There is a conversation that appears to be pretty well mandatory for people over the age of 30 when they go on holiday. It goes something like this.
“Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could stay forever? If we sold our house we could buy a huge mansion/sprawling villa/converted barn in this area.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. How on Earth would we earn a living?”
“I know, we could buy this place, get rid of the plastic flowers/smelly drains/crusty old retainer and run it as a chic boutique hotel.”
For a long moment they gaze at each other, wide-eyed with possibilities. Then, as if on cue, they laugh off the idea and order another bottle of wine.
But we didn’t laugh. We headed straight home back in 2008 to throw in our corporate day jobs, make an appointment with the bank manager and set about making our dream come true – to create a unique and special boutique country house hotel – the kind of place we and our friends had always wanted to stay at but which we could never find.
We spent weekends scouring The West Country and, due to journey times, focused on Devon as the county in which our baby, a luxury and romantic country house hotel would be born.
The first time we saw The Old Rectory Hotel in the unbelievably peaceful hamlet of Martinhoe on the Exmoor coast we knew we’d found the right place for us. It was a grey and wet October day and we fell in love with the hotel before we had even opened the door.
The house, the Old Rectory to the very quaint 11th century church of St Martin, is steeped in history and charm. We could see the potential to create our dream boutique country house hotel in this most amazing wild location – perfect for all those romantic getaways which our friends were looking for.
Back in 2008, it was a typical country house hotel, all chintz and knick knacks but, looking past that, we knew that our vision to create a relaxed and civilised place in classic style but with a modern twist could actually happen.
But it’s one thing to sip a gin and tonic in the bar and banter with staff as a paying customer, quite another to oversee the whole operation, from licensee to gardener. Behind the scenes, a first-time hotelier must be an accountant, a marketing expert, an interior designer, have a better than average understanding of IT and enough DIY skills to fix minor problems, while recognising when major work is required and an expert needs to be called in.
So, a few years on are there any regrets? Absolutely not! We changed our lives, had a great deal of fun, met some fantastic people and developed one of the best rated boutique hotels, not only on Exmoor, not only in Devon, but in the UK.