As I headed up the long drive to Larkbeare Grange B&B, the scene before me set the tone for the evening ahead. To my left, a well-kept lawn stretched out in front of a grand, wisteria-clad country home. To my right, a family of sheep bounded away from the sound of my car. I had arrived in deepest darkest Devon and I had a feeling something a little bit special lay within this property’s walls.
Larkbeare Grange B&B is the product of many years of hard work and commitment on behalf of owners Julia and Charlie Hutchings. When the couple first arrived in Devon back in 1999, this 18th-century building was in dire need of some TLC. The plumbing and electrics were virtually non-existent and much of the family home was in need of renovation. Cut forward to 2018 and this beautiful period property has been lovingly restored to the Hutchings’ exacting standards. Now, Julia and Charlie extend their home to guests from all over the world, offering all of the creatures comforts one would expect from a luxury country destination and more.
Upon arrival, Charlie was quick to head out and welcome me, kindly taking my bags and directing me to the best spot to park my car. We then entered the building through a rather grand, pillared entrance and I immediately felt as if I’d walked through the pages of Country Living magazine. For starters, there’s a beautiful grandfather clock that chimes away in the corner of the hall, as well as a vintage croquet set by the door. There’s also a cosy, communal lounge to the left and a beautifully decorated dining room on your right as you enter. So far, everything seemed very warm and welcoming and I was more than a little intrigued to find out what my accommodation would be like.
My bedroom for the night was a Family Suite, which was rather ironic considering I was staying on my lonesome. Like the rest of the house, the bedroom was tastefully decorated. As well as being light and spacious, the room offers guests a writing desk, armchair, coffee table, television and an adjoining room with sofa beds for children should they be needed. The bathroom was also very nicely done, complete with his and hers sinks, a bath, shower and a very classic chequered effect floor. Guests are given their own tea and coffee making facilities in their room, but Charlie and Julia very kindly offered to make me a pot of tea upon arrival, which was promptly brought up to the room, along with a plate of homemade shortbread squares.
It’s worth noting that Larkbeare Grange recently added a contemporary self-catering building to their B&B, which is located across from the main property and was visible from one of my windows. Built across one floor, this award-winning extension is known as The Granary. It’s incredibly modern in comparison to the rest of Larkbeare Grange, but it’s ideal for families with disabilities or those who simply wish to have extra space. I didn’t get the opportunity to look inside The Granary during my stay – as it was fully booked – but you only need to look on their website to see why the self-catering option is so popular.
A Little Background
You couldn’t ask for more amicable and hard working hosts than Julia and Charlie. Charlie has considerable experience in hospitality trade, having worked for the Savoy Group, The Halkin and St James’s Club in London. Likewise, Julia spent many years working in Hong Kong and in America. Together, they bring a wealth of ideas and experience from their careers and travels, which is apparent from the little details found everywhere in the B&B.
During my stay, I sat with the Hutchings in the kitchen as they busily hand-folded and pressed guest sheets. I sat by the Aga and sipped on tea as I listened to the story behind Larkbeare Grange and learned of the work they have put into providing guests with a memorable stay, as well as ensuring that their business is as eco-friendly as possible. Indeed, during this time I got to see some of the many awards Larkbeare Grange has won over the years, including a gold award from VisitBritain, a gold award for Green Tourism Business Scheme and a South West Bed & Breakfast of the Year from Taste of the West.
As well as taking an active part in local life (Charlie is Treasurer for the local church) the Hutchings also do their bit to support local business. Throughout the property guests will find recommendations for things to do nearby. For instance, a quick browse of an East Devon Excellence brochure, tells guests everything they need to know about the local area, including where to visit and when the most popular local festivals take place.
Where to Eat Locally
Like most Bed & Breakfast’s, Larkbeare Grange doesn’t serve evening dinner (the clue is in the name) but they do recommend a number of local establishments for guests to visit during their stay. These include The Five Bells, The Jack in the Green, The Rusty Pig and The Pig at Combe to name a few. I had a 7.30 reservation for The Five Bells and thankfully, Charlie had provided me with some handy directions to the pub. It turned out that getting there only requires three left turns, despite being 15 minutes away! If you’d like to hear more about my dining experience, you can read my review over on The Devon Foodie.
A Relaxing Night’s Sleep
I arrived back at Larkbeare Grange late in the evening to find my room turned down for the night and a polite note asking me to respect my neighbours by keeping noise to a minimum. It’s fair to say that my night’s sleep was one of the dreamiest I’ve had in a while, thanks to the extra large bed and the freshly laundered Egyptian cotton sheets. Guests are asked on arrival if they would like a wakeup call, but I opted not to bother as I was content to spend an extra hour or so in bed…
Breakfast is Served
Breakfast at Larkbeare Grange is cooked in the Aga (which reduces the need for cooking fats) and guests are requested to give their choice of breakfast times and choices the evening before. I opted for Eggs Benedict for breakfast and I’m pleased to report that it was very nicely cooked by Julia. Everything is sourced locally and, wherever possible, they buy free-range and organic food to cook to order. Sausages and bacon at Larkbeare Grange range are bought from nearby Country Farm in Ottery St Mary, while honey is sourced from Chris Harwood in neighbouring Talaton and Julia picks fruits from East Devon Pride Farm (in Newton Poppleford) to create the B&B’s own range of homemade jams and preserves.
Lasting Impressions of Larkbeare Grange
My visit to Larkbeare Grange really stood out amongst my recent overnight stays thanks to the warmth and hospitality of my hosts. So often, B&B’s can feel a touch too ‘homely’ or lacking in privacy. However, Larkbeare Grange offers an experience not dissimilar to a luxury hotel. They provide their guests with all the mod cons and creature comforts that you would need to make your stay in Devon as enjoyable as possible. So, if you’re visiting East Devon any time soon and you’re looking for a B&B destination from which to explore the local countryside, I wholeheartedly recommend that you book a room at Larkbeare Grange.