With some of Britain’s best beaches, charming coastal towns and no fewer than five official areas of outstanding natural beauty, Devon is top of most people’s staycation destinations – and luckily it has lots of luxury hotels to choose from.
If you've already checked into the luxury hotels of Scotland and soaked up the delights of the Regency era with a stay at a luxury hotel in Bath, your next stop should be heavenly Devon, where you can appreciate both coast and country in the south.
Bovey Castle, which spans 275 acres of Dartmoor National Park, has a spectacular setting – the hotel was originally built for the WH Smith family.
Accessible only by sea tractor or helicopter at high tide, Burgh Island, stranded on its own island, is a backdrop worthy of an Agatha Christie novel, with the art deco interiors keeping things authentic.
Foodies will also love Gara Rock, which sits on a headland over the water from Salcombe.
Whether you prefer a historic hideaway or a more contemporary coastal retreat, there’s a luxury hotel in Devon for you – read on for our pick of the best...
Isolated on a windswept headland in south Devon, the remote Gara Rock is worth the trip along the winding roads past local estuaries for its restaurant alone, where the vast circular windows showcase the sea and even better views await out on the terrace. Seafood is the star, unsurprisingly, but giant sharing steaks get a look in, too.
Hikers on the South West Coast Path are treated to sustenance from the hotel’s refreshment truck – but the ultimate refuge comes at the spa, where treatments use organic products made nearby in Totnes, and at the cosy cinema, with velvet seats and cocktail-accommodating tables.
Adrift (at certain times of the day) on its own tidal island, Burgh Island Hotel is only accessible on foot or by Defender when the tide is out. Revellers since the Thirties have been making the journey across from Bigbury-on-Sea nonetheless for the hotel’s polished art deco interiors, black-tie events in the ballroom, live pianists and all other tropes of ocean-liner glamour.
Agatha Christie and Winston Churchill are among the famous former guests. Once the natural sand causeway disappears, sea tractors and helicopters are the only way out – but with this much fun to be had, no one is leaving voluntarily.
Built by William Henry Smith (of stationery-purveying fame), Bovey Castle in Dartmoor has a championship golf course to compete with long walks in the park as the pastime of choice. Other activities on offer within the 275-acre estate include gin-making, off-roading, fly fishing, clay-pigeon shooting and archery.
Some of the rooms are in the neo-Elizabethan main house, or choose from the 22 three-storey cottages throughout the grounds; each has a kitchen, but if that sounds too much like hard work, the chefs can deliver meals for you. The Elan Spa has Espa treatments and its own Gentlemen’s Quarter.
On the edge of the Exe Estuary, Lympstone Manor is in a listed Georgian building, with rooms in the original house and shepherd’s huts – with outdoor decks and bath tubs for the brave – hidden in the woods. Some suites have terraces with fire-pits.
The star of the show is the Michael Caines restaurant, which showcases his love for the south-west’s larder in dishes such as roasted scallops with caramelised cauliflower and Brixham turbot poached in truffle butter. The chef has also planted his own vineyard on the estate, with dreams of serving his own fizz soon to become a reality.
A Tudor-style house on the banks of the River Teign, Gidleigh Park sits on a hundred acres of mature grounds on the edge of Dartmoor, with croquet lawns, an 18-hole putting green and a grass tennis court. Come the spring, the woods in the grounds are blanketed in bluebells, and green-fingered guests will also enjoy a tour of the kitchen garden.
The chefs at the restaurant can pack up hampers for picnics or afternoon tea out on the estate, or stay in the warm and close to the cellar, which has 13,000 bottles to choose from.
A 500-year-old granite longhouse in Bridford brought up to date with the help of some relocated hipsters from Hackney, Weeke Barton has the soundtrack, art and soft furnishings to match. Original features include wooden beams, stone walls and low ceilings, with more modern additions such as freestanding bath tubs on raised platforms, wood-burning stoves and twin sinks in the bathrooms.
The location gives guests the best of both worlds – it’s just 20 minutes by car from Exeter, with its cathedral and shops, and on the edge of Dartmoor for those seeking Devon’s wild side.
In the village of Martinhoe on the north Devon coast and within Exmoor National Park, the Old Rectory is formed of a namesake stone structure and a coach house, with neat lawns beckoning for afternoon tea on the decking.
The owners will guide you to secret coves and stunning seaside walks (the hotel is just off the South West Coast Path), before welcoming you back for sundowners in the orangery and home-cooked suppers. The secluded retreat has just 11 rooms, each overlooking either the sea or the garden, adding to the tranquillity.
In Dartmoor’s north-eastern corner, this family-run Jacobean manor dates back to 1626. Period features include wood-panelled rooms, coats of arms and lots of antiques, along with stucco ceilings and family portraits from the house’s eventful past. Unsurprisingly for such a setting, Lewtrenchard Manor hosts regular murder-mystery events, as well as jazz nights and decorating workshops.
Of all the elegant rooms, the most luxurious are the gallery suites, St Gertrude and Nonington, which may have 21st-century amenities but in all other respects reflect life at the manor centuries ago – with panoramic views of the parkland an added treat.
This adults-only bed and breakfast is in Lynton, 600 feet above Lynmouth and near the woodlands and waterfalls of Exmoor. Fittingly for a B&B, each room has a feature bed, with antique and four-poster options. Other period details at Highcliffe House include original fireplaces and cornicing on the ceilings.
Sea views come as standard with a setting this close to the coast – the water is visible from every bedroom and from the conservatory where breakfast is served each morning. The art collection has been gathered from across the globe, with works shipped back to Devon from the owners’ travels in Sri Lanka, Laos and beyond.
The English inn is alive and well at the Cary Arms on Babbacombe Bay. There are beach huts you can sleep in down on the shore, which all have views across Lyme Bay and out to the red rocks of the Jurassic Coast, and fold-back windows to really soak it all in – on clear days, you’ll be able to see Portland Bill.
Other accommodation options include sea-facing rooms at the inn and restored fisherman’s cottages. The coastal spa is the perfect refuge after days out enjoying the salty sea breeze, with healthy lunches of seasonal local produce to ensure continued wellbeing.