Please note: my Mum and I were guests of Widbrook Grange, and our stay was complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Whenever I leave London for a short break, I’m reminded yet again of how many beautiful destinations there are at an easy distance from the capital. I was delighted to be asked to visit Wiltshire last week, to review Widbrook Grange, a boutique hotel in the heart of the countryside.
Widbrook Grange is closest to Bradford-on-Avon train station, only a few short stops from Bath (and also on the direct train line from London), so my Mum and I decided to spend some time exploring Bath in the morning before making our way to the hotel. We spent such a fun time browsing in the bookshops, revisiting some favourite Bath sights and having lunch at The Ivy, before hopping on the train to Bradford-on-Avon.
Bradford-on-Avon is a remarkably pretty town in Wiltshire, with golden coloured Cotswold stone houses, a canal and a river running through the town, historic buildings and an inviting variety of pubs, tea rooms and hotels.
Widbrook Grange is a 30 minute walk from Bradford-on-Avon train station, so we decided to wait until a taxi became available and have an amble around the town centre first. It had been raining on and off all day, but we were lucky it was dry as we made our way along the town’s attractive streets.
I was pleased to spot the The Bridge Tea Rooms, which have achieved instagram fame, and I’d seen its pretty facade many times on my instagram feed. Apparently the building was originally a blacksmith’s cottage and dates from 1502. The staff serve slabs of Victoria sponge and other tea time treats dressed in Victorian costume, which I would have loved to have seen, but we didn’t have time to go inside on this visit – I’ll just have to go back another time!
After our short exploration of the town, our taxi arrived and whisked us off to our hotel. Widbrook Grange is a small luxury hotel in a beautiful part of the Wiltshire countryside, surrounded by eleven acres of land. The hotel was once a farm, dating from the 1830s, and the elegant Georgian building has been beautifully restored in keeping with its heritage.
Entering the hotel feels rather like stepping into the hallway of a family country home. A bucket of wellies for guests to use sits by the door, and the atmosphere is instantly cosy and inviting, with flagstone flooring throughout, open hearths in the lounge area just off the hall (crackling with a fire in the evenings) and large leather sofas. There’s even a fitness and swimming pool area in one of the outhouses, should you fancy a dip during your stay.
I appreciated the quirky decor features, such as old sacks of grain and a vintage farm truck parked by the hotel entrance, that were a great nod to the hotel’s farmhouse past. A miniature dovecote in the garden was also a lovely touch, and it was a beautiful sight to watch the doves fluttering through the sky as twilight settled on the late autumn day.
The Artist’s Room
After a warm welcome by Reception, we were shown up to our bedroom on the first floor: The Artist’s Room, where the hotel’s signature attention to detail in interior design and love for comfort was also apparent. A vintage paintbox held a selection of biscuits, hot chocolate, tea and coffee, and an easel held a large flat-screen TV directly in front of the bed.
I was especially taken with the huge bathtub that took centre stage in the room, which was perfect for a relaxing soak after supper. The hotel even provided some books to read in the bath, including a bound leather volume of Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham, showing, I think, excellent taste!
After relaxing in our room over cups of tea for a little while, we decided to go down for our pre-dinner G&Ts.
G&Ts and Supper
Widbrook Grange has an extremely impressive gin bar, with around 150 different types of gin to sample. I went with the ‘when in Rome’ philosophy and ordered a classic Bath gin, which is a botanical gin with bitter orange, kaffir lime leaf and English coriander. My Mum went for the gin of the month, which was an Earl Grey gin by a London gin company.
Both gins were aromatic and delicious and made the perfect pre-dinner aperitif. For those who like nothing better than a good G&T, Widbrook Grange offers personalised gin tasting sessions which sound like a lot of fun.
We were lucky in having the snug bar space almost to ourselves and settled into a couple of comfy leather-backed chairs. If the bar space gets too crowded, then the next door snug room is the perfect place to relax with a magazine in one hand and a drink in the other.
After our drinks, we made our through to the restaurant, where we had a table reserved. We’d only had a light lunch in Bath, so we were hungry by the time supper rolled around, and the menu made our mouths water even more, as it was hard to choose between the many appetising dishes.
A platter of bread, herb butters and olive oil and vinegar appeared at the table for us to nibble as we made up our minds what to order. In the end, I settled on the Fish Variation to start: a platter of pickled mackerel, cured salmon and smoked haddock mousse with pickled cucumber and olive oil biscuits.
Mum went for the Rabbit and Local Ham Ballotine with carrot and tomato chutney, pickled asparagus and honey caviar.
Both starters were delicious; mine tasted very rich (especially the haddock mousse), but fortunately the portions were delicate so the dish wasn’t too overwhelming for the start of a meal.
Next, I ordered Fillet of Beef with fondant potato, asparagus, red cabbage hash, roasted fennel and cacao jus. Mum chose Pan Roasted Wiltshire Pork Tenderloin with crispy almond pig cheek, leek and sweet potato gratin, served in wild mushroom beer sauce.
Both dishes were exceptionally good and showed a flair of culinary imagination that places Widbrook Grange’s menu above the typical country hotel fare. The service throughout our meal was also very friendly and attentive.
Although we were feeling pretty stuffed after polishing off our mains, we did just save some room for dessert, and we both went for the Sticky Toffee Pudding with vanilla ice-cream and toffee sauce.
It had been years since I’d had a sticky toffee pudding, but it was a great choice for an autumn evening, and the one served at Widbrook Grange was just right: not too heavy, but still a decadent dessert.
Breakfast and a Canal Walk
The next morning started out raining, but soon the sunshine broke through the clouds, so we decided to have a walk along the canal near the hotel after breakfast.
We headed back downstairs again for the restaurant, which was was looking particularly bright and airy in the morning sun.
The breakfast at Widbrook Grange is very generous, so you may want to plan to linger over your morning meal! A huge sideboard is set up with all the cold treats: yoghurt, various toppings, croissants, fresh and dried fruits etc, and then a hot menu is also provided.
I liked the way you could make up your own version of a ‘full English’ from the menu, by picking your favourite ingredients from a wide selection. I went for scrambled eggs, sausage, mushrooms and black pudding. Widbrook Grange aims to source all its ingredients from local suppliers, and our menu listed the farmers and butchers that provided the eggs, meat and vegetables for our breakfast, which I thought was a nice touch.
Our meal was seriously tasty and set us up well for another day spent exploring. We set off for a walk around the gardens, before exiting along the countryside lane that wound its way past the hotel’s Boat House (which housed another, more informal restaurant) and along to the canal.
It was a beautiful autumn morning, and we returned from our ramble just in time to check out and call for a taxi so we could catch our train back to Bath.
I’m looking forward to sharing some of my Bath adventures later on the blog, especially about discovering the city’s many glorious bookshops, so do check back to the blog again soon.
Widbrook Grange, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire
Room rates at Widbrook Grange are from £105 per night, based on two sharing, on a bed and breakfast basis. For further information and for reservations, please visit www.widbrookgrange.co.uk, or call 01225 864750.
Widbrook Grange also has a current winter special offer: three nights for the price of two. Book any room for 3 nights and only pay for 2. The cheapest room night is free, and breakfast is included. This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other, and it is valid Nov 15 2018 – March 1 2019 (excludes 22/12/18 – 2/1/19, 14/2/19).