By Carl Difford

SO OFTEN we visit places and look for a place to stay nearby, when we could get so much more out of a holiday or short break by taking more care where we plan to spend the night, making that base part of the holiday and not just somewhere to rest our head.

Hence a taste of luxury with a short stay at the four-star Langdon Court hotel just a few miles from Plymouth.

This imposing manor house is not short on history. It is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book; home to Henry VIII’s last wife, Catherine Parr, for a time in the 16th century to when most of the building dates back; frequented by Edward VII (when prince of Wales) and society friend Lillie Langtree in the late 19th century; requisitioned by the Army during the Second World War and now it has been owned and run by Geoffrey and Emma Ede for the past nine years.

With such a background, it is little wonder Langdon Court contains such an eclectic mix of styles, including stained-glass windows, military mementoes, hunting trophies, African art and modern décor.

The rooms are pretty special, too. We stayed in the large and rather plush Queen Suite, with views from the stone bay window across the courtyard, ponds and vineyard to the farmland beyond, but the smaller rooms are individually decorated and also very well appointed, each with its own view, varying from woodland, lawns and countryside, to a formal garden.

The overall impression is not that you are in a hotel crammed with rooms, but more you are a house guest in a country mansion.

You don’t have to drive far to experience more magnificent views – this time over Plymouth Sound – and then it’s a short drive or river-bus journey to the city.

During our short stay, as Plymouth was gearing up for ‘pirate weekend’ we checked out the National Marie Aquarium (Britain’s biggest), the Mayflower Centre which explores the story of the Pilgrim Fathers to the New World and the Plymouth Gin Distillery and, just across the city, Dartmoor Zoo.

Closer to our hotel, we took a stroll to the sea and Wembury Beach, overlooked by the picturesque St Werburgh’s Church.

The church is a popular wedding venue, with receptions often being held at Langdon Court and its grounds. The hotel is also registered for civil ceremonies and can accommodate up to 100 guests. Weddings make up much of the hotel’s business but staff are careful and adept at ensuring the larger parties don’t interfere with the enjoyment of other guests.

A major part of the enjoyment – for us at least – was dining at Langdon Court.

The kitchen is run by head chef Jamie Rogers (a Welshman, no less), who featured in BBC Masterchef: The Professionals, aged just 23 and made the quarter-finals. He is also the reigning South West Professional Chef of the Year.

Using locally-sourced ingredients, he puts together some amazing taste combinations and is the only person who has managed to get me to actually enjoy rhubarb.

The dinner menu is – to my mind at least – how it should be in a good restaurant: a relatively small number of very different dishes with a meticulous attention to detail.

The courses are superbly presented and remarkably filling given that the emphasis is in quality rather than quantity.

The dishes we tried included, from the starters: crab, apple, plus cucumber (formed into tiny balls) and dill; wood pigeon, smoked artichoke and a spring onion salsa; and watercress and potato soup with crispy egg.

Main courses featured: Lobster and chorizo spaghetti in roast crab sauce (spicy but delicious); Rib of beef, potato and a Caesar salad; and Pork belly (crisped to perfection) with a smoked ham broth and peas.

While for dessert: Custard tart (with the magic rhubarb!) and roasted barley ice cream; Chocolate delice with a Caramac sauce and orange sorbet (so good!); and strawberry cheesecake with white chocolate ice cream.

To say the food was good is selling it short. It was special.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable stay, and one in which the hotel was the focal point of the break rather than an incidental. A real treat.

Fact file

Langdon Court Hotel, Adam’s Lane, Down Thomas, Plymouth, PL9 0DY.

01752 862358.

Rooms (two people) from £129 B&B; suites from £229 per night.