I definitely act differently when I'm with Mr Smith and I’m sure no one’s listening. Not in a weirdo, baby-talking kind of way, I’m just louder, I sing inappropriately, and I generally blather on about all sorts of embarrassing twaddle. So I was alarmed, on the final morning of our stay at this boutique hotel in Bath, to discover that the 'vacant' room next to us in the attic had, in fact, been occupied the whole time. Damn. My secret’s out. I’m not actually the cucumber-cool travelling sophisticat I like to make out to other guests at breakfast. No, I’m the one who let out that neighbour-disturbing howl in the middle of the night (at Mr Smith’s freezing bed toes), who turned up Rambo really loudly in our room (so I could hear it from the bath) and who generally screeched. A lot. Obviously I'm paranoid. After all, we didn't hear a peep from our neighbours all weekend, so it's doubtful they were aware of us either. Well, one can hope.
Rewinding to our first night, we were impressed to see the Bath Arms twinkling in the dark upon arrival, as fairy lights interlaced with ivy crept around the outside of the hotel. An inn on the Marquess of Bath's Longleat estate, we weren't sure whether to expect grand or humble lodgings – but this Mrs Smith was pleased to see a little serving of both. Just as they say inside every larger person is a thin version dying to escape, so inside this seemingly simple cosy pub was a network of surprisingly boutique-stylish boudoirs.
Check-in was a simple affair: just a handing over of keys and gin and tonics at the bar. Relaxed, drink-in-hand, we crept up wonky stairs and crouched under low ceilings, heading to our room Bird in the Hand. Taking a wrong turn, we briefly found ourselves in a treasure trove of a retro skittles alley. A long room crammed with invitingly soft Seventies brown leather armchairs and reading lamps and full of late-night whisky promise, we decided to return later for a midnight bowling session.
To our room. Past a hanging image of a scary topless girl (that was to signal arrival at Bird in the Hand from thereon in) and we were 'home'. Dripping in chalky tones, a huge pastel-French bed sits proudly in the room, and matching nightstands and a writing desk perch delicately under sloped old ceilings. Peeking through the latched cottage door to the bathroom, I was pleased to see a bundle of Apothecary goodies waiting for us. One quick unpack into a gorgeously-rickety old wardrobe later, and we were ready to head downstairs for more G&Ts-for-two.
Officially, we'd arrived too late for supper, but the restaurant fixed us a tasty 'It's ok, we can offer you a quick ham, egg and chips' supper. The pub may be cosy and the food straightforward, but the Bath Arms' restaurant is a dramatically draped affair of scarlet sumptuousness, chandeliers and candlelight. It's literally worth staying in for. When we mentioned to the girls behind the bar that we hadn't booked a restaurant for the following night, a little quiet 'tut tut' signified we'd have trouble getting a table anywhere in Bath (Smith tip: book your restaurants in Bath a week before arrival). But after the waitress rang her friend at Bath's favourite, the Cavendish Restaurant, hey presto: we were in.
But back to our Friday night, and lolling by the bar, two dogs ran circles around us as we sank into a deep red shiraz and an even deeper sofa. A hotch potch of embroidered cushions and old hunting pictures are mixed up with low nursing-style chairs and a birdcage-turned-bookcase. Full up and feeling tired at last orders, we retired to our room to watch Rambo (honestly, no euphemism) so I could sip a room-made elderflower tea (and wonder at exactly when I stopped being rock and roll) and so Mr Smith could sip a brandy before eight hours of blissful 'zzzs'.
I've been woken by some funny things in my time. Foxes screaming, car alarms, naked goths running down the street (I could tell they were goths from the long hair and eyeliner) – but this particular day, sunshine streaming through a tiny knee-height window next to my pillow roused me. One plateful of scrambled egg and salmon under the watchful eye of the Marquess of Bath later (the portrait, not the man himself) and we were ready to drive into Bath. But first, a quick detour – and near 'pig-napping' miss – past the hotel's three piglets inspired us to head across to Longleat House and Safari Park, just at the end of the lane. Two hours and one broken car aerial (those pesky monkeys) later, we left Longleat, whiling the rest of the day away in the boutiques and cocktaileries of Bath – a 40-minute drive away. Funniest moment of the day: Mr Smith twitching over his clotted cream scone in the Pump Room at the Roman Baths. What greater test of love than to miss the FA Cup Final for a cream tea with his wife?
Hand-dived, succulent scallops, butter roasted turbot and a secluded courtyard proved the Cavendish Restaurant was as excellent as we'd been promised – even if there were naff carnations on our table. Arriving back at the hotel and collapsing with food exhaustion, we flopped in the below-bedroom bar, glad of the short stagger upstairs to bed.
The ostriches, lions and lamas right under your nose at Longleat Safari Park make the Bath Arms a perfect family escape. But it's so much more than that. With high-design interior styling packaged inside a country-cosy pub setting just the right side of twee, this is a pass-the-parcel boutique-style surprise in the depths of Longleat countryside that's definitely worth unwrapping. But don't forget: no matter how cute they look, avoid those car aerial-loving little monkeys. At all costs.