Sometimes you just get lucky. A friend of a friend or a colleague or someone you know from somewhere recommends a place to stay and it looks good online so you book it.
We’ve all been on the other end of this. Where you book someplace whose website looks marvelous and it ends up you saw the only flattering picture, or it’s next to a tip or is underwhelming or a bit smelly or just meh.
But this past weekend we had a winner. Every year we go away with another couple for an anniversary weekend. We both got married within days of each other and we all love to travel so in addition to our individual celebrations we make an annual getaway part of the celebration. We’ve been to Bologna, Copenhagen, Japan, Wales…and this year we went to the countryside in Hampshire. Originally we’d booked into a large hotel close to Basingstoke but wanted something more rural and intimate. That’s when we got the tip from a friend to check out The Peat Spade Inn (www.peatspadeinn.co.uk).
We arrived at the Peat Spade Inn and from the moment we drove into the carpark we were charmed. How can you resist a pub and inn when it’s located on a road called The Bunny? The building is set next to pretty houses and cottages with thatched roofs, with a view of the village church steeple. Inside, we checked in at the bar, surrounded by banquettes, tables and easy chairs with low lighting.
The Peat Spade has 8 rooms, some in the main building, some in an outbuilding. We stayed in the R.C. Bushell room, a double with a window that overlooks the village road, the inn’s sign and the war memorial across the road. There’s a desk, an ample cupboard and a good-sized bathroom with a roomy shower. In the minifridge in the cupboard, there was fresh milk for tea or coffee.
Fly fishing is the sport of choice around here, and it’s reflected in the decor throughout the pub — pictures of fisherman, a framed excerpt from a vintage fishing guide. The evening we were there, three fishing guides were having drinks in the bar, wearing their plus-fours and bright socks.
It all adds up to a cool retro feel, kept fresh by modern furnishings. Our room was tasteful, with rich wine-coloured patterned drapes that shut out the light form the pub sign, an ornamental fireplace, books, a Roberts radio (non-working) and attractive pictures, including a signed photograph of David Niven. “He’s so dashing and quintessentially English!” I exclaimed to my husband. “You’ll probably discover that he was a total dog,” he replied, without missing a beat, in a quintessential dry English tone.
We took a luxurious long nap before dinner, then had a meal in the restaurant downstairs. The menu is full of locally sourced fish, meat, cheese, even beer from the nearby Upham Brewery. The food was delicious – I had the local bream, my husband had venison – and breakfast the next morning was tasty as well (Eggs Benedict, full English, along with Dorset Cereals, orange juice, endless coffees and Teapig teas).
Nothing in life is perfect, of course. The service in the restaurant was at times slow and even a bit distracted. All the staff were nice yet they were also young and could have benefited from more training. We were told that most were new, so perhaps it was just a bedding-in period. In the end, these seemed like blips and we left with a great feeling about the pub, the food, the room and the entire weekend. We paid £99 for our B&B; on the site, rates seem to vary from £79 mid-week to £134 on weekend nights.
We saw younger children at breakfast the next morning. The pub and inn isn’t particularly geared toward younger children but then it’s not family-unfriendly either. We’d be happy to come here with our tween and teen. In fact, our room and the double next door (the S. Lloyd Stacey) would be ideal for this. They are set off from the main corridor by a separate door, making them feel almost like interconnecting rooms.
What to do nearby
This part of the country is so beautiful, making it great for outings with kids or as a couple.
The centerpiece of our weekend away was a visit to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery (distillery.bombaysapphire.com). I don’t drink gin but find breweries, wineries and distilleries interesting so was happy to be our designated driver. Even without a personal passion for gin and tonics, I loved the visit. The historic buildings – originally used to make paper for British Empire banknotes – are grand and imposing, with modern glasshouses, where you can see the live plants of the 10 botanicals in Bombay Sapphire gin.
You have to book a slot for the self-guided tour (£15 per person) or the guided version (£25). We did the self-guided version, which was incredibly interesting, with a great interactive section where you smell botanicals and choose the ones you like best — something that would definitely appeal to older kids. They even have mocktails, so under-18s could take advantage of the free drink that comes with any tour.
The response when I posted about it on Instagram was equally enthusiastic.
- Go fly fishing or take a taster session. Although we opted for a more chilled-out weekend, we investigated lessons through Upstream Dry Fly Fishing (www.upstreamdryfly.com)
- Go clay pigeon shooting. I LOVE shooting and can’t wait to come back another weekend to do it. I’ll be checking out Spitfire Shoot in Stockbridge (spitfireshoot.co.uk)
- Walk. We did a 2.5 hour circular walk from a spot just up the road. Afterward we stopped the Abbot’s Mitre pub in Chilbolton (www.abbotsmitre.co.uk) for a drink before heading back to London and they had fliers with a circular walk that starts right outside the pub. Walks can take you along the River Test, to the Anton Valley, up hills with gorgeous views and across footbridges where you can stop and peer down in search of trout in the crystal clear waters. We stood on one and watched a fisherman gracefully cast his line over and over. Beautiful and serene.
The Peat Spade Inn
Village St, Longstock, Stockbridge SO20 6DR
What are your favourite things to do in Hamphire, around Stockbridge or the nearby countryside? Share yours in a comment!
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