Informality rules at The Pig at Combe; swinging from giant cedar trees is encouraged and the vibe is mellow with a definite make-yourself-at-home attitude.
Located just three hours from London, The Pig at Combe draws locals and Londoners alike to its restful residence. Situated in an Elizabethan grade I listed house, on the outskirts of the achingly twee Gittisham, the honey-hued hotel's allure lies in its intent for liveable luxury.
The dress code is smart-casual (two parts casual, one part smart) with staff donning pink shirts, jeans and Chuck Taylors; the made-over country pile's overriding message is one of wholesomeness (minus any kumbaya connotations.)
All 17 rooms in the main house are sweet yet slick, but taff will tell you that the Old Laundry is the best in the house. Those with a predilection for all things rustic should choose from one of 10 stable yard suites. All rooms are fitted with freestanding baths, fireplaces and four-poster beds. While the televisions masquerading as antique mirrors feel a bit boujis, every other detail is positively charming. The minibars and larders are stocked with homemade and local treats - we demolished every last piece of Devonshire fudge on the premises and can confirm that it is very good.
What's for breakfast?
Choose form a buffet breakfast of cereals, pastries, fresh juices and fruits for just £11. For those who want to embrace all that a pig is and aspires to be (read: gluttonous), plump for a double order. The à la carte hot breakfasts - think eggs benedict or avocado on sourdough - are scrumptious additions to the cold buffet.
How about lunch and dinner?
The main restaurant is at the heart of The Pig at Combe. The menu adopts a 25-mile-radius philosophy with dishes based on what has been foraged from the kitchen gardens and polytunnels that morning, and the remaining ingredients are then locally sourced. The chicken with chorizo and anything from the dessert menu are must-orders.
For those who get peckish between meals, piggy bites - from crackling with apple sauce to pickled vegetables are available throughout the day. Snug sitting rooms leading off the bar offer afternoon tea Pig-style. The Victoria sponge - packed with strawberries and clotted cream - is best gobbled by an open fire.
The Folly (located in the former orangery) is self-described as "derelict chic". Complete with an indoor/outdoor bar and dining area, this is a good choice for lunchtime bites. The Folly's drop-in dining style is great for those who adopt a keep to a turn up and tuck in mentality when it comes to dining. Order the wood-fired flatbread; trust us on this.
Is there a bar?
Meet for cocktails in the Great Hall Bar, cluttered with paintings, taxidermy and some excellent tipples. Tester the fennel-seed vodka, Pig Hut wines (made in partnership with a French vintner) or the in-house cider produced due to an overeager apple crop. Candy-coloured glassware tints the light as it passes through the paned double windows, injecting a dose of playfulness into an otherwise grandiose setting. An ideal quaffing spot.
The Potting Shed Spa comprises of two treatment rooms, located in the kitchen garden. Book in for a piggy massage or facial and tester a range of Bamford products. Post-treatment, enjoy a soothing herbal tea, with infusions picked fresh from the garden.
Within a short walk I can find…
A rainbow of Hunter wellies (arranged by size) are tucked under the grand staircase ready for an excursion. The estate sprawls some 3,500 acres so within a short walk you'll find open fields and similar surrounds. Those casting a wider net should head for the thatched village of Gittisham or to one of Devon's many rugged beaches - although best to take a car. If you've come by train, the market town of Honiton will be your depot. Famous for both Honiton lace and Honiton pottery, the town is deemed the antiques capital of the South West - walk the bric-à-brac trail to while the afternoon away.