The Hartnoll Hotel, Bolham, is a serious watering hole for serious shooters.
By John Walker
A perennial problem for shooting parties heading for the hot spots of Exmoor has been where to stay. But for a combination of convenience, modern comfort, great food and a wine list to get pulses racing, look no further than Claire Carter’s Hartnoll Hotel on the outskirts of Tiverton. Once a property developer, she had always dreamed of owning a hotel and the Hartnoll Hotel has undergone a remarkable transformation since she acquired it six years ago.
Less than seven miles from Junction 27 on the M5 covers the convenience. Elegant interiors offer comfort in stylishly decorated and thoughtfully conceived double rooms and in the public sitting rooms. And head chef Steve Cox works his magic on largely local produce from field and sea with regularly changing menus, turning ingredients like salmon, pigeon breast and beef into cordon bleu dishes that have helped the Hartnoll Hotel gain a deserved reputation and several awards for fine dining.
Attention to all the fine details is a given under Claire’s hands-on style, and its position, set among landscaped grounds on the edge of Exmoor National Park, makes it ideal as a West Country touring base out of the shooting season.
If like us you are at the Hartnoll Hotel for the shooting, every bedroom has a gun cabinet, and many are dog-friendly. We took dinner on the first evening in the conservatory and on the second in the more intimate private sitting room and dining suite.
All the staff at the Hartnoll Hotel know their business and are unfazed by anything, making the stay seamless in all areas. The bar is a buzzing centre for guests and locals with a fine selection of ales and wines. You just know you are in a good place when you come down to breakfast and find yourself among three shoot teams, the others being guided along by Angus Barnes, George Digweed and Peter Davidson. And Claire has a box at Exeter Chiefs rugby ground. How good is that?
Cost: From £100–£150 per night single occupancy, including breakfast.
Shoots nearby: Cruwys Morchard, Great Bradley, Loyton, Miltons and Withycombe.
Scores for the Hartnoll Hotel, Bolham
Catering: Cordon bleu or simple fare is all pretty faultless. 9/10
Accommodation: 18 luxurious double en suites with an eclectic mix of ancient and modern decor. 9/10
Atmosphere: Staying here is just like home. Only possibly more comfortable. 9/10
Service: Seamless attention by proficient and well-drilled staff. 9/10
Suitability for shooters: Absolutely on the money. 10/10