Style maven Olga Polizzi redefined British seaside chic with Cornwall's Hotel Tresanton in 1999 and she's now done the same for the English countryside. Her fantastic Hotel Endsleigh is an early-19th-century manor transformed into a 25-room retreat. On our visit, despite there being a few curtains still left to put up, Endsleigh was already proving itself a country house of a different stripe, bridging the gap between cool contemporary and old-world grandeur.
The hotel is just outside the town of Dartmoor, in the southwest province of Devon, about two hours from Bristol (which recently added a direct flight from New York on Continental). In a wooded dell above the chocolate-brown Tamar River, Endsleigh overlooks Dartmoor's austere, russet-colored landscape. The estate's 108 acres of parkland are a high-Romantic wonderland designed by the great landscaper Humphrey Repton—indeed, the bamboo-shaded streams and grottoes hidden behind giant rhododendrons are fit for a pastoral by Wordsworth. The house, by Sir Jeffrey Wyattville, was originally a duke's holiday retreat. Polizzi has retained much of the interior, including paneling in the drawing rooms and gorgeous period wallpapers. The guest rooms—15 in the main building, one stand-alone cottage, and the nine planned for the tower-clock stables—are presently being fitted with chintz and fluffy upholstered chairs and beds; the bathrooms are ready, furnished with antique fixtures and bureaus. In the unexpected play between a 19th-century chair and a modern lamp, we could sense Polizzi's inimitable touch: It's subtle, not pretentious, and smart, not snobbish. No two rooms are the same—an early favorite is No. 8, which features French windows framing the Tamar and walls covered in hand-painted papers. From $370 to $615; 44-182/287-0248.