Great British Boltholes: The Watership Down Inn is a dramatic treat in the heart of bunny country
- The Watership Down Inn, Hampshire, is a renovated Victorian pub with rooms
- There are three ‘modern country’ doubles in the inn plus four new garden suites
- Breakfast features local eggs, bacon and award-winning black pudding
As Downton Abbey finally hits the big screen on Friday, you may be interested to know that its glorious location is also home to another British classic.
This beautiful corner of the North Hampshire Downs is also Watership Down country, with its deep green forests and rolling wheat fields inspiring local writer Richard Adams’s classic novel.
Discover it all from the Watership Down Inn, a renovated Victorian pub with rooms, and popular with locals – including Adams, who celebrated his 93rd birthday here, three years before his death in 2016.
Full of character: The Watership Down Inn is a renovated Victorian pub with rooms
Four garden suites have been added to its three existing inn rooms. There’s a sense of mischief here – a huge painted rabbit on the exterior gazes balefully down on to a large outdoor terrace, and rooms are named after the novel’s characters.
The style is modern country. You’ll find original floor tiles and honey-toned wood in the convivial bar and restaurant areas. And the bright, spacious garden suites have cool slate floors, scrubbed-wood furniture and huge bathrooms. Each has decking overlooking the gardens. Chef Steve Gilbert serves hearty classics, as well as vegan curries and salads featuring buffalo bocconi from neighbouring Laverstoke Park Farm, which is owned by former Formula 1 champion Jody Scheckter.
We strolled for 15 minutes, passing 18th Century churches and 19th Century thatched cottages, to the Bombay Sapphire gin distillery. A handsomely restored Georgian mill, today the working distillery features two wonderfully surreal botanical glasshouses. Another short walk away is Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants: a gorgeous nursery (and winner of 22 Chelsea Flower Show golds). Through it all runs the River Test, its fast-flowing waters bursting with trout.
Calming: Pictured is one of the recently added large garden suites
It still powers the distillery, and it’s a lovely seven-mile ‘mill walk’ from there to Whitchurch Silk Mill. Britain’s oldest silk mill, it uses traditional machines to produce material for costume dramas, including Cranford and Titanic.
Ten miles away is Highclere Castle – aka Downton Abbey. Resplendent in Capability Brown-designed gardens, the imposing castle is a hotbed of fine art.
USP: A characterful pub with rooms, close to Watership Down and Downton Abbey locations, with stacks of local attractions.
The rooms: Three doubles in the inn plus four new garden suites.
The food: The emphasis is on quality, seasonal ingredients: breakfast, for example, features local eggs, bacon, award-winning black pudding and gorgeous bread.
The Watership Down Inn, Whitchurch, Hampshire. B&B from £110 per room. For more information visit watershipdowninn.com.
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