by Holly Tuppen
Tasting menus, 17th-century manor houses and safari don’t often go hand in hand. But now, thanks to a partnership between Longleat and the Old Manor Hotel in Trowbridge, such delights can be all yours during a family weekend in Wiltshire.
Lucy and Tudor Hopkins (of the Gallivant in Rye fame) recently bought the Old Manor and have made huge improvements to the previously chintz-filled hotel. Expressing frustration at not having everything exactly as she envisions it, Lucy is clearly a perfectionist. Only a year into the project and the hotel is both beautiful and welcoming. The original house dates back over 500 years but was upgraded in the 17th century, with various outbuildings and extensions added since then. Appearing grander than its size, from the front the house feels distinctly French, and having been filled with eclectic furnishings from local antique markets, this theme continues throughout.
Competing with the likes of The Pig, food has played a major role in the Old Manor’s overhaul, and nabbing a chef from the River Cafe speaks for itself when it comes to the success of this strategy. Matthew Briddon is just the man you want to be serving up a tasting menu in the West Country. Unassuming and passionate (about the wealth of local produce, seasonal menus, keeping pigs, his kitchen garden and smoke house) Matthew fits in perfectly. His food has also put the hotel and its restaurant the Milking Parlour on the map.
Knowing we had our one-year-old in tow, the hotel kindly put us in one of the rooms closest to the restaurant. The moment he was asleep we were able to hit the bar and restaurant without having to faff around with babysitters. Local ciders on the terrace in the evening sun, G&Ts in the snug little bar followed by a tasting menu in the restaurant. For a Wednesday night atmosphere was plentiful and the staff were brilliant—attentive and enthusiastic (with some cracking West Country accents). Over a couple of hours we devoured mushroom and garlic amuse bouche, refreshing beetroot salad, melt in the mouth home-smoked salmon, perfectly cooked steak and chocolate-dipped garden cherries to finish. At £55 per person, we thought this was a bit of a bargain.
Our room was in keeping with the rest of the hotel, full of vintage furniture and artefacts well put together. The emphasis is on homeliness and comfort rather than being top-notch luxury, but little touches like the Neal’s Yard toiletries prove how much thought has gone into the guest experience. The huge four-poster bed and roll-top bath also made it very romantic. If booking as a family the hotel has two larger, modern rooms to which they will happily add pullout beds or cots (unfortunately there is no family suite available). A games and TV room, lawn, meadow and kitchen garden all provide entertainment and romping space for older kids. Although on quite a busy road, the long drive makes the hotel and grounds feel like a safe little enclave. There is also a beautiful private dining room in the heart of the manor house for larger family gatherings or special occasions.
If ambling around pretty Bath (20 minutes away) and Bradford-on-Avon (10 minutes away) aren’t enough to entice you to the Old Manor Hotel then their Longleat safari package might do. For £265 a family of four will receive overnight accommodation in a family room, dinner and breakfast for the whole family and entrance to Longleat’s many attractions. At just over two hours from west London, I doubt you could get much more fun for the whole family into one weekend.
For more information please visit the website of the Old Manor Hotel.
About the author:
Holly has been writing about adventures near and far ever since setting off on a two-year “around the world without flying” adventure in 2008. Today she lives in Hammersmith with her 10-month-old son, exploring London and beyond. Alongside writing for the likes of The Guardian, Mr & Mrs Smith, Running in Heels and Real Travel Magazine, Holly is editor of Green Hotelier and runs the blog Weekendist. Find out more on www.hollytuppen.com or @hollytuppen.