There are a lot of small hotels in England, so you have to have done something pretty special to win 'best small hotel' of the year from Visit England – as the folks at the Old Rectory did in 2014. Boutique hotels are two-a-penny these days, but Huw Rees and Sam Prosser got it right when they found this place back in 2008 – not only is its location second-to-none, idyllically sitting in Exmoor National Park with spectacular views across the Bristol Channel towards Wales, but the thoughtfulness with which they went about the whole project is impressive. The result is ten very comfortable rooms furnished in a contemporary style, decked out with fresh flowers, large bathrooms, Wifi and everything else you could possibly need.
Beyond the rooms the hotel fosters the atmosphere of a convivial country house party, with afternoon tea in the comfy downstairs sitting room, early evening canapes and an excellent dinner served in the dining room. Native North Devonian Thomas Frost is at the helm in the kitchen and his motto is local all the way, with fish from day boats, meat from nearby Heale Farm and fruit and veg from their kitchen garden. What could be fresher? How does Ifracombe crab, lime and avocado cocktail followed by fillet of Ruby Red Devon beef sound?
Outside, the location couldn't be more peaceful, and there are lovely gardens in which to enjoy it; for the more energetic the steep wooded valleys and high cliffs of Exmoor National Park are on your doorstep – you're just 500 metres from the South West Coast Path. Beyond lies coastal resort of Lynton and Lynmouth – take a ride on the Cliff Railway that joins them, the highest and the steepest totally water powered railway in the world. In the other direction, you'll find the gorgeous and rightly renowned beaches of North Devon – Woolacombe, Croyde, Saunton are just a short drive away. Not bad in terms of local attractions then, but above all the Old Rectory is a lovely country house retreat to come back to at the end of the day.
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