The Telegraph: Which country house hotel tribe are you?

Excerpt from “From Grown-Up Groover to Free-range Family and Insatiable Instagrammer: Which country house hotel tribe are you?” by Fiona Duncan
First published in The Telegraph, 1st February 2019
For full article click here.

It’s the question I dread more than any other: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked to recommend the perfect country house hotel – that last great, very British bastion of tranquil, timeless, cosseted good living – by people whose preferences, habits, tastes and affiliations are unknown to me. I also dread to think how often I got it wrong. Have I sent an Instagrammer in search of the perfect floor tile to a hotel with wall-to-wall swirly patterned carpet? We all like to think we’re uniquely authentic but really, when it comes to country house hotels, we mostly fall into one of seven tribes.

I’ve encountered them all at country house hotels across our green and pleasant land, from farmhouses, castles, rectories, manor houses, shooting lodges and gentlemen’s residences. Each tribe, in its own way, adds to the joy of a country house hotel stay. The truth is, it’s not in the end the buildings themselves that I find so engrossing, but the people who own them, run them and stay in them. A hotel’s personality is merely an expression of those who inhabit it.

The Insatiable Instagrammer
They believe the hype, and then they head for the latest talked-about address. Once there, they go searching for A-listers (and then, in desperation, they hunt for B- and C-listers), take loads of selfies, post, podcast, tweet and blog. But after they’ve left, they can feel somehow empty and unsatisfied, even though they would never admit it, and hey, that great picture on Instagram of the infinity pool, with their painted toes in the foreground, got zillions of likes. They also feel poor, since their bank accounts are now empty. Hotels that are likely to satisfy those “I was there” cravings but not disappoint include…

Coombeshead Farm, Devon
Back in the day, many country house hotels started life as private houses where the owner offered a few rooms and dinner, served communally to all the guests. Gradually, with the rise of people seeking luxury and glamour, they fell out of favour, but when sought-after chef Tom Adams first fled London and settled at Coombeshead Farm, he offered just that: convivial communal meals to overnight guests staying in one of five charming farmhouse bedrooms. Now, thanks to the runaway success of his enterprise, which he shares with New York-based chef April Bloomfield, both house guests and outsiders eat brilliantly in a barn converted into a restaurant, but the sense of togetherness and of being led back to nature by people who are passionate about the good things in life is still palpably in place. Coombeshead has become a cult: stressed-out types find solace there far quicker than in any spa. Even avid Instagrammers don’t care a jot that there’s no phone signal.