Dartington Hall Hotel Review, Totnes, Devon
9 / 10
Just a mile from Totnes, a transport hub that’s on the mainline railway to London Paddington, Dartington Hall is one of Devon’s few rural hotels that’s accessible without a car (it’s a half-hour walk from the station, or there’s a bus). The hotel forms part of the 1200-acre Dartington Estate, Devon’s largest cultural and artistic centre. Dartmouth Steam Railway and Sharpham Vineyard are nearby.
Style & character
7 / 10
A perfectly-preserved Grade I-listed medieval stone house dating from 1388, Dartington Hall was owned by John Holland, half-brother of Richard II. Built around a courtyard, with a neatly trimmed lawn at its centre, the scene is dominated by the Great Hall, with its enormous wooden doors, stone steps and towering stained glasses windows.
The inside is less impressive. Dartington Hall describes itself as a ‘venue with rooms’ rather than a hotel, and the common areas have the functional, spartan feel of a conference centre. It makes sense when you think that the whole estate is run as a social enterprise, where profits are re-invested back into Dartington Hall Trust, a charity specialising in the arts, social justice and sustainability.
Service & facilities
The Dartington Estate has a busy programme of concerts, plays and exhibitions, and runs regular arts, crafts and food courses. It also has an activity centre offering high-octane activities such as high ropes and zip wires, a farm where you can learn to milk a cow, and fly-fishing on a privately-owned stretch of the River Dart.
In the hotel itself, there’s a private cinema with nightly showings, a gastro pub, bar and lounge area. At the rear are 37 acres of formal gardens, where there are sculptures by Henry Moore and Peter Randall-Page. A 20-minute walk across the grounds is a small shopping complex selling, amongst other things, products by resident artists.
6 / 10
Dartington’s 50 bedrooms are comfortable and functional, with pretty lead-work windows and inoffensive tartan décor. Room nine, in the West Wing, is one of the nicest, with its own reading room and views of the courtyard. Although the rooms are cosier than the common areas of the hotel, they still feel a touch corporate and drab, and the synthetic pillows are rock-hard, so bring your own if you’re delicate sleeper. The televisions are tiny. Bathrooms are small, but the showers powerful and hot.
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Food & drink
8 / 10
Meals are served in The White Hart, a gastro-pub that, like the rest of the hotel, would benefit from being cosier. However, the food is delicious and beautifully presented, and the service exceptional. Most produce is sourced within a 10-mile radius of the Dartington Estate and, this being Devon, the menu is meat-heavy: venison sausages, beef burgers, rib-eye steaks. Breakfast, served in the same place, includes a fry-up, and boiled eggs and soldiers.