Does kid-friendly luxury really exist? Amy Hopkins heads to the English Riviera and checks into seaside hotel, Orestone Manor, to find out
Staying at Orestone Manor reminds me why family-run hotels are, in my experience, hard to beat. The owners, chefs Neil and Catherine D'Allen, gave me such a warm welcome, it was as though I'd come to spend a weekend with friends. The couple and their friendly staff couldn't do enough for me. I happened to comment midway through breakfast that I regretted not sitting outside on the terrace, and within seconds my meal had been whisked outside and a new table set up for me in the sunshine.
The country house hotel is tucked away in south Devon, overlooking the pretty coastal village of Maidencombe. It’s four miles outside the hustle and bustle of Torquay and the perfect base for a holiday that mixes beach, town and country.
Inside, the fourteen rooms are individually decorated and most have a picturesque sea view. In the restaurant, elephants hide throughout in the colonial decor, on lampshades, rugs and in paintings, waiting to be counted by eagle-eyed kids. The rather grand interior design is a nod to the building’s history. The Georgian manor house was once home to painter John Callcott Horsley and it was here that Horsley painted a portrait of his brother-in-law, Isambard Kingdom Burnel – an artwork that now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.
Orestone Manor's superb food keeps tourists and locals coming back to the hotel again and again. Neil and Catherine are professional chefs and their shared passion shines through in the quality of the modestly priced dinners. My husband is still raving about the pigeon starter, which he ordered every evening during our stay, because he was convinced there was nothing on the menu that could beat it. Not surprisingly, there is a big emphasis on locally sourced produce, some of which is grown in the hotel’s garden. The dishes are largely combinations of local meat and fish with seasonal veg. The secret to the menu's success is simple – quality ingredients, perfectly cooked.
Children under seven are not allowed in the restaurant after 7pm, but families with little ones can still eat from the restaurant menu in the conservatory, or on the terrace on warm evenings.
A ten-minute walk from Orestone Manor will bring you to Maidencombe, with its idyllic thatched buildings and secluded beach. If you don’t fancy the noisy arcades and crowded seafront at Torquay, Maidencombe beach is a relaxing haven, perfect for a sunny day. To get there, follow the scenic winding road down from the hotel until you reach a car park, and from there follow the narrow footpath down the beach. It’s quite steep (buggies and pushchairs are best left in the car), but once you get down you’ll see it was worth the effort.
The beach is small and sandy, framed by dramatic, towering red stone cliffs. Maidencombe has been awarded a Quality Coast Award, which means the water quality is excellent and it’s safe to swim. There's also a very good chance you'll spot a seal or two, very close to the shore. If you stay until the evening, you’ll see locals turning up to walk their dogs, swim and enjoy this tucked-away piece of a paradise.
Two new luxury split level cottages opened at Orestone Manor in 2016. Each of the Coach House suites has a downstairs bedroom and wet room, with a lounge and balcony upstairs. Best of all, each cottage has its own hot tub on the balcony, from which you can enjoy a glorious sea view or if you prefer, watch the TV (no prizes for guessing which the kids will choose). The spacious cottages are great for families and if booked together can sleep up to ten.
Another new addition to the hotel is the Brunel Bar & Lounge, which was opened by the direct descendants of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Noble family, in the spring of 2016.
At Orestone Manor, Neil and Catherine have cleverly created an atmosphere that is special and lavish, yet at the same time homey and relaxed. For tucked away family-friendly luxury, with excellent rooms, exceptional food and great value, try Orestone Manor. Just don’t tell your friends about it.
Price: during peak season (June - Sep) rooms start at £150 per night and the Coach House suites start at £350. For overnight guests, three courses from the al la carte evening menu costs £33
Family stays: Cots are provided free of charge. Extra beds for children up to the age of 16 can be provided at a cost of £25 per night, including breakfast
Location: Maidencombe, Rock House Lane, Devon, TQ1 4SX