Glazebrook House: A West Country Wonderland
Beat the January blues and head west to stay at one the UK’s hottest hotels. Our brand spanking new Muddy Devon editor, Sharon, managed to have her arm twisted (just this once) to spend the night at Glazebrook House – with a bags of curio cool. Perfect for a romantic break, here is Sharon’s review…
I’m going to have to learn to get a grip when I blog about hotels. Seriously, what is it about going a bit off-piste and being someone else’s guest for the night that sends me a bit giddy?
But then again, if you can’t be a bit of a kid when you’re checking into a hotel with an Alice in Wonderland theme then, quite frankly, when the hell can you be?
I’m talking about Glazebrook House on the edge of South Brent, where we’ve just returned from dinner and a night away, made all the more naughty on account of it being a school night and only a week since the excesses of Christmas – at least we settled the ‘do we or don’t we do Dry January?’ debate.
Since this is an adult-only hotel, the Mudlet was safely deposited into the arms of grandparents and we couldn’t get up the A38 quick enough (figure of speech, Mr Officer, promise).
Glazebrook House has undergone something of a miraculous facelift since owners Pieter and Fran swooped in during the depths of winter 2013 and set about dusting some fairytale magic about the place. To those who recall it in another life as a creaky country house, it’s now a virtually unrecognisable luxury (said with emphasis) boutique hotel with eight seriously glam bedrooms. It’s really difficult to describe this place and I’m hoping the pictures will do most of the talking, but whatever you do, don’t get hung up on the idea of it being a themed hotel (relax, it’s not like that). You do need a sense of humour, though.
From the outside, this is an attractive, fairly unassuming Georgian country house, secluded up a leafy drive, but not far from the South Brent junction of the A38, part of the appeal for people zipping through the county on business or breaking up the journey further west into Cornwall.
As you step through the door into the reception it takes a moment or two for your eyes to adjust and focus on what stands before you. Nothing to see here, nope. Just a few drums and a uh, dinosaur (I don’t know what it is, alright?! Nobody told me I needed a zoology degree to do this job!)
There is a grand reception hall at its centre and rooms off to the left (restaurant) and right (bar) and a couple of smaller ones in-between at the front of the house. The building itself has oodles of gorgeous original features, but any attempt at remaining true to its past stops right there with a big, fat full stop.
This is unmistakably a hotel, but it masquerades as some kind of a gallery-cum-Natural History Museum-cum curio emporium. And that’s because the lead interior designer behind Glazebrook’s reinvention is Timothy Oulton, whose signature style can only be described as offbeat and eclectic, with British revival at its core. Dark and moody walls are livened up by art, sculptures and bizarre collections. I’ve never come across anything like it; it shouldn’t work but oh, it does.
Here is what you might spot in the reception area alone:
(Did you spot the hidden horizontal words in this one? What are you seeing?! Pop a comment in the box below)
The reception desk is shaped like a Spitfire wing, of course, and it’s here that you’ll likely get your first taste of the service. For all the playful and unpretentious, eccentric charm of this hotel, Glazebrook House takes its service very seriously. Honestly, it’s faultless.
The rooms are all, bar one wheelchair accessible offering, located up a tartan staircase, past bowler hats, snare drums, a carousel horse, bugles and several old English street signs. They’re all named after characters in Alice in Wonderland. We stayed in the Mad Hatter room, on their luxury tier and, well, look:
Wooden floors with inlaid carpets, chandeliers suspended from huge ropes for bedside lights, dolls houses hung on the walls and an enormous bone china plate surround for the tv, obviously. It sounds bonkers, but it really is quite fun.
A bit like the service, the luxuries are another part of hospitality that Glazebrook takes very seriously indeed. It’s state of the art this and that, iPads, HDTVs, mood lighting system and giant squishy beds – the kind where you reach out in the night and can’t find your bed buddy, no matter how much you fumble around. A note on the mini-bar* (* it’s more like a pantry, for goodness sake): you’re actively encouraged to pilfer the contents and you’ll probably want to.
I just want to show you the art above our bed. Here it is from this angle:
And here it is when you’re horizontal:
The bathrooms are mahoosive, with gorgeous marble 3d tiles and underfloor heating. Ours had a freestanding bathtub, double sinks and double shower with White Company Noir bottles (their premium range, reserved only for the top-end places, I believe). If there are any worth accidentally knocking into your washbag with your elbow, these be them.
You find yourself doing things you wouldn’t normally do in this hotel. Like I would never normally dream of cocktails on a school night, for example, nope, noooo. No.
But look at this bar, all shiny marble and padded walls and look at the shelves and all that gin:
If cocktails aren’t your thing, then you’ll also discover a wine list that’s just won a Conde Nast Johansens Travel award; and one of those small rooms off to the side of the bar that I told you about earlier is a tasting room that’ll put fire in the bellies of whisky lovers.
All this before I’ve even mentioned the food, which is deserving of a post of its own and will get one soon. The restaurant has become a bit of a destination for foodies all over the county, since it’s been under the management of Masterchef winner and now Michelin starred chef Anton Piotrowski, of Treby Arms fame. I think restaurants in hotels are notoriously tricky to get right, but me and Mr Muddy are pleased to report that our three course feast matched the rest of the experience. Look at that pud:
I slept like a baby here. On that mattress, Mr Muddy could have done a forward roll on the bed next to me and I wouldn’t have felt it.
Sadly I had to get back to reality pretty pronto the next morning on Mum duty, so we only managed a brief but seriously impressive brekkie on plates that look like they were borrowed from our bedroom tv surround.
Being January, I only really glimpsed the gardens as I left but they were most definitely out there and I’m told that when Spring rolls around, they bloom into something pretty special. In fact, it’s here that the inspiration for the theme was born, when Pieter’s wife first viewed the property and declared the gardens ‘like Alice in Wonderland’.
This hotel is just the kind of place that we love to discover at Muddy Stilettos . There’s nothing twee, but there is plenty that’s Muddy about Glazebrook House and if you can only manage a night or two here, you’d probably be more than happy to park the car and not see it again until you depart.
But if you do want to get out and explore that’s easy too. You’re in a pretty convenient spot on the southern fringes of Dartmoor and close enough to get to the South coast beaches in under thirty minutes; the hotel is only fifteen minutes from Totnes too, full of boutiques and cafes and with a mainline station for trains direct to Paddington. About ten minutes away, Ashburton is a lovely town for a wander around the antiques shops and a coffee, while Plymouth and Exeter are both nearly equidistant from the hotel for more mainstream shopping. The river Dart meanders around these parts too and you can reach the country park here in less than ten minutes.
Good for: grown-up kids, foodies, frazzled couples needing a night away, groups wanting to get together for a sophisticated shindig.
Not for: the minimalists among us.
£: Definitely a price to match the luxury, but I’d say you get a lot of bang for your buck. Our room, a luxury double costs £289 and a superior single is £199. But during winter, there is a special ‘Winter Warmer’ package that looks like a steal.
Glazebrook House Hotel, South Brent, TQ10 9JE. Tel: 01364 73322. www.glazebrookhouse.com