A Victorian Gothic mansion on the edge of Exmoor National Park proved a home away from home for our reviewer and his family
Many of us dream of running a guesthouse but few take the leap. Not so Chris Badham and Damian Llambias, who took on a 31-bedroom mansion when they bought the 145-year-old Huntsham Court in 2012. It was built for the Acland Troyte family as a wedding gift to be one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic in the country and grand enough to reflect the status of a baroness. Badham and Llambias, with respective backgrounds in business and architecture, have spent £50,000 restoring the house to its original state while adding the modern touches expected by any seasoned traveller. Huntsham Court is available for exclusive hire for parties, weddings and corporate events, and can sleep 80 guests.
Before arriving for our two-night stay we were told to consider it as our ‘own private home from home’. However, upon arrival we were anxious about doing so; it is exactly how you imagine a Gothic mansion house to be, with traditional décor, dark wood panelling and antique furniture. Worried that our two children might knock something over we repeated instructions “not to touch anything” but we needn’t have worried. After a warm welcome, the owners reiterated their wishes and you could see they genuinely meant it.
The television room has video games and films for the children, the library boasts a vast range of books and the pantry was stocked with food and snacks so we could help ourselves. Huntsham Court works with local businesses to create bespoke itineraries for each stay, organising anything from fencing to bouncy castles, dancing lessons to massages. The family was kept busy with a falconry display, archery and a treasure hunt for the children, while my wife and I played roulette. Guests can bring their own caterers or use a local company. If you wish to cook, there is free rein of the kitchens. We enjoyed the culinary delights of McBaile Exclusive, which served us a delicious buffet lunch and high tea.
The staff’s laid-back attitude helped us feel at home so it felt very much like we had our own mansion house for the weekend.
Huntsham Court is a 12-minute drive from Junction 27 of the M5, where Tiverton Parkway station – with regional connections to the West Country, Bristol, Cross Country services to Leeds and express trains to Paddington – is also located. Alternatively, hire a car with Hertz at www.iod.com/carrental.
Up to 120 guests for weddings and banquets can be seated. The property sleeps up to 80 guests and most bedrooms are en-suite. A one-day midweek hire in low season costs £4,600 with a weekday two-night hire of 19 bedrooms from £7,300.