History of the House and The Historic Grounds

The first stone was laid at Endsleigh in 1810 by Georgiana, Duchess of Bedford and her three eldest stepsons.  The land had come to the Russell family on the dissolution of the monasteries; it had previously been church land, owned by Tavistock Abbey and was given by the King ‘for services rendered’. 

Hotel Endsleigh set in the stunning Dorset countryside

Endsleigh Estate is situated in the most beautiful Devon Countryside

The Duchess was the 6th Duke’s second wife; she came from a Scottish family and she wanted to replicate the pastoral idyll of her childhood.  The Duke was a passionate fisherman and brought his estate manager and agricultural labourers from his estate in Scotland to create the croys (man made obstructions in a river to create a salmon lie) in the river that we see today, expressly for the purpose of creating a salmon river.

They hired Humphrey Repton to design the garden and he longed for the opportunity to design the house too.  As he did for all his clients he put his vision in a red leather bound book, filled with text to explain his thinking and detailed before and after watercolours to give an impression of the finished result.  Although many of his ideas were not carried out – for financial as much as aesthetic reasons – the garden as you see is a testament to this vision. 

The Duke and Duchess took on Jeffry Wyatt, who was later knighted for his remodelling of Windsor Castle to design the house in the style known as Cottage Orné.  His design perfectly complemented the picturesque style of the garden.

The Russell family sold the Endsleigh Estate in 1953 to cover death duties, deciding to keep Woburn Abbey.  It was bought by friends of the 12th Duke who had enjoyed his hospitality and the excellent fishing, hunting and shooting on his land. 

They quickly realised, however, that the upkeep of the house and gardens was beyond their means and created a Fishing Syndicate, opening up the pleasure of the river to an enlarged group who used the house as their base. 

Endsleigh was therefore open from March to October – the fishing season – and in the other months of the year opened for private shooting parties over Christmas.

The part of the Garden now called Endsleigh Garden Nurseries was bought by the head gardener to the 12th Duke, and is now run by his son, Michael Taylor.

In 1987 the Fishing Club formed a Charitable Trust of the gardens and attracted Lottery funding.   This allowed them to restore the wonderful slate and lead roof on the main house, the historic vistas from the Long Border that had become overgrown with rhododendrons and the salmon larders.  It also provided for the re-creation of the Children’s Parterre.

Endsleigh Hotel Long Garden

 The Restored Long Border – now a wonderful place to relax and take in the stunning vistas that surround the Endsleigh HotelHotel Endsleigh Salmon Larder

The Restored Salmon Larder

They also sold Pond Cottage and the surrounding land on which stands the Dairy and the Ice House and Swiss Cottage high among the trees above the house, to the Landmark Trust.  What remained of the Endsleigh Estate was put on the market in 2002. 

Olga Polizzi first saw it in June 2004 and fell madly in love with the unique and unspoilt setting; she bought it in September 2004.  The inside of the house was in need of much love and attention; there was no heating and the private water supply had been condemned by the local council.  They started the building and renovation work in November 2004 and opened the hotel to guests on 4th August 2005. 

Endsleigh Hotel and croquet lawn

 The Endsleigh Hotel – After Lunch on the terrace how about a challenging game of croquet?

Plans are in hand to convert the Stable Block to more accommodation – heritage and council planners being willing! – and they have plans to open a shop and a massage room in the same building.  They are also trying to get permission for an uncovered, heated grey slate swimming pool, which will fit in with its surroundings.

Hotel Endsleigh is one of two west Country hotels owned and run by the Hon.Olga Polizzi, CBE, the daughter of the famous Italian restaurant owner, and  Hotelier, Charles Forte, later ennobled for his services to the British hospitality industry, who created a worldwide empire of restaurants and hotels from virtually nothing.

She is also the sister of Rocco Forte who now has a chain of his own hotels throughout Europe, including Browns Hotel in central London, so Olga Polizzi was brought up in this industry, and her daughter Alex, continues the family tradition.  Olga’s  husband was Count Alessandro Polizzi, an Italian Marquess, who died in a car accident in 1980, but they had a daughter, Alex, now famous for presenting the television programme, ‘The Hotel Inspector’.

The ‘sister’ hotel to Endsleigh is the wonderful Tresanton Hotel at St Mawes, opposite Falmouth on the south coast of Cornwall, which was formerly a Yacht club and has commanding views across the harbour.

However at Hotel Endsleigh, the highlight is its wonderful setting in the Tamar valley, sandwiched between Dartmoor and Exmoor, and surrounded by 103 acres of pleasure grounds and an ornamental garden, all of which has been lovingly restored over the past nine years, creating an idyllic backdrop for the splendid house, which also has a formal terrace with a hundred yard Pergola in the form of a Rose Arch, or tunnel, which must be wonderful in the summer.

Endsleigh Hotel Rose Walk

The Long Rose Covered Walk

The house itself has also been beautifully restored, and fitted with all the comforts and conveniences of the 21st century, although not all of them work all of the time!

The broadband connection was very intermittent when we were there, and the water was not as hot as I would have wished when I had an early bath at 7am, but this is not an uber-modern metro hotel, but a charming old house restored to its former glory.

Endsleigh Hotel Suite 1

Endsleigh Hotel Suite 1 bathroom

 Suite 1 and its en suite bathroom – every comfort one could which for – This room has windows which open out onto the garden and again those stunning views which surround the Endsleigh Hotel

We received a very warm welcome, and the entrance porch was littered with small candles as was the wood panelled entrance hall, which also had a blazing log fire, which is always welcoming.

Endsleigh Hotel welcoming hall

 This is the first impression one gets of the Endsleigh Hotel and the rest does not disappoint!

We were shown to our suite, which involved walking along what must have been a servants passage, to reach some of the bedrooms, but it was all very charming, and the whole place was delightfully different.

 Hotel Endsleigh Sporting Corridor

The corridor to our suite where ones outdoor paraphernalia can be stored along with ‘communal’ wellies and waterproof jackets to ‘borrow’  – Devon weather being as it is!

We had tea in the drawing room, and quickly got chatting to a very nice couple who had chosen the Endsleigh because they allow well-behaved dogs, and this couple had a beautifully behaved flatcoat retriever, who had been ‘walked into the ground’ and was recovering in front of the fire.

Endsleigh Hotel Library laid for afternoon tea

The Library where Afternoon Tea is laid – very welcome after a long walk through

Hotel Endsleigh’s Beautiful Gardens

I am a great fan of hotels which allow dogs, and actually belong to what must be the only private club in Britain where dogs are actively encouraged, and may leave their dog bowls there permanently so they are always ready for their arrival.

This is the Kennels at Goodwood, about which we have already written, but unfortunately there are precious few hotels or restaurants which encourage dogs.

As an aside, I am pleased to say that I used to dine regularly at an Italian restaurant in Camden Passage in Islington, with my chairman, a rather eccentric gentleman who always brought his ‘Heinz 57’ mongrel dog, ‘Muffin’ with him and the Italian waiters adored ‘El Muffino’ and competed to serve him is favourite spaghetti bolognaise, much to the horror of visiting tourists.  I remember one very large American  demanding that Muffin be removed from the restaurant on hygienic grounds, only to find himself asked to leave, for upsetting ‘Muffin’, who did not appear upset at all, being more intent on finishing his spaghetti bolognaise!

However, dogs are not allowed in the dining room at the Endsleigh hotel, but they are allowed almost everywhere else under their owner’s control or owners can dine with their dog in the small private dining room  – it has an open fire and wonderful views over the gardens.

 Endsleigh Hotel Private Dining Room

The Card Room with its roaring fire where guests can dine with their dog

All the main reception rooms have wonderful views of the Tamar valley, and I would imagine the best time to go there would be from the beginning of April, when all the camellias, azaleas, magnolias, and  rhododendrons will be in bloom, and it must look spectacular from early April to late May. Hotel Endsleigh Spring Garden

The Endsleigh Hotel Gardens – a sight to be seen in the Spring

The interior of the house has been beautifully restored but in an understated way, and its historical integrity has been respected, and the chairs are comfortable too! It’s better than ‘Shabby Chic’; it’s sort of ‘Country Cool’.

Of course a major part of any hotel stay is the food and the Endsleigh kitchen does not disappoint.

Endsleigh Hotel Restaurant

The Head Chef writes a blog which can be seen on the hotel website – here is a sample of his menu which of course changes daily dictated by the freshness and availability of ingredients.


Hand dived scallops, white chocolate, passion fruit, pickled green tomato, mizuna
Braised pork cheek, celeriac and truffle purée, roast fig, blue cheese, balsamic, almond
Honey and soy duck breast, smoked butternut, artichoke crisps
Baby beets, goats’ milk curd, pickled raisins, walnuts, baby watercress, maple (V)


Sirloin of beef, parsley roots, truffle mash, heritage carrots, sauce soubise
Saddle of venison, blue cheese beignets, cavolo nero, baby turnips, chocolate
Cornish sea bass, smoked aubergine, baby artichokes, courgette flower
Butternut and sage raviolo, caper nut brown butter, parmesan (V)


Chocolate soufflé, espresso crème anglaise, pistachio ice cream
Cheesecake cream, grape sponge, William pear sorbet, apple espuma, candied celery
Burnt English custard, mandarin sorbet, poached rhubarb, Champagne jelly
West Country cheeses, Endsleigh apple and tomato chutney, biscuits, grapes, celery

The wine list is extensive but as usual in hotels of this standard, expensive.  We unwisely chose an organic wine, Natio Chianti Organic, Cecchi, Toscana which disappointed as it lacked any depth or sophistication and we could tell that our waiter was not impressed with our choice but it was perfectly drinkable and did not distract from the superb quality of our meal.

Coffee and tea was served in the library, again with a welcome roaring log fire and the couple we had met earlier in the afternoon accompanied by their faithful, sleepy dog, we discovered was called Coco!

After an extremely comfortable night we awoke to the prospects of breakfast which was served in the dining room and although not really in need of more food, the array of goodies could not be refused.

From the buffet
Freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juices
Endsleigh granola and a selection of cereals & seeds
Fresh and poached seasonal fruits
Yoghurt and organic honey
A selection of cured meats and cheeses
Freshly baked pastries

From the kitchen
Organic porridge with vanilla soaked raisins
West Country sausage, bacon, hog’s pudding, tomato, mushroom, free range eggs
Scrambled free range eggs with smoked salmon
Eggs Benedict with ham or smoked salmon
Traditional smoked kippers, lemon, butter
Boiled egg and soldiers

Loose leaf teas, Italian coffee and freshly baked toast

All in all we can certainly recommend the Endsleigh Hotel as the perfect ‘get away’, and its charm is that nothing is ‘over the top’; it is very comfortable, and the staff are friendly, not obsequious, which is refreshing, and as far as interior design is concerned, Olga Polizzi has clearly mastered the art of ‘less is more’ and the setting is absolutely stunning.

 As they say in Italy, ‘Va Bene’


Tel: 01822 870 000

Fax: 01822 870 578

Milton Abbot, Tavistock, Devon PL19 0PQ

Click on the Endsleigh Hotel website to see the wonderful gallery of images of the hotel and its grounds and surroundings.

For the keen fishermen the following information will be of interest:-



 Hotel Endsleigh is a member of the historic Endsleigh Fishing Club and as such can offer guests access to some of the best salmon fishing in England.  With 8 miles of bank along the River Tamar, guests can fly fish for salmon and sea trout every day of the fishing season (15th March to 15th October).  The bank is divided into 6 beats which are fished in rotation throughout the season.

The hotel has all the fishing equipment needed for two people to have a wonderful day by the river.  If you are already an experienced fisherman you are welcome to bring your own equipment.  We also have a wonderful and skillful ghillie (John Dennis) who can show you to your beat,  give you tips on the best way to catch that salmon or even show you the rudiments of casting if you are a complete beginner.  If you feel the need for more than an hour’s guidance then personal fishing tuition can be provided at an extra charge and by prior arrangement. Please note that these beats are primarily for fly-fishing.  Salmon is the main catch but sea trout, brown trout and grayling can also be caught.

The cost of a rod (one person fishing) ranges from £45 at the beginning of the season to £75 by the end.  If you don’t already have an EA fishing license you will be able to purchase a One Day License from reception for £8pp.  

Pre-booking is essential.  Please note that occasionally the River Tamar is un-fishable due to heavy rain on the moor the day before.  No charges for fishing are made in these circumstances but any rooms cancelled will still be subject to our normal cancellation policy.

 If you would like more information about the river conditions and fishing at Endsleigh please click here.

For more information or to book please call 01822 870000 or

Endsleigh Hotel Tamar River




Friday, March 15th, 2013