The British countryside at its glorious best can be found amid green, rolling hills on a 3,500 acre estate in Devon, for here sits The Pig at Combe. The 27-bedroom Elizabethan great house opened earlier this year after a nine-month refurbishment, which brought light and life back into this old stone manor.
This is the fifth hotel in a litter of Pigs, following other Pig properties in Hampshire, Bath and Dorset – and, boy, is it grand.
The wood-panelled Great Hall is now a soaring, quirky cocktail bar with row upon row of infused gin and mismatching glasses. And 10 new rooms have been created from the old stable and coach house, newly furnished and polished but still with the coziness of old-fashioned windows and floors.
The Pig at Combe is a perfect weekend destination from London (three hours) or a stop-off to or from Cornwall – it's just off the A30, one of the main roads feeding traffic from the capital to the beaches of the southwest. Nearby Gittisham is a cutesy, sleepy little village with beamed, thatched cottages and a fabulous farm shop.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
The mile-long drive leading up to the hotel is rather marred by downmarket electric fencing that keeps livestock (Arabian horses from the next-door stud and cattle) from straying onto the road. Wooden post-and-rail wooden fencing would be far more fitting. I would also prefer breakfast to be included in the room price, as it is in many British hotels.
Judy Hutson, wife of owner Robin has applied her customary flair to The Pig at Combe with antique furniture, four-poster beds, boldly printed curtains, marble sinks and roll-top baths alongside all the trimmings of a luxury boutique hotel – SMEG fridges, Nespresso coffee machines, double-size Bramley toiletries (including bubble bath) and super-soft bathrobes.
EAT IN OR OUT?
Definitely in – the Pig calls itself a "restaurant with rooms" and the menu changes daily according to the seasons and what produce is available from the kitchen garden. All other food is sourced from a 25-mile radius, including locally caught fish and wild venison.
Breakfast (which costs between £8 and £20/$13-33) is a veritable feast of granola, fruit, eggs and homemade bread. An adjoining terrace provides outdoor space for dining in the summer and for coffee on sunny wintry mornings.
There is a second restaurant on site, the more informal Edwardian "Folly," which serves "piggy bits," snacks and wood-fired flatbreads as well as afternoon tea and cocktails.
The walled kitchen garden and restored Victorian greenhouses were my favourite areas. The garden was planted a year before the hotel opened and now teems with produce ranging from chillies to lemons to aubergines to kale. Nothing is wasted – fruit, herbs, flowers and vegetables are cooked, bottled, preserved or infused for the restaurant and bar.
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
Well-heeled London couples and sophisticated but relaxed families stay overnight, the restaurant is also filled with locals.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
The Laundry (£275/$461 a night) is a hideaway room on the edge of the walled kitchen garden, with three interconnecting rooms and its own little garden area.
The original Victorian laundry and ironing room still contains the large copper washing tub – now used as the indulgent bath with powerful overhead shower.
The Pig at Combe, Gittisham, Honiton, Devon, thepighotel.com; Rooms from £145/$243.
The writer was a guest of hotel.