The last leg of our Honeymoon road trip through Devon and Cornwall ended at Hotel Endsleigh in the Tamar Valley. After driving from Falmouth and spending the day walking around Bodmin Moor, we navigated the winding roads through Milton Abbot and arrived at the Endsleigh Gardens Nursery. We could tell as soon as we entered the grounds that this was somewhere special. The whole vibe felt like we were escaping from the real world into a secret garden.
I defy anyone to find a more beautiful spot in the whole of England. There is no traffic or aircraft noise, no light pollution, just the sound of the Tamar river. It’s little wonder that the Duke of Bedford, who owned a third of Devon, chose this spot for his hunting and fishing lodge.hotelendsleigh.com
This stay was the most extravagant of our Honeymoon, as we’d booked a “Celebration Break” package with a chilled bottle of Champagne on arrival, flowers arranged by the hotel florist, scones and tea in the library and a three course candle lit supper prepared by Chef Tom Ewings. What a dream come true.
Inside Hotel Endsleigh
One of the reasons we fell in love with the Endsleigh when we found it online was the beautiful Bedford room. The original hand-painted wallpaper, the beautiful bay window with views over the garden, mix of old and new furniture… it’s just so stunningly put together and omg get me back in that enormous bed.
When we arrived, champagne was waiting for us on the coffee table, flowers were basking in the bay window, and sunlight streamed through and over the huge bed. Looking out, the immaculate green lawn stretched off to the left, hotel guests enjoying the unseasonably warm afternoon under parasols. Straight ahead the gardens tumbled down the hill to where a river was winding at the bottom, with a pine forest rising up on the other side. It was so peaceful, with just the sounds of nature and the gentle clinking of tea being stirred to break the calm.
After swiftly unpacking, we made our way through the corridors with afternoon tea on our mind. I peaked into the different rooms as we explored, finding a few beautiful private dining rooms, a boot room, and then the library. On a cloudy or cold day we would be enjoying our scones here by the fireplace, but who could resist this late October sunshine?
As you move through the hotel to take in the views, it’s not a surprise to learn that, when the Duke of Bedford selected this spot, he had a third of Devon to choose from. There are two homely drawing rooms with roaring fires, ottomans, botanical paintings and plump sofas.
We settled ourselves at one of the tables outside and ordered our tea. As we waited, we quietly enjoyed observing all the interesting characters at the other tables, arranged along the back of the house with its views across the valley. To our left was a young family whose three children were teasing each other mercilessly, while the parents tried to enjoy this civilised afternoon treat. To our right was an elderly chap wearing a fez, who very graciously gave up his table to a couple who had booked ahead.
Of course, once it arrived it was absolutely delicious. The scones were still warm and perfectly buttery and crumbly, and the thick clotted cream and strawberry jam was soon piled high. The only cloud on the horizon was the disagreement on the correct order of application. This issue hasn’t come up many times in our relationship, but when it does the discussion is heated and we are both immovable. It’s ok guys, we managed to navigate this first argument of our marriage.
After drinking the very last drop from the teapot, we rushed to get our boots on. We wanted to explore the legendary Endsleigh Gardens before it got dark. This ended up being ideal timing. We got to enjoy the route around the gardens right in golden hour, and finished right as the sunset was casting its warm rays onto the house.
Hotel Endsleigh Gardens
Endsleigh is set in 100 acres of gardens, woodlands, grottos and follies. It was designed and created 200 years ago by Humphry Repton, the last great English landscape designer of the eighteenth century. It was one of Repton’s last commissions, and brings together many of the landscaping elements he was famous for.
Winter flowering plants have clever strategies to tempt pollinators from their hiding places—it seems they also work on humans, as I am often drawn through the gardens following the scent of honeysuckle, mahonia, witch hazel and the sweet scent of butterbur that hangs in the air.Ben Ruscombe-King, the Endsleigh Gardener
If the Endsleigh gardens remind you of Scotland, this is from Georgina, Duchess of Bedford, who came from Highland nobility and fell in love with the valley. Artisans and tradesmen were brought in especially to create a faux Scottish landscape, a cosy retreat to remind the Duchess of her childhood. There’s even a little house in the woods across the valley, built specifically so that a charming wisp of smoke would emerge from the treetops to ‘animate’ the landscape. They would send a boy across the river in a boat every morning to light to fire.
As you explore the gardens and forests, following the official route from the hotel, you’ll discover fairy dells, caves, waterfalls, and a thatched dairy, all built for the duchess. The paths take you all the way down so you end up walking along the river and looking back up at the hotel, the windows catching the sunset.
The gardens to the east of the hotel would be beautiful in spring, which you can see from a quick google, with tunnels of flowering climbers and all kinds of different plants and trees. It was lovely in autumn but I hope we can go back one day to see it in all its seasonal glory.
After our walk we relaxed in our amazing bedroom. I even had a glass of champagne in the bath!
Hotel Endsleigh Restaurant
Our two nights at Hotel Endsleigh were just wonderful. The Restaurant is located in the original dining room featuring beautiful wood-panelling and crests of the friends of the Duke of Bedford. This is where we enjoyed both breakfasts, but we were lucky enough to sit in one of the smaller dining rooms for dinner, with a roaring fire and stunning antique wallpaper.
The food at the Endsleigh was the best we had all Honeymoon. Maybe even ever. Every course was so gorgeously presented, the textures and flavours perfectly matched. This chef is seriously talented. Even the breakfast was 5 star quality, with smoked salmon so tender it just melted in the mouth. You can see their current menu here.
It was lucky the weather was so wonderful on our arrival day, because the day after it couldn’t have been worse. This was where we paid for the glorious sunshine we’d been blessed with the week before. We drove into Plymouth to visit the National Marine Aquarium as our wet weather activity, which was packed with young families and screaming toddlers. After a lunch at Barbican Pasta Bar, we raced back to the Endsleigh for some evening peace and quiet.
What a perfect end to our Honeymoon. Our stay at Hotel Endsleigh was an absolute treat – the enormous bed, the free standing bath tub, the timeless decor, and of course the unforgettable food. I especially loved calling down to reception in the morning for the newspaper and a pot of tea, to be greeted with “Good morning, Mrs Lain”. The service really was excellent, and at the end of our visit they wrapped up our flowers so we could take them with us. If you’re looking for a really special place to escape to or celebrate together, this has to be it.