‘Relaxed-family friendly-quirky’ is the formula of this relative newcomer – it reopened as a hotel in 2013. A mile outside Bradford-on-Avon on Trowbridge Road, it’s in open country up a drive in spreading grounds. Our first impressions were of relaxation and homeyness – lived in, genuine, and though there are quirky elements, it’s not contrived. Furniture in the two downstairs sitting rooms is 18th or 19thC, high-back armchairs with tartan fabric or deep buttoned leather, in keeping with the building’s 18thC roots. Rugs soften the original grey flagstone floors.
The main dining room has pleasing distressed white-painted chairs in different styles and there’s second conservatory dining room where dog owners eat. The food is ambitious and fairly priced. The gin bar, manned on our visit by friendly Attila from Romania, is a cosy den with around 150 choices of craft gin and a helpful menu to help you make your choice from the dizzying alternatives. Bar stools are refashioned tractor seats – many of hotel’s quirky decorative artefacts are recycled farm equipment.
A pleasantly creaky staircase takes you to the main building’s bedrooms, behind stripped pine doors on a wide passage painted deep green. The two best bedrooms are the Artist’s Room, where the flat-screen TV is mounted on an easel; and The Music Room where the wash basin is mounted on a bike whose handlebar basket contains a violin and a violin case the tea and biscuits. Bedrooms in the adjacent stable block are more like hotel bedrooms than rooms in a home, but comfortable. An attractive, long but narrow pool is in another outbuilding, also housing the gym. Leave time to contemplate the amusing engine-part sculptures in the garden.
A grange is a gentleman farmer’s house, typically with farm buildings close by, possibly less grand than a manor house but one up from a farmhouse. One might say the same of Widbrook, several steps up from the B & B it once was, but without the pretensions of a posh country house hotel. That’s a valuable niche, especially as staying here is a great way of doing Bath. The most hassle-free way to visit the spa city is on foot, taking the 10-minute train ride from Bradford-on-Avon.