This little piggy had a power cut
We are sitting in the bath. A bath in a very posh converted farm building. There are stable partitions behind us and my glass of red wine is standing on the water trough next to me. Where horses once rested their hooves, my walking boots and heels for tonight’s dinner currently sit side by side.
And then the lights go out. I’ve been in my fair share of blackouts, thanks to a childhood growing up in a temperamental cottage that shorted its fuses on a regular basis, but this is the first time I’ve been sitting in the bath when it’s happened.
It is pitch black and stepping out onto a cobbled floor strewn with clothes, towels and – somewhere in the mix – an open bottle of wine, does not bode well. I pad my way to the bedside phone. Not working. An iPhone is located and the torch on that serves well enough to shower off the soap suds as we take it in turns to shine it into the bathroom.
Finally, a knock at the door and our rescuers advise us that all the other hotel guests are in the assorted lounges and bars back in the main building. There’s no cooked food, as yet, but the wine bottles are open, and, in lieu of dinner, there are lots of plates of olives.
And so begins our first night at The Pig in Combe. We are not strangers to the litter of Pigs across the UK. A friend once asked if I had a timeshare at the original New Forest incarnation, thanks to the many, many photos I posted there in the years we were house-hunting nearby (it’s a really bad idea to use a base that could stand in as your ideal home when looking for somewhere new to live – nothing ever lives up to expectations).
Of all The Pigs, the Devon outpost will in time become my favourite, even if this first visit has more than its fair share of ups and downs (my other half loses the plot two hours into the blackout night when the wine continues to flow freely, but we’re so far down the dinner queue that even once the ovens and lights do start working, our meal eta is post 10pm).
The walks up through the mist (we invariably end up staying in November, when there are frosty mornings to wake up to and early sunsets to wind down to) kick-start long walks with only cattle for company mile after mile. A stone folly in the grounds provides an informal lunch-spot away from the, albeit still relaxed, shabby-chic dining rooms that are the calling card of what’s in essence now a fairly established chain of hotels.
And where some of the other Pigs have had to build new extensions to house the ever-flowing waltz of guests, where the fine line between authentic and repro is exceptionally fine indeed, The Pig at Combe manages its assortment of outbuildings to such a gorgeous degree that nothing’s identikit and, yes, you can hear the neighbours above you in the Hay Loft walking about, and the ‘class’ of room isn’t really a fair comparison between, say, one comfy luxe room with cute attic-height ceiling and freestanding bath at the foot of the bed, and a second with dark, austere bedroom and separate bathroom (I’ll put my hand up, I asked to be moved from the latter). But that’s not really the point. It’s all totally unique and totally lovely.
Pack your walking boots. Pack a torch. And, if you’re a really light sleeper, pack some ear plugs. Oh, and don’t drink two bottles of wine on an empty stomach when you’ve spent six hours of the day hiking through hilly Devon countryside; it makes you grumpy.