Basil’s Brush With ...
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Basil’s Brush With ...
After a busy and unusually hot summer, trading the heat of the summer sun for the coolness of an autumn breeze… it seemed the perfect time to visit an estate on the edge of the inimitable Dartmoor. With promises of experiencing a wonderful house, originally designed as a picturesque ‘cottage orné’, this month, Basil reviews Devon’s much loved and much talked about Hotel Endsleigh.
‘Wake up Basil. We’ve arrived!’ Tearing myself from deep slumber; I lift my body, deftly anchoring four paws onto the travel bed to raise my head just enough to be able to take a peek out of the back window. I spy with my little eye… something beginning with ‘T’ and great galloping goannas, I see ‘trees’, lots of them! And, where there are trees, yep, you’ve guessed it, there are… STICKS!
With joy in my heart, I sat bolt upright with excitement as we veered into the drive, expecting the hotel to present itself at every turn. Teasing us with anticipation; winding itself this way and that, tree after tree framing the little road.
After what seemed an eternity, a beaut one at that, we followed the curve of the cobbled wall that opened into a spacious courtyard where Dad niftily parked in front of the country house hotel entrance.
After lifting me out of the back of the car, pausing briefly for me to shake off the journey, we made our way through the robust front door directly into the Entrance Hall…
First impressions, Mum was clearly impressed. I heard her comment about the ‘magnificent floral display in the making’ as we headed towards Reception.
There, we were greeted by Katie. She leaned over to shake paws with me. ‘Hello Basil!’ ‘Well, G’day to you too.’ She explained that our room wasn’t quite ready but invited us to have a cup of tea or a drink in the Lounge in the meantime. Trotting obediently behind, I thought ‘Hmmm, ‘tea’ or, perhaps, ‘balls’ – ball games win every time’.
Fran showed us to a comfy sitting area, which had access out onto the lawn. As if reading my thoughts, ‘Tea can wait, let’s go and stretch our legs first shall we Basil?’ Dad offered.
I charged out of the door onto the spacious lawn where he produced my favourite ball out of his backpack. Alas, just as we got into our stride, one over-energetic throw later and ridgy didge my ball disappeared off the side of the lawn, falling down deep into the undergrowth.
Dad was perplexed but not as perplexed as Mum who demonstrated her concern for Dad who had chosen, ill advisedly, to put his life in danger (or at the very least muddying up his trousers) as he tried to ease himself down the bank to retrieve my ball.
Meanwhile, no worries, I sat like a good boy from the side-lines watching the escapade unfold before me – happy in the knowledge that we always come well stocked with balls so there was little need for such drama.
Mum continued to chastise Dad who had seemingly temporarily lost concentration of the task in hand… from the side of the bank, I could see that he had became mesmerised by the views over the River, across the woods and beyond. Mum’s tittle tattling also came to an abrupt halt when she too caught sight of the view – there they both stood, slightly lopsided, momentarily in silence, propping themselves up on the incline of the bank, gazing ahead.
‘Magnificent’ Dad absently murmured. I, however, looked back longingly towards the hotel as I’m sure there was a mention of some treats of the magnificent kind that would surely be waiting in our room by now.
The fresh autumnal air having blown away the stresses of travel, we strolled back to the hotel, complete with Dad’s muddied knees. Our key was, indeed, waiting in Reception along with a very nice man, who gave me a stroke and offered to take our luggage and show us to our bedroom.
Out we walked back into the courtyard and through the clock tower archway which opened up into the Grade 1 listed Stables.
Our room was actually Suite No 18. Turning the key we entered into a hallway. To the right was a downstairs cloakroom, to the left led into what looked like a very comfy lounge. Mum loved the sunflower design of the sofa and chair fabric, it was the bee’s knees and well, she thought blended perfectly with my coat!
Lifting my eyes, I noticed the mounted image of a black bear hanging on the wall. She looked ‘sweet as’ with ears cocked forward. Dad commented upon the fact that he could see a resemblance… personally, I didn’t get the similarity!
Leaving Mum and Dad to explore the ground floor, I went in search of what I had been waiting for… magnificent treats! ‘Found them’, along with a bonzer looking bed, blanket, bowl and welcome letter which instructed me, so Mum said, to ‘have fun’ and to be ‘prepared for lots of attention.’ I’m well up for that!
Dad settled me down and gave me a few of the magnifico treats whilst they continued to investigate what would be their home for the next 24 hours.
I could hear them chatting to each other of how they could picture themselves curling up in front of the log burner reading a good book. And, there were lots of them!
Mum loved the pretty poppy prints on the walls and clasped her hands with delight when she spotted our very own pantry. A little sink (perfect for washing out my bowl) plus a fridge with – drum roll please – yes, a bottle of fresh milk. There was also tea, coffee and sugar along with a kettle, coffee maker, toaster and microwave. Cups, plates, glasses, cutlery and a cafétiere as well. Well, Mum was as happy as a possum climbing a gum tree or in our case when on the Endsleigh Estate… ‘a cuckoo calling from a fir tree’.
Next to the pantry was a cute bunk bed room, whilst upstairs… ‘Come on Mum’ I wanted to show my HPs the bedroom.
She thought this room was lovely too and busied a note to herself to add the very same turquoise lamps to her expansive ‘wish list’. Silky soft white sheets and a deluxe white cotton throw – I can see now why I wasn’t allowed on the bed! There were more books up here too, many by a PG Wodehouse.
Dad walked around the bathroom, having a good looksie. Roll top bath, separate shower, large sink and he even liked the smell of the Mitchell & Peach toiletries.
And… yes, comfy robes, tick off that list then!
Ma famille were keen to explore the grounds that, so Dad shared, incorporated 208 acres of gardens and woodlands. Grabbing jackets en route we set off… passing by the ‘poo bin’ by the arch as we went (another tick off Dad’s list). We decided to ‘turn right’ and simply see where the path took us…
It led us through to a valley, a vast yet very pretty wooded area, a ‘dingle dell’ – the name conjures up fairy-tale imagery. I was half expecting to be joined on our journey by playful fairies and pixies! Running among the many wondrous trees there were small water pools, cascading water from rocks and water trickling off the large leaves leading down to a hidden grotto. I checked under a large green leaf, for evidence of fairy gatherings.
Mum was click, click, clicking on the camera – tree, after tree after tree. They all looked the same to me but Dad shared that we would see ‘a Norman Fir, believed to be almost the biggest in Britain, a fantastic Weeping Beech and an ever-growing Giant Sequoia’. I, meanwhile, was picking up and chucking stick, after stick, after stick and loving every moment.
The path led us up and down passing by some mighty fine Magnolia (that’s a favourite of mine as it is a favourite of my Mum’s too) and some prehistoric looking plants! Although the signal on my HPs phones was scarce, Dad managed to look these up. Apparently, they were Gunnera plants. Dinki-di, they looked just like giant parasols to me, perfect for shading from the hot sun – although, granted we were now in autumn, so possibly a perfect umbrella for sprites then.
Crossing over the stream via a little bridge I sat and looked across the dell. I could see for miles and miles of uninterrupted nature at its very best.
Mum and Dad ambled hand-in-hand alongside and I could just sense that the walk among Mr Repton’s vision (he was apparently a very famous landscaper) was soothing their cares away. We strolled in silence (even me) as if just soaking up the serenity of it all.
‘Hello there.’ A voice called down from on high. By jingo, I jumped out of my skin. Mum and Dad shielded their eyes from the rays of light and looked up at the crag. They were busy ‘chopping back’, whatever that may be. They do it every year!
Even though I am, as you know, braver than a dingo in the outback, I made my escape, as, well, they did have rather scary looking ladders! Following closely behind were my HPs, bidding the men G’day at the same time quickening their pace to catch me up.
Dad eventually found me paddling in the stream – it was a lovely resting place to take a quick drink and for us to just to sit for a while.
We made our way past the Gate House Lodge, walking parallel to the River Tamar. There wasn’t another person in sight. Fair dinkum, we were, however, still in good company with the far reaching trees, meandering river and trembling grass, clearly too enjoying such freedom.
As if a light bulb sparked to life above his head, Dad had a good idea! He decided upon a mission… to enter the undergrowth from a different direction to find my ball! Ripper mission, Dad!
We huffed and puffed up the hillside whilst Dad disappeared into the bushes like David Bellamy – he reappeared, with one arm held high, ball in hand, straight in triumph. ‘Found it!’ he exclaimed with a broad smile across his face. I love my Dad.
We decided to make our way back to the hotel. There we could see guests and a number of pooches sitting on the Terrace enjoying a brief interlude from the overcast weather.
Upon closer inspection, they all seemed to be tucking into a Devon Afternoon Tea of sandwiches, cakes, scones with jam and clotted cream along with pots of tea… uttering G’day to some four legged pals, I stopped by each before taking up pozzy next to a table set with beaut views over the lawn.
My Mum was drawn to a rather gentle looking little dog who was sitting close by. I heard her ask after her… Molly was a petite Yorkshire terrier/Spaniel cross that no longer had her sight but detected her surroundings with her sense of smell. We touched noses.
Although tempting, it was decided that we would save our appetite for dinner but it was a very tough call. My nostrils went into twitch overdrive at the sweet smell of it all. Mum returned to the Terrace and explained to Dad that all the cakes and scones were displayed on a table in the Library for everyone to help themselves to whatever they fancied. She thought that this was a lovely way to take afternoon tea.
We settled down al fresco to a biccy and a cuppa with, so Mum shared, crockery inspired by Mr Humphry Repton, the famous person who designed the gardens – celebratory crockery no doubt as I overheard someone say that he passed for greener pastures (if that was even possible) 200 years ago.
After tea, we decided to go on walkabout through the Entrance Hall stopping briefly to admire the well-stocked fireplace and into the Boot Corridor – handy in this weather, where guests could borrow Hunter wellies and jackets. The passage led us through to another magical terrace area just perfect to while away the time with the flowers and the water feature dancing away to their own tune.
We sat for a while to take in the view of the Parterre, having been told by a member of staff that the area was specifically designed with children and, perhaps, dogs like me, in mind with the playful use of water. I liked it there, heaps. Soon it was time for us to head back to our room for some R&R.
In our lounge we sat; with audible satisfaction, cup in one hand, booklet in the other, Mum commenced the ‘hotel directory’ ritual… she takes great delight in reading these from cover to cover. It’s her thing!
I, meanwhile, followed Dad into the Pantry where he prepared my food. That’s my thing!
Calling from the lounge Mum informed Dad that apparently ‘there was a ‘red book’ on display which were the planned garden designs submitted by Mr Repton and we could view it first hand and take a look at it for ourselves.
She went on to read that ‘dogs are allowed everywhere and in all the bedrooms apart from the main restaurant and Library when afternoon tea is taking place.’ Hmmm, I wonder where we will be eating din-dins tonight then?
After freshening up and Mum putting my dress collar on for me, patting my head she smiled and said kindly ‘There, you look perfect. All ready for dinner.’ We made our way back over to the main hotel.
A hop, skip and a jump later, we once again entered the Hall. It had been transformed for the evening and looked cracking – lit candles were twinkling everywhere and surrounded the fabulous table centre the lady created earlier.
I followed the glow of the candlelight and trotted through to the Library.
To my surprise and delight there was my pal Molly. Mum and Dad seemed just as pleased and exhaled a sigh as they sat down on the comfortable chairs.
Mum pointed out the location of the ‘Honesty Bar’ where she explained that she had read that if we wanted to help ourselves to any drinks, we just had to leave the tipple chosen along with our name and room number. Everyone agreed that they liked this notion very much.
But, before Dad could hone his skills as a mixologist, a smiley member of staff came by and took our drink order. His name was Krzysztof and he gave me a scrubbed head. That will be a cocktail for Mum, beer for Dad and a bowl of fresh water for me.
Soon it was time for Molly and her HPs to leave us and make their way into dinner but they promised to meet us back in the Lounge for post dinner drinkies. Noses rubbed, I was happy with that. I had noticed another pooch and his HP were already in the Quiet Room but I was even more chuffed when we were led into dinner only to find my pal sitting in the same private dining room as ourselves. Happy days.
The Duchess’s Sitting Room was lovely and cosy. The waitress explained that the ornate wallpaper was original from when the Duke of Bedford and his wife Georgina lived there. The wallpaper was very opulent, mind you if I owned a third of Devon at the time then I think I, too, would have had some nice flowery wallpaper.
Mum and Dad busily chatted to Molly’s HPs whilst glancing at the menu. I, meanwhile, tucked into the contents of my kong.
It didn’t take long for them to choose; ‘Scallops and Mackerel’ with roast crab sauce and wilted spinach for Dad and ‘Truffle Honey Goats Cheese’, saffron poached peach, pain d’épiced and candied walnuts for Mum.
The Pouilly-Fuisse was poured and conversation once again ensued as Molly and I laid chillaxing together on the carpet.
Food soon arrived. Mum had tipped out some game kibble in my bowl so I could join in with the dining experience (although it had to be said, I soon sat to attention, nose in the air, waiting patiently for any titbits!)
There they tucked into their starter – pausing briefly to sip on a ‘mighty fine Burgundy’ and to interact with Molly’s Ma and Pa who also seemed to be enjoying the experience.
Soon after, the main courses arrived. ‘Turbot’ with mussels, saffron and sweetcorn chowder, tenderstem and green peas for Dad whilst Mum plumped for ‘Sea Bream’ with courgette and fennel salad, saffron potatoes, spinach puree, tomato and caper beurre noisette.
The atmosphere was so relaxed with staff popping by every so often to give me a stroke and to see if we were all OK, which of course, we were – especially as Mum and Dad had both ordered Peach Melba for pud!
Tums full, we joined our buddies in the Lounge for a digestif but sadly not the biccy kind 😉
There they chatted with the other guests and I rubbed noses with a friendly black Lab, Collie and Cocker Spaniel who had just reunited with their HPs after dinner.
Krzysztof, the Restaurant Manager, who had been looking after us during the evening popped by to show us pictures of his dog, Leah. She was a Leonberger, rather bigger than me at 67 kg! Krz was clearly missing his pooch but Molly and I tried our best to help him miss her just a little bit less.
Us pooches were pooped, it must have been all that walking today…each one of us stretched out across the floor, flat out like lizards drinking, many of us running in our sleep – after the pheasants no doubt – before being woken by our HPs to retire to our rooms.
Strolling back to the Stables, Mum looked up at the stars that could be seen clear as day and commented to Dad… ‘Sshhh listen!’ ‘What? What can you hear?’ Dad enquired with a tone of urgency. ‘Nothing.’ Mum smiled, ‘Isn’t that just lovely?’
The next morning, we all awoke fresh as daisies. Mum remarked upon how lovely it was to be woken purely by the sounds of nature, just the ‘roo-c’too-coo of the wood pigeon and bird song’.
Time for a cuppa… by crikey I fancy a saucer of that when back from my morning constitutionals. We were very fortunate to be in a suite to be able to make our own but one of the conveniences that Mum commented upon is that the hotel staff are very happy to deliver a wake up tea or coffee to the room. Mum thought that this was a really nice touch.
Breakfast was calling so once dressed – this time, donning my smart black collar – to the melodic chime of the clock tower, we strolled over to breakfast. Our table had been set up in the Duchess’s Sitting Room once again. There we bumped into Molly’s HPs – Molly was having an extended kip in their room but Eddie and Julia joined us for breakfast too.
Now, if I just sit ever so quietly and give the puppy dog eyes, what do you think the chances are I will be rewarded with a cheeky sausage?
Mum and Dad ordered the Full English of bacon, sausage, field mushrooms, tomato, fried bread, hogs and black pudding and eggs – hold the black pudding for one! Good stuff, Mum ordered me a sausage, puppy dog eyes never fail!
Dad wandered into the main Restaurant to fetch some juice and homemade Granola.
We didn’t have to wait long before the breakfast arrived… my nose twitched once again with the intoxicating smells. I mean how much can a Koala bare!?
Wait a minute, but where’s my sausage. Before I could say ‘Hogs Pudding’… ‘Here you go Basil. Chef, cooked you one specially.’
Tummies once again full, we returned to our room. Mum stopped in her tracks and noticed how very pretty the bedroom building was which Dad read from a plaque was set next to a ‘spring water trough where the first stone of the building was laid way back in 1810 by the Duchess of Bedford’s four sons.’
Mum and Dad packed up all our luggage, gave one final wistful tour of our cool bananas suite before closing the door behind us as we headed back once more to reception for the 11.00am check out.
Although there were lots of people buzzing around for an exclusive use event taking place that day, we were told that we were still very welcome to continue to enjoy the hotel and its grounds until after lunch.
My HPs decided to take them up on their offer, especially as we hadn’t finished exploring the grounds yet… thankfully we bumped into Krzysztof as we so wanted to say toodle-oo to him before we left.
We also said ta-ta to my pal Molly too but I have no doubt I will be seeing them soon as it seems that meaningful friendships are likely to be made in such a magical place as this.
Time for a walkies. Do we need a brolly Mum?
The sun was peaking through the clouds so we decided to risk it for a biscuit (although Dad had plenty of those in his pocket). Strolling outside, this time, we ‘turned left’.
Molly’s HPs said that we were heading for a first class experience and judging by the standard of yesterday’s turning right encounter, we were ripe with anticipation.
We headed towards the river and walked along the bank… Mum shared that if we had wanted a picnic the hotel would have provided us with a hamper and a blanket which would have been lovely had we have not just taken breakfast and I wasn’t in need of much ball throwing.
The conversation turned to the Duke of Bedford and how my HPs could understand why the Duke had chosen this spot for his hunting and fishing lodge.
Even though my happiness tick list consisted mainly of ‘sticks’, I could appreciate how peaceful it was with the added bonus of a backdrop of good looking trees, their reflection mirrored in the flowing water. Gee whiz, it seemed like we had stumbled across our own private little haven.
We climbed onto a rock jutting into the river. I was very brave. There we sat just for a while, taking in the clean, bracing air and admiring the view before we headed up the bank towards the woodlands.
Mum had read that the woodlands contained unusual trees from around the world and some of them were National champions.
We needed to catch our breath as we climbed the woodland tree walk. There were Cedar, Fir, Maple, Chestnuts and award winning Rhododendron, which apparently flower glorious pink when in season.
We finally made it to the top and popped out the other side only to find a most intriguing delicate looking building.
It was so grotto like, featuring shells galore, no doubt where the fairies came to play – I sat and waited for the mythical creatures but sadly they were nowhere to be seen. They must be a little shy like me. Adam, the hotel’s General Manager, had told us that to have a Shell House back in the day was a sign of status.
Back on level ground, we strolled along the grass towards the house … Mum admiring the plants in The Long Border (the longest continuous herbaceous border in England, so Dad said.)
Bereft of my pals, whilst Mum went walkabout one last time, I joined another matie on the footstool although to be fair he didn’t say much!
There we sat, Dad chilling and drinking coffee whilst Mum continued to capture memories of the many reception rooms.
Excitedly she returned, sharing that she had found the ‘red book’ and explained that she felt humbled to be able to literally ‘touch’ history when it was in the making.
With sadness, it was soon time for us, too, to leave the tranquillity and magical world of Endsleigh.
Gathering our thoughts, we said our farewells to the team. Adam asked if we had enjoyed ourselves? We did and I very much hope that my HPs will return with me again one day soon as I’m rather partial to a Devon afternoon tea, sticks on tap and an enchanting dingle dell. Who knows next time, I may even rub noses with a fanciful fairy!
A word from Mum:
Although sticks are high on Basil’s happiness list, there are other things to life and visiting Hotel Endsleigh gives you a little nudge and reminds you of just that.
It’s a place where you can drop out, albeit briefly, from the normal humdrum pressures of the world and just take stock, to check in with nature and oneself.
The décor of the bedrooms and the reception areas are all exquisite. Elegant, stylish and tasteful, exuding effortless charm. This is a hotel clearly not trying to be anything other than what it proclaims to be. It’s confident in its own skin. Living up to its reputation of being a luxurious bolt-hole, delivering the finest food, service and facilities… completely integrated with nature.
Where pooches are concerned, they, like children, are more than welcome. The staff obviously love animals and so does the layout of the hotel not to mention the abundance of outdoor space which allows them to run free and safely in the process.
The experience for all is one of exploration and relaxation. And, let’s face it, we all could do with a little of the latter from time to time.
Bountiful walking – where you are more likely to bump into a badger than another guest – and a promise to hear nothing but the sound of trees swaying in the breeze, streams babbling and nature calling. Void of any unsolicited background music, replaced by the welcome chatter of guests, busy making new friends.
The owner, Olga Polizzi, exclaims that ‘There are few places like this these days.’ So true, the Hotel Endsleigh is situated in one of the prettiest spots in Devon I have ever had the pleasure to visit. It’s truly magical and, indeed, stuff of fairy tales. And, in my humble opinion, whether turning left or right, everything about Endsleigh is nothing short of first class.
This little ‘tail’ was brought to you by Basil (with help from his Mum)
Basil and his Human Parents were guests of Hotel Endsleigh
“Red hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous.”
Basil’s review is posted ‘in his opinion’. Although he has been entirely honest about his experience, as ‘toast’, ‘tea’ and ‘sticks’ are high on his ‘happiness’ agenda, please feel free to undertake your own research too – after all he is just a dog, albeit a rather discerning one! - Karen, Basil's Mum
Creature Comfort Critique
As friends of non-pooch owners, we do appreciate that not everyone wishes to share their social space with our four legged friends. (Hard to believe, we know, however, each to their own).
We appreciate, therefore, that hotels, B&Bs and pubs/restaurants with rooms must have a tricky time striving to create the perfect environment for everyone.
Based upon those venues that we feel, as a family, have struck a perfect balance, the experience has been critiqued from a highly-attached pet owner’s perspective (also a seasoned venue find agent), rating the comfort, convenience and inclusivity that we experienced when travelling with Basil.
It’s a bit of fun, based on our own opinions but, hopefully, will be a useful insight to fellow discerning travellers.
|Ample car parking|
|Location of bedroom|
|Accommodation grounds fit for pooch|
|Bits and bobs helpful for caring for pooch|
|Inclusivity (to eat and drink together)|
|Comfort of dining area|
|Surrounding area suitable for pooches|
|Pooch information (ie walks) available|
|Overall pooch welcoming|
|Toasted to perfection (toast and sausage beaut!)|
|A lovely cup of tea (fresh milk yay)|
|Accessibility to sticks (on tap!)|
- The grounds – simply breathtaking!
- Design – oozing charm
- Relaxation – a place to seriously unwind
My Visit to Tavistock:
Tavistock is about fifteen minutes drive from the hotel and is a lovely little market town on the edge of the moors.Back to the Top
'If you'd like to make contact and stay at the venue with your pooch, my Mum has gathered together some details for you.
Upon booking, would you mind mentioning that you read the venue's review on the Travel With Basil site?
I’d be like a dog with two tails if you did!'
The Hotel Endsleigh