REVIEW: Broomhill Estate – boutique art hotel near Barnstaple

Being an Exeter lad, venturing north of Tiverton is always an exciting prospect. Recently we were given the chance to stay for two nights at the newly refurbished Broomhill Estate; it was a chance for us to dive into a part of our county that Dining Devon hasn’t covered much. The landscape of North Devon has a rugged attractive beauty which is very different from the softer rolling hills in the south.  The coastlines are dramatic and igneous with roads stringing across the unforgiving hillsides and I was excited for a chance to visit again – after lockdown, it had been a while since we had last been up.

At the bottom of a much more forgiving hill, and about a 10 minute drive north of Barnstaple is Broomhill Estate. It comprises of 103 acres of ancient woodland and amongst it, is located one of the UK’s finest sculpture parks and the home of the National Sculpture Prize – it is a sanctuary for the fine arts. It is also home to a newly refurbished seven bed boutique art hotel, an eco farm and a place of learning as it holds regular workshops and events.

Artist Tommy Fiendish has created a vibrant reception area

We visited on Halloween weekend. Dotted around the entrance were pumpkins of every colour and type, with which the Estate would be welcoming the public as part of their Halloween Broomhill Artisan Market, an engaging and fun event that gave families access to the sculpture park with a haunted twist; as well as lots of artisan producers who were displaying their delicious and fascinating products. Our two night stay was a review stay and paid for by Broomhill Estate, we paid for drinks but apart from that this was a gifted review.

The hotel portion of the Estate has only been up and running a matter of months, opening in line with the lifting of lockdown restrictions. Within a short space of time, a vast amount had been achieved including renovating and redecorating a hotel which needed some TLC. The results of this hard work is evident in the simply beautiful rooms that guests can expect when they book a stay here.  

Each room is named after an arthouse or cult film. We were in the Betty Blue room, decorated to match the aesthetic of the classic 1986 French film. Along with plush and comfortable furnishings, each room has an individual fragrance customised to the room created by Hoyo Botanicals . This olfactory element, for me, intensified the experience – never underestimate the power of smell.  Rooms are garnished with Ralph Lauren or Divine Savages wallpaper working in harmony with soft furnishings by local designer Anna Platts with en-suite bathrooms/showers sporting Temple Spa products, which are also for sale in the foyer.

Being a film lover myself, I loved this touch and given the Movie Museum downstairs too, I completely get this place.

You can go back and re-read the last paragraph, but given the role of film within the realms of fine art, it is represented fully within this space. The Movie Museum, is very close to the entrance and includes a number of genuine props from some of the films that played a significant role in cinema. A genuine Highlander costume and sword; an Alien Versus Predator suit and a Jumanji board were the highlights for me. 

Although we ventured out and about for our first meal of our stay, a welcoming and comfortable Sleepeeze Regency bed awaited us along with a range of classic & local whisky of which I did sample a few glasses as a nightcap over our stay. Then upstairs to our room, where awaiting us was a lovely vast super-king bed and the prospect of a day of exploring the extensive sculpture park the next morning.

Breakfast is the most important part of the day, and residents can plump for a hearty Broomhill Breakfast to get them started. B&B guests benefit from a 2 course breakfast which includes a cold buffet followed by a cooked breakfast. I liked the touch that breakfast was served from 9am – 10am which was accommodating for those of us who are very late starters. Proper (not catering) sausages and thick bacon from local suppliers, nicely cooked eggs, what more could you ask for?

The vast sculpture garden contains two parts. The part closest to the house is the original park that has been curated and developed over the last twenty years, and the part in the lower meadows is the National Sculpture Prize park.  The original park contains a stream that runs through the ancient woodland, and itself incorporates into how the sculptures look and adds a calming energy.

We enjoyed wandering around the nooks and crannies of the park with a few sculptures standing out as favourites for us [sculpture photos here]

At Broomhill, food and drink is centre stage. Their kitchen is run by Head Chef Dan Tugwell, who brings with him a wealth of experience in some of North Devon’s finest pubs and restaurants. In addition to heading up the restaurant Dan also spearheaded Broomhill Nomad; Broomhill’s offsite catering service providing catering for weddings, festivals, conferences and events outside of the estate.

Chef Dan Tugwell

With an evolving menu which regularly changes, Dan is using fresh super-seasonal local ingredients to create dishes that explore the variety and range that North Devon has to offer. It is agile and responsive to nature and the seasons; diners will always have exceptional choice each time they visit.

Above the main hotel are polytunnels from which some of the ingredients are taken from. On the first morning, I was lucky enough to take a trip up with Jacqui to the beginnings of their eco farm high above the woodland – with a large estate like this the possibilities are endless.
For our evening meal we were destined for the three course a la carte menu for £28 (at time of writing); given the class of the food, this was fantastic value.

I went for a starter of chicken terrine with anchovy mayo with a main of sea bass with berbere ratatouille, creamed aubergine and red wine and to finish a matcha tiramisu. Tori went for the tempura cod cheek with curried pea chutney with a main of pork loin with wholegrain mash, choucroute, pancetta and a madeira reduction.

The terrine (I always forget they’re served cold) was a delightful mixture of savoury harmonies with the chicken of the terrine working with the anchovy mayo which, despite what you might think, wasn’t too fishy beyond a subtle echo. With the greens it came with, from the start it was just inviting me to load up a fork of green, terrine and a dot of mayo.

For me, the pinnacle of the meal was the Sea Bass. As a matter of course when we eat out and I have fish, one of the pre-loaded sayings that come with me is the desire to say to Tori ‘What a lovely bit of fish’, in a slightly strange accent as a joke that I always have fish when we eat out. I said it on this occasion with sincerity, as it was. Cooked expertly, it lay on a bed of contrasting flavours and notes that made for a really light yet satisfying main course.

Finally I came to rest with a Matcha Tiramisu which was something that Dan has perfected over time. Before the meal we talked about this, and how early attempts had come out and the progress over the years with this dessert. When I slid my spoon into the first few layers, I realised how well this worked with a note of Matcha holding hands with the sweetness of the lower layers.

Broomhill now has a tasting menu available on certain nights, the first one is taking place on the 26th November, and includes an introduction to English Wine as well as a five course tasting menu.

From the 1st – 23rd December, Broomhill will be hosting their festive dining season as well. Imagine a celebration at this stunning location? Three courses for £35 including mulled wine and access to the sculpture garden.

It is well worth tapping in to their social media, particularly their Instagram page which has a lot happening, also keep abreast of their events page which is super active.

I didn’t want to leave. We stuck around for a coffee and explored the artisan market. I met some of the producers and bought some live Pumpkin Kimchi from I Am Cultured (who also run classes at Broomhill) – when we left there were kids carving pumpkins and the staff were in full Halloween dress mode.  Walking around the estate we saw kids following the spooky trail that had been organised and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

One of the challenges for fine art, being someone who has existed within the sphere of the arts in one form for the last eleven years, has always been accessibility. And on a higher level, Broomhill has managed to keep the core of what it is but still very welcoming to those who are merely explorers.

It has also given the estate a wider diverse appeal with the restaurant for diners who want a full experience, or even just those who want to pop in for a coffee, there is The Terrace Cafe that can cater for a quick bite or a hot drink admiring the magnificent sculptures.

Broomhill is proving very quickly that it is much more than just an art hotel, and that it is a destination for eating, learning and relaxing.

Disclaimer: This stay was a gifted review stay that was paid for by the hotel. Opinions and content of this article has not been steered or managed in anyway.

Photos of the bedrooms, exterior header image, bar area and Dan Tugwell
are courtesy of Broomhill Estate

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