Take the A30 across the Dartmoor tops and there, high on a hillside, is a little slice of the Far East in the West Country. Taikoo’s red dormers and steep gables are just part of the unlikely retirement project of John Bois, a man with Shanghai connections.
Taikoo may be semi-Oriental but today the fully restored effect is full rural English. Along the drive, mature beeches, hydrangeas and azaleas salute you. There’s cricket in the village or croquet on your own lawn. The ponies trot down from the moortops to gather at the gate.
Inside, light spills down through the glass lantern roof. Cosy up around woodburning stoves, escape to the window seats or games room, come together in the TV room or drawing room, eat on the terrace beneath the soaring escarpments. Taikoo is an oasis of comfort and grace in a wild land of buzzards, falcons and kingfishers.
Behind the imperial red gates, discover ponds, a woodland swing and a natural rill in six acres of mature gardens and paddocks, merged seamlessly into the escarpments of the Taw Valley. The gardens are ripe with the scent of hydrangeas and azaleas, while lilies, hostas and heucheras surround a pool.
At some point the grounds meet Dartmoor’s wilderness, with a gate behind the house leading to the moor itself. Bring your horses or up to two dogs, to climb Watchet Hill to Belstone Tor and the Nine Maidens standing stones.
Watch out for wildlife: the larks, or the buzzards and peregrine falcons diving for carrion, or the kingfishers dipping for minnows on the river. Ponies gather outside the gate.
Amid the South of England’s last wilderness, serenity and sophistication still prevail, with manicured English lawns for drinks and picnics.
Behind the heavy door lurks a long, wide hall that doubles as dining for dozens. Light from the lantern roof spills down onto the galleried landing. Original features abound, with oak panels here, window seats there and big bays with huge views for daydreaming and reading.
Light floods the drawing room, with windows to the conservatory and bay windows overlooking the terrace. Settle back among the chinoiserie-style furnishings, light the fire and break out the cards or old-fashioned conversation. Or slip out to drink and dine among the hills and dips of the Taw Valley.
There are spaces and places aplenty to lose yourself in thought or get giddy with the masses. There’s a sitting room opposite the drawing room ideal for reading by the light that leaps off the woodburning stoves. Even the hallway is big enough for entertaining, with dining for more than a dozen possible.
You can begin or end each day splashing around in the indoor pool with its lantern ceiling, Martin Hull mural and built-in sound system. Dry off in the sunshine through the sliding doors that lead out to the tranquil lawn.
Get cracking in the kitchen, with its electric-fan Miele oven, with induction hob, four-oven oil-fired Aga, granite worktops and timber floor. When you’ve cooked up a storm, follow the door directly out to the terrace and eat al fresco among the buzzards and falcons, beneath the Dartmoor tops.
If you’re celebrating and would rather relax with a cold one, call up our chefs and we’ll put fresh local ingredients to work for you, with dining for more than a dozen easily possible in the wide hallway with its lantern roof. For more intimate affairs, light the open fire in the sitting room and get the conversation crackling.
Food from The Tors Inn in Belstone is homely and hearty. Will it be steak and Stilton, or maybe lamb shank in honey and ginger? Toast in Okehampton is great for coffee and muffins or breakfast ciabattas, while 2 Rivers has a reputation that extends far beyond its scenic location on the edge of Dartmoor.
If only fine dining will do, only 20 minutes away and nestled in a wooded valley within the natural beauty of the wilds of Dartmoor, Gidleigh Park is an exceptional 2-star Michelin restaurant offering fine cuisine described by the Head Chef himself as “modern, technical and meaningful.” Or a short further drive is Bovey Castle, a breathtakingly beautiful setting for fine dining and much more.
Take the wide stairs up to the large galleried landing. Enjoy the sense of space, with light flooding in from the glass atrium roof. Pick from the five bedrooms on this floor. The master suite, with its super king bed, comes with dressing area and bathroom.
Two of the main house bedrooms have super king sized zip-and-link beds, two have super king sized beds and one has a king sized bed. The views of Dartmoor reach in from the windows in all these rooms.
Bedrooms six and seven, on the ground floor with their own kitchen, allow guests with kids or grandparents to be semi-independent. A large, newly-fitted bathroom with walk-in shower works well for those with access issues.
Whichever room you choose, you’ll sleep like a woodland log deep in the bosom of rural Devon, with the night air filtering in through the open window and the hoot of an owl not quite disturbing your dreams. Wake to the happy chatter of birds and soaring views of the wild escarpments.
In a setting straight out of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, Taikoo welcomes children with open arms and lashings of lemonade. This is a huge, rambling house that recalls Uncle Quentin’s Kirrin Cottage.
While kids might be tempted to hunt for secret passages or smugglers’ tunnels, a more accessible source of fun could be the indoor pool, piping hot at 28 degrees and piping music through its own sound system. Or head to the double garage for table tennis and darts.
Three acres of formal gardens and three more of paddocks mean that exploring trumps the Xbox, and a tree swing waits in the woods. Footballs are provided for games in the paddock, while kids who can’t be parted from their dogs or horses needn’t be. The trails of northern Dartmoor await.
There’s superfast rural broadband for anyone wanting to stay connected, and DVDs and a media system in the TV room. Two cots, two high chairs and a baby monitor make Taikoo baby-friendly.