Country house hotel review: The Arundell Arms, Devon
The Arundell Arms, which has been in the Fox-Edwards family for 50 years - fishing doyenne Anne Voss-Bark, mother of the present landlord Adam Fox-Edwards, took on the historic sporting inn in 1961 - may be a famous piscatorial pub, with 20 miles of the Tamar and its tributaries plus sea-fishing, but it also has perfectly comfortable, feminine rooms, an interesting wine list and an ambitious, appetising menu.
It's near the Eden project, the antique shops of Tavistock and the exhilarating North Devon/Cornwall coast. It also lies under the edge of Dartmoor and I spent the morning before my fishing lesson listening to the Lamerton hounds make uplifting music in a glorious gorse-clad valley and climbing up to the tiny, atmospheric church perched on Brent Tor, which provides is a 360-degree view over West Devon. True heaven, though, was a trout lake dappled with gentle late-afternoon sunshine - and catching a fish!
The West Country branch of the CLA (Country Land & Business Association) had joined forces with the Arundell Arms to host an afternoon's sport plus dinner for its members. The experienced anglers went off to tackle the river, press officer Paul Millard nobly taking the most awkward beat, which involved an afternoon performing acrobatics on a sharp slippery rock in a steep-sided gorge.
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Everyone else headed to the lake (which can be fished all year round) for a cream tea and an entertaining casting lesson with the inn's two brilliant ghillies, Dave Pilkington and Tim Smith. Both combine true rural riparian knowledge for the cognoscenti with patience and humour for the aspiring angler, and both are a dream to watch in action.
Soon, the beginner group was bursting to put flies on lines. Interestingly, all the subsequent yelps of ‘Fish on!' mostly came from women, which could be testing on a romantic break. Even more interestingly, it was my request for a girly pink fly - the dark green sludgy thing I'd been grappling with didn't seem to be doing the business and I couldn't see what it was doing - that did the trick: I landed a perfectly adequately-sized trout. This was both thrilling and satisfying.
The hotel staff were kind enough to react as though no guest had ever caught a fish before and took the bloody, slippery mess in a plastic bag off to the kitchen to sort, delivering it next morning frozen, clean and neatly labelled. Now that's five-star treatment.
For information on fishing - or St Valentine's Day offers - telephone 01566 784666 or visit www.arundellarms.com.
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