Sunday, July 24, 2016

Review: The Beckford Arms, Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire

I spent the night before and the night after my wedding at the Beckford Arms in Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire, and it was wonderful. In fact it was so good we are seriously considering going back for our first anniversary next year.
We got married in June at the Larmer Tree Gardens near Salisbury – a perfect location. The gardens are beautiful and we had an amazing wedding.
I wanted to find somewhere to stay both on our wedding night, and the night before where I could have plenty of room to get ready with my bridesmaids on the day. I can’t actually remember how I came across the Beckford Arms – the event coordinator at the Larmer Tree provided a list of suggested accommodation but none of them quite fit what I wanted or were unavailable. I think I found the Beckford Arms from browsing websites of photographers who had posted pictures they had taken at weddings at the Larmer Tree, and spotting in a few of them that the brides were getting ready at the Beckford Arms. So I had a look at the website and it seemed ideal.

Photo by Lisa Dawn Photography

The Beckford Arms describes itself as a “traditional and stylish country pub” but it is like a small boutique hotel. It has 8 bedrooms and two lodges (which are listed separately, not under the ‘rooms & rates’ section, so don’t miss this!). Rooms are from £95 for a small double to £130 for a large double, and a child’s camp bed can be added to the large room on request (my bridesmaid, her partner and daughter who was my flower girl stayed here). My other bridesmaids were also in the same hotel and they really liked their rooms. There’s a big garden with seating outside and a living room with newspapers and books that can be used by guests in the hotel, and my dad sat here for a while when he was waiting for me to finish getting ready.

I stayed in one of the two lodges which are called the Splenden Pavillions. It was lovely, though I will get the slightly negative stuff out of the way first. The Beckford Arms’ website, which has been updated since I originally booked, says they are a 15 minute stroll from the main hotel, but on the actual booking section it says the lodges are “just a 2 minute walk from the Beckford” which is utterly ridiculous. When we arrived we were expecting them to be next door – but a member of staff took us to the car park and told us to follow her and she drove us to the lodge.

It was a good 5 minute drive, and I think you could walk it in 15 minutes (maybe 20 at a slower pace), but I wouldn’t have wanted to walk it at night as it’s along a relatively fast road (and then up a track), there is no pavement and not much in the way of lighting. In fact when my fiancé left me in the lodge, as he was spending the night before the wedding somewhere else, he made me promise not to walk back to the main building where I was having dinner and to call one of my bridesmaids to come and pick me up.

This led to the second issue: absolutely no mobile phone reception. We were told by the member of staff when we checked in that there was no phone reception, which we hadn’t known about before (I don’t think it says that on their website). You can get on the wifi, which means it is possible to send text messages between iPhones, so I was able to contact one bridesmaid but not the other two, as they had different phones. I couldn’t contact the other two at all – there is no landline in the lodge either so the only option is to go back to the main hotel. Luckily we figured this out before my fiancé left, so he drove me back to the main building, where phone reception was patchy but at least it existed, and I was able to contact one bridesmaid and ask her to come and get me from the lodge when it was time for dinner, and then we went back to the lodge afterwards. It was a bit odd when my fiancé departed, leaving me with no car and no phone signal – I don’t know what you would do in an emergency!

But other than that, our stay was absolutely perfect. The Fonthill estate has existed for centuries and has a lot of history; guests in the lodges or pavilions included the poet Byron and the painter Turner. The lodge is very spacious, with a double bed, ensuite bathroom with shower and freestanding rolltop bath on a mezzanine level upstairs. Downstairs, there is a sofa and coffee table, a small dining table and chairs, a wood burning stove (which I didn’t use) and a kitchen area – you can ask for breakfast items to be left in the fridge to cook your own breakfast, or eat breakfast in the hotel.

 I opted to make my own, as I had the hairdresser arriving at 8am in the morning, but only managed to eat some bread and butter as I had butterflies already – it was my wedding day after all! I looked in the fridge and saw I had been given orange juice, tea and coffee, bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes, which all looked really good. Outside, there is a table and chairs and a lovely view. Children and dogs are not allowed to stay in the lodges which means they are very peaceful and tranquil – though I had people coming and going all day!

The lodges are not cheap, at £175 a night during the week and £195 on weekends, with a two night minimum stay, but my husband and I absolutely loved it and it would make a lovely mini-break, if you let people know in advance you have no phone signal and they will have to email you instead!
The night before my wedding, I had dinner with my bridesmaids, their partners and my parents. The Beckford Arms gave us a private room and our waitress was lovely, very understanding that some people were late because of heavy traffic in London and creating a special dish for one bridesmaid who was vegan. My flowergirl was quietly given a picture to colour in and coloured pencils, and brought an ice cream sundae for dessert with little bowls of sweets for her to add toppings herself.
I only had a main course – fish and chips, as I’d been on a pre-wedding diet for far too long and it didn’t really matter by this point – but most people had dessert as well and the food was pronounced very good, apart from one guy who had the steak who wasn’t very impressed, but on the whole we had a lovely meal.
I returned to my lodge (by car – I wasn’t walking that far at night!) and took myself off to bed, knowing that the next day when I woke up, it would be my wedding day!
Photo by Lisa Dawn Photography











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