea views and a delicious, if perhaps slightly overpacked, crab sandwich.
A trip to Northcote Manor in Devon isn’t one for the kids, nor is it one for adventure enthusiasts, but for those looking for a quiet getaway it’s hard to imagine a better place to visit.
Northcote Manor, Burrington, Umberleigh, Devon, EX37 9LZ, telephone 01769 560501 or visit www.northcotemanor.co.uk