I am always on the lookout for idyllic weekend break destinations in the UK. A few weeks ago I found The Old Manor Hotel, a charming and characterful establishment just fifteen minutes by train from central Bath. It is a historic building in Bradford-upon-Avon restored to its former glory by new owners, Tudor and Lucy Hopkins (and Camber the dog) who previously part-owned the Gallivant Hotel. They purchased this property in July 2013 hoping to have a hotel that they could completely call their own.
Known to be part of the Abbess of Glastonbury’s estate, the present Manor House was originally built in classic Queen Anne style before being upgraded in the 17th century. The quirks and detailing give the building particular appeal. With 21 bedrooms of varying sizes and décor, there are standard, superior, deluxe and family rooms to choose from. We were in a lovely spacious deluxe room (which felt more like a suite) in the main Manor house. Ultra clean and fresh with white walls, dainty artwork and endearing vintage furniture, it was a pleasure to spend the night here. Accentuating the remaining old features of the building there were hints of exposed beams and brickwork adding a touch of farmhouse chic. Through the prettily adorned dressing room was the bathroom, with a big bath and shower and Neal’s Yard toiletries.
The couple recently recruited Head Chef, Matthew Briddon of River Café and Paul Heathcotes – he is in charge of the kitchens and has big plans to make this hotel a foodie destination, with an extended restaurant and cookery school in the future. Speaking to Matthew, I found his vision and ambition inspiring, hearing about the plans for a snail farm, their own livestock, fruit orchards and herb gardens… a true farm to fork experience. So far they are making good use of the assets on site, a few beehives for floral honey and a small cold smokery for flavouring fish and other ingredients. We enjoyed a feast in the humble but lovely dining room on Friday night. Sitting by the roaring fire, sipping local ale and enjoying wholesome thoughtfully prepared food, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would rather be. There were so many food highlights, I remember the innovative Smoked ham hock with ploughman’s garnish: a reinvention of the classic British sandwich, it had a great mix of textures with tangy sauce and irresistible crispy cheese bites. The main course Confit belly pork, pig’s cheek ragu and wilted greens had a sensational flavour and aroma though it was incredibly rich and I was sad not to be able to finish it. A simple homemade Bakewell Tart with clotted cream was served for dessert with soothing fresh mint tea.
Next morning we were awake bright and early with the chirping birds, early enough to see the huge orange sun rise through the trees, setting the sky alight. After a quick refreshing shower, we went down for a cup of coffee and breakfast in the Milking Parlour. Rustic chunky bread rolls stuffed with grilled bacon and ground pepper, orange juice and fresh milky coffee.
Visiting and experiencing the Old Manor Hotel was truly memorable for me; as we walked away though the sunny countryside I thought about how much I would love to have my own little hotel to love and nurture. We can expect great things from this motivated and creative team in the future, I cannot wait to hear about their progress.
More information on The Old Manor and book here: www.oldmanorhotel.com
Many thanks to the Bath Tourist board for their help with this trip, more information here.