The Bath Arms

Longleat Estate, Wiltshire, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Jo Boissevain
An ivy-clad inn on the Longleat Estate, with a characterful restaurant and very fetching rooms
Longleat's lions roar tantalizingly close by and at feeding time you can hear the sea lions. But it isn't only families who pitch up at the Bath Arms; walkers, foodies and locals like it too. Enter through a small flagged hall scented with lilies to find a lounge bar with a striped sofa, and a cluster of rooms with kilims on planked floors; dogs doze by the fire, guests chat over a pint of local ale or an elegant meal. The setting is the sleepy estate village of Horningsham, with views of Wiltshire’s hills and a small triangular green with a red telephone box.

Up a warren of pale (but not immaculate) carpeted stairs are 9 boho-chic bedrooms; a further 8 sit in a separate Garden Wing. The modish Bath Arms is leased from the eccentric Lord Bath, and a mood of bohemian luxury prevails. Some bedrooms are small, some large, but all are delightfully quirky. Painted boxes from Rajasthan, gleaming marquetry from Morocco, a racy Kama Sutra mural… even the bath oils have an exotic tang. Huge beds and tranquility banish insomnia, and a locally sourced breakfast sets you up for the day.

Highs

  • When we revisited in 2012, we loved the seasonal food in the restaurant, and even though it was a Monday night, the pub tables were full of locals eating the bar food; always a good sign
  • Strolling through a Capability Brown Pleasure Walk to the Longleat mansion and its landscaped grounds
  • Staff are attentive and good-humoured
  • The atmosphere is relaxing and cheerful; the décor eccentric yet stylish
  • Great for couples or friends, and there's a warm welcome for families, with children's menus and extra beds

Lows

  • Signs of wear and tear on carpets and doors
  • Garden Wing bedrooms are by the car park, but most open onto a lawn and have a nice cottage-y feel. Walls are thin in this building and it's popular with families so couples may prefer the main building
  • Bathrooms in the main building are quirky and old, and water pressure/temperature can be a little temperamental. A full refurbishment is underway
  • The public bars are on the small side, and the back one has a large TV constantly showing promotional videos; we found it distracting and a bit naff
  • Be sure not to confuse this for the Bath Arms at Crockerton, also on the Longleat estate!

Best time to go

This is a year-round retreat. Longleat Safari Park is open from Easter to the end of September, but Longleat house is open all year. Book ahead for school holidays, bank holidays and Christmas. Packages vary, but mid-week and special breaks are often available.

Our top tips

Bring books, walking boots and bikes: Longleat is cycle utopia. Kids will love the rare-breed pigs behind the Garden Wing.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Pub with Rooms
  • 16
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Skittles
Room:

Rooms

Bedrooms are refreshingly, charmingly original, most of them above the bar (but peacefully away from the throng). We were treated to Peacock, which flourishes a colonial four-poster bed and a gleaming roll-top tub. Flashman is up in the attic - all Indian antiques and custom-made collages; English Eccentric is based on Lord Bath. Off a tiny top landing, in lovely creams, is Bird in the Hand, with a roomy bathroom and a pretty rococo bed. For a room with a special view, go for Karma Sutra, gorgeous, cosy and coloured terracotta. The rooms under the eaves are low-ceilinged but surprisingly spacious. All these rooms - a mixture of Chic and Luxury rooms (which are larger) - are worth the extra, in our view.

The Classic rooms are much smaller, but still good. Humming Bird has a French antique bed in dove grey, lush curtains and decorative wallpaper. Note that Geisha's double bed is against the wall.

Bathrooms have character in tubfuls; white roll-tops and Indian prints abound; standard bathrooms are on the small side; most tubs have showers above, some have hand-held shower attachments.

In a converted outbuilding off the courtyard are 5 ground-floor rooms, which open onto a lawn. When we revisited in 2012 we stayed in Garden Room (a Chic twin), which was a bit utilitarian in terms of decor, but we really appreciated the private, cottage-y feel of the building. We slept well (although walls are thin, so we heard our neighbour's TV until midnight), and bathing was a pleasure. We were really impressed with all the little extras, too: bottled water, orange marmalade biscuits, Teapig teas, aromatic fig toiletries and a small bottle of elderflower vodka with 2 shot glasses (delicious).

This Garden wing is particularly popular with families and some rooms interconnect. Twin and Raja are both super stylish with high rafters, oatmeal carpets and thick curtains; Raja has antique Indian doors to its bathroom. Wet Room has a carved Indian headboard (fabulous) and a slate-clad shower - one of very few without a tub. Tamworth, white with splashes of red, is set up for wheelchair-users.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Iron (on request)
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

In summer, take a pre-dinner cocktail (apple juice, vodka and cucumber when we stayed) or pint of local ale to the terrace at the back, landscaped with pale pink roses and rolling-hill views. At the set-price, 3-course dinner, chunky dark wood tables reflect the upmarket hippy theme, along with grey and gold-shimmered walls, plum silk blinds and tear-drop chandeliers. Glasses shine, jazz plays softly, church candles flicker and Lord Bath in a turban gazes down from his frame. It's an inviting setting for a tempting menu that changes nightly; not cheap (see Rates) but good value. Almost everything is sourced from within 50 miles and the chef is a stickler for seasonality.

We thought the homemade bread was delicious, the just-seared tuna faultless. The main course cod in a pinenut crust with lentils was tasty; the Wiltshire pork with white bean purée, touched with honey and lavender onions, was sublime. The sticky toffee pudding was lovely, neither too heavy nor too sweet; the good Cornish Yarg and Devon Blue cheeses would have been better with homemade biscuits not crackers. When we revisited in 2012, we were similarly impressed: the Brixham crab bisque was satisfyingly rich, the goat's cheese herb salad delightfully fresh, and the sea bass with white-bean cassoulet and brown shrimps was extremely good. The only disappointment was that my pudding was tepid, and would have been superb warm (rhubarb and coconut crumble with coconut ice cream). Tables are placed a good distance apart and the wine list is decent.

If you'd prefer something more low key, the bar food looked good; think fish cakes, butternut squash risotto and steak. Young children may eat in the bar, older ones in the restaurant, and children get their own menu.

Breakfast is a help-yourself buffet - stewed fruits, oaty muesli with dried bananas, mini pastries, toast with hotel-pot jams - and fresh cooked whatever you like from the kitchen; our smoked salmon and scrambled eggs was delish, and the Eggs Benedict among the best we've ever had. Juices are from a carton, which was disappointing, but the coffee and tea selection are good.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Follow Capability Brown's Pleasure Walk through woodland gardens to Longleat House, passing a few sculptures on the way

  • You can spend an entire day at Longleat - it's not just a safari park, though getting close to those lions and tigers is a thrill, and buying tickets at the hotel reception will give guests a 10% discount. As for the house, its 1,996 windows, 99 chimneys and 283 doors make it the grandest example of high Elizabethan architecture in Britain

  • In Horningsham itself is the oldest working Free Church in England, the remarkable Congregational Chapel (1566). Inside is untouched late Georgian, with galleries and hat pegs intact

  • Just 5 times a week the village bus runs to the market town of Frome. Dip into the shops on cobblestoned St Catherine's Hill, then tuck into a 'pastel de Nata' or a ciabatta at La Strada Café at the top of Conduit Street (the conduit still runs). Frome farmers' market, on the second Saturday of the month, is one of the West Country's best

  • Stourhead has one of the grandest landscaped parks in England, with lakes, a grotto, follies and trees. There's a rather fine mansion too, and a charming pub - all parcelled and packaged by the National Trust

  • Beautiful Bath has shops, museums, an Abbey, restaurants, pubs, cafés, Roman baths and the wonderful Thermae Spa. Book lunch at the city’s simplest, finest gastropub, the King William

  • Just outside Bath is Prior Park - lovely landscaped gardens owned by the National Trust, with lakes, grottoes and a Palladian bridge: don’t miss the 18th-century graffiti

  • Visit Glastonbury Tor - clamber to the top of King Arthur’s Isle of Avalon for a 160m-high view of the Somerset Levels; scamper down to buy some New Age crystals and roam the ruined abbey

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Wildlife

Kids

The Bath Arms is very well-suited for those with babies and young children. Cots and highchairs are available at no extra cost, extra beds for children over 3 can be added to most rooms, and babysitting is possible. Young children may eat in the bar, and older ones can join their parents in the restaurant. Children get their own menu (beans on toast, free-range chicken and chips, baked salmon); best of all, they can say hello to the inn’s rare-breed pigs, and visit the veg patch at the back to root out the odd onion or carrot!

The 900-acre Longleat Estate with its famous safari park and historic house is on your doorstep - guests receive a 10% discount on tickets bought from reception.

Best for:

Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

All 3 Deluxe rooms can have 1 or 2 extra beds fitted alongside the existing double bed - and are therefore perfect for families. You can also fit 1 extra bed (or, in some cases, 2 at a squeeze) in the Superior rooms.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
7/
Food
8/
Service
7/
Value
7/
Overall

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