Along with my partner, I recently took a short trip down to the English Riviera where I found beauty, history, and the most incredible food! We were lucky with the weather, the sun shone the whole time we were there and the air was warm and balmy, but I imagine this place is almost as scenic when the weather isn’t as accommodating. This part of Devon is best known for Torquay, home of Faulty Towers, but we wanted something a little more off the beaten track, a little more manor house chic, and so we headed up the coast for Maidencombe
When we first arrived at Orestone Manor in Maidencombe, Devon, south West England, we knew it was the former home of the narrative painter, John Callcott Horsley, but we didn’t expect the place to be such a work of art itself.
The house is set in sweeping landscaped gardens with a stunning view of the sea. Palm trees sway gently in the breeze and the air is quiet and peaceful. Inside the house there is the distinct feel of British Empire everywhere you go. Rooms are decorated and done out with a colonial theme. Exotic wallpaper, red leather sofas, polished wood flooring, and the spirit of a time gone by all bring the past right up to date.
Orestone Manor is situated on a meandering hillside that tapers down to a small red sand beach. This coastline is walled with red stone and all the sands here are a magnificent shade of rust. This small cove is secluded and quiet, but there are other small bays all along this shoreline to explore.
We set off on a walk on our second day, that would take us to Babbacombe where there is a miniature village and an old working funicular railway that ferries passengers up and down the hillside to the pretty beach and back to the town. The coastal walk we took dips up and down with the land and it’s a arduous walk at times, with old wood steps scored in the earth and tree roots waiting to trip you up. The views are incredible though and there are some interesting sights to discover along the way.
The food at Orestone Manor is a major draw. The hotel is run by two chefs and it certainly shows! The menu is seasonal and alters slightly every day, so if you like the sound of a particular dish you’d better order it, tomorrow it might be gone. The only problem we found with the menu was making a decision!
There isn’t a lot to take your time at Babbacombe, but if you like it quiet and scenic this is the place for you. Part of the coastal walk took us through an unexpected forest walk where the woodlands opened out with stunning tall trees and wide open spaces and dog walkers ran and jogged by.
This is a relaxing break and if you like walking or just sitting on the sun terrace and watching the sea twinkle in the distance, Orestone Manor is perfect. John Callcott Horsley designed the first ever Christmas card here and he painted the portrait of his brother in law, the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel , somewhere on the site. Next door is the house that Rudyard Kipling once lived in, though he only stayed for a year, reportedly leaving in a hurry because he was sure the place was haunted.
It seems this small pocket of Devon has long attracted the curious, the artistic, and the brilliant, and its easy to see why.
Our room at Orestone Manor was spacious and as beautiful as everything else while we were there. The bathrooms are particularly luxurious, with stand alone baths on ornate elephant legs, and his and hers sinks, and the beds are large and dreamy. There are even some rooms with a hot tub to enjoy. The atmosphere is relaxed and easy going and everyone we encountered was helpful and friendly. The lounge is a sumptuous room in which to enjoy a drink in the evening and you can’t help but imagine John Callcott Horsley taking a tipple by the fire and contemplating his next work of art. But it’s the food that really takes the crown.
This truly was a break of utter relaxation, even our tough walk by the sea left me feeling contented and calm. And that’s saying something!