THE reopening of a hidden hotel near Martinhoe after a £270,000 refurbishment is the latest indication of rising business confidence in North Devon.
Heddon's Gate Hotel has reopened under the new ownership of Mark and Pat Cowell, who have run guest cottages in the Lake District for the past 10 years.
"We were looking for a new challenge in an equally beautiful area of the country," said Mark. "It had to have hills and be near the sea."
The sight of Heddon's Gate Hotel caught the imagination of the couple who are new to Exmoor, and they have worked non-stop since last July to restore the hotel to a high standard of accommodation.
Extensive work has been completed by many local contractors, including renewal of large sections of the roof, new windows and guttering by Pearce Barnstaple; a new damp course by Town and Country Preservations; refurbishment of bathrooms by RGB and Exmoor Heating; flooring and carpets from King's Carpets; rewiring by James Electrics; and drainage work by Hi Tec.
Four new bathroom suites have been fitted to replace coloured suites from the 1970s and all 11 bathrooms have been fitted with new flooring.
In addition to the roof, one of the biggest costs has been the replacement of the 30-year-old Potterton boiler with a 75 KW Strebel biomass boiler by Exmoor Heating.
The boiler is fuelled by locally-sourced wooden pellets, and alongside several new wood burning stoves supplied by the Stove Centre, will ensure the hotel is heated efficiently and economically.
Built in 1890 and used as a hotel since 1967, Heddon's Gate Hotel offers the opportunity to relax in a fine old country house, including a cosy library with a wide choice of books, large lounge and a spacious bar, all with fine views of the garden and the wooded hills beyond.
The main breakfast/dining room and eight of the 11 guest bedrooms have spectacular views of the garden and valley, while the terraced garden faces west and acts as an afternoon sun trap.
After the completion of this substantial refurbishment, Mark and Pat are now applying their experience of providing hospitality for visitors to welcoming new guests to the hotel. They are already receiving bookings as far ahead as August.