Tall, flower-filled hedgerows wall us in on both sides as we drive down the narrow, winding country lane to Gittisham. The tiny village is barely more than a church and a few thatched cottages. It's a picture postcard scene, as is the long driveway into the 1,400 hectares of country estate of the Combe House hotel, where pheasants and Arabian horses roam freely in grassy fields. The hotel in Devon is a grade-one listed Elizabethan country house. It appears on the hilltop, framed by woodland, like something from a BBC costume drama. The estate was given to Bishop Odo, half-brother of William the Conqueror, after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The house passed through many wealthy families across the centuries before becoming a hotel and restaurant in the 1960s. Portraits of past owners remain on the walls throughout the house, with rooms furnished with shelves full of old books. A friendly member of the staff phones the day before to confirm our arrival time, ask what time we'd like dinner and answer any queries, making my travel partner and I feel we're in good hands from the start. We stay in one of the "Signature Suites", the Linen Suite, inside what used to be the servants' quarters in Victorian times. Many of the old fixtures have been retained, including the large hanging rack that dominates the ceiling and a now ornamental stove with traditional heavy irons resting on it. The rooms, decorated in white and cream, are spacious and filled with light. The beds are large and comfortable, and in the cool bathroom is a classy two-metre-diameter copper tub. A grander alternative is the Boswell Room at the front of the building, although its bathroom doesn't quite match the Linen Suite's one. A wide window has a fantastic view out onto the hills and distant fields. The only sound in this peaceful part of the country is of birds singing in the nearby woodland. We spend an afternoon drinking wine at a table in the gardens, surrounded by giant centuries-old Lebanese cedar trees. Nearby are herb and vegetable gardens and a chicken coop that provides eggs and chickens for the restaurant. Much of the produce in the restaurant comes from the grounds. Anything else on the menu hasn't travelled far; there's a provenance list displayed on the reception desk, naming local suppliers of meat, fish, cheese, fruit and vegetables. People travel from miles around to eat at Combe's restaurant. There's a substantial wine list, and the food is tasty and excellently presented. The starter of rillettes with asparagus, quail eggs and caviar is a work of art. The staff know the menu well, making helpful suggestions, from the monkfish and the (very) local chicken to the lemon cheesecake with honeycomb ice cream. The windows look out onto the rolling green hills of the Quantocks. Breakfast is a generous buffet of juice, cereals and yogurt, with tea and warm home-made bread delivered to the table. Plates of smoked kippers and smoked haddock with poached eggs are both perfectly cooked. There are plenty of small villages and farm shops to explore nearby, and the hotel is just a few kilometres from the coast. The upmarket town of Budleigh Salterton, with its whitewashed seafront houses, colourful beach huts and reddish cliffs, is a great place to spend a lazy day. Combe House is not a place to be thinking about work, but when I did check in online, I found the Wi-fi a bit hit and miss depending on the location. And on the days I visited, the clientele at the hotel seemed to be quite elderly, though younger travellers, I'm told, come down for the weekends. But these are tiny issues that stand out only because Combe House gets everything else right.