Get away: The perfect hotel for R&R
Howard’s House is a very sweet hotel in a tiny Wiltshire village called Teffont Evias (and no, I don’t know how to pronounce it either), not far from Salisbury. The village is mostly a church, a stream, lots of cows, and the hotel, but that’s sort of the point. It’s the kind of place that’s perfect for curling up on the sofa and waiting for someone else to sort out the log fire.
The hotel is in what was once the local estate’s dower house. Built in 1623, it has all the honey stone and heritage interiors you’d expect, but rest assured, it’s been updated with mod cons since then – it’s warm and welcoming, with a big open fire in the sitting room.
There are only ten rooms, and they’ve recently been refurbished. Don’t expect cutting-edge design – think more along the lines of old-school country house (see below). The beds are firm and super-comfy, the quilts are warm as toast, and the village is so quiet that you have every chance of sleeping like a log. Fellow guests were definitely more grown-up than groovy, but that suited us just fine for a weekend getting away from it all.
The hotel has oodles of old-fashioned charm – there’s no reception to speak of, it’s all about popping your head round the office door or into the kitchen. It’s comfortably informal, like staying at a friend’s house, only with particularly good wine at your disposal.
In fact, it’s on the food and drink side of things that Howard’s House really shines. The chef, Nick Wentworth, has a Michelin-starred background – he was part of team at the Chesil Rectory in Winchester—and is busy working on making this hotel restaurant into something really special. The menu changes daily, and he offers a tasting menu as well as table d’hote and a la carte dishes, with many of the ingredients coming from the hotel’s garden, and others from local suppliers as much as possible. My scallops with creamed leeks, black pudding and apple puree were exquisite, and my husband raved about his lamb so much that I felt duty-bound to help myself to some of it.
We spent a chilly November weekend at Howard’s House, and it was perfect for our purposes (exhaustion!) though I imagine it would be incredible in summer, as the pretty gardens, which we glimpsed briefly through more or less torrential rain, include a large patio and croquet lawn, below – again, all very country house. It would be amazing to rent out for the weekend for a big gathering of friends or family.
Rates are reasonable for a special occasion jaunt – we used our anniversary as an excuse and came off £300 lighter after a double room with a four-poster bed, a three-course dinner and breakfast. Would I go back again? For sure. We didn’t get the chance to do any walking in the Nadder Valley – it was a bit muddy, even for me – or to explore Salisbury properly and maybe check out the Charter 1227 restaurant in the Market Square, which looks like it’s worth a trip in itself, but maybe next time.
It’s also worth knowing that the owners of this lovely indie hotel (who just happen to be from Tring!) are happy to give you and your family or friends the run of the entire place if you want somewhere to celebrate all together. Food for thought over Christmas?
The Muddy Verdict:
Good for: Couples wanting to get away from it all; romantics with a taste for nostalgic England; those who don’t want to travel too far for their pleasures (it takes about 2.5 hours from Tring).
Not for: Those searching for pulsating nightlife. Save your hotpants for another time.
£££: Double rooms with breakfast start from £190. It’s £35 surcharge for kids and £15 for your pooch. Exclusive use of the hotel is £2350. Throughout Dec (excluding 24-26), a 3 night stay with Xmas tasting menu, and fizz and treats in your room on arrival is £675 for two people.
Howard’s House, Teffont Evias, Salisbury, Wilts. SP3 5RJ. 01722 716392. howardshouse.co.uk