Three snuffling pigs trot up to their fence to welcome me at Glebe House.
I should be gazing out over the rolling East Devon hills, admiring the tulips on the estate or gasping at the perfectly-clipped croquet lawn, but the pigs win my attention.
I spend more time than I’d like to admit cooing over them in their woodland pen, but something tells me they aren’t kept as pets.
Lucy Lovell checks into Glebe House, which sits in a picturesque corner of East Devon. She says that checking in is ‘more like being welcomed into the home of a long-lost family member than checking into a hotel’
Lucy visits the new food-led venture for a taste of East Devon’s food and drink renaissance
The guest house is known for making everything from scratch for its 30-seater restaurant. Today, a four-course Sunday lunch awaits – and pork is on the menu.
Inside there’s a more formal welcome. At least, as formal as it gets at Glebe House, nestled in the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
In a relaxed entrance room at the heart of the house, muddy wellingtons sit on antique boot racks, wildflowers gather in mismatched vases and busy chefs bid a cheery ‘hello’.
An iPad tucked under the stairs is the only clue that this is the reception. Aside from that, it’s more like being welcomed into the home of a long-lost family member than checking into a hotel.
The guest house is known for making everything from scratch for its 30-seater restaurant, and the smallholding includes three pigs in the neighbouring woods
Front-of-house staff – who have the knack of being both ‘on the ball’ and ‘totally relaxed’ – swoop over to greet and seat me.
Tables are dotted throughout the property, and I’m sitting where the action is: on a chunky kitchen table overlooking the pass, together with my dining partner and another rather excited-looking couple. Glebe House has a reputation that precedes it, after all.
The late-Georgian manor has been run as a B&B since the 80s, led by current owner Hugo Guest’s parents. When talk began of selling the estate, Hugo and his partner, Olive, decided that something must be done.
Hugo grew up here, and in March 2020 – an infamously difficult year for hospitality – the London-based couple decided to jack in their jobs and move to the country with their three-month-old baby to save the family home.
Inspired by the Italian agriturismo model, and armed with bright paint and plenty of wallpaper, the couple completed a stunning refit of the property. The result is a fresh take on a British B&B, and since its launch in 2021 Glebe House has made waves in this sleepy corner of Devon.
Glebe House is run by Hugo and Olive Guest, who were inspired by the Italian agriturismo model
Lucy describes the guest house as a ‘fresh take on a British B&B’. Pictured on the left is The Tulip Room, with French antique double bed and Ottoline de Vries tulip wallpaper. The right shows more interior mastery, with a peek inside one of the five bedrooms
Antique silverware clatters as it’s set around us, and we crack open our first crisp cider. There’s just one on the menu, sadly, and it’s from Dorset. No offence Dorset, but a few more Devonshire scrumpy options would go down brilliantly here.
Meanwhile, head chef Sam Lomas – Great British Menu finalist and graduate of the River Cottage Chefs’ School – is happily pottering around in front of a big red Aga. He’s accompanied by an equally jovial Hugo.
Their carefree air gives nothing away of the exquisite dishes we’re about to enjoy.
Bam: a perfect example of porridge sourdough. Boom: homemade charcuterie. We’re hit with entrees that make us realise: these chefs are serious.
Head chef Sam Lomas is a former Great British Menu finalist and graduate of the River Cottage Chefs’ School. The restaurant’s seating is found throughout the ground floor. On the left is the main dining room with views over the Devonshire hills, while the right image shows the light-filled morning room
When I ask the waitress where the pork came from for the salami, she winces. I guess I’m not the only one adjusting to country life.
Next up, a wild garlic tagliatelle tastes like woodland walks, while grilled asparagus is served with an imaginative roasted pumpkin seed and boiled egg dip.
Porchetta is the main event, served with cannellini beans and salsa verde. The butter-soft meat is slow-cooked overnight before being blasted in a hot oven to send the crackling into overdrive.
A fellow guest tells Lucy that ‘Devon is a foodie destination now’ and that he’s ‘amazed by the explosion in good food he’s seen in the past five years’
It’s paired with a glass of Delmoro by La Comarcal – a big, bolshy Valencian red that squares up to the salsa.
When we’re not engrossed by the food, the folks next to us give us a little insight into East Devon’s food renaissance.
‘Devon is a foodie destination now,’ the local resident for over 25 years leans across the table to tell me – and I’m inclined to agree. He’s amazed by the explosion in good food he’s seen in the past five years, he says.
He raises his eyebrows, looking around at the decor that made this hotel an overnight Instagram hit (16,000 followers and counting), adding: ‘But this one is a bit more… “hip hop”.’
‘Armed with bright paint and plenty of wallpaper, [owners Hugo and Olive] completed a stunning refit of the property,’ Lucy writes. Pictured here is the hotel’s sitting room, which Lucy describes as a ‘maximalist’s dream’
After lunch we’re shown to our rooms, and I get a chance to snoop around those Insta-famous interiors.
The sitting room is a maximalist’s dream, painted in dusty peach and furnished with a sumptuous mustard sofa and sapphire-blue armchairs with William Morris-style print cushions.
My room, with views over the valley, is a bucolic den of embroidery, floral headboards and patterned throws. The bathroom is just as lovely: a flowery refuge of light pinks, shiny brass finishes and a roll-top bath that promises some seriously relaxing soaks.
And while Hugo and Olive probably wouldn’t like me moving into my quarters permanently (understandable), perhaps they’d be ok with me setting up home in the gorgeous downstairs loo, which has adorable strawberry-patterned wallpaper, bunches of wildflowers and a marble-top sink with a ruffled gold fabric trim.
Peek inside the downstairs loo for ‘adorable strawberry-patterned wallpaper, bunches of wildflowers and a marble-top sink with a ruffled gold fabric trim’, Lucy advises
The room where Lucy stays (pictured above) is a ‘bucolic den of embroidery, floral headboards and patterned throws’
Thanks to Olive – an established artist in her own right – feisty, fun art underpins the Glebe House experience. Throughout the house there are works of art by genuinely exciting artists. Some are for sale, some the owners can’t bear to part with.
After exploring the house and testing out the croquet set, it’s time to eat… again. Thankfully, dinner is a simple affair: a selection of cold cuts and cheese served with a hunk of that joyous homemade bread, pickled raisins and fruit.
The evening is spent reading poetry from the library, soaking in the tub, and wondering whether I should pack it all in and move to the country.
‘The evening is spent reading poetry from the library, soaking in the tub, and wondering whether I should pack it all in and move to the country,’ Lucy concludes, adding: ‘By the end, I’ve fallen so hard for the house – and for the idealised slice of country life that it presents – that my partner has to practically drag me out of the dining room’
Front-of-house staff have the knack of being both ‘on the ball’ and ‘totally relaxed’, reveals Lucy
But before I can put my house on the market, it’s time to leave. There’s just enough time for one more food odyssey: breakfast. Stewed fruit and yoghurt with fresh apple juice and coffee are followed by a thick wedge of bacon, crispy fried eggs and homemade brown sauce.
By the end, I’ve fallen so hard for the house – and for the idealised slice of country life that it presents – that my partner has to practically drag me out of the dining room.
On my way to the car, I bid a sad farewell to the pigs and wonder whether I’ll see them again – and in what form.
Poor pigs. Maybe I’m not cut out for the good life, after all. For now, a night at Glebe House is more than enough.
Glebe House, Southleigh, EX24 6SD. Rooms cost from £165 per night. For more information visit glebehousedevon.co.uk.
PROS: A genuinely warm welcome, excellent food and blissfully tranquil surroundings.
CONS: It’s out in the sticks, so you’ll need a car to get there. More local beers and ciders would be a great addition, too.