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Sarah Maber and family head to Highbullen - a golfing hotel and country club with a glorious menu...
As we pull into the Highbullen car park late on Friday night, there is much family excitement. Rufus and I are wowed by the beautifully lit Arts and Crafts building before us; Martha (10) and Seth (eight), are thrilled to spot two Aston Martins and vintage motorbikes.
But perhaps the most delighted of all is Maggie the dog, who bounds out of the boot and spends 10 minutes rolling on the manicured lawn. We eventually make our way to our contemporary family room at Deer View, a row of cottages near the edge of the grounds. The kids attack the hamper of crackers, juice and biscuits while Rufus and I relax with a bottle of red, dog snoozing happily by our feet.
We wake the next morning to stunning views across the Devonshire countryside. Highbullen is an impressive Victorian country house hotel set in 125 acres of verdant landscape. A destination in its own right, with a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool and spa, it has also garnered rave reviews for its food, with two restaurants and a tea room. Breakfast in the Devon View Restaurant is a treat, with local pork sausages, butter-cooked mushrooms and black pudding.
Next up, tennis: we attempt a family game, though Seth struggles with the reality of being eight as opposed to Rafael Nadal, and storms off in a tantrum. We regroup by the spa, and any anger quickly dissolves in the beautiful 20-metre pool with views of Exmoor.
That night, the dinner menu at Devon View awaits. It draws inspiration from the local countryside, with Exmoor lamb and locally-reared pork. I choose a heritage tomato salad, while Rufus has pork belly and scallops, which he pronounces delicious.
For mains, the kids have burgers while the grown-ups enjoy Creedy Carver duck with cavolo nero and Cornish sea bass with pancetta cabbage in a red wine jus. The showstopper pud was the blackcurrant soufflé – deliciously light and bursting out of its dish. As we wander back to our room, I savour the perfect moment: owls hoot in the trees, and our location is so remote that a million stars shine.
Swimming and a game of giant outdoor chess keep us busy the following day, and it’s time for a special treat – afternoon tea at Highbullen’s Laura Ashley Tea Room. The cake stand groans under the weight of sandwiches, handmade cakes – and of course, piles of buttermilk scones served with Devon cream and jam. Full to bursting, we set off home – practising our West Country accents all the way. Absolute Devon...
How to book
B&B at Highbullen Hotel starts at £110 per night for a double room. For more details, call 01769 540 561 or visit highbullen.co.uk.