Minimoon review: The Beckford Arms in Wiltshire

Journalist and author Olivia Williams takes things down a gear at this tranquil country pub that's just perfect for a wedmin-free weekend


First impressions: Tucked in a corner of the vast Fontill Estate in Wiltshire, this pub with rooms is chic, cosy and, most importantly, extremely soothing. It is stylish but not at all pretentious – so just where you want to spend a relaxing weekend in the country.



Room for romance: Choose between one of the eight light-filled bedrooms with roll-top baths in The Beckford itself, or splash out on one of the two private lodges in the grounds of Fontill Estate for a more secluded, just-the-two-of-us escape. Thoughtful local details make The Beckford stand out. From the artwork by friends of the pub and West Country beers from the Butcombe and Keystone breweries, to the fresh vegetables grown at the Pythouse Kitchen Garden down the road and the rare breed meats – it’s all lovely, feel-good stuff. Although you find them now at many other hotels, the sweet-smelling handmade Bramley bathroom products were actually first made for The Beckford by the owner’s wife.


In the morning, settle into the conservatory for a sumptuous breakfast of homemade bread with organic flour from Shaftesbury Cannmill, great coffee and double cream porridge with cinnamon. Then you can set off for a walk on the beautiful, calming estate with its swan-dotted lake, or for more gentle exercise try boules in the garden. There is also a great deal to see nearby: 14th century Old Wardour Castle, Wilton House, Shaftesbury, Longleat and Stonehenge to name just a few. Sister pub The Talbot is about half an hour away in Somerset, which makes an easy lunchtime drive.


Book Monday off work and stay for Sunday night when they show classic films in the sitting room. You can flop by the fire in one of the huge sofas with some comfort food and Elsa, The Beckford Arms dog. On a rainy day, curl up with one of the novels or DVDs from the library, or book an in-room massage with Anouchka or Rachel to away ease all the wedding planning stress. 


Wine & dine: There are times to eat sensibly, but a weekend at The Beckford is not one of them. Here you want to feast on all the wonderful local meat and rich puddings, and browse the extensive wine list without a second thought. Tasty dinner starters include goat’s cheese with gingerbread, cream of celeriac with chorizo, and steak tartare. Hearty main courses might be Cornish fish stew with crab broth, mutton with smoked lamb sausage, or ox cheek with root vegetables. Leave room for puddings like the moreish peanut butter bread pudding, rhubarb and ginger posset with cardamom shortbread, and chocolate and Cointreau delice with blood orange. The dishes are full of creativity without being fussy.


In the summer months they fire up the outdoor pizza oven for more casual dining. Choose from inventive combinations such as goat’s cheese with pine nuts and spinach, field mushrooms with thyme and egg, and salami picante with olives and chilli.


We love: it’s easy to see why this place has a great reputation – decadent food, unusual cocktails, sweet-natured staff, and a sitting room that you’ll find very hard to leave. The unspoilt scenery alone would be enough to make it a must-visit.


We don’t love: Our room had pegs but no wardrobe, which was a little odd. Otherwise it was absolutely lovely.


Go there: Rooms start from £95 per night, beckfordarms.com


The Beckford Arms, Fonthill Gifford, Tisbury, Wiltshire SP3 6PX