There’s a touch of Upstairs, Downstairs about this 10-bedroom party house, which has a butler and fabulous chef
About 6pm the texts begin – progress updates as my friends tangle with the M5 on a Friday. We will be six, plus Barney the dog, once everyone arrives at 10-bedroom Loyton Lodge, created by farmer Alick Barnes and his wife Sally, mainly for shooting parties but also for weddings, and gatherings such as ours.
The slate-roofed lodge is divided into two main areas. To the right of the main lobby is a billiards room and a glass-sided corridor off which are the ground-floor (and stairs to upper) bedrooms. Turn left out of the lobby, and you are in the sitting room, which leads into a breakfast room and finally, opposite the bedroom wing, a vaulted barn in which dinner (and, presumably, shooting lunches) are served.
I state served because Loyton Lodge is fully catered, not self-catering. Which means that Adrian, the butler, ensures a steady supply of fresh tea while I sink back into a deep velvet couch the colour of a Provençal rose, by a log fire in the sitting room.
We check arrangements – here for breakfast and dinner tomorrow, but not lunch, thank you, and the nearby Rock Inn for supper tonight. We are to make ourselves at home, treat the place as our own, and simply have a nice time.
The young chef, Nick Pyle, pokes his head round the door. Is lamb all right for dinner tomorrow? I have not quite got used to this Upstairs, Downstairs lark – but I’m working on it.
Everyone else is stuck in traffic so I dispatch directions to the pub. I know how to prioritise in adversity. After a pint of Exmoor ale and plates of unpretentious food we drive in convoy back to base, where Adrian is waiting to show everyone to their quarters and fix nightcaps.
At breakfast I canvas opinion. “Beds are unbelievable,” states one, and we all agree. Another reckons the (pretty uniform) bedroom decor could be more imaginative. My upper room has better light than those below. Someone has had to ask for a hairdryer, and my somewhat flimsy wardrobe contains thief-proof hangers. We all miss having a kettle to make coffee first thing and a discussion between room neighbours goes thus: “Awful sound-proofing.” “No it is not – nothing disturbed me. What could you hear?” “You.”
Top breakfast – fruit, yogurt, fresh bread, homemade marmalade and absolutely no grease. Barney eats the ideal sausages of his life. We swan off to spend the day out walking.
Changing for dinner, I meet everyone for pre-dinner drinks in the sitting room, scan the menu and ask Adrian if everyone could have Sunday morning tea in their rooms (see, told you I’d get the hang of this). Alick drops in while we are downing G&Ts, to chat about renewable energy and check whether we want activities arranged – like riding or clay pigeon shooting.
What a dinner it is – taken at a long table in the barn. Fantastic ingredients prepared by someone confident enough not to mess about with them. So the main course – slow-cooked lamb shoulder and roast rump – comes simply with potatoes and wild garlic with a red wine reduction. Rhubarb soufflé for pud is a velvety puff with lemon curd ice-cream. We demand that chef Nick comes in for a round of applause after we have polished off every last scrap.
Sunday morning. Another grand breakfast in our Peter’s Friends setting before the party breaks up. Later that day the text messages begin again. Traffic’s OK. This time it’s about the horror of having to make one’s own tea.
HotelsDevonGroup tripsSelf-cateringLuxury travelFood and drinkShort breaksUnited KingdomSally Shalamguardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
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Submited at Saturday, June 19th, 2010 at 7:00 am on Hotel by alliana
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