A group getaway can ease the pressure of rifts during the festive period. Fiona Webster heads to Devon.
As we lounge in our heated indoor pool, sipping cocktails and speculating about what our chef might be cooking for dinner, we realise we have found the formula for the perfect holiday. We love going away, but hate the fuss and formality of hotels. Villas are fine, but one person often ends up doing all the work, buying food, booking restaurants and organising the fun – usually me.
A new service aims to solve that, by doing the donkey work for you. Oliver’s Travels offers stays in beautiful homes, plus an optional concierge service where they see to your every need – from organising taxis and shopping, to activities and chefs who come and cook for you.
We decided to try it out with a short break in Dartmoor. The luxury home we chose from the 1,400 the company offers worldwide, did not disappoint.
Puggiestone House is a natural charmer. This beautiful seven-bedroom country manor near Chagford has a heated indoor pool and sauna, and is surrounded by gardens and its own wood leading down to a river. It is within the Dartmoor National Park, deep in the Devon countryside, but Exeter, with its range of shops, restaurants and galleries, is just a 30 minute drive away.
No one wants to cook, so a company called Dine Indulge provide a chef who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants. After a long walk and a swim on the first day, we come down to beautifully laid table, wine chilling and a menu that includes steamed fillet of fresh sea bass, and pistachio and rose water marshmallow.
My husband Carson wants to try foraging, so Oliver’s Travels find us an expert forager who takes us hiking across Dartmoor, where we learn about natural remedy plants, wild herbs and how to make delicious sloe brandy. During our trek, the rain sets in and we discover the moors can be tough terrain. If you try it, take waterproof jackets, trousers and hats.
We are relieved to get back to the comfort and luxury of our villa and our final night’s feast is as good as our first. The weekend goes fast and we leave relaxed and rested. It feels like having your own country home, with staff on hand if needed.
A week at Puggiestone House (020 3637 0999, oliverstravels.com) which sleeps 14 starts at £4,293.
THREE MORE TO TRY
The Landscove Barns complex in Devon sleeps 12-20 in six bedrooms. A three-night stay costs £3,500 between December 29-January 5.
Meadow Manor in Norfolk sleeps 14 in seven bedrooms and costs £2,812 for three nights between December 31 and January 2.
Braehead Estate in Ayrshire, Scotland has 18 bedrooms set within 250 acres of land. Three nights for £25,200 over the festive period.