Maiden Bradley is a small patch of English quaintness within the duchy of Somerset’s rarefied country estate, and on the Wiltshire border. All around is Cranborne Chase (a bonafide Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and Longleat safari park is close by.
Bristol Airport is the closest, just an hour’s drive away, where flights arrive direct from major cities throughout Europe. For those flying in from further afield, Heathrow is best, just under a two-hour drive away.
The hotel is deep in the countryside, but Bruton, Frome and Warminster stations are all around a 20-minute drive away; Frome is the most direct route from London, with services from Paddington taking around two hours.
You could hike your way around the Wiltshire Downs, but a car will make crossing those dreamy green expanses much easier – from English-accented safaris at Longleat, to Stourhead’s lush landscaping and fair-of-face villages, there’s plenty to see in the vicinity with the aid of wheels. And there’s a car park to the rear of the pub.
Worth getting out of bed for
They don’t give awards for outstanding natural beauty to just any old area – and both Cranborne Chase and the West Wiltshire Downs are thoroughly deserving of the designation. At the cusp of the West Country, there’s grassland, woodland, white-chalk edifices and more mystical landmarks: giant horses carved into hillsides, burial barrows of long-lost legend and stone circles. Of course, the most famous of the latter is the supposed druidic temple and solstice gathering site Stonehenge, a 30-minute drive from the hotel. And another Wiltshire curiosity that’s caused more spurious speculation is its come-and-go crop circles – for a chance of seeing them (or to admire the chalk filly carved into its side), climb up Westbury Hill. And, nearby Frome (pronounced ‘Froom’, DFL-ers), on the Somerset side of the border, has its fair share of dyed-in-the-hemp hippies, as well as as a fantastic flea market and a festival of music, art, theatre, food and more come July.
More classical English pastimes can be found closer to the hotel: pass by Bradley Hall, the lavish 17th-century pile that’s still home to the Duke of Somerset; romantically wander through the myriad mini temples, grottoes and towers dotting the lush landscaping of Stourhead, before a nose around the Palladian house; or tramp out to elegant folly King Alfred’s Tower (about a two-hour walk). Due north of the hotel, Longleat Safari Park has lions, tigers, giraffes and more exotic animals against the backdrop of an exceedingly grand manor (home to the Marquess of Bath). And Georgian glamourpuss of a city Bath is just a 40-minute drive away for tea shops, healing soaks and Austen-esque adventures. Back in the present, Hauser & Wirth’s beautiful gallery, surrounded by a perennially picturesque garden and neighbouring Durslade Farm Shop, has thought-provoking modern-art exhibitions.
The Bradley Hare is definitely the epicurean epicentre of the duchy, and you’ll want to book more than one meal there, but fertile farmland, game-roamed estates and untapped avenues for foragers give these counties a gastronomic edge. In nearby Bruton, Osip has wildflowers hanging from the walls of its bijou dining room (a former ironmongers) and menus that also plunder Somerset’s wilds. Definite dishes are hard to pin down, seeing as they change with the season, available produce and the chef’s whims, but they’re arranged by the menu du jour, or a six- or nine-course tasting menu. Past delicacies have included carrot financiers, blackened lamb with asparagus and mushroom and hazelnut cookies. The Bath Arms, on the Longleat estate, uses meat reared onsite and fish from the South Coast in its hearty yet modern pub grub. And, you’re deep in cider country, so wade in with a visit to The Newt, which has its very own cidery, plus extensive kitchen gardens, orchards and a resident forager.
Next door to Osip is its deli, the Old Pharmacy, for lighter lunches (carrots with magnolia and stracciatella, cucumbers with smoked cod’s roe, burrata, peach and runner bean salad) and bags of coffee, bottles of cider and wine, and pickled and preserved bits to take home. If you drive out to Bath, make a pit stop for lunch at Hartley Farm, which is worth a visit for its three cheese mac with Devon blue, Barber’s vintage and Wookey Hole cheddar. And the attached shop sells the region’s finest, from meat to sweets to fruit and veg boxes.
Late, cocktail-fuelled nights aren’t exactly a thing here, but there are plenty of creaky yet immensely comfortable pubs to get settled in, with dogs curled up in the corner, good old lads crowding the counter and a fire when things turn chilly. The Three Swans in Frome is one of Somerset’s oldest boozers, with a precariously towering roast dinner, god-tier pork pies and Scotch eggs, and plenty of local pulls lining the bar.