Hotel Highlights

  • Splendid grounds and gardens
  • Fabulous food that’s rooted in the region
  • Ken and Ruth, the warm-hearted owners

Overview

Combe House hotel in Devon is the kind of grand old country pile where Arabian horses canter picturesquely, pheasants strut presidentially, and guests relax with Pimm’s and croquet (or champagne by a roaring log fire in the winter). Here, you’ll be well fed, well wined, and very well looked after.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Combe House with us:

A goodie bag of Combe's home-made jams and chutneys

Facilities

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Combe House hotel – Devon – United Kingdom

Need To Know

Rooms

16, including three suites.

Check–out

10.30am, late check-out is available if arranged the night before. Earliest check-in, 2pm – luggage can be stashed safely away if you arrive earlier.

Rates

Double rooms from $306.61 (£183), excluding tax at 20 per cent.

More details

Rates include full English breakfast.

Also

Let the hotel know your preferences in advance – whether you’re a duvet or blanket person, if you’ve any dietary requirements, whether you want dinner and when, and whether you’ve a special occasion to celebrate, and staff will tailor your stay accordingly.

At the hotel

Restored Victorian kitchen gardens, woodlands and orchards, croquet lawn, apiary; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen/plasma TV, DVD/CD player, Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet bath products.

Our favourite rooms

The Linen Suite nimbly manages to be both modern (white furnishings and a distinct lack of chintz) and historic: housed in the former Victorian ironing room, with the original drying rack suspended from the ceiling, an original iron pulley system attached to the wall and an antique stove topped with old irons. Of the other room categories, Putt is a charming choice. This superior room is coloured with calm grey and blue hues and has French doors that open onto the Lebanese cedar lawn and the Orangery beyond – a real boon in summer. The Marker Suite is best for families: it has plenty of space and connects with Tommy Wax, a Signature room with sweeping estate views. For the ultimate privacy, book Combe Thatch Cottage, hidden in the woods just a three-minute drive from the main building.

Also

Well-behaved dogs can come too for £10 a night: they’ll even get a ‘survival’ kit (on request). The hotel has helpfully published a little booklet ‘for’ canine companions, detailing the area’s 10 best local walks and dog-friendly beaches..

Children

Couples are the hotel’s primary focus, but it welcomes little ones too, providing free cots and extra beds (£30), baby monitors and a toy cupboard. Babysitting (four-hour minimum) is from £9 an hour (book a day ahead).

Weddings

This property is suitable for weddings

More details

Food & Drink

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Combe House hotel – Devon – United Kingdom

Hotel Restaurant

The hotel prides itself on knowing the origins of its ingredients: play ‘name the supplier’ with waiters if you don’t believe us. (To start you off, duck comes from Merrifield Farm, pork hails from Duckaller Farm, milk and cream from Yarty Valley Dairies.) The chef and menu respect such top-notch components, presenting them in classic British dishes such as John Dory with smoked eel and capers, squab pigeon with chestnut purée, and caramel panna cotta with bitter chocolate sorbet and biscotti. There are two dining rooms to choose from: the Pink Dining room and the Green Mural room, decorated with paintings by the previous lady of the house. The hotel offers private dining too, so have a banquet in either the Panel Room – clad in dark wood and hung with ancestral oil paintings – or the Georgian kitchen, where everything is cooked on the restored Victorian wood-burning cooking range.

Hotel Bar

Walk through the lofty Great Hall to get to the bar, housed in a green, snug area adjoining the sitting room. The cocktail menu champions what’s growing in the garden (the 200-year-old mulberry tree plays a prominent part), with seasonal tipples including rhubarb bellinis and lavender lemonade. A few small squashy sofas and chairs are clustered around the bar itself, but it’s cosier in the sitting room near the log fire, listening to the classical music playing on the Roberts radio. Take advantage of the waiter service while perched in front of the fire in the Great Hall, or sit beneath the Lebanese cypress trees in summer.

Last orders

Breakfast is served between 7.30am and 9.45am, lunch from 12 noon until 2pm; dinner between 7pm and 9.30pm (canapés are served half an hour before the main meal, and are included in the price). The bar closes when the last guest goes to bed.

Room service

Order items from the menu between 7.30am and 10pm. It’s a snacky selection: steak and club sandwiches, soup, Welsh rarebit, cream tea and a range of drinks.

Smith Insider

Dress code

Pretend you’re an aristocratic artist/titled heir, clad in cashmere and corduroys in rich paint-palette hues. Here, the emphasis is on comfort.

Top table

Sit in the pink room by the French doors, overlooking the front of the house and the handsome grounds.

Local Guide

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Combe House hotel – Devon – United Kingdom
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Local restaurants

The Railway Bar & Restaurant (+44 (0)1404 47976; www.therailwayhoniton.co.uk) on Queen Street has a relaxed atmosphere, comprehensive menu and a fine selection of ales. Expect to be impressed by Holt Pub & Restaurant (+44 (0)1404 47707; www.theholt-honiton.com) on the high street, where everything – from the home-smoked prawns to the home-made malt ice cream – is carefully prepared by head chef Angus McCaig. Stop for a light lunch at The Boston Tea Party (+44 (0)1404 548739; www.bostonteaparty.co.uk) at Monkton House on the high street. This small, family-run chain of seven West Country cafes prides itself on its quality food and low prices. If, incongruously, you want to savour something exotic, try Taste of Bengal (+44 (0)1404 47768) or The Birds Nest Chinese Restaurant (+44 (0)1404 43131), also on the high street.

Local bars

Dip into a rich stash of sauvignons, merlots, pinots and friends at The Honiton Wine Bar (+44 (0)1404 47889; www.honitonwinebar.com) on the high street. Ramble down to the Hare & Hounds (+44 (0)1404 41760) on Putts Corner in Sudbury. The gardens have views down to the valley and the coast at Sidmouth, and the ale selection is worth the thirst-inducing walk there.

Local cafés

Stop off for coffee and pastries at Toast (+44 (0)1404 598067) housed in Yarrow Interiors, a small antique shop with pretty gardens. Lunch at Café 102 Bar (+44 (0)1404 46294) is a satisfying experience: baked hams, nourishing soups and delicious desserts are some of the highlights.

+ Enlarge
South Devon meadows

Combe House

Gittisham, Honiton, Nr Exeter, Devon EX14 3AD, United Kingdom

The hotel and estate adjoin the pretty village of Gittisham near Honiton, a 20-minute drive from Exeter.

Planes

Exeter airport is 10 miles away.

Trains

Honiton station is four miles from Combe House, connected to London via a regular service from Waterloo. Taxis from the station to the hotel are £10.

Automobiles

Combe is easily accessible, just two miles from the A30 / A303 London to Exeter, and 10 miles from M5/Midlands/Bristol to South West. Exeter is 14 miles away; Taunton, 25. The hotel has plenty of free parking, but it advises guests to drop their luggage off first.

Other

Combe House has a helipad on the croquet lawn. Get your diamond-encrusted biro and jot down these coordinates: Long. W003.13.05N 50-46.44 0/5. 192-143978.

Reviews

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Combe House hotel – Devon – United Kingdom

Anonymous review

by Harriet Whiting , Circumnavigating scribe

When you are demolishing your own home, it is really rather lovely to spend time in someone else’s, particularly if it is a listed Grade I Elizabethan Manor. Mr Smith’s ambitious plans for our modest London flat having left us somewhat jaded and dust covered, our weekend break in Devon was well timed.

Surveying our surrounding...

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Combe House

Anonymous review by Harriet Whiting, Circumnavigating scribe

When you are demolishing your own home, it is really rather lovely to spend time in someone else’s, particularly if it is a listed Grade I Elizabethan Manor. Mr Smith’s ambitious plans for our modest London flat having left us somewhat jaded and dust covered, our weekend break in Devon was well timed.

Surveying our surroundings in Combe House’s oak-panelled Great Hall, the sheer scale was mind-expanding. Everything is vast: the heavy oak door we had arrived through, the five-metre-long cloth curtains hanging from ceiling to flagstone and the cavernous fireplace, filled with giant, glowing logs in an immense grate (yes, it is spring, but baby, is it cold outside). From the walls loom 18th-century ancestral portraits interspersed with bold taxidermy.

The size of this room could surely contain our entire flat, I pointed out to Mr Smith. Clearly, back in the day they did things differently. Swiftly Mr Smith used this to illustrate an ongoing moot point in our relationship, barely suppressing mirth to announce that the estate’s origins coincide with the only date he claims I know in English history: 1066 – of course. Combe House’s land was given to Bishop Odo, half-brother of William the Conqueror, after the Battle of Hastings, apparently.

Luckily, distraction arrived in the form of chilled champagne with a selection of miniature morsels of food (commonly known as canapés). As our Baby Smith was settled upstairs in our bedroom, monitored by the lovely girls in reception, we toasted our delightful change in circumstance.

In the dining room, we had the chance to soak up the quintessentially English view of rolling countryside, vibrant green in the evening sunlight, from huge, stone-framed windows. As the estate encompasses some 3,500 acres I reckon we’re looking at Combe House’s land as far as the eye can see. Which is heaven if you’re a fan of wide-open spaces. Or if you live in a half-renovated flat in London.

The walls have been hand painted in a pretty floral design and in the second dining room I spied a pinky Farrow & Ball wallpaper. Wandering back from the loo I was intrigued to see a distinctive William Morris design, looking oddly contemporary, which confirmed my suspicions that Combe House merges old and new extremely well.

Dinner saw us in the good hands of chef Hedleigh Barrett who is clearly a guru of textures and tastes, producing little flavour bombs that burst on your tongue: foie gras studded with honeycomb, scallops scattered with hazelnuts, and smoked duck leg croustillant. Sustainability is big here – the provenance of meat and fish is very local and veggies come from the garden.

Our bedroom was so dark and quiet that all three of us slept in. Mr Smith enjoyed the reassuring comfort of sheets, blankets and a heavy Colefax and Fowler eiderdown (the hotel thoughtfully checked our bed linen requirements upon booking), but Master Smith was not keen on the shutters, which meant he missed the dawn chorus.

Our mullioned Elizabethan windows framed the view of a flowering magnolia tree, and some Arabian horses cantering friskily in the fields. Our bedroom, one of the oldest in the house, had delightful hand-painted wall murals but, like the rest of Combe, it has been tastefully modernised. There’s a Farrow & Ball blue and grey colour scheme, upholstered armchair with matching bed end stool and Warris Vianni silk curtains. Very luxe country house, but extremely comfortable too.

Combe’s breakfast is not to be missed, which you might do if you’re not there by the distinctly early time of 9.45am. Thankfully, we had Master Smith to consider, so we were seated punctually by 7.30am. Three bowls of porridge came with jugs of Devon cream and maple syrup, followed by Combe’s own eggs in various guises – with smoked salmon (for me), the works (Mr Smith) and buttered soldiers (for Master Smith), leaving just enough room for a homemade croissant with jams and marmalades from the estate.

The estate certainly needs time to explore. Adjacent to the Manor is the glorious Victorian kitchen garden where we played ‘spot your dinner’. Basket-weave edges contain the vegetables: multicoloured chard, radishes, beetroot and herbs aplenty. A pathway snakes round to one side, through ancient oak and bay trees, to reveal an outdoor thatch-roofed bathing area. We met the chickens, scratching around in their expansive coop, and lifted the lid of the nesting box to discover brown eggs.

A hidden path, strewn with cerise rhododendron petals and lined with wild bluebells, neatly led us back to the main lawn where the honey-toned manor is framed by magnificent 200-year-old Lebanese cedar trees. The gnarled branches, low-slung over the lawn, form a natural lover’s seat overlooking the buttercupped fields, stretching to Dartmouth. Unlike the interior’s classic feel the garden has been left to run a little wild: lichen-covered brick walls, mossy, upturned terracotta pots and an age-old Arboretum. It’s a secret garden and most definitely romantic.

You could easily while away a few hours here but Mr Smith was set on a visit to the coastal fishing village named Beer. Although I was skeptical about it being much more than a pint-in-hand photo opp, actually what we found was a sweet pebbly beach, with pretty fishing boats, striped deckchairs and even bona fide bearded fishermen selling their catch. A few snapshots and a stone-throwing contest later and we were ready for a Devonshire cream tea and Master Smith’s supper back at what we’d begun to call The House. As you can imagine, our spell there had made returning to The Flat increasingly less appealing.
 

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel with us, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Combe House's Guestbook below.

 

GoldSmith

Stayed on 5 Apr 2014

We loved

I loved the attentive, helpful and generally fabulous service; the wonderful food and beautifully opulent dining rooms; and the peaceful and relaxing bar. The tension started to lift within seconds of arriving.

Don’t expect

This is a tiny, tiny thing, but serving real leaf tea (which is good) in a teapot without an infuser means the second cup can be a bit stewed.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on 14 Feb 2014

We loved

The restaurant food is just stunning! And the service is amazing! It's a wonderful location with stunning country views, and the rooms are lovely although being quite the building is old and has few cracks and can be bit draughty (although our stay was during the Feburary 2014 storms and high winds, so maybe it's not usually so draughty).

Don’t expect

The bar closed at 2am. We had just met new friends – a very well known lady soul singer and partner, who also loved the hotel – and had to prematurely end a very lively eve.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on 3 Jan 2014

We loved

I liked the relaxed atmosphere, friendly and efficient staff, great food and the bed so comfortable that we missed breakfast!

Don’t expect

The shower was only warm rather than hot.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on 21 May 2013

We loved

We stayed in Combe Thatch Cottage, situated just on the edge of the hotel grounds. Beautiful and cosy interior, and an idyllic secluded garden – perfect if you want to get away from it all. All the staff members we encountered were friendly and attentive from the moment we arrived until the moment we left. The service really was outstanding and we were very well looked after. We enjoyed canapés and cocktails while watching the sunset, an exceptional dinner and an enviable selection of wine. Thank you Combe House – highly recommend; we will definitely be returning!

Don’t expect

Nothing… even the sun came out!

Rating: 10/10 stars