The Bradley Hare in Wiltshire sits nestled amid the south west’s verdant hills and makes for the perfect rural retreat. Harriet Mallinson headed to this cosy country inn recently to see how well it suits a family weekend getaway.
Brambly Hedge crossed with Soho House is what greets us as we enter The Bradley Hare on a cold Friday evening – the epitome of stylish English conviviality aglow with a roaring fire, only mercifully with fewer fictional mice.
Candles glimmer on dark wooden tables, dogs slumber on the flagstones and peals of laughter and contented chatter fill the air as locals and guests alike settle into their weekend at this traditional Wiltshire village pub.
Dating back to 1865, the beautifully done-up property near the Somerset border offers country chic blended with period elegance (and some very friendly staff).
The Bradley Hare food is delicious and local
While children won’t care about the 19th-century Persian rugs, antique furniture or contemporary twists, they will like exploring the property (check out the milk station outside complete with syrups to concoct your own milkshake!), playing in the vast garden and feasting on the yummy kids’ menu featuring classics such as fish and chips, burgers and ice cream.
You won’t need to worry about fussy eaters whatever age your children, all the food is excellent at The Bradley Hare. The pub promises local and seasonal ingredients, and dishes on the main menu during our stay ranged from wild bass to beef sirloin, plus such interesting starters as chopped chicken livers and beetroot soup.
OK maybe these won’t tempt the young’uns, although they’ll likely enjoy the veggie option of cheesy gnudi (gnocchi’s lighter cousin) with delicata squash. You should also get them to guess what the whipped cod’s roe with devilled pigs skin will really be. I didn’t have a clue, but turns out it’s a fascinating cloud-like creation akin to pork crackling.
Desserts were relatively traditional, and our promises to eat “only a spoonful or two” of the chocolate delice and vanilla panna cotta were swiftly abandoned.
Big and little ones can be kept entertained
Before or after eating, do try and settle in around the main bar for a drink if you can, you’ll be chatting with the affable locals in no time (an excellent way to pick up tips for your stay!).
Colouring kits are available to keep youngsters occupied as you peruse the libations but, apart from that, the pub is currently a bit lacking when it comes to children’s entertainment . Although, there are four chess sets which older kids might like. And I’m told there are plans to stock up on more games, in the meantime you might want to consider bringing a few of your own.
The Bradley Hare rooms are luxuriously comfortable
Ready to hit the hay? The Bradley Hare boasts twelve homely bedrooms, seven in the main building and five in the Coach House, all of which are pretty spacious.
Cots are provided free of charge while additional small beds are available for an extra cost and two can squeeze in some of the bigger rooms if you have a sizeable brood. Luckily bedrooms can be booked next to each other, so loved ones can be seconds away if you need to spread out – which also makes it great for a multi-gen family getaway.
You might even think you’re at a friend’s luxury pad
In fact, staying in the main house is much like staying at a posh pal’s country pile. Sounds drift up from the below kitchen and dining areas; perhaps not ideal if you’re seeking an early night. And I half expect to hear a friend shouting up the stairs in the morning that breakfast is ready and does anyone know where Tilly put the orange juice?
Our large room came with a huge sink and gargantuan shower while others boasted stand-alone baths. All beds were supremely comfortable and I enjoyed the historical touches such as a dial telephone and lampshade made of antique sarees. There was even a full-length mirror with a candle holder on either side, like something out of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (what tales could it tell? Ones as old as time I assume…).
Breakfast at The Bradley Hare was a veritable straight-out-of-a-luxury-magazine countryside weekend idyll. A variety of papers were laid out and the buffet included croissants, superb granola, fruit, bread, spreads and yoghurt. At an extra cost, there’s also a choice of special options ranging from smoked salmon to pancakes. Although the chef apparently specialises in porridge, so don’t miss that one!
Fun days out are easy to organise nearby
Once you’re ready to face the day, there’s plenty to keep everyone happy outside the pub.
Fun fact, the village of Maiden Bradley takes its name from the priory for maidens founded in the 12th century (if you’re anything like my dad, jokey threats to misbehaving daughters at a minimum please).
Nearby Stourhead Estate is a National Trust property and worth a visit for its world-famous 18th-century landscape garden and house. Kids will probably be most impressed by imposing King Alfred’s Tower: a 160ft high folly built on the edge of the estate in 1771.
The Bradley Hare has several famous neighbours
For more history and culture, England’s smallest city, Wells, is just a short drive from The Bradley Hare. It’s home to an incredible 12th-century cathedral once described as, “the most poetic of the English Cathedrals”. And you should look out for a cake shop aptly named the Flapjackery, which I challenge any child to pass without begging to enter. Other notable destinations within easy driving distance include tiny, but beautiful, Bruton and historic Frome.
Bath of course is a huge local draw. The museums are excellent for bringing stories alive for children while kids’ audio guides and costumed characters immerse you in ancient life at the Roman Baths. For outdoor activities, there’s Victoria Falls Adventure Golf, as well as the Bath Skyline Walk family trail and the play area in Royal Victoria Park.
You can even go on a local safari at Longleat
Away from urban jaunts, wildlife lovers should visit Longleat safari park – who needs to fly to South Africa? There are tigers, lions, giraffes, hippos, meerkats, elephants, zebra and more roaming around as you drive. Just watch out for the cheeky monkeys though!
I suspect, unlike the jolly mice in Jill Barklem’s Brambly Hedge tales, none of the animals at Longleat can talk. And alas nor is there an anthropomorphised hare back at the pub as we’d hoped. But really that’s all that stops a getaway to this picturesque part of England being just like a storybook.
Plan your stay at The Bradley Hare
How to get there
The Bradley Hare is in Maiden Bradley, Wiltshire, 2 hours drive west of London.
Trains from London to Frome, Warminster or Gillingham take from 2 hours. The Bradley Hare is 15 minutes drive from all three stations.