Timbrell’s Yard is everything a fresh-air-and-flop break should be, with a storybook riverside perch, farm-to-table food and oak-beamed rooms dressed in feather-grey weaves and bold-patterned prints. Scandi-style sheepskins sit on wicker furniture and patchwork tiles add contemporary punch, yet the character of this 18th-century listed building is sensitively preserved in exposed stonework and leaded arch windows. At the bar, guests and locals sup craft ales and West Country ciders by the fireplace, while outside the Avon swirls lazily towards nearby Bath.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £100.62, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates usually include cooked breakfast and a buffet of home-made granola, pastries, yoghurt, fruit and juice.
Each February there’s a pancake race across the town bridge. Flippin’ brilliant.
At the hotel
Terrace, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, digital radio, free bottled water, tea- and coffee-making facilities, Bramley bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The best views over the river are through the head-to-toe windows of a Mezzanine room. In the main building, room 106 (a Large Double) is a second-floor hideaway with antique artefacts, larch-panelled walls and a window-side freestanding tub.
A tome or two – those window seats are made for a good curl-up. Jane Austen lived in these parts, and she’s got a decent back catalogue.
The common areas are wheelchair accessible, but unfortunately the rooms are not. Guests wishing to dine at the hotel are strongly recommended to book a table, as the restaurant is popular with guests and locals alike.
Pets are welcome with prior arrangement; a flat fee of £10 applies. Dogs are treated to a box of goodies on arrival, and bowls and blankets are available. They mustn't be left alone in the room unless they're in a secure crate, damages are chargeable.. See more pet-friendly hotels in Wiltshire.
All ages welcome; children are classed as up to 12 years of age. Extra baby cots (free) and beds (£20 a night, includes breakfast) can be added to Large Double and Mezzanine Double rooms.
Head chef Luke Gibson and menu mastermind Tom Blake – formerly of River Cottage – have scoured the West Country to bring the best of the local area to the Timbrell’s Yard tables. Dry-aged beef from Bristol, port-to-plate fish from Bridport and fresh Cornish crab are a few of the perennial favourites. The most local of all are the bread, biscuits and cakes, baked in-house daily. And, if you've booked the dinner, bed and breakfast rate, you'll each get a £27.50 credit to spend in the restaurant.
This is a proper bar, the kind you’d settle down in even if your fluffed-up pillow wasn’t an ever-so-slightly-tipsy totter away. There’s a lot to take in (literally): craft spirits, local ales, a curated wine list, and of course a range of West Country ciders. The Cornish Martini is the pick of the cocktails, shaken up from Tarquin’s gin, dry vermouth from Hampshire, and a twist of rhubarb.
Breakfast is served from 7.30am until 11am Monday to Saturday, and from 8am to 10.30am on Sundays. The full restaurant menu is available from noon to 3pm and from 6pm to 9.45pm, Monday to Saturday; on Sundays, the restaurant closes at 9pm.
Timbrell’s Yard is in the centre of the teentsy town of Bradford-on-Avon, looking out over the river. It’s seven miles to Bath, or three miles in the other direction to Wiltshire’s county town, Trowbridge.
Bristol airport is 26 miles to the west; it takes about an hour to get to the hotel by car (£45 in a taxi). The nearest major hub is Heathrow, which is two hours away; a taxi should cost around £100.
Bradford-on-Avon station is a two-minute walk from the hotel. There are regular trains to Bath (15 minutes), Bristol (30 minutes) and beyond (direct to Cardiff, Portsmouth, Weymouth and Worcester). From London it takes less than two hours; take the express from Paddington to Bath or Westbury and change to a local line.
The M4 links London to Bristol – come off at junction 17 towards Bath, then follow the A350 and A4 onto Bradford Road. For car hire, the best local options are in Bath. On arrival, park up in one of the two public car parks next to the hotel.
The Kennet and Avon canal runs just to the south of the town centre – if you’re in no hurry and proud of it, you can chug to Bath and back in a couple of days.
Worth getting out of bed for
Perhaps the best reason to throw off the duvet here is: cheese. Isn’t it always? The house cheese-board comes with a choice of West Country wedges including Wookey cheddar, Dorset Blue Vinney, and Glastonbury Driftwood. If it’s too hard to choose, you know what to do. Out and about, the hottest heritage in town is the Tithe Barn (Pound Lane), a 14th-century monastic hall with a timber cruck roof the architect must have been really chuffed with. National Trust treasures Great Chalfield Manor and Westwood Manor are close by too, to indulge your historic-house-owning daydreams. Over in the Unesco-protected spa city of Bath, visit the internationally renowned Roman Baths (it’s a museum, no trunks required), or gulp in the fresh air and panoramic views on the Bath Skyline Walk. Tip your bonnet to the city's most celebrated resident at the Jane Austen Centre, visit theThermae Bath Spa for a restorative soak, or make a pilgirmage to mystical ancient site Stonehenge (an hour's drive from the hotel).
The Fat Fowl is an easy-going bistro with a family-friendly café upstairs. Wiltshire’s own Walter Rose & Son butchery supplies the meat, and the fresh fruit and veg is from gourmet grocer, Eades of Bath. Don’t forget to try the house-made ice-cream, whipped up with Jersey cream. The Weaving Shed serves up British faves right on the riverbank; try the black pudding with apple ketchup, or the haunch of Wiltshire venison. The Bunch of Grapes has the air of an Aquitaine bistro, and the duck à l’orange to match it. In Bath, stop into Sally Lunn's for indulgent cream teas starring Miss Lunn's eponymous 'bunns', roll the dice with a surprise multi-course meal at Menu Gordon Jones or enjoy laiddback budget-friendly fare at Same Same But Different.
Nestled on the edge of the River Avon is a blonde stone building, humble and impressive. Around it are lofty green trees wrapped in winding roots, and wildlife – proper squirrels and pure white swans.
The building, the waitress proudly tells Mr Smith and I over dinner, is a Grade II-listed old dye mill now known as Timbrell’s Yard, our home for the next couple of nights.
From the moment we step inside we notice the considered and meaningful effort to pay homage to that original design – well-loved wooden surfaces, a stone fireplace with a wood burner, exposed brickwork, beams… There’s the natural scent of damp logs, chopped for the stove, and – even better – the aroma of something homely and sweet baking away somewhere close.
Which is all to say if you’re looking for a flashy, silver-spoon stay, this is not your place. The Yard is closer to an old-fashioned inn and I love, love, love it for that. The open bar and restaurant give the hotel a pubbish charm which extends to its cosy furnishings and warm atmosphere.
This is not a hotel to dip in and out of while eating and drinking elsewhere – you wouldn’t want to. The booze is good, the food is amazing and the people are welcoming and kind.
There’s a relaxed informality about the whole place which, if you’re willing to get involved with, will make your stay that much more enjoyable. Staff muck in without a sense of hierarchy or snobbery. They’re busy but happy to chat, friendly, accommodating, know their stuff and seem to have a genuine love for the place. It’s infectious. You feel like you’re staying the night at some big family party, rolling up to bed after a big meal. It’s not difficult to imagine how adorable Timbrell’s Yard must be at Christmas time.
My only slight sigh of disappointment comes in our room. Perhaps this is because we were so spoilt on arrival but I’d liked to have seen that devotion to the design of the mill and its character captured here. It was a little too modern, a little lacking in personality. Still, it’s clean, simple and comfortable; all white linen and big windows over the river. (And to be fair, completely accurate to the photographs on the website, the hotel is not trying to hide anything from its future guests.)
There’s no bath, which I do miss – unless I’m away for work, a tub is a usually a must for a holiday. And there’s no phone in the room either, which means going downstairs if you want to ask a member of staff something, but I kind of like that in the end. It makes you feel at home – like you live at the pub, which was quite fun, for obvious reasons.
The food at the hotel is better than good. Overseen by chef Tom Blake, the menu is hearty and scrumptious. Both nights I have anxiety over which dessert to order. And, oh, the chips! The chips are unrealistically crunchy and fluffy at the same time, like mini canoes of roast potato. When I’m handed a tin of them to myself I sort of half expect to be arrested. All of these get to be mine…?
As for breakfast, it is hands down the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever had. An earnest offering on a large wooden kitchen table with homemade granola, yoghurt, fresh juice, jams and buttery pastries (and Marmite – thank god) all followed by an impressive menu from the kitchen: local and organically sourced farm produce; homemade porridge; baked beans; avocado on toast; freshly baked bread… Yum, yum, and yum again.
Full disclosure: there isn’t a huge amount to do in Bradford-on-Avon, though Mr Smith and I don’t mind that. My short morning run fulfils the escape from city life I was promised – butterflies, babbling sheep and plenty of fresh country air. There are cobbled streets, a couple of bric-a-brac shops and, less than a minute’s walk from Timbrell’s Yard, the most extraordinary teahouse tucked inside a thatched-roof cottage with low-beamed ceilings, sloping floors and a lot of ornaments. It’s like stepping back in time – chintzy cups, floral saucers, doilies everywhere, the girls in aprons, hats and everything. The Victoria sponge, lemon cake and scones with clotted cream served here are the real deal. And if you need a bit more city life, Bath is just a short drive away and has everything you could want or need, including its famous baths.
If you’re looking for tranquility and a slower pace of life, though, Bradford-on-Avon (only two and a half hours drive from London) is a romantically charming spot perfect for snuffling through odd shops and walking down tangly little lanes stuffed with clusters of crumbly houses and curios. At night, it gets really dark and the stars are really bright, the air is really clear and the cake (and the ice cream, and the cheese) is just, well, really good. Timbrell’s Yard suits its surroundings perfectly.