Tinker, tailor, soldier…hotelier

Our hotel is thought to have been a hideaway for spies and we’re looking for information to help uncover its chequered past this month (September, 2015).

The building is said to have been a safe house and training centre for 1960s and 1970s intelligence staff, so we’re keen to find out more.

Guest Lounge at Dunkery Beacon Country House, Exmoor, SomersetColonel Purvis Smythe, who ran the hotel in the Sixties, reputedly worked for Mi6. We have been told by various sources that the hotel was just a ‘front’ and the real purpose of the business at that time was a contact point and training centre for people sent by GCHQ.

A couple of years ago, a lady dropped in wanting to re-familiarise herself with the hotel as she said her grandfather used to run the place and she spent time here when she was younger.

So we gave her the grand tour and it was during our conversation that she suddenly declared, ‘You do know that he worked for Mi6, don’t you?’ Well we had heard rumours about a spy connection, but had thought he was Mi5.

She went on to say that he later died under mysterious circumstances climbing the Matterhorn. Just recently, while working in the garden, John found an old piton, used for climbing, which may well have belonged to the Colonel!

In addition, although uncorroborated, we believe we have had a couple of former intelligence officers stay recently, who first came to do a spot of ‘training’ when the hotel was under the Colonel’s ownership.

We are now keen to hear from anyone else who might have information they are able to share to shed some light on the hotel’s past, as we are running a spy-theme three-night break at New Year and would like to be able to give guests some more details.

We may even have had Ian Fleming staying here back in the day. No one really knows. It’s all very hush, hush but we’re fairly certain that recently we’ve had a few former intelligence experts now retired return, but this time for a civilian style break!

We’re hoping that some of the locals might know more and there may have been some who worked here who could help us to fill in the blanks.

Our high-end, New Year’s package includes a spy theme quiz and we hope to include more information on the house’s own connections with Mi5/6.

Our three-night stay will be more gold leaf than gold finger, as our guests will dine in the hotel’s award-winning à la carte Coleridge Restaurant, which uses, wherever possible, home-grown ingredients, or those sourced nearby, with lots of additional pzazz mixed in.