This listed, 18th-century inn is the sort you always hope will await after a long journey (but so often doesn’t). It presides over Horningsham, a lovely village of thatch and cottage gardens which forms part of the Longleat Estate.
The Bath Arms’ fortunes have fluctuated in recent years, but now there is an air of rejuvenation when crossing its ancient stone threshold because it is the latest addition to the group that brought fresh elegance to West Country haunts the Beckford Arms, Talbot Inn and Lord Poulett Arms.
What is this place?
The prettiest pub for miles, with its vivid Virginia creepers and pollarded lime trees known as the Twelve Apostles and Four Disciples. Stripped back then sensitively and smartly redone earlier this year, the space has original flagstones, generous fireplaces and a bar of polished oak, retaining watering-hole integrity for walkers and talkers. History meets more modern good taste in the dramatically dark lobby dressed in velvet and leather, the moodily blue restaurant and The Loft, a former skittle alley now sporting a shiny mahogany table for private suppers. There is also covered-garden dining out back. Bedrooms of calming, deeply comfortable simplicity – 16 in all – are split across the main building and stable annexe, with a couple of dog-friendly ones and various configurations for families.
Behind the scenes
With three successes under their belts – plus two Beckford Bottle Shops – Charlie Luxton, Dan Brod and Matt Greenlees have an assured fourth here. Farrow & Ball colour guru Patrick O’Donnell has made much of natural light, while Bramley bathroom potions, from Luxton’s wife Chloë, now include the nicest hand sanitiser found anywhere. Publican Floyd Mason has come via other inns in the pack, as has head chef Jack Chapman.
If you can resist bar snacking – cheese beignets, truffled chips and crab rarebit might just still be on the menu – there’s prime estate and farm produce being served at the restaurant: breast of guinea fowl with mushroom purée, greens from Bromham and crisp cubes of polenta; 28-day-aged steaks; South Coast-landed fish. Puddings such as the dark-chocolate brownie come with local Lovingtons salted-caramel ice cream. Some order the ploughman’s for lunch just so they can say ‘Twanger Cheddar’, while maple-roasted squash and sage pesto liberally scattered with seeds is a tasty vegetarian option. Rosé and delicious pink cider were top summer choices; now I’d opt for Puglian Negroamaro, Notios from the Peloponnese or draught Keystone beer.
Who comes here?
Shooting parties, Cornwall stopovers and cyclists (the village is on several scenic routes). And, of course, families for Longleat’s Festival of Light in winter and safari park in summer.
There are hooks aplenty in rooms, plus teapots, radios and biodegradable amenity kits; ‘don’t take me’ refillables in bathrooms; and tiny milk bottles that are delivered to doors early in the morning. And – joy – everywhere, the lighting is right.
We don’t like
Tricky keyholes close to door jambs are made worse by the hefty key fobs, especially for left-handers. Jury’s out on the coffee.
Address: The Bath Arms, Horningsham, Wiltshire BA12 7LY
Telephone: +44 1985 844 308
Price: Doubles from £100.
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