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Off For A Foodie Break? Our Writers Embrace The UK’s Top Spots For Delicious Dining

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After the long drive from London, pulling up outside Gilpin Hotel & Lake House felt like a dream come true. You instantly feel an atmosphere that tells you this place is special.

We were greeted by Tom, who gave us a tour of the Lake House where we were staying.

It was once the family home of owners Zoë and Barney and that feeling of being in someone’s cosy country house is all around – gorgeous antique furnishings, a very relaxed and inviting living room and exceptional views over the private lake.

Our room was called Beatrice.

It is one of only six rooms in the Lake House, all of which are named after one of the aunts of the family.

Beatrice was beautifully decorated, had plenty of books scattered around, a little annex bedroom and a large bathroom with a bath to sink into and relax for hours.

We were picked up by a chauffeur for the five-minute drive to the Gilpin Spice restaurant where dinner was served.

Spice, which is in the main Gilpin Hotel, is the more relaxed of two restaurants here and offers a range of delicious tapas-style pan-Asian dishes.

The kitchen is open so you can see the chefs at work, too.

Image: S MAG caption: pice, which is in the main Gilpin Hotel, is the more relaxed of two restaurants.

After a fabulous breakfast the following day we were booked on the Jetty Spa Trail.

The spa facilities – and 100 acres of grounds – are for Lake House guests only.

The spa is in a wooden cabin in the woods, which is where you find the treatment rooms and scattered around the grounds are two hot tubs, a sauna and an indoor pool.

The spa trail starts with therapists going through an assortment of oils to make up your own individual mix that will be used in your treatment – plus you get to take some home with you.

This is followed by a full-body massage or a facial.

After our treatments we were taken to another log cabin for afternoon tea of scones and fruit and to finish it off, champagne in the hot tub.

On the second evening we dined in the hotel’s Michelin-star HRISHI restaurant.

In an incredible evening of food, each course was exquisitely presented – looking almost too good to eat.

My asparagus starter, followed by stone bass and white chocolate parfait was sublime.

My mother described it as the best meal of her life.

We were sad to say goodbye to the Gilpin the next day but we made sure to have a little row on the lake before we hit the road.

It was an absolutely idyllic weekend getaway.

Rooms at Gilpin Lake House (015394 88818, start at £445 per night based on two adults sharing a room on a b&b basis.

The three-hour Jetty Spa Trail costs from £100 per person.

The White Horse, Dorking

You know a place is special when they give just as much attention to your dog as to you.

While we enjoyed a squash risotto and rump of lamb, Alfie happily sat by our feet with the odd treat sneaked to him by the friendly staff.

He couldn’t have been happier or cosier.

Being comfortable is what The White Horse is all about.

It has recently undergone a £4 million refurbishment across its 56 bedrooms, changing everything from the decor to its menus but still maintaining a homely charm.

The rooms are really inviting with warm throws, feather duvets and Green & Spring toiletries.

It feels quintessentially British.

A coaching inn in the 13th century, it has obviously played a big part in the history of Dorking.

Charles Dickens stayed here while writing the Pickwick Papers in the 19th century and there are references to him throughout the hotel and bar.

Courtesy: S MAG Caption: There is a very strong emphasis on local produce.

You can even try Dickensian-themed cocktails.

There is a very strong emphasis on local produce.

We swooned over the cheese trolley after dinner and our waitress was incredibly knowledgeable on each one, from its stinkiness to its provenance.

Approaching the town by train you can see the area’s vineyards and the bar and restaurant stock a whole range of wines from Surrey, as well as local beers and ales.

The White Horse’s location on Dorking High Street means it attracts a real mix of clientele, from hikers, golfers and ladies who lunch to big family groups.

Box Hill and Leith Hill are nearby and the town itself has a plethora of vintage shops, antiques and curios if you just want to spend your time ambling.

Even if you aren’t staying over, this dog-friendly place is a great pit stop for lunch or a leisurely G&T in the bar.

There is also a deli, again featuring local produce, from chutneys to delicious sourdough bread and sausages.

That set a certain tail wagging.

Margaret Hussey

A cosy room at Bespoke Hotels’ The White Horse starts at £109 per night.

For more, visit

The Pig at Combe, Devon

The Pig is a sprawling Grade 1-listed Edwardian pile at the top of a sweeping driveway in the Devonshire countryside.

It certainly makes a grand first impression.

But it’s not the formal hotel you might expect from its exterior.

For The Pig hotels (there are currently five across the south of England) have created their own special brand of laid-back, easy-living luxury.

The former great hall, which in any other hotel would be the reception area, is instead the bar.

There are plenty of armchairs that are perfect for curling up in with a plate of “piggy bits” – the chef’s chosen nibbles of the day.

And the enthusiastic staff sound genuinely interested hearing about your day while they recommend the perfect tonic water for your gin.

With food and drink at its heart, the hotel refers to itself as a restaurant with rooms, although this is a rather modest description.

All 27 bedrooms are decorated in shabby-chic country house style with unimposing mod cons, including a fridge, hidden inside an antique sideboard and a mirror that turns into a TV.

We stayed in The Laundry, a real “wow” room with a huge, circular copper tub in the bathroom.

But the highlight of a stay here undoubtedly comes at the dinner table.

The Pig at Combe is committed to sourcing produce from within a 25-mile radius and much of it is from its own extensive kitchen garden – it even grows 12 types of mint.

Because of this, the menu can change not just daily, but hourly, depending on what is picked that day.

The resulting dishes showcase British food at its best: seasonal, unfussy and delicious.

courtesy: SMAG caption: Days can be spent walking in the hills and local villages before returning.

There’s no spa (this isn’t really the poolside-posing kind of place), but guests can book in for a pamper in one of two treatment rooms converted from the old potting sheds.

My massage was tailored to my needs, and involved reflexology, hot stones and a focus on pressure points.

Devon’s Jurassic Coast is eight miles away but apparently it’s not unusual for guests to arrive on a Friday and not leave until check-out time on Sunday.

Days can be spent walking in the hills and local villages before returning to enjoy wood-fired flatbread in the Folly, a rustic eating area in the garden.

The Pig hotels have reinvented the modern country retreat and I’m completely smitten.

Laura Mulley

Rooms at The Pig at Combe start at £155.

To book, call 0345 225 9494 or visit

Return train fares from London Waterloo to Honiton with South Western Railway (0345 6000 650, start at £66.20.


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