Gittisham, Devon: an ideal English village

By Rachel L Webb, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on Gittisham.

Overall rating:3.0 out of 5 (based on 2 votes)
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Food and Drink, Romance, Short Break, Expensive

Visit Gittisham in Devon for a short break and you will find thatched villages, great walking, city shopping nearby and antique shops galore - what more do you want?

Gittisham is the “ideal English village" according to HRH Prince Charles and its country manor, Combe House Hotel, the ideal romantic country retreat say I.

What to do around Gittisham

Gittisham is no stranger to film crews with its Norman church and high street stream - one of its most famous film sets was for a Rosamund Pilcher film. Low-thatched cottages with tiny windows bordering on the village stream and the church lynch gate make a wonderful picture postcard setting and camera snapping scene.

Gittisham village is only five minutes from the market town of Honiton and 15 minutes from the county town of Exeter. Honiton is famous for its antique and Bric-a-Brac Trail, with 38 shops to visit and Lace Museum, Allhallows Museum, High Street, Honiton Tel: 01404 44966

 It is also home to Honiton pottery which is famous for its pre-war Collard period collection dating back to the 17th century. If you fancy having a go at throwing your own pot or a pot throwing party visit

Visit the Jurassic Coast

England's first natural World Heritage Coast, part of The Jurassic coast lies nearby, visit the  town of Beer or the larger Lyme Regis just over the border into Dorset. While away an hour or two searching for fossil and dinosaur bones or just enjoying the delightful rocky bays with towering limestone cliffs. Beer is a small cliff-walled bay and pretty town while Orcombe Point near Exmouth boasts the oldest rocks in the Heritage site. For kids of all ages an amble across the stony beach treasure hunting is a must and then an obligatory (for me) cream tea.

Best Devonshire cream teas

While visiting Devon it's impossible not to sample a cream tea or two, lashings of clotted cream with freshly baked scones and home-made jam. Don't forget to buy a pot or two of that delicious clotted cream that Devon does so well before leaving.

And the best cream tea? Well they were all so good, maybe I need to go and sample some more, perhaps a Devon cream tea guide is need of research.


Exeter the county town or should I say city is just 20 minutes away. Visit the Gothic Cathedral or discover the unique shops down Exeter's cobbled alleyways. Find out when it's market time as the cathedral grounds hold a colourful yearly craft market.

Exeter has some great hotels if city life is more your style, wherever you stay in Devon you're never far away from the coast and many delightful typically English bays. Try the modern Georgian-style Southgate Hotel for a city centre location.

Where to stay

We (hubby and me) stayed at Combe House Hotel which has "a most pleasant aspect" as Mr Bingley from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice would have said and the sight of Bingley and Darcy cantering across the lawns in front of the hotel on our arrival wouldn't have been a surprise.

The country lane into Gittisham is a delight, huge gnarled ancient trees create a tunnel along the winding road and a left turn through the entry gate to the park heightens the excitement. Rabbits bound through the grass as the path snakes around to give a peak of the superbly sited Grade 1, 15-bedroom Elizabethan manor, which has me thinking of the Bennet girls yet again.

Combe became England's first country hotel over forty years ago and huddles in the 3,500 acre estate, a wisp of smoke from the recently lit fire in the Great Hall wafts upwards, curling against the backdrop of ancient trees and Arab stallions gallop around the grounds - heaven.

The heavy wooden door invites you into the Great Hall where, in its original fireplace, an enormous fire licks and curls around huge logs from the estate.

Our visit was in early September, cooling mornings and evenings with a dampness in the air and dew on the lawn that made a wander around the hedge-lined lanes a must. An early stroll before dinner down the approach road and into the time-lapse prettiness of Gittisham village was delightful. Low thatched cottages, narrow lanes and a stream running along the roadside, just my thing, HRH was right, not that I’d want to live there but an essence of romanticism lingers.

A morning meander in 10 acres of gardens and arboretum is a joy and if you're lucky, like me, someone will be around and let you see the walled kitchen garden and busy beehives, oh for a long dress and parasol, tea and croquet. But then all that is available here, I just didn't have a long dress.

Hotels around the area

There are several great hotels around the area, for a more touristy spot try the 4-star The Victoria Hotel in Sidmouth. It's a huge old-fashioned looking hotel but thoroughly modern and comfortably enjoyable whether putting on the lawn, in the indoor pool or partaking of tea and scones while sea-gazing through the massive windows overlook the bay. It went down well with me, a bit of fussiness is ok once in a while, but most importantly (and rarely) my grandmother approved. Watch the hustle and bustle below and let your mind wander back in time to its days as a Victorian summer residence.

For a more intimate hotel and country location try The Deer Park Country Hotel, this is for nature lovers to discover down narrow hedge-lined lanes. Being near Buckerell it's a great base for exploring this great bit of the rocky South Devon coast and being on the outskirts of Honiton, ideal for a must visit to it, my favourite antique-shop town.

Not to be missed

If you're a craft or traditional lover then don't miss the quaint thatched workshop and shop forge at Branscombe and see the wrought iron work grow before your eyes.

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More information on Gittisham, Devon: an ideal English village:

Rachel L Webb
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
Average: 3 (2 votes)
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First uploaded:
21 April 2010
Last updated:
5 years 11 weeks 16 hours 16 min 13 sec ago
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Community comments (2)

1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

You obviously enjoyed this area, but you did hark back a bit often to a bye-gone era.

It's certainly not easy to get your first article just right - reading others on the site will help you improve your style.

Avoid that word 'quaint,' where you can, and you don't need it in the first sentence.

You need to use bold to highlight particularly interesting activities, like looking for fossils and dinosaur bones which so many people find fascinating. You have found interesting things to do, so highlight all of them.

More prices, please, and phone numbers, and web sites.

Have a look at the paragraph about 'thatched working at Branscombe', it's not very clear.

All in all, you've tried hard and succeeded in finding good things to write about - you just need to add that little sparkle.

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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Rachel, thank you for your first guide on the site and for all of the work that you have put into it during the editing process. You have a friendly writing style and it is clear that you love Combe House Hotel but this would really be boosted by some specific details – where should I go to get the best Devonshire cream tea? If all the cream teas that you have sampled are good, can you tell us about one of the places that you visited? Did any stand out? The same applies to your description of Honiton. Would you recommend visiting one of the 38 shops in particular? It would also be great if you could add some contact details for the places that you do recommend (our ideal format is address; phone number; website) – eg where is the Lace Museum?

What do other readers think of this guide? Please leave a comment and rate it to have your say.

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