Looking out over the rolling countryside of south Devon, I can’t help wondering whether Lily Langtry once sat on this very window seat. Today Langdon Court is a stylish country house hotel at Down Thomas on the eastern fringes of Plymouth, but at the turn of the 20th century, the then owners of this 17th century mansion regularly welcomed the Prince of Wales and his famous companion, who are pictured in photographs around the house.
Nor is lovely Lily the only celebrity lady to have walked this way. Langdon Manor is mentioned in the Domesday Book and passed through a number of important local families before being appropriated by Henry VIII. On his death it passed to his widow Catherine Parr. The current house dates from 1668 and today is the property of Geoffrey and Emma Ede.
With its wide wooden staircase, elegant rooms and countryside views, Langdon Court is a popular wedding venue, though not for poor Lily Langtry who never did get a royal ring on her finger. Photo books in the hall show brides getting ready in a huge bedroom room decorated in quiet shades of coffee and cream, so my husband and I – 36 years married – are delighted to be given the same room.
Some side rooms have views over the terraced formal gardens, but we look out across a small lake and rolling farmland grazed by Red Devon cattle. There’s even a countryside view from the large bathroom that features a deep free-standing bath and separate rainfall shower. Luxury toiletries are by Molton Brown; glossy magazines sit on the coffee table by the sofa; and I find cute little gingerbread men on the welcome tray. All that’s missing for me is a magnifying mirror – essential for the successful mascara for both brides and older married ladies!
In early summer, it’s just warm enough for an al fresco aperitif while we choose from the dinner menu. With no sounds but birdsong and the occasional lowing of cows, it’s hard to imagine a more tranquil spot. The Langdon Court kitchen is headed up by Adam Davies, who began cooking at the age of 5, baking cakes for his granny. Adam’s been a major force in helping to secure two AA Rosettes for the Langdon Court restaurant, where the focus is on innovative flavours and quality local produce from the surrounding lush meadows of the South Hams and the offshore waters.
I like his menu with just five choices at each course, which indicates that everything is freshly prepared. After changing my mind several times, I eventually stick with my original choice (usually the best policy) and go for the Hand Dived Scallops with Summer Salad, followed by Whole Plaice with brown shrimp butter and samphire, both delicate and delicious. Custard Tart and Summer Fruits turns out to be another excellent choice at dessert.
I would, at this point, just like to make one plea to all hoteliers. If you are going to play atmospheric background music, could you please not play an entire album of songs by one artist, which can get a bit wearing, especially if you don’t much like the artist. But it’s a small gripe. The combination of stylish dining room, intimate atmosphere and great food won out and we had a delightful evening before falling blissfully asleep in one of the most comfortable hotel beds I have ever slept in.
Breakfast is served in the same historic dining room – I particularly recommend the home made pecan muesli – and the sun was shining as we reluctantly packed our bags into the car. If you’ve time to linger, there are lots of places to enjoy in the area, not just the attractions of Plymouth, but the National Trust coastline around nearby Wembury, popular for its rock pooling opportunities at low tide. Take a river trip from Dartmouth; browse the independent shops at historic Totnes; or just soak up that glorious South Hams countryside of deep lanes and rolling pastures. Relaxation guaranteed.
The Langdon Court Hotel
Devon PL9 ODY