I had the great pleasure of staying at the Pig Hotel near Bath, last weekend. It was a bit of an impromptu booking; I was going to a wedding in the area and my sister was supposed to be putting me up, but her husband came down with something unknown (man flu?) and I didn’t want to catch it! I have wanted to stay at the “original” Pig Hotel in the New Forest for quite some time (I’m even more keen to now, especially as it’s supposed to have the most amazing spa) and so when I saw that they had some availability I jumped at the chance to grab a room.
Long-term readers will know that I book nearly all of my travel through a service called Mr & Mrs Smith; it’s a kind of curated selection of the most luxurious or unique or interesting hotels. You can almost always guarantee that if you book through them, the hotel will be pretty great. Often spectacular. They inspect the properties regularly and send out anonymous reviewers (I sometimes do some super-sleuthing for them!) and they are very good at listening to feedback from customers. They also have a membership scheme with various tiers – starting off at Blacksmith, which is free, and offers quite brilliant perks, including a special gift or surprise at every hotel you book into, and moving through Silversmith up to Goldsmith, which is a full-on concierge service with enhanced perks. Think cheap Eurostar, free room upgrades, half-price stays at newly-introduced hotels… You can take a look at the memberships here, but I would highly recommend signing up to Blacksmith – it’s free, and you can get loads of discounts for online shopping, including luxury beauty brands.
Anyway, I booked The Pig near Bath through Smith. Because I have Goldsmith I get a room upgrade, if it’s available, so I just booked the cheapest room (“Snug”) in the hope that something nice would be free when I checked in! It was a Sunday night, so I thought that it was a reasonably sensible risk. Lo and behold, there was a “Cosy” room with my name on it. I expected the room to be on the small side, but it was actually quite spacious – enough room to swing a cat, most definitely, and were I the type of person who travels with a yoga mat then there would have been plenty of space to unroll it and have a serene stretching session on the lovely polished floorboards. (I’m not that kind of person. I went straight to the in-room “larder” to see which retro snacks and sweets it stocked and then I got into bed with a glass of Coke to watch a documentary on Michael Jackson.)
The Pig near Bath feels very much like you’ve landed in some kind of fashion campaign shoot. For Ralph Lauren, perhaps, or Aquascutum. It’s a large, old country house, with creaking floors and big fireplaces and you almost don’t feel as though you’ve come to a hotel at all; more a big weekend away at someone’s rich uncle’s country estate. There’s a brilliantly quirky bar downstairs, with a wall of weird cocktail ingredients and there’s a billiards room (course there is!) and in the hallway there are dozens of pairs of wellington boots in every imaginable colour, all lined up and waiting to be borrowed. It’s all a lot of fun. Add to this the fact that all of the staff seem to have come straight from university – I don’t think there was a person over thirty – and you get a kind of Tatler-meets-Shoreditch-meets-The-Hamptons kind of vibe. (The staff thing is not a criticism, by any means – and I may be wrong – they could all just look young. The service was polite but not stuffy, attentive but not weirdly cloying and nothing was too much trouble.)
I should really have done a bit more digging about when I was there, but I didn’t check in until 9pm and I went to sleep at 11, so I didn’t get the chance to poke about the place as much as I usually would. (Non-pregnant me would have tried at least three of the cocktails, climbed into precarious spots in order to see into the other bedrooms and done a bit of a hike around the grounds. I was knackered after the wedding and also stuffed full of food, so I couldn’t even do dinner at the restaurant! The restaurant, incidentally, is actually the focal point of The Pig near Bath. The whole thing is styled as “restaurant with rooms” rather than “hotel with restaurant” and I am gravely sad that I didn’t have the time or tummy space to eat some of the locally-sourced – or “foraged” – food.)
I did, however, sample pretty much everything from the exemplary breakfast spread – fresh eggs from the chickens outside, poached pears, buttery soft pastries, just-squeezed fruit juices, local bacon and sausage – and after breakfast did a bit of rootling about to check out the other types of room available.
My room, the “Cosy”, was in the main house. Now I can’t vouch for the other rooms in the house, but it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that I could hear quite a bit of music coming up from the restaurant below. I am notoriously picky about noise in hotel rooms – it angers me more than any other issue – and had I not been so unbelievably tired I would have asked to be moved. It wasn’t outrageously noisy, like thumping bass or anything like that, but I kind of feel as though things should be as peaceful and quiet as possible if you’re out in the country and looking for some R&R. I get the feeling that it would only be the rooms directly over the public spaces that you’d hear any noise, but my recommendation would be that – if you’re noise-intolerant, as I am – you book a room that’s separate from the main house. Or ask which rooms in the main house are the most quiet. I usually do that when I book, but excitement overwhelmed me this time and it totally slipped my mind!
Anyway, the odd bit of music by no means ruined anything – my room was spacious, the bed was incredibly comfy and the monsoon shower hot and powerful – but I could imagine that if it was the height of summer and you wanted your windows open, it might be a bit of a nuisance if you wanted an early night. Hark at me, the OAP!
I’d definitely book in again, even if it was just to have an excuse to eat in the lovely greenhouse restaurant, but I still need to get down to the one in Hampshire, so we’ll see. Overall, I loved the whole atmosphere of the place with its rubber wellies and tree hammocks and stuffed animal heads and comfy armchairs. My room cost £169 on a weekend rate, but it’s cheaper on a weekday. Prices climb quite dramatically for one of the standalone rooms in the grounds – around £275 – but it’s always worth checking Mr & Mrs Smith for offers and discounts. Members also get a rather special gift at The Pig; a Kitchen Garden Cocktail Kit with lovely gins and vodkas and herby stuff and recipes to tell you how to muddle everything together. I’ll be cracking into that later on this summer!