Quite early on this year, Mum said for Matt and I to make sure that we didn’t book to do anything this weekend. At the time I had an inkling of what we might be doing but wasn’t sure until it slipped out a couple of months later. Pretty much every two years, Mum and I go to the Christmas markets in Belgium or France. As we have a regular “thing”, so do Mum and my sister. Each autumn, they go to a murder mystery on Exmoor, and each year they come back and say how good it was.
My murder mystery experiences have been one of two dinner party types. One, where everyone is assigned a role, and you have to work out whodunnit amongst yourselves. I quite enjoy these – it’s a bit of fancy dress, questionable accents, dodgy acting and food with friends. The other type is played out by actors. My last experience of this version was at Reed Hall in Exeter, and I wasn’t much of a fan. The acting was distinctly am-dram and Reed Hall didn’t get the food right at all, and I think it was too big a group of people for us all to gather what was going on and being said. It wasn’t a great experience. So when Mum said that was what we were doing this weekend, neither Matt nor I were too enthusiastic.
I’ve had a week at work which has completely knackered me out mentally, and I just wanted to sit on my bum and let my brain fall out of my ears in front of the TV. I didn’t really feel like being social. That wasn’t an option though.
At 5pm, Matt and I headed off in the dark along the North Devon link road. Once we got off the main link and into the lanes, I actually really enjoyed the drive. It was a barely-more-than single track road, pitch black, twisty and turny. My inner rally driver was unleashed and Matt pace noted the drive from the sat nav. Yeah, we’re just your regular husband and wife tarmac rally stage team… We arrived around 6pm and headed in to Simonsbath House.
I think this may have been one of the friendliest places I have ever been. The house is over 350 years old, in the middle of nowhere, nestled in a valley, wood panelled, with open fires that smell like winter.
As we arrived at night, we were looking forward to seeing the house in the daylight. First though, we got settled in the room and got ready to head downstairs. I was really impressed by our room – it was lovely and spacious.
I’m a sucker for a nice bathroom too. It was quite a big bathroom, well appointed, warm, and had shutters (what’s not to love about shutters!).
We met Mum and Philippa in the bar. A couple of drinks later, I felt more relaxed and less uptight, and started to enjoy the evening.
The actors milled around (in character) and made small talk. There were approximately 30 people there including us. We were called to the dining room. Service was speedy and efficient (but not too efficient – despite being a fast eater, I hate being rushed). I wish I had taken photos of the food as it was presented really nicely, but I didn’t have my proper camera with me and my phone camera makes a poor substitute. My starter was partridge with bacon on romaine lettuce, drizzled with a balsamic vinegar dressing and toasted pine nuts. I haven’t had partridge before, and was expecting it to be more game-y that it was. The acting continued throughout the starter, which was quite amusing (no one had been murdered at that point). I had a little bit of plate envy when Matt’s main arrived – he’d gone for the cannelloni which smelled amazing (and quite garlicky). I’d chosen the rack of lamb with roast veggies. The lamb was perfect – pink and tender. I don’t eat much lamb as I’m not brilliant at cooking it. It always turns out tough or to be a really fatty cut. The pudding was a choice of sorbet, cheesecake or rice pudding. I haven’t had rice pudding in ages, so that was my choice. Stodgy, wintery, goodness! No dessert envy here! Sadly, during the pudding a murder occurred, shortly followed by another (murder, not pudding). Two people down and it was time to retire to the lounge for teas and coffees to solve the crimes. We weren’t an effective crime solving unit, as the third and final murder happened in front of us! I didn’t get any of the murderers right, though Mum did (well done Mum!).
Once the actors had left, we were free to do what we wanted. Philippa decided to build the fire in the lounge up a bit more, and we were visited by the owner of the hotel’s dogs – a Collie called Bramble, and a Cocker Spaniel called Fern. Bramble spent some time with us, though Fern was less bothered.
After a natter, more tea, and visiting each others’ rooms, we went our separate ways and headed to bed. Matt and I were interested to see what the view was like in the morning. We weren’t disappointed, despite the mist.
Breakfast was nice and relaxed. I had a cooked breakfast, with a lovely oozy poached egg and good toast to mop it all up with.
Despite my initial misgivings, I was really glad I didn’t just sit at home and wallow, but got out, met a few really lovely people, had a great evening with the best company, and came home with a bit more of a spring in my step. Matt and I are already thinking about going back and getting out onto the moors for a walking weekend, as well as telling some of his family about Simonsbath House, as we’re sure they’d love it too.
Have you been on a murder mystery before? Did you have a nice weekend?