Why this gastronomic hotel in Devon is the ultimate romantic winter getaway

Glorious and secluded huts at Lympstone Manor
Glorious and secluded huts at Lympstone Manor | © Steven Brownhill/Lympstone Manor
Nina Zietman

Senior Commissioning Editor

Just 30 minutes outside Exeter, you’ll find the refined Lympstone Manor with its own Michelin-starred restaurant, fronted by top British chef Michael Caines. Here’s why this stunning escape is perfect for a winter getaway.

Exeter isn’t known as a foodie destination. While nearby Dartmouth boasts renowned restaurants like The Angel and Mitch Tonks’ Seahorse, the Devon capital has a cathedral and cosy cafes instead. However, just a short drive beyond Exeter’s ancient streets, you’ll find Lympstone Manor, a gastronomic gem, perched on a hillside overlooking the estuary.

The house itself was built in the 1760s by the Baring family, who allegedly profited greatly from the slave trade. However, its current owner – Michael Caines, one of Britain’s only black head chefs – gets the last laugh. He took over the manor in 2016, transforming it from a rundown guesthouse into a five-star Relais & Châteaux hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant.

The perfect hotel for foodies

Inside, the hotel still retains the feel of a Georgian country house, albeit with a modern twist. Dark wood panelling and a corniced ceiling greets you on arrival in the lobby, punctuated with modern paintings and sculptures by local artists. The 21 rooms are steeped in luxury. Think four-poster king beds topped with velvet cushions, marble bathrooms, and an in-room gin bar.

However, for a back-to-nature feel, book one of the luxury shepherd’s huts, tucked away at the bottom of the estate, surrounded by pine trees. Each one comes with a king bed, open-plan kitchenette, log-burning fire, and – the real showstopper – an outdoor freestanding bath overlooking the rolling vineyard. Upgrade to the Bee Hive or Fox Den huts for a wood-fired hot tub.

Luxury and relaxation away from home

Beyond the rooms, the Lympstone team opened a brand new pool house this summer, just in time for the heatwave. Get there early for dawn laps, as the mist rises off the estuary in the distance. Alternatively, if it’s a rare dry afternoon, there’s no better spot for an Aperol spritz on the sun terrace. Notably, there’s no spa currently at Lympstone, unusual for a hotel of this calibre, but there’s whispers of one potentially being built in the future.

The dining experience

Back to the real reason you’re here though: the food. As you’d expect from a Michelin-starred restaurant, dinner is a real experience. On arrival, you’re presented with an apéritif of champagne and artfully-presented canapés, served in the chandelier-decked lounge. There are two tasting menus and an à la carte to choose from. Vegetarians needn’t worry about being fobbed off with a mushroom risotto; there are three choices per course – from onion truffle tart to butternut squash ravioli.

Inside the dining room, the atmosphere is welcoming yet refined. Velvet booths cocoons each table, whilst the low lighting creates an intimate atmosphere. It’s ideal for a romantic meal for two. For starters, we had the roasted Lyme Bay scallops, encrusted in lemon thyme crumb, followed by the flaky-yet-crisp sea bass, a feat that’s notoriously difficult to achieve. And for dessert? The 44% Alunga milk chocolate mousse, topped with passion fruit and a malty ice cream.

Confit loch Duart Salmon

The beauty of the food here is that it’s decadent without feeling too rich; no one likes to feel sick after a particularly extravagant meal. As head chef Jordan Denning said to us afterwards, “Here, it’s all about flavour, flavour, flavour. In some places, appearance comes second but we get to do both.” Sustainability is a core focus, too. Caines is a champion for sustainable fish, choosing local wild species over industrial-farmed salmon, for example. Similarly, seasonal ingredients are sourced as locally as possible.

The wine selection

Wine is a big deal at Lympstone Manor. Each course is paired with a sommelier-selected glass that’s travelled from the mist-hung vineyards of South Africa to France’s Alsace region. But on top of this, Caines and his team have cultivated their own vineyard on the Lympstone estate. It’s lucky enough to occupy one of the very few microclimates in the south-west that’s primed for viticulture. For Caines, it’s another way to keep everything served on site close to home.

Lympstone teamed up with the nearby award-winning Lyme Bay Winery to produce their own high quality, estate grown wine. “Being estate grown is massively important to us,” says Steve Edwards, operations manager on our tour around the vines. “The wine-growing industry is generally unregulated. We want to focus on quality, which means we only use grapes grown on our vineyard.” 17,500 vines were planted in 2018, they are hoping to pop the cork on their first 2020 vintage next year.

After being lulled to sleep by the owls hooting outside our cosy shepherd’s hut, we woke up to a soft knock on the door the next morning. Freshly baked pastries, just-squeezed orange juice, natural yoghurt, granola and preserves were tucked into a wicker picnic basket for breakfast – in case we weren’t stuffed from last night’s feast.

In all, Lympstone Manor is perfect for an extra special weekend, like an anniversary (the price reflects that). It’s not especially trendy, but that’s no bad thing. The food showcases a distinctly modern take on old school French classics, ideal for those who don’t eat a lot of meat. It’s clear that the burgeoning vineyard will continue to be a real draw in years to come. Just make sure you get in there quick before the 2020 vintage sells out.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article