Next weekend is enlarged by a bank holiday, ie time to go to the country, says Emiy Rookwood. To help you make the most of your time away weve come up with some suggestions, even if your idea of the country only stretches to the Heath
Next weekend is enlarged by a bank holiday, ie time to go to the country, says Emily Rookwood. To help you make the most of your time away we’ve come up with some suggestions, even if your idea of the country only stretches to the Heath. Chuck your Hunters in the boot (for field use only – having grown up in Somerset I find city welly-wearing highly bizarre) and get moving.
The Beckford Arms (main picture)
Nestled on a little crossroad near the beautiful village of Tisbury is the Beckford Arms. Completely refurbished after a fire tore through a large chunk of the building in 2011, the renovation has been done beautifully. The interiors are charming: cosy cushion-covered sofas fill the sitting room, which is complete with roaring fire, while the bedrooms exude understated country-chic. The bathrooms are all decked out with Bramley products, designed and made especially for the Beckford by owner Charlie Luxton’s wife, Chloe (who earned her stripes at Cowshed).
Charlie learnt the hospitality trade from Nick Jones of Soho House and Babington House fame, and he and business partner Dan Brod have created a wonderful bolthole: full of all the luxury touches you’d expect from a high-end hotel but with the charm and warmth that you only find in smaller inn.
Besides the wonderful interior and helpful staff there are fantastic country pursuits available. With local shoots and walking to Salisbury and the Hovis Hill only a few miles away, it is worth tiring yourself out before retuning to base as the food at the Beckford is excellent. The menu is seasonal and constantly changing according to what is available from producers and from the cottage garden to the rear of the pub.
The food is well prepared, beautifully presented and simply very tasty. It is a great little spot, not too far from London to make it a trek but far enough away to make you relax. There is even a film night on a Sunday in the sitting room for proper take-your-shoes-off home comforts.
The Wheatsheaf Inn
This place has been heaped with praise in recent years From being awarded the accolade of one of the best 101 hotels in Tatler to being dubbed ‘the most chic new place to stay in the Cotswolds’ by the Times, the Wheatsheaf Inn has been highly rated up by Sawday and Mr & Mrs Smith alike.
The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed, and the private dining room opens up to the rafters, decorated in a dark green with hunting trophies – boar, stag and other beasties – covering the gable-end wall. The restaurant serves local, seasonal produce wherever possible and offers up an exciting menu of good, British food.
Lovely local charcuterie and twice baked cheddar soufflés set you up nicely for mains of salmon with samphire and brown shrimps or whole Cornish lemon sole with grapes, capers and limes. The breakfast menu is also smashing, with more adventurous old school options like devilled kidneys attracting much of the attention.
With Sudeley Castle, Hidcote Gardens, Snowshill Manor, Berkeley Castle and Blenheim Palace all easily reachable it is a great spot for a weekend away. It is also where Kate Moss’s lot camped out when she got married near by, so if a celebrity hideaway is what you’re looking for book immediately and you can send me a thank you card in the post.
The Crown at Whitebrook
Monmouth, South-East Wales
For those who want to brave a trip even further away, try the Crown at Whitebrook. This Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel near Monmouth in the Wye Valley is set in five acres of landscape gardens and is a perfect base for exploring the near by Brecon Beacons, Black Mountains, Tintern Abbey and also Offa’s Dyke path.
The rooms are comfortable and well-presented but you don’t come here for the rooms: you come here for the restaurant. James Sommerin, head chef at the Crown, runs the kitchen with great skill and enthusiasm. He has a flair for combining unusual combinations such as loin of wild rabbit with almond, gingerbread and pear or a dessert of mango, basil and macadamia nuts.
Considering the restaurant is not only starred but dripping with awards from all sorts of restaurant guides and institutions, the prices are surprisingly reasonable. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Crown and it is quite simply worth the trek.
For those of you who either can’t or don’t want to leave London for the weekend but still want to enjoy a distilled version of country life, I suggest a brisk walk around Hampstead Heath or perhaps a dip in the swimming ponds if it is warm enough, followed by a good meal at one of Hampstead or Highgate’s many pubs.
Hampstead boasts The Old White Bear and one of my firm favourites, The Horseshoe, great for modern pub dining and celeb spotting – I have often seen Dominic Cooper at lunch. If you are closer to Highgate try The Wrestlers with its open wood-burning fire or The Red Lion and Sun, which does a cracking roast on a Sunday.