Muddy Checks in to the Horn of Plenty, near Tavistock
Is there a more peaceful, elegant and romantic hotel in this part of the world than the legendary Horn of Plenty? The late and ridiculously great David Bowie didn’t think so and I must admit I’m scratching my head, too. This retreat on the Devon and Cornwall border has shown some serious staying power over the years and I recently got the chance to discover exactly why.
It’s not the guarantee of year-round sunshine, that’s for sure. The picture above is of sunnier times because, as per flipping usual, me and Mr Muddy drove through an absolute deluge to get away for the night. I’m sure the parenting gods were making their feelings on us having deserted the Mudlet again loud and clear by attaching a big black cloud to me, like a GPS tracker. Well in your face, Nanny McFunsponge, I’m sorry but you’ll have to try harder next time.
Even in filthy weather, the Horn of Plenty still manages to weedle an ‘ooh’ out of you. It’s a beaut of a building in a gorgeous setting, deep in the Tamar Valley, where the river snakes its way through the woods. An area with a history rooted in copper mining, you’ll probably spot the odd relic, or chimney stack burrowed in the landscape as a reminder; and the mid-19th century country house itself was actually built for the Duke of Bedford’s mine captain, James Richards.
Tamar View, as it was known back then became the Horn of Plenty in the 1960s, when it opened first as a simple restaurant, under the ownership of Sonia Stevenson, who only happens to be the first British woman to be awarded a Michelin Star (can I get an International Women’s Day whoop, please?). And that’s where the hotel’s foodie reputation began.
Now it’s a luxury small hotel, with sixteen rooms, a mix of traditional, tasteful period and more contemporary, depending on whether you’re in the main house or in the more recently converted coach house behind. Both scream elegance, it just depends on what your taste is.
So here’s the thing about the Horn of Plenty. While some hotels rely on a state-of-the-art spa, or the latest whizzy gadgetry to sell themselves, this place hasn’t gone there (it hasn’t needed to), instead choosing to build its reputation on the simpler things, like service, comfort and location, which are fairly crucial afterall. So you’d come here for country walks (plenty of beautiful National Trust houses in these parts), peace and quiet and excellent quality grub – I’d highly recommend afternoon tea, by the way. Just look at that wedge of gooey cakiness.
And you’ll love it if you want to curl up in a cosy lounge that was made for reading, with nothing but the crackle of the fire to disturb you. People return here year after year because they reassuringly know what they’re getting. Quite a nice prospect in today’s chaotic world, don’t you think?
And what you get is a stonkingly good stay. Rooms are, well, roomy, with big squishy beds and our bathroom was huge, complete with a big bath with a view. We stayed in the coach house, more contemporary and with panoramic glass doors opening out onto a balcony that would have been so inviting, had the weather bucked its ideas up. The view is clearly to die for on a good day, in fact it seems wherever you are in the hotel, there’s a bucolic vista to be lapped up.
Look at what we could’ve won, sad face, but you get the picture…
The restaurant is a fairly formal affair and the food is fine dining with a menu clearly making the most of the best local produce around. There’s an emphasis on British food, but with the odd French flourish creeping in.
We noshed on three courses (with complimentary appetiser) and can confirm the two AA rosette-winning reputation is more than deserved. This year marks 50 years since Sonia opened the restaurant and I reckon she’d be proud of the foundations she built here.
If hotels were friends, the Horn of Plenty would be the oldest and most faithful mate, who’s there for you no matter what and never lets you down. It’s a place where people return at various stages of their lives, for weddings, for family gatherings, for the chance to check out of busy life for a while, or to impress someone with a special meal. The team are a rare breed of attentive, observant and genuinely caring.
I totally get why this hotel has outlived so many others, long may it continue.
The Muddy Verdict:
Good for: Those looking for a charming, luxurious retreat in total peace and quiet; it’s a great destination for a special family gathering or a reunion of friends and the afternoon tea is pretty special, too, if you’re just looking for an afternoon escape.
Not for: those expecting to be handed an iPad on check-in, or fans of the word ‘trendy’ and all that entails. The hotel is a country house and hasn’t blurred the lines by adding gimmicky extras.
££ The packages make this hotel a tempting proposition. You will always a special offer if you head to the website and delve in. As an example, throughout March you can grab a room, dinner and breakfast for two from £179.
The Horn of Plenty, Gulworthy, Tavistock, PL19 8JD. Tel: 01822 832528 thehornofplenty.co.uk