Asquith and Pigs have a lot in common. It’s not what you think. I haven’t become a complete porcine lover. I’m not going to launch a line of Asquith sausages. But I have recently spent a wonderful British summer holiday on a ‘Pig Tour’ – touring around the South West of England staying in 4 hotels from The Pig boutique hotel group
Me in the garden at the Pig Bath
The Pig Hotels launched six years ago and they’re delightful country house hotels across the South coast. We decided to take up their fun idea of going on a ‘Pig Tour’ – staying in 4 Pig hotels over 6 days. England is so beautiful in the summer if it’s sunny and I was slightly put off by long queues at airports, the tedium of international travelling (which I do enough of with work) so a great British holiday was booked. I must confess that I was nervous about the weather having had too many holidays in Cornwall and Wales which were definitely rain-sodden.
The routes between each hotel are delightful and English countryside at its best. And we were, amazingly and joyfully, blessed by good weather.
Cows. Hedgerow. Sunshine.
We interspersed our Pig Tour with some of our favourite things en route; visiting friends, walking, eating some great food (including some Michelin star deliciousness at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn and The Wild Rabbit in Kingham and some laid back beach dining at the Crab House Café on Chesil Beach) as well as visiting some fun luxe-y places; Soho Farmhouse (fabulous people watching) and Daylesford Farm Shop – all blonde wood and exquisite-looking everything – £10 for a jar of locally made Kimchi. Yes please, why not.
Glorious Daylesford Farm Shop
As art lovers we managed to squeeze in some great art; starting with bizarre contemporary art at Hauser & Wirth – but with stunning gardens by Piet Oudolf, the Olympic park designer – worth a look at the arrangement of natural, wild flowers. Wish we could manage all that in our garden. Of course we could…if we had a full time gardener.
Stunning Floral arrangement at Hauser & Wirth
Wandering around the Capability Brown landscape at Compton Verney is always joyous, even in the drizzle, and I loved the Op Art/Bridget Riley show (wearing sunglasses as you go around otherwise your head spins). After a perfect flat white in my favourite coffee shop in Oxford we slipped into the Raphael drawings at the Ashmolean – breath-taking. We also found time for some historic sites on our trip; Avebury (astounding – go if you haven’t been – how can something so well preserved be 3,000 years old?) and walking up Glastonbury Tor and surveying the world from the top. Meditating in the sunshine at the top of the Tor was peaceful and glorious.
Me up the Tor
Our first ‘Pig’ stop was Pig Bath. An elegant building in a beautiful setting surrounded by a deer park with over 100 grazing deer. You’re greeted by Hunter wellies and vintage croquet sets in the hall and a warm welcome from friendly staff and a roaring fire in the grate in the enormous oak-panelled hall. Our room above a converted stable overlooking woodland and the hen house so we awoke to a beautiful sunrise and the sound of clucking hens but not a cockerel, thank goodness.
The rather elegant Pig Bath
Dinner is in the shabby chic conservatory dining room, full of plants, soft, flattering lighting, numerous candles and mismatched glassware and china. Very pretty. The Pig state that their focus is ‘A restaurant with rooms’ so the emphasis is very much on food, which suits us just fine as we’re big foodies.
Shabby chic dining room – The Pig way
The menu focuses on food locally sourced within a 25mile radius along with organic herbs, fruit and veg from their walled gardens. The walled gardens are a feature of every Pig and you can wander around them and marvel at them and wish you could do the same with yours. The chef and the gardeners work together so you’re always eating what’s fresh – it’s squeaking it’s so fresh and delicious. No pesticides. Impressive compost heaps. The works.
The gardens…if only
And they of course keep their own pigs…two are pets, this one snored so loudly I took a video of him, and two are not. Say no more.
A loudly snoring pig
Dinner was a simple healthy menu with beautifully cooked vegetables (badly cooked veg are my bete noir in restaurants) and fresh flavours. Good for vegetarians, pescatarians and carnivores alike. Yummy puds too. And it’d be rude not to have cocktails in the pretty bar before dinner.
The laid back bar
Breakfast isn’t included but that’s ok as we generally weren’t very hungry. A regular continental breakfast is beautifully laid out. Once again fresh fruit compote, local yogurt and butter, eggs from their chickens and freshly baked pastries. And a very clever boiled egg gadget with your own egg timer and an array of multiple toasters with accompanying diagrams – complex, but you’d be an idiot to burn your toast.
Our next stop was Pig Combe – the setting is divine. A long winding driveway with another stunning country pile overlooking a valley and an Arab horse stud farm. Very peaceful indeed. Huge gardens with an orangery, rose garden and benches in all the right places. All Pigs have little gypsy-like caravans carefully spaced out in the gardens which are mini spa rooms where therapists give massages and facials.
I won’t go into detail on every Pig but it’s the same formula with all hotels within The Pig group, but it works, so why not; a huge elegant country pile with beautiful interiors with superb attention to detail and elegant ‘objets’, a huge fireplace (with permanently lit fire, whatever the weather) a pretty, relaxed bar and cosy, laid back chic dining room full of plants.
A very comfy place to relax
Our room was spacious and in a converted stable block with tables and chairs outside in a sunny courtyard full of tin tubs containing olive trees and plants. Inside the room itself was the largest walk in shower you’ve ever seen, a very well stocked minibar with pretty silver tea and coffee canisters and a great coffee maker. And, importantly, the largest four poster bed and the softest, fluffiest goose-down duvet and pillows. You basically sleep on a cloud. All rooms are blissfully quiet.
The stable block courtyard outside our room
We were so relaxed here that we cancelled our lunch (at Gidleigh Park which I’d been dying to go to for ages but just didn’t feel like) and went for a 3 hour walk in the woods. Each Pig supplies Hunter wellies and local maps showing chosen walks with excellent and clear instructions.
Nature just doing its thing
We returned to a hot shower followed by a glass of chilled rosé on the giant swing underneath the cedar tree overlooking a breath-taking sunset before dinner. Very romantic.
Our next Pig was Pig On The Beach which looks like something that Hansel and Gretel might live in if they’d just inherited a large property from a crazy great aunt; all yellow painted turrets.
Hansel & Gretel’s hang out aka Pig On The Beach
We arrived on Bank holiday Monday. Mistake. A garden full of people, dogs, overtired kids and a far cry from peaceful Pig Combe so as soon as we’d dumped our bags we changed into our walking boots and set off for one of their recommended beach walks. The hotel and garden seemed to calm down on our return and we dined outside under mismatched vintage print parasols, tall candles in the setting sun overlooking cliffs and the sea. Rather nice.
The next day we went for an enormous walk in the blazing sunshine along Studland beach which is literally at the end of the garden at Pig on the Beach. The world, his wife, their cousins and their dogs were on the beach.
British Bank Holiday beach madness
…but we managed find a peaceful spot (the nudist beach!) to swim in the sea and float deliciously – one of my favourite holiday pursuits.
Our final Pig was Pig Brockenhurst set in the New Forest.
The setting is calm, surrounded by woodland but less spectacular than the other Pigs with a smaller garden and pretty close to a train line (every ½ hour, we timed it) but you don’t really notice it. We were planning on a long walk but we decided to just ‘be’ and spent the afternoon reading and relaxing. Then the evening was the usual cocktail/dinner combo. Did I tire of the food? Not really. It’s good and slightly different in every Pig.
I want this room
The one thing that stands out with The Pig, which we commented on especially at Pig Combe, is the service. Fresh faced, smiley, young staff in jeans and a casual relaxed but very friendly attitude. It’s rare to experience such good service. Not intrusive but absolutely on the case.
We decided to grade each Pig as we went. (I love a list) We graded it by:-
Setting / Location
Communal areas (Sitting rooms and Bar)
Coffee (oh yes, it’s important)
I won’t bore you with every detail but our favourite was Pig Combe; setting, staff, gardens, food, dining room – all divine. It slightly let itself down on the coffee…small thing. Best coffee, if you want to know, Pig New Forest.
The Pigs aren’t stuffy, they’re very laid back and they’re romantic but they’re also great for kids, they’re well run and deserve their 96% occupancy. I do know that they’re hard to book so if you’re planning a Pig Tour – hot tip – book well in advance!
If you made it down this far then you deserve to know what the similarities are between Asquith and Pigs:-
At Asquith I constantly strive to offer the same great service & great quality ethical product and attention to detail. I hope we do.
Do let me know if you have any comments on my Pig Tour…or Asquith in general.
And if you’d like to share any of your British summer holiday tips I’m all ears. I’m a bit of a convert now!