Tucked into a wooded valley on the edge of Dartmoor, Gidleigh Park belongs amid that special team of deep-rural places whose directions warn: “Do not depend on your satnav”. As a substitute, you transform off an (already pretty slim) place street just outside the house Chagford, then follow a dead-end lane for a mile and a half, fearing for your wing mirrors as you burrow concerning high hedgerows and historical, moss-lined stone walls. The lane twists, rises and falls as it traces the younger River Teign, quickly plunging into the shade of aged oaks. “Keep coronary heart you are continue to en route” says a indication in the tangled branches with half a mile to go.

And then, soon after just one remaining bend, you pop out into a genteel earth of manicured lawns, tennis courts, official gardens, sculptures and the imposing half-timbered façade of a Tudor-model mansion. Ordinarily the arrival instant below would be augmented by uniformed staff members, the bustle of clever friends on the prolonged terrace, a tinkle of glasses, most likely laughter drifting in excess of from a match of croquet. Besides on Monday this 7 days, it was different: the five-star resort and its 107 acres of grounds had just four company — my relatives and me.

This was the day of England’s “big unlock”. In spring sunshine, April 12 introduced the opening of pub gardens and stores dining places could provide out of doors tables zoos, concept parks, indoor ski slopes, libraries, hairdressers, fitness centers, climbing partitions and travel-in cinemas could all open up their doors for the initially time in lots of months. Getaway cottages (technically “self-contained accommodation”) are allowed but accommodations are nonetheless off-limitations — right until May well 17 at the quite earliest.

That disparity has offered rise to an unusual option. Desperate to get their companies going again, some region lodges are opening the cottages, follies, cabins and treehouses in their grounds as personal vacation households. For the duration of a five-week window, a number of lucky guests will have the grounds of some of England’s best hotels to themselves.

The Pavilion, where we stayed, is a thatched, whitewashed cottage with barley-sugar chimneys that looks out over the croquet lawn
The Pavilion, a thatched, whitewashed cottage that appears to be like out over Gidleigh Park’s croquet garden © Nicholas J R White

Amid the 500 acres of Lucknam Park in Wiltshire, for example, 3 stone cottages are offered to rent, with champagne hampers waiting in their cosy kitchens — and the resort swimming pool at guests’ disposal. At Cliveden, the Italianate mansion in Berkshire (famous equally as the setting for the Profumo scandal and as the position where by Meghan Markle stayed the evening right before her marriage ceremony to Prince Harry), there is just just one cottage on offer. A Tudor fantasy beside the Thames, its guests can explore the 375 acres of the estate’s celebrated gardens soon after the gates have shut to daytrippers.

House & Home map - Devon

Meanwhile the six resorts in the Pig chain are opening their collection of dovecotes, lodges, shepherd’s huts and a previous apple shop, as properly as outdoor dining establishments in the grounds (with lots of blankets and heaters). And at Chewton Glen, on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire, the 14 treehouse suites — suspended 35 feet higher than the floor and set in 130 acres of woodland, gardens and parkland — are opening as self-catering rentals for the very first time. Toasters and microwaves have been put in, while there is a serving to hand with cooking: breakfast is shipped in hampers as a result of a secret hatch, and there are takeaway pizzas from a wooden-fired oven in the walled kitchen backyard.

At the terrace of the main hotel where we had the ground to ourselves
Tea for four on the terrace at Gidleigh Park © Nicholas J R White

At Gidleigh, we had been staying at the Pavilion, a thatched, whitewashed cottage with barley-sugar chimneys that seems to be out around the croquet garden. Within, where by the fireplace was by now lit, there was a wooden-panelled kitchen area/residing home, two large bedrooms and numerous little specifics to remind you that you had been nonetheless in resort-land somewhat than a standard holiday break let: safes in the cabinets, tiny pots of jam in the kitchen, bathrooms comprehensive with plentiful toiletries, swaths of fluffy white towels and all those alarming spherical vanity mirrors that illuminate and magnify.

We manufactured a pot of tea and took some scones we’d bought on the way up to the terrace of the key hotel (in which product teas generally arrive with silver provider and a £45-a-head monthly bill). We watched the distant moor change crimson in the late afternoon sun, whilst the children, aged four and seven, cartwheeled, fired their bows and arrows, rolled down the grassy slopes and actually climbed the walls, saying the grounds as their non-public playground.

A person of Chewton Glen’s treehouse suites
Spring Cottage at Cliveden in Berkshire

Nevertheless the stones of the steps and terraces and the fern-stuffed grotto search historical more than enough, Gidleigh Park is really much more recent. In 1925, Charles McIlwraith, an Australian sheep farmer and shipping magnate who had not long ago acquired the estate, commissioned Stanley Philpot, an architect from Tunbridge Wells, to establish a new mansion in this article. In 1955 it was turned into a easy lodge, which grew smarter and additional properly known in the 1980s and 1990s. The recent operator, Andrew Brownsword, acquired Gidleigh in 2005, including it to a collection that now contains an additional dozen hotels close to the British isles. He manufactured his fortune with the Permanently Pals model, greeting playing cards and products that includes a teddy bear design and style that Brownsword designed with artist Deborah Jones in a flat higher than a Chinese takeaway in Studying.

Many regulars at Gidleigh — and at Cliveden, Lucknam Park and the many others — would assume it preposterous to stop by when the hotel was closed up. We peered by means of the home windows of the celebrated cafe (exactly where chef Michael Caines produced his name and won two Michelin stars, now with Chris Eden at the helm). And we would not be finding a sniff of the 13,000 bottles of wine in the cellar. But for those less keen on formality, and for people, these five weeks provide a exceptional prospect to experience the planet of the country residence resort in a extremely diverse way.

The Lookout at the Pig on the Beach in Dorset. The six hotels in the Pig chain are opening their collection of dovecotes, lodges, shepherd’s huts and even a former apple store
The Lookout at the Pig on the Seashore in Dorset
Lucknam Park in Wiltshire has three stone cottages available to rent, including the Thatcher’s Cottage, with champagne hampers waiting in their cosy kitchens
Thatcher’s Cottage at Lucknam Park in Wiltshire

In the early morning, Simon Franks, the typical supervisor, came to see his initially attendees in 4 months, bringing a wicker hamper of breakfast, the climate forecast and some information on strolling routes. “It’s just awesome to see some new faces about below,” he beamed.

We walked from the doorway, by means of the hotel’s h2o gardens then up via woodland, earlier fields, throughout a cattle grid and on to the wild expanse of open up moor. Daffodils and primroses have been bursting out beside the paths, lambs a working day or two aged tottered on the vibrant eco-friendly grass. From the summit of Kestor Rock, we could see practically 40 miles, all the way to Exmoor. You would need a heart of Dartmoor granite not to feel a sense of new beginnings and widening horizons.

The children, though, have been happiest back again in the lodge grounds. Following supper they set out once again, as a result of the bluebell wooden, previous the beehives, throughout the shadowy placing course and again to the burbling riverside. As darkness started to slide, they roamed up and down the mossy boulders, participating in pooh sticks, finding stepping stones, throwing rocks, climbing trees. Immediately after half a year of life shrunk to the couple of streets among our London house, the regional park and their school, this was flexibility on a grand scale.


Tom Robbins was a guest of Gidleigh Park the Pavilion sleeps four from £886 per night time like breakfast hamper when the lodge by itself reopens, double rooms charge from £275. Treehouses at Chewton Glen expense from £1,350 (sleeping two) Spring Cottage at Cliveden sleeps up to six, from £2,250. Cottages at Lucknam Park snooze six and value from £1,300 for each night time. The six Pig motels have a variety of self-contained accommodation on present. At the time of heading to press all the properties talked about experienced some availability prior to Might 17, nevertheless that could adjust swiftly. Other resorts supplying accommodation in the grounds this month incorporate Barnsley Household and Calcot Manor in the Cotswolds, Lime Wooden in Hampshire, Gara Rock on the south Devon coastline and Rockliffe Hall in County Durham