“Quirky hotel with great bedrooms on the Longleat Estate”
Review by Fiona Duncan, published 3rd February 2008.
We all have our pet hates. When it comes to hotels I've a list of them, things that might infuriate me yet please the next guest.
Take showers. Show me a hotel room, after a long day, with a shower but no bath and my world collapses, yet if my sons never saw a bathtub again they'd be quite content. And take radios. Or, to be more precise, a radio playing The Archers while I'm having a pre-dinner lie-down and Today while I'm waking up in the morning. Call me sad, but I feel lost without them.
Leased from the Marquis of Bath, the Bath Arms is a handsome building with fine gardens
Minutes after arriving at the Bath Arms on the Longleat estate, I made an emergency phone call from my room. "Bring a radio," I implored my sister, who was just setting out to join me. In a room encouragingly named English Eccentrics, the bath was there all right, but the bedside Roberts radio that I had somehow expected was missing.
Everything else was perfect. My room was heaven, as was my sister's. Pub bedrooms, assorted sizes, with real panache: quirky, boldly coloured and full of character, more homespun than slick but nothing wrong with that. Inlaid mother-of-pearl furniture from India in the bedroom, enchanting hand-made wallpaper depicting English eccentrics - see how many you can name - on the walls of the bathroom.
A fabulous carved and painted Oriental bed for Caroline, teamed with exotic gold and silver wallpaper. Plus cafetières for proper coffee and huge, flat-screen digital tellies on which, if you are a genius, you can find radio programmes. I caught the tail end of The Archers, but it's not the same listening to Shula moaning from a television set.
The Bath Arms is leased from the Marquis of Bath, he of the wifelets and waistcoats. A handsome square building, with a cluster of lime trees in front and a warren of rooms upstairs, it stands close to Longleat's main entrance. Take Capability Brown's Pleasure Walk through secret gardens or stay en famille in the wackily decorated gate lodge, now part of the hotel.
Either way, there are magnificent views of the great Elizabethan pile, but nowadays the inn is run by warm and affable Christoph Brooke and a palpably happy team. He's redecorated the place, filled it with Indian furnishings, brought in a competent chef with a penchant for local produce (they rear their own Tamworth pigs) and added an unpretentious treatment room, the Hip Bath, where therapist Nicky delivered a superb facial.
At the same time he's kept the public bar, plus the skittle alley and its two teams (skittles are big in Wiltshire), and welcomes families. My one serious criticism of the hotel is that there is nowhere to relax, especially on a rainy day. Most of the ground floor is given over to dining, with just a small area by the bar with a single sofa for slumping. On my visit, the bar was heaving with a group of friends and I longed for a bit of peace and a crackling fire.
Our friend Nicola, who lives in the village, joined us for dinner. "Christoph's wife," she informed us, "is Sarah Montague, the Today presenter." My jaw dropped. Married to the Today programme and no radios in his hotel? It doesn't seem right.
Longleat Estate, Horningsham (01985 844308; www.batharms.co.uk). Doubles from £80 to £140 per night, including breakfast. For more reviews and recommendations by Fiona Duncan, visit www.thehotelguru.com.
Have you stayed at the Bath Arms? Can you recommend any great places to stay in Wiltshire. Leave your comments and suggestions below.
The Hotel Guru verdict
Colourful, unusual, original. go for a large, more expensive room: prices aren't much higher than fo
Chef and manager frank and sarah head a delightful, welcoming team
Great people, great location and great bedrooms; public rooms are something of a let down.
|Food and drink|
Admirable emphasis on local produce; good food, if not memorable.
|Value for money|
Terrific rooms for the price; no one is being greedy here