Weekend breaks


Looking for a countryside bolthole where you can fully romanticise the colder months? The Bradley Hare has all the homely design flourishes and winter checklist activities you’re looking for. Lauren Kate Hughes took a trip to picturesque Wiltshire to revel in the cosy season.

As far as seasons go, once Christmas festivities are out of the way, winter looks a little bleak compared to the fresh optimism of spring or the sunshine-filled hedonism of summer. But, for me, winter is the time we can embrace some of life’s greatest pleasures; wrapping up in heavy wool throws, reading by roaring fires, making the most of the morning light with brisk winter walks, indulgent bubble baths, the gentle flicker of candlelight and tucking into steaming plates of comfort food; the list goes on.

If you want to fully embrace the winter months with a cosy getaway, you’d be hard-pushed to find a more worthy spot than The Bradley Hare, an impeccably decorated boutique hotel and fancy pub in the village of Maiden Bradley, a few miles outside Warminster in Wiltshire. It’s no surprise that this country inn’s interiors exceed expectations, considering the rooms have been designed by James Thurstan Waterworth, ex-European Design Director of Soho House.

Boasting roll-top baths, unique 18th and 19th-century furnishings and roaring fires in the colder months, the 12 individually designed rooms are the epitome of countryside chic, with bold colour schemes and contemporary artwork that offer a modern twist on the traditional cottage-core style.

The Bradley Hare has been open since 2021, located within the grounds of the Duchy of Somerset’s estate. Formerly The Somerset Arms, The Bradley Hare is a somewhat glossier remodelling of the former residence, elevating its offering not only with the swish interiors but also a fine dining restaurant that should be the focal point of any winter break.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the hotel’s open-plan dining room, which offers a more formal restaurant area, cosy snug, a botanical-adorned bar and adjoining reading room, with the spaces warmed by open fires and lit by flickering candles in the evening.

Pascale Vickery, who was previously at the highly acclaimed neighbouring hotel The Newt, is in the kitchen serving up creations that balance comfort food and fine dining. It’s been praised by the likes of legendary London food critic Jay Rayner, providing some confidence that we were in for a real treat of a meal as we pulled up our chairs for a candlelit dinner.

For me, there’s something about eating a decadent meal tucked away in a country pub that feeds my soul in a way that other meals can’t. And The Bradley Hare menu has all the goods; ham hock terrine with apple ketchup, tender shoulder of mutton, whipped cod’s roe, and wonderfully stodgy Ricotta gnocchi. It’s food that leaves you satisfied.

During our visit, we also tried our hand at cocktail-making in the hotel’s adjoining event space. On the drinks menu was a Hare on the Rocks, a delightful blend of Pamplemousse Rose, Campari and Prosecco, as well as, my personal favourite, a Damson Sour, which fuses Damson and Sloe gin with the usual components of a sour. Extremely drinkable! The Bradley Hare prides itself on its unique cocktail menu, which adapts through each season to create the right cocktail mood.

If you do want to venture outside the hotel (and no judgement if your agenda consists of comfort food, cosy reading sessions and decadent bubble baths) National Trust property Stourhead is just a seven-minute drive away and offers 2,500 acres of unspoilt countryside to explore. And, if you want a break from driving in general during your stay, as the property is set in a quiet, rural village, you have access to a countryside walk within five paces of the front door.

If you’re looking to escape to the countryside to a cosy retreat with roaring fires, excellent food and some friendly faces behind the bar, The Bradley Hare is it. Striking the balance between chic interiors and elevated food with good old-fashioned hospitality, it’s the ideal choice for a weekend getaway where you can really unwind.

For more information visit thebradleyhare.co.uk

Escape To The Maynard in The Peak District is exactly what our girl, Rachel McAlley did. She fancied a little January weekend away, and the Peak District had been put on her radar by some friends. Only a couple of hours drive from her home in North Yorkshire she packed up her family in the car and set off for a few days in Derbyshire.

The Peak District National Park is extremely picturesque, filled with hills and green spaces for miles. It’s a great place for walkers and cyclists as it’s got some excellent bespoke walks and paths for bikes. There’s plenty to see and do, like visit Chatsworth House, or the quaint town of Bakewell.

They Maynard from above
Escape To The Maynard in The Peak District – The Maynard Aerial View

We stayed at the recently revamped The Maynard Hotel, in Grindleford, which is situated in the Hope Valley. A gorgeous 3* Hotel that is 165 years old, which offers boutique-style accommodation and has an excellent onsite restaurant.

Escape To The Maynard in The Peak District

After our drive, which took in Meadowhall Shopping Centre, and Sheffield city centre, we checked in at around 6pm and the bar and restaurant were already buzzing with drinkers and diners.

You’d be mistaken if you thought January was going to be quiet at The Maynard. The restaurant is currently offering customers 30% off all meals from the main menu (Monday to Saturday until 29th Feb excluding Valentine’s Day), and every table was busy enjoying this great offer.

Our family room was located on the 2nd floor, and we embarked up the steps with our luggage. The first-floor landing has the most beautiful ornate window, and the décor of the whole hotel is beautifully put together. Rustic and charming with some wonderful contemporary additions.

We had a huge room with loads of space, perfect for my family of three. With two separate bedrooms and a large bathroom, complete with massive bath we unpacked and descended the stairs to dinner in the restaurant.

After checking out the menu, we ordered the hummus and baba ganoush with artisan breads, twice-baked cheddar cheese souffle with Hartington stilton sauce, and wild mushroom soup as starters. Our mains included roasted vegetable and quinoa salad with satay chicken skewers, bacon and cheese burger in a pretzel bun with triple-cooked chips, and chicken supreme with dauphinoise potatoes, spinach and bacon cream sauce. The desserts we chose were, apple, cinnamon and golden syrup sponge pudding, pavlova with mulled plums and Chantilly cream, plus a scoop of orange sorbet.

It’s good to note here that almost everything on the menu is Gluten Free, or can be made GF. This is because the Managing Director, Rob Hattersley is coeliac, and the Executive Head Chef, Adrian Gagea and the Head Chef, Greg Robinson have adapted the dishes to be naturally GF. This is a great additional pull for many people as the food is all created fresh in-house and everything is completely adaptable for any kind of food intolerance.

Everything we ate was delicious, and sourced locally, but the outstanding dishes were the cheese soufflé (the best I have ever eaten), the homemade mushroom soup, the chicken supreme, and finally the pavlova with divine mulled plums. We were insanely full after each having 3-courses, stuffed you might even say!

The atmosphere in the restaurant was excellent, the staff were attentive and knowledgeable, and everyone was friendly including both staff and customers.

We ventured up the stairs (which were quite difficult after the amount of food we’d consumed), and literally collapsed on to the bed. After a little Saturday night TV, we fiddled with the futon (which wasn’t the most comfortable bed) for our daughter, and then climbed into our super comfy king-sized bed and happily slept until morning.

Escape To The Maynard in The Peak District

Up early and opening the hotel room curtains to see lots of sunshine over the Peak District hills, and plenty of walkers already out walking with their dogs. It was really nice to see people enjoying the area around the hotel taking a brisk walk on a Sunday morning.

Breakfast beckoned and we strolled down to the restaurant where we enjoyed a lovely, hearty full English, sausage sandwich, and salmon with scrambled eggs and cream cheese muffin. Plenty of coffee, tea, and juice later and we were ready to check out and head to our next port of call.

I must give an extra special mention to the outstanding black pudding that came with the full English, as my fiancé drooled over every mouthful and said it was the best he’d ever tasted.

The reception team were lovely to deal with, happy to answer any questions I had about the local area, and eager to ask about our meal the night before. It’s always a pleasure to tell the reception staff how amazing the food is, especially when it’s as good as it is at The Maynard.

The family room we stayed in was priced at around £135 for our family of three and included breakfast. Dinner was priced individually and our meal plus drinks came to £97, this included the 30% new year discount offer.

After leaving The Maynard we headed to Bakewell (just 15 minutes away) to pick up a famous Bakewell Tart to take home, and enjoyed an afternoon shopping and walking on the riverside before driving home to North Yorkshire.

Huge thanks to the entire team at The Maynard for making us feel extremely welcome, and the hospitality was second to none.

Here are the details to visit The Maynard to book a room in the hotel or a table in the restaurant.

Where are you planning on visiting in 2024? Escape To The Maynard in The Peak District words by Rachel McAlley.

Looking for the perfect weekend getaway for literary lovers? Lauren Kate Hughes may just have found it in the Warwickshire countryside…

For literary fans, you’d be hard-pushed to find a destination more ideal than picturesque Warwickshire. Billesley Manor Hotel and Spa, nestled in the countryside of this charming county, offers a grand country house retreat that is steeped in history, with Shakespeare’s Stratford-Upon-Avon just three miles away.

The hotel itself has all the hallmarks of a romantic period manor house with its sprawling grounds that feature an 11th-century church and an ornate topiary garden inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s a particularly cosy place to go in the winter – wrap up warm and explore the grounds, safe in the knowledge of the cosy interiors that await back at the hotel.

Inside, the architecture stays true to its Tudor roots with original features and wood panelling. The elegant restaurant has retained its old-world charm; dining here feels like stepping back in time. It’s a refreshingly authentic property; Shakespeare wrote As You Like It on the premises and is thought to have married Anne Hathaway in the adjoining All Saints Church.

Billesley Manor Hotel and Spa

We visited Billesley Manor and Spa on a wintery weekend. Approaching the grand driveway, the impressive manor house looked warm and inviting, with twinkling lights adorning the trees outside. On our arrival, the welcome was just as warm, with friendly front-of-house staff who made us feel at home.

Now at this point, you may think that Billesley Manor is a tad… old-fashioned, but it’s quite the opposite. The property has had a lavish £5.6 million refurbishment, adding luxury touches to this 16th-century hotel.

It’s old-world charm meets top-notch amenities, complete with a relaxing spa area where guests can unwind after a long day’s sightseeing. We lazed by the pool reading idly and excitedly chatting about our evening of theatre ahead – the perfect place to unwind.

A visit to the Stuart restaurant should be on your list for a mini-break at Billesley Manor and Spa, with its impeccably presented dishes and friendly service. I sampled the cured salmon, which came adorned with edible flowers, followed by crispy trout on a bed of creamy mushrooms and fresh greens.

The parmesan potatoes also deserve a moment of appreciation. Afterwards, the snug-like bar is the perfect place to enjoy a nightcap. billesleymanor.com

What to do

Watch a play at the Royal Shakespeare Company

At the top of the list is a visit to the Royal Shakespeare Company, where you can watch a play in one of the country’s most iconic theatres. We braved the rain and ventured into Stratford-Upon-Avon, where the historic theatre takes pride of place in the centre of the bustling town. The beauty of Stratford is that it’s so small it’s easy to get around on foot, so you can walk from several charming pubs and restaurants to the theatre.

We were lucky enough to catch Cowbois in the Swan Theatre, which provided a raucous and surprising evening with its contemporary take on a western from Charlie Josephine. The play depicts a saloon bar in an isolated town, populated with only women (along with the town sheriff) whose husbands joined a gold rush months earlier and haven’t been heard from since.

Then Jack arrives, a handsome outlaw looking for refuge who subverts gender norms, and turns things on their head, making the townspeople question notions around their own identities. Fuelled by strong performances and some great vocal talent, it was a highly enjoyable evening.

Forthcoming shows in Stratford-Upon-Avon include the classic Shakespearean comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Ben and Imo, a powerful new historical play.

The Royal Shakespeare Company also offers shows in London at the iconic Barbican Theatre. Current productions in London include My Neighbour Totoro and Hamnet. You can find out more on the Royal Shakespeare Company website.

Enjoy Stratford’s classic pubs

You know the kind of quintessential British pubs you long for in a world of chain pubs, with roaring fires and friendly faces behind the bar? Stratford-Upon-Avon has them in abundance. Perhaps the most iconic is the Dirty Duck, situated right next to the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre, the walls are adorned with pictures of the actors who’ve performed at the theatre over the years.

The One Elm offers warming pub classics in a cosy setting; the perfect place to enjoy dinner before a show. If you fancy a spot by the river, Cox’s Yard is a lovely spot to watch the swans glide by.

Take a walk from Stratford to Shottery

The walk from Stratford to Shottery, the small village where Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is the focal point, offers quaint countryside views peppered with thatched roof cottages and pretty pubs. Take the walk along Scholars Lane and then follow the path across to Shottery. The whole circuit only takes an hour so it’s an ideal morning stroll.