Dog-friendly gem in Bradford-on-Avon
On the outskirts of Bradfrod-on-Avon, Widbrook Grange is a boutique farmhouse and the ultimate dog-friendly rural retreat. As a dog lover, when you see a hotel that features more canines than humans on its social media, you know it is the perfect place for a getaway with the pooch, especially if it’s located in a picturesque old market town and comes with its indoor private pool!
I first came upon Widbrook Grange on social media, passing through Bradford-on-Avon on the way home from another staycation in 2019 – swiftly, it was earmarked for a getaway, and then the pandemic struck! Determined to experience this boutique hotel, I made a reservation for my birthday in early 2021, and lo and behold, the third lockdown put paid to that. The third time’s the charm, this November we finally got to visit this Georgian gem.
We arrive in Bradford-on-Avon around noon so we can enjoy a late breakfast before exploring the town. Nestled on the hillside and banks of the picturesque River Avon, Bradford-on-Avon is a charming little town dotted with old weavers’ cottages on the hillside. The ancient bridge in the centre of the town, flanked by 19th-century former cloth mills, remains its natural focus and the bridge still retains two of its original 13th-century arches. On the edge of the Cotswolds, the Wiltshire beauty is just as charming as any of the Cotswolds towns and yet far less commercialised. You won’t find tour buses blocking its winding rural lanes, and tourists spilling out onto the roads. It is a town full of independent shops, local restaurants, and characterful cafes, plenty of canal walks and little alleyways to explore.
Our first stop was the Lock Inn Cafe – perfectly positioned by the canal, dog-friendly, and highly recommended as “the real deal on a proper English breakfast” it was our first choice. Despite the Sunday brunch crowd, we got a great table outdoors, overlooking the canal.
While unassuming, outdoorsy, fuss-free decor made us feel at home, we were disappointed by the slow service and food that was almost served cold after an hour’s wait. Enjoying leisurely time in the autumn sun and the odd scrap here and there, at least the pooch was happy!
Swiftly moving on from a disappointing brunch experience, we hit the streets. As usual, charity shops were for me the first stop. For a small town, Bradford-on-Avon has its fair share of charity shops. Particularly striking was the Bath Cats and Dogs which was so tastefully decorated I missed it twice thinking it was an independent boutique.
After a spot of browsing, we headed over to Widbrook Grange, a hop and skip away from the town centre. An imposing farmhouse just outside the town, Widbrook Grange makes a marvelous first impression. You’re wowed the moment you take the turn and see the building come into view followed by the stretch of acres of land beyond the car park.
Bedrooms are distributed between the main Farmhouse and quaint stable blocks on the estate and many have their own entrances. There’s a choice of either the main building or rooms in the converted outhouses that used to be stables and such. We lucked out when the dog-friendly classic double room we were allocated was right next to the barn which houses the indoor swimming pool and fitness suite. No need to wrap up in three layers this time of the year to nip out for a swim when you can just dash from your front door wrapped in a towel over to the barn in under thirty seconds!
Our bedroom, number 15, was tastefully decorated. Widbrook Grange doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to dogs, it walks the walk too – your pooch gets its own bed and a welcome pack which consists of a small tray of Lily’s kitchen, a pack of dog treats, a tennis ball (Doodles’s Christmases come together!) and a roll of poo bags. What’s more they also get their own bowl which reads, “I’d rather be at Widbrook Grange.” While you can’t take these away, you can buy one at the mini gift shop located at the reception which sells a range of human and canine goods, from handwoven blankets to dog bandanas.
If you can tear yourself away from your room long enough, 11 acres of private grounds and beautifully tended gardens offers a fun playground for all ages complete with a giant chess set, a vintage tractor, hay cart and milk churns. Once we settled in, it was time to explore outdoors just before sunset.
It wasn’t long after, the mermaid that I am, I was lured to the swimming pool for a quick dip before dinner. 11m pools is not the biggest but it’s just right, and I had it all to myself both that afternoon and the next day after breakfast.
Bradford-on-Avon has a good range of dog-friendly dining options, but after a long day of driving down and exploring and fascinated by the menu, we chose to dine at the hotel’s restaurant. While the restaurant is the only part of the hotel that’s out of bounds for pooches, if you’d rather take your dog to dinner too, the conservatory makes for a cosy and comfortable spot, with beds at the ready for canine guests.
Keen to taste as much on offer, I opted for a three-course meal. First on the menu was Guinea fowl with pistachio galantine, toasted brioche, pickled girolle, smoked tomato puree. Small but perfectly formed and delicious, but the main star of the show for me was the main course, pan-fried hake fillet served with saffron risotto, spinach and white crab meat, pea shoots with wild garlic oil. Mr O. opted for Widbrook beef burger served with home chunky-cut chips, spiced tomato relish. For dessert, I had to go for a selection of ice creams.
The Kitchen at Widbrook Grange continued to delight the next morning with our full English breakfast. As well as locally sourced ingredients which were delicious, it delivered the tastiest black pudding i’ve ever had despite not being a huge fan! What’s more doggos get their own bowl of sausage too.
Another quick dip in the pool which is kept at a cosy 29 degrees, it was time to check out and head back into town. Before hitting the road, we had to check out another dog-friendly spot, Doghouse. Set in The Vaults, it is a pet shop, groomer and cafe in one, which serves both human and canine clients.
While we enjoyed our coffee, Doodles got to sample their cupcakes and puppucino. Just opposite you’ll find Made in Bradford-on-Avon, a gallery space and community project which showcases the work of around 80 local artists and artisans.
By midday it was time to head home, but not before popping over to Melksham Milk Station at Snarlton Farm to buy fresh farm milk, butter and honey.
Not as popular as big sister Bath or the neigbouring Cotswold, regardless, Bradford-on-Avon is a gem off the road less travelled, and we will certainly be back to stay at Widbrook Grange for longer next time!