A 200-year-old coaching inn, on a site that dates back to Saxon times, which is famous – indeed an institution – for fishing and for food – and now it has a new lease of life since Arabella Monro and Simon Village took over in 2020.
Traditional country pursuits are taken seriously here: The Arundell (formerly The Arundell Arms) has been one of England’s premier fishing hotels for more than half a century. Anglers have 20 miles of private fishing and a 90-feet-deep lake at their disposal (containing some very large, wily trout). When autumn comes, the fisherman go, shooting parties arrive with spaniels and labradors, and talk at the bar is of high birds and driven snipe. Lifton is surrounded by some of the loveliest countryside in England. Fishing arrangements are flexible – don’t be shy of visiting if you’re a beginner.
Then there’s the food, meticulously prepared and beautifully presented, complemented by well chosen wines and attentive, friendly service.
From the sitting room you can see the garden and the 250-year-old former cockpit, now a tackle room. There are two rather grand interconnecting dining rooms and a friendly bar. Bedrooms are homely, pretty and fresh. A unique place.
The Arundell has survived the tough times besetting English fishing inns in recent years to emerge as perhaps the best in southern England. Simon Village see above) is a respected fly fisherman (and quite a purist – he sticks to dry flies) and under his regime the fishing and river management is outstanding. Heading his team is ‘Pilks’ – David Pilkington – a local legend for his expertise, patience and humour. A day or part day with him as your guide is a memorable experience, even a revelation, maybe a must if you are newcomer to the Arundell’s miles of water (see above) on five rivers within a two-mile radius of the inn, plus a stretch of the Tamar at Endsleigh. It’s true, sometimes challenging, wild fishing, though there’s also the lake – see above.
A unique bonus is the salt water fly fishing for bass about an hour’s drive north on the Devon coast – again Pilks is the expert who enables this terrific expedition done at spring tides. Catch a bass here, then get a brown trout and a sea trout in the same 24 hours and you have done the Arundell McNab.
The Arundell has always been an excellent place to get into fly fishing, and Simon has built on this, offering an impressive choice of courses: tuition and guiding, £275 a day; two-day beginners’s course (£425 per person) through Spey course (£425 per person); and fly-tying £295 a person.
The hotel has recently taken on Dave Chapman from the West Country Rivers Trust and four other fishing guides work for the hotel during the fishing season to complete a well staffed set-up.
One of the things we especially appreciated on a visit in early June 2022 was the unstuffy attitude of Pilks. While some guides frown on using nymphs (sinking flies) to attract trout when they don’t feel like rising for a dry fly, Pilks not only encourage nymphing but the use of an indicator – a piece of wool attached to the line. This holds the nymph steady about 12 inches below the surface. When a trout takes, the indicator twitches and dips into the depths. This doesn’t take the skill out of nymphing, but gets you in with a chance.
Salmon can be caught on the Tamar, but are fewer here as everywhere. One of the rivers, the Thrushell, has some prime sea trout pools which produce regular good fish when in season (peak season July and September).