Does kid-friendly luxury really exist? Amy Hopkins heads to the English Riviera and checks into seaside hotel, Orestone Manor, to find out

Family touch

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.

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The Thatched Tavern in Maidencombe

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.

Take a peek inside Orestone Manor:

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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.

Village charm

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.

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The dramatic red sand at Maidencombe beach

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.

New for 2016

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.

See the new Coach House suites...

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.

 

The lowdown

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

Find out more about Orestone Manor

 

Out and about: 10 best family attractions near Orestone Manor

  • Buckfast Otter Sanctuary and Butterfly Farm

A short drive from the hotel, at this small but fascinating sanctuary you'll learn about native otters as well as their overseas cousins and watch the animals feed.

Find out more about Buckfast Otter Stanctuary

  • The Devon Wildlife Hospital

At the hospital’s visitor centre you’ll find plenty of talks and displays, and of course the chance to meet some of the area’s native wildlife, including foxes and hedgehogs. A great family day out that supports a local charity.

Find out more about the Devon Wildlife Hospital

  • Eden Project

This educational charity is dedicated to connecting us with the living world and exploring how we can work together towards a better future. Enormous Biomes (controlled eco-systems) house the world’s largest captive rainforest. Prepare to be wowed by stunning plants, exhibitions, concerts and year-round family events.

Find out more about the Eden Project

  • Paignton Zoo

One of the south west’s most loved attractions, Paignton Zoo is home to 2,000 animals including lions, tigers, monkeys, snakes and more. Travel in style around Gibbon Island on the Express Jungle train.

Find out more about Paignton Zoo

  • Pennywell Farm mini-pig-portrait

Cuddles with a miniature pig anyone? As well as breeding their world-famous miniature pigs, Pennywell Farm is home to goats, llamas, ponies and more. There are also plenty of activities for kids, including egg collecting, circus skills and a ride on a rainbow train.

Find out more about Pennywell Farm

  • Round Robin

The Round Robin steam train and boat trip is an excellent way to see the area in the summer and runs on bus, steam train and boat through Paignton, Kingswear, Dartmouth and Paignton. Check the website for timetables.

Find out more about the Round Robin train

  • Babbacombe Cliff Railway

A fun and quirky way to travel from the top of Babbacombe Downs to the delightful Oddicombe Beach. The charming railway has been carrying passengers up and down the cliff since 1926. Once at the bottom, enjoy the Babbacombe Cliff Railway Visitor Centre for free.

Find out more about Babbacombe Cliff Railway

  • Splashdown Quaywest, Paignton

Any water babies in the family won’t want to miss the UK’s biggest outdoor waterpark. Right on the beach, Splashdown Quaywest combines eight adrenaline-pumping flume rides with the English Riviera’s best views. Don’t worry, there’s heated water and free wetsuit hire on chilly days.

Find out more about Splashdown Quaywest

  • Kents Cavern

Journey through these ancient caves with your fascinating storyteller-guide, who will unearth the local folklore surrounding these south Devon caves. In July and August families with older kids can join Kents Cavern’s famous ghost tour, set to candle light. You never know who you might meet in the dark!

Find out more about Kents Cavern

  • Torquay's Dinosaur World

This exciting indoor exhibition brings the thrilling prehistoric world to life. Journey through the exhibition and marvel at the impressive array of real-sized and scaled down models of Jurassic beasts, each which comes with plenty of information.

Find out more about Torquay's Dinosaur World