When it comes to travelling I’ve been incredibly lucky! I’ve been all over the world from Scandinavia to the Caribbean, from skiing in the Alps to diving in Australia but my favourite holiday ever runs a little closer to home. A couple of weeks ago Dan turned up at the door of my office on Friday lunch and whisked me off to Lympstone Manor in Devon. It was a complete surprise and I honestly had no clue that he’d planned it all. In fact, he’d told he was taking me out for lunch round the corner!
We travelled the two hours to Exeter on the train and he’d packed a picnic complete with my favourite white wine! Who knew he was so romantic? We took a taxi to Lympstone Manor and just WOW!
Lympstone Manor has only been open since March last year after it was bought by Michelin Star chef Michael Caines. It sits on the banks of the River Exe Estuary and the grounds go all the way down to the waterside. They’ve even planted a vineyard there and will be able to harvest the grapes in a few years time.
The hotel was fabulous and our suite was just beautiful. All the suites are named after birds that can be seen on the Estuary. There’s a set of binoculars in your room so you can even try to spot some of them.All the elegant touches like the roll-top bath, terrace and fabulous furnishings made the whole place feel so luxurious. There was even a gin tray to pour yourself a gin and tonic. We did this straight away and sat on the terrace watching the sunset. It was absolutely perfect and I felt incredibly blessed and happy.
So the next morning the weather was incredible! We started the day rather luxuriously with breakfast on the balcony looking down across the vineyard to the estuary. We sipped champagne and ate scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with the most amazing view. The perfect start to the day!
As the weather was so fabulous we decided to spend the day exploring so we borrowed bikes from the hotel and headed off on the cycle path which runs the length of the estuary. We travelled through the village of Lympstone and stopped off in Topsham for a drink at the pub. All the fishing villages that border the estuary are so quaint and picturesque. I just loved the fact that wherever you were you had views out over the water and could see all the boats pottering about.
After Topsham we headed to Darts Farm. It was the most amazing farm shop with fruit and vegetables grown on the farm and all kinds of fabulous food and drink. The best part was the deli counter. I was in heaven picking out cheese and Parma ham and houmous and olives for a little picnic! After we’d got our picnic we and cycled back to the river to find the perfect spot for lunch.
We chose a bench on the Topsham Goat walk as our lunch spot. Dan had brought a bottle of English Sparkling wine with him from Albury Vineyards that we’d been to a few weeks previously. We sat on the dock drinking our wine, eating our picnic and relaxing in the sun.
AND THEN HE GOT DOWN ON ONE KNEE AND PROPOSED!
And obviously I said yes! Actually, I don’t think I did say yes, I just kissed him and then he had to ask me if that was a yes!
We spent the next hour in a blissful little bubble, chatting and making wedding plans before heading back to the hotel to get ready.
That night we celebrated in style over a delicious Michelin Star dinner at Lympstone Manor. We started with cocktails and canapés in the fabulous bar. Each bite was a taste sensation and the Martinis weren’t too shabby either!
Then we moved into in the dining room for the main event. The food was exquisite and there were so many options including à la carte and tasting menus. I started with locally sourced, Brixham Scallops with tapenade, aubergine and tomato vinaigrette. I followed this with Fillet of Darts Farm beef (the farm where we’d bought our picnic from earlier) and a delicious cheese plate.
We woke up the next morning sad to check out of the hotel and head back to reality. But Dan had planned one more surprise! We were having lunch at the River Exe Cafe. This is a cafe on a floating pontoon out in the middle of the estuary! They call themselves a floating Gastro Shed! You can only reach it by boat so we walked the length of the estuary to Exmouth Harbour. We spent time calling our family and friends on the way and telling them all the good news.
Once we arrived in Exmouth we got on board the water taxi and in 20 minutes or so we were stepping off onto the pontoon. The restaurant was amazing, rustic yet cosy and we were given the cutest window table. We could even see Lympstone Manor on the bank from where we were sat.
They use as much locally caught fish as possible so we just had to try the seafood platter. We ordered the Neptune Platter (£60). It was enormous! There was a whole Brixham brown crab, crevettes with lemon aioli, white fish ceviche with lime, shallots and sweet peppers, avocado and Lyme Bay scallop tartar, Dorset clams, warm new potatoes and samphire. It was definitely the perfect meal to celebrate our special weekend. We washed it all down with a lovely bottle of Picpoul de Pinet (£27.00). This was the perfect match. It was light and citrussy and fresh so as not overpower the delicate seafood flavours.
It was the perfect end to the most magical weekend. (Apparently we were lucky to get a table. It was the last day of the season – they are only open 1st April to 30th September. There is so much demand that the staff at Lympstone Manor were surprised we got a table at such short notice. It’s normally fully booked all the time so get in there quick if you want to experience it!)
And just like that we had to return to London. Now it’s back to reality and we have a wedding to plan!
And what’s the most fun thing about planning the wedding? Planning the honeymoon of course! Where to go? We want both adventure and relaxation and a little bit of luxury too. Africa is one continent I have barely spent any time on. I’ve been to Morocco but nowhere else and safari is a lifelong bucket list dream of mine. A safari trip to Tanzania would probably be my number one choice at this point. It would be amazing to see the Wildebeest Great Migration on the Serengeti and I’ve always dreamed of seeing elephants in the wild. Dan likes the action and I like the relaxation and my best friend said that Zanzibar was the most romantic place she’d ever been to. A little jaunt across the water to spend a couple of days relaxing there too would be just my cup of tea.
So that was my perfect holiday. I’m a firm believer that sometimes the most beautiful spots are right on your own front door. We’ve done a lot of staycationing this year and loved exploring parts of the UK we’ve never been to before. And it’s the memories that you make while you are there that mean everything! Here’s to many more amazing trips with my new fiancé including a fabulous honeymoon!!