The eighth and, by all accounts, final addition to the Pig universe (a bit like the Marvel one only trading planetary peril and wise-cracking superheroes for high-grade hospitality and casual country charm) ThePig in the South Downs is a porkin' corker. Tucked neatly down a winding country lane, just beyond the castle-topped town of Arundel, the hotel is made up of an inviting manor house and a series of artfully upcycled outbuildings – lofts, stables, sheds, fruit stores, wagons – all bedecked in trademark mix 'n' match styles (there's even the odd avocado bathroom – and it works a treat). The menu at the lawn-side restaurant is another locally sourced marvel, featuring even more than usual from the kitchen garden owing to its bounteous proportions and, in a Pig first, there's even a verdant vineyard, so if you squint a little on a sunny day, you'll think you've trotted off to some quiet corner of Provence.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £225.00, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates do not include breakfast (£13.50 for Continental; £18.50 for cooked).
All common areas are wheelchair accessible and there are a number of ground-floor rooms available on request.
At the hotel
Kitchen garden, vineyard, two treatment rooms, south-facing lawn terrace, free WiFi. In rooms: TV, larder stocked with locally sourced drinks and snacks, coffee and tea-making kit, air-conditioning and Bramley bath products.
Our favourite rooms
With a litter as good as this, it's hard to pick a favourite. In the main house, the roomy Room 2 (an Even Bigger Comfy Luxe) has unrivalled views over the vineyard, out by the stables the charming Chicken Shack had us clucking with delight and, for the ultimate romantic retreat, we'd be circling the Garden Wagons.
Tucked away at the back of the walled garden and through the old greenhouse are two Potting Shed treatment rooms. Naturally all treatments – mud wraps, revitalising facials and a range of restful rubs and scrubs – use only the most, well, natural products, with inspiration coming from the the soothing powers of the (nearby) sea.
Such are the restorative powers of the South Downs, the Bloomsbury Set would regularly decamp here in search of inspiration in the early 1900s, so some EM Forster or Virginia Woolf would make for fitting reading material.
The estate's original landowner Sir George Thomas lived in the main lodge while his architect, Joseph Bonomi, crafted something even grander. Such was Bonomi's local renown at the time, his name is even mentioned in Sense and Sensibility.
You're most welcome to bring dogs for walks around the grounds (avoiding the kitchen garden and other animal residents for obvious reasons) but they can't join human guests inside the hotel or restaurant. See more pet-friendly hotels in Arundel.
Very welcome. Kids portions are served in the restaurant, milk and baby food can be heated, extra beds can be added to some rooms (on request) and there are some interconnecting options in some of the outer buildings.
The Pig group long ago raised the bar for environmentally responsible hospitality and this latest outpost continues the admirable work. Sporting one of their largest kitchen gardens yet means even more from the famed 25-mile menu travels mere metres, the on-site mushroom house uses waste coffee grounds as fertile fungus-growing soil, and free-roaming chickens provide the eggs. There are small touches like the recycled-paper menus being themselves repurposed as napkin rings and coasters, and big-picture projects running apprentice schemes, supporting Hospitality Action and local children's charities too.
There are few better spots on a sunny day in Sussex than at one of the terrace tables looking out over the lawn and the vines beyond.
As relaxed as it gets, but pack a few florals and you'll pair nicely with the parasols; a dash of burgundy and you'll blend in with the grapes.
It's fair to say that the Pig hotels have single-handedly changed our views on the humble conservatory. Here, a sweepingly widescreen one is home to the hub-of-the-hotel restaurant where chef Kamil Oseka and his team of foragers and gardeners combine to craft a 'What on Earth do I choose?' menu from the finest ingredients in the surrounding 25 miles. The colossal walled allotment plays a starring role, providing vegetables, herbs, mushrooms and fruits (it even has a kiwi tree) for all manner of dishes – everything else is fetched from nearby farms and fishermen. To keep things even more local, this is the very first Pig with its own vineyard, planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines that should provide around 4,000 bottles a year (and a nickname for this outpost, perhaps: Porc au vin).
Arundel-brewed beers, garden-garnished cocktails and a wealth of wines (including plenty of English blends, and the Pig Cut: a holiday-in-a-bottle collaboration with Tuscany's Tenuta Fertuna Winery) are served in the cosy lounge bar, with its resplendent red walls. There's also plenty of room on the terrace for alfresco sipping and a few further indoor nooks to cosy up in – we loved the fire-warmed, painting-lined art room.
Breakfast is served 7–10am (half an hour later on weekends), lunch is noon to 2.30pm; dinner (for which bookings are a must) is between 6.30pm and 9.30pm. Food is served in the bar from noon until 9pm; drinks are available until midnight.
The Pig in the South Downs is in a quiet corner of West Sussex surrounding by rolling hills and chocolate-box villages, just 48 miles from London.
You're conveniently placed for Gatwick airport, about an hour or so's drive away. Southampton airport serves fewer destinations but is similarly close.
Amberley and Arundel stations are equally close to the hotel but Arundel is better placed for picking up a taxi and served by more routes. Trains there run from three major London hubs – Victoria, Blackfriars and London Bridge – and take no more than an hour and 35 minutes.
The entrance is down a narrow country lane so be sure to stick to the 20mph limit and be prepared for the odd hasty reverse to a passing place. There's a sizeable car park when you arrive and you're well placed for some South Downs daytripping.
Worth getting out of bed for
Virginia Woolf herself summed it up when she wrote that the South Downs were ‘enough to float a whole population in happiness if only they would look.’ With deliriously green hillsides, whimsical rural villages, and fabled chalky cliffs ascending from the sea, it’s no wonder that so many writers found solace here. Trace the footsteps of Tennyson on the Black DownandSerpent Trail, through ancient woodland and belts of heather, or, if you’re feeling particularly sprightly, take the 87km West Sussex Literary Trail, where the spirits of Blake, Shelley and Keats lie amongst England’s pleasant pastures seen. If all that walking has left you parched, refuel with a glass of English sparkling (or even a full afternoon tea) at the Tinwood Estateor try the tasting rooms at Digby. A short drive away, Chichester Cathedral is home to rare medieval sculptures, roman mosaics, modernist masterpieces and contemporary offerings alike – keep your eyes peeled for Marc Chagall’s imposing stained glass window. Whilst you’re in the neighbourhood, Goodwoodis home not only to all manner of automobile antics throughout the year (with the famed Festival of Speed in July and Revival in September), but also to a superb art collection with works from Van Dyck, Canaletto and Stubbs, along with the personal collection of Louise De Kérouaille, King Charles II’s favourite (and most expensive) mistress. No trip to South Downs is complete without a visit to Arundel, a fairytale town complete with a majestic 11th-century castle, a resplendent Gothic-Revival cathedral, Jacobean gardens and many antique, militaria and artisan boutiques. Head south to see Sussex’s greens fade to blue with miles upon miles of coastline, beaches (the secluded shingle of Climping is just eight miles away) and nostalgic seaside towns. For a bit more buzz, Brighton is about 50 minutes drive.
Local favourite, the Parsons Table in Arundel specialises in bold, French-influenced cuisine with a focus on seasonal ingredients. Seafood fans with an eye for architecture will be well served at the Thomas Heatherwick designed East Beach Café on the shores of Littlehampton. The Highdown, in Goring-on-Sea adds lashings of grandeur to its gastro-pub trappings – just the place for an indulgent Sunday roast.
The Black Rabbit is a quintessentially English pub overlooking the Arun river. In warmer months, enjoy something chilled in the shade of a weeping willow. Come winter, take refuge among the lanterns, cosy oak beams, and roaring log fire inside. (For a taste of the countryside, try the Badger beer, brewed in Dorset since 1777.) For something closer to home, visit the George and Dragon, a 13th-century pub, reputed to be amongst the oldest in Sussex. It’s said that King Charles II stopped at the pub when fleeing the Battle of Worchester and, with exceptional views over the Downs, an impressive wine list, and a variety of cask ales to boot, we’d be tempted to do the same. If you become partial to the locally brewed beers being served at the hotel, stop in at the Brew House Projectto sample a few at source – you might even catch some live music.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this Sussex estate and unpacked their Virginia Woolf novels and stash of English sparkling wine, a full account of their bucolic break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Pig in the South Downs…
We're grateful to the Pig hotels for many things – the genial service, the 'shabby chic' stylings of Judy Hutson, the fierce commitment to sustainability and homegrown produce, their recipe-rich cookbook which kept us going through lockdown – but with this said to be the final addition to their laudable litter, the wordsmiths here would also like to take this opportunity to thank them for inspiring a decade of porcine punning.
The Pig in the South Downs, like all its sibllings, is worthy of plenty of superlatives, too, of course. Here you'll find another masterfully modified manor house, hugged by a wowing wraparound conservatory restaurant, and some superbly spruced outbuildings, the uses of which might be apparent – the apple store, the hayloft et al – but they've really found their calling as sylvan suites. Any adjectives used to desribe the menus – food and drink – are, in all honesty, trumped by a simple command: try everything – preferably twice.
As for doing words, well, there's castle-touring, wine-sampling, antique-rummaging, beach-hopping, art-admiring, nature-trailing and pint-sipping aplenty. So if you'll allow us to ham it up in summary, this is another fine swine. Can we call it a stycation? (Sorry, that's truly our lot.)