If you love golf, spa treatments and spotting the occasional red deer, we’ve found just the place for you. On a North Devon ridge between Dartmoor and Exmoor sits the Highbullen Hotel, a golf and country club that gives the feel of an upmarket retreat, while being surprisingly affordable.

Geared towards golfers, with a nod towards outdoorsy types (ramblers, tennis players, swimmers and cyclists take note), there are indoor and outdoor pools, a spa and gym: and you’ll need it, as the food’s a real cut above.

The Devon View Restaurant – with views across the Mole Valley – serves dinner, breakfast and Sunday lunch. The latter starts from around £18 for two courses and you can ‘dip and dine’ if you so wish (in other words a quick swim before lunch, for free). Slightly more informal is the Cellars Bar, where you can grab pizza for around £13 as well as a free game of pool. And if a quick snack is all you’re after, there’s a Club Bar in the spa area.

Suite dreams

We stayed in one of the suites in the main hotel – cue four-poster and plenty of space to litter the floor with all your cases, which is, for me at least, a bonus of being away. At home I feel a faint need to tidy; in hotels all bets are off. But ours was a great room to relax in, with a name I couldn’t pronounce (I’m reliably informed it was room 14, far easier to remember).

Groups of golfers, it seemed, were a fan of the self-catering cottages that pepper the grounds like a little hamlet. There are four in total, which each sleep six to eight, and all are dog friendly, with views across the 18-hole USGA-specification golfcourse.

Spa break

The Elemis Spa is new to Highbullen, offering a mix of treatments, from facials to hot stone massages. I tried a 25-minute anti-ageing facial £45), which was awesome and did leave me looking more glowing and less haggard-46-year-old-who-drinks-too-much-wine-esque. Mini and all-day spa days can be arranged, as well as mum-to-be and bridal packages – see highbullen.co.uk/spa-at-highbullen for details.

And don’t miss…

Afternoon tea in the new Laura Ashley Tea Room, next to the spa, overlooking the same valley you can see from the main dining room – and well worth a visit on its own.

As well as traditional afternoon tea, it serves, sandwiches, cakes, tea, coffee, hot chocolate… everything you’d expect from an upmarket tea room, and I loved the décor.  There’s a small Laura Ashley shop on the mezzanine floor if you want to burn off a calorie by walking upstairs, and champagne’s on the menu if you’re celebrating. It’s a shame it’s 240-odd miles from home for me or else I’d be there every five minutes.

On the doorstep

The hotel’s just a short hop from the likes of:

  • RHS Garden Rosemoor in Great Torrington (a 25-minute drive), see rhs.org.uk/gardens/rosemoor
  • Clovelly (a 50-minute drive), see clovelly.co.uk
  • The South West Coast Path, which starts at Minehead (it’s around a 25-minute drive to the nearest stretch of coast, and an hour to Minehead)


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