At the start of February I dashed off for an escape in the Wiltshire countryside. I don’t know about you, but to me January had felt like a very long month. It’s that time of year when nothing much really happens. If feels like a period of rest and when you spend an entire month barely leaving the house asides from the daily walk and the grocery shop, it can begin to drag. I wanted February to arrive, as quickly as possible. I kept looking at the diary for the first weekend of the month; Rowley Cottage at Iford Manor. For any of you who follow me on Instagram, you’ll know how much I adore the gardens at Iford Manor. I’d go so far as to say they’re on my list of the top ten gardens in the UK. When the owners of Iford, Marianne and William Cartwright-Hignett, let me know they were opening up a new holiday cottage on the estate I jumped at the chance to be able to stay for a couple of nights.
The Iford estate dates back over a thousand years. There was a dwelling on the site at the time of the Doomsday book, albeit a very different dwelling to what the house is today. The estate grew from the profits of the wool trade, the house slowly being moulded into what we see today as new extensions and buildings were added. Today, Iford Manor as it is now named, lies in a tranquil valley where the estate straddles the River Frome which runs through the heart of it. The property is famed for its Peto Gardens, designed by the world renowned architect and garden designer Harold Peto, who lived here at Iford until his death in 1933. The gardens are an absolute masterpiece, incorporating an Italian design mixed with recurrent themes such as the sound of trickling water from the. many fountains dotted around the garden and the Japanese principle of “Shakkei”. Shakkei is the ancient technique of incorporating a distant, background landscape into the composition of the garden; essentially, borrowed scenery. You see this all over in the gardens at Iford Manor.
For guests of Rowley Cottage, you are able to step foot out of your backdoor, straight into the courtyard of Iford Manor and wander these magnificent gardens to your hearts content, whether they are open to the public or not. This was heaven to me. The icing on an already wonderful cake. The cottage itself is beautifully restored and a welcome haven for you to rest and relax the soul. I loved the combination of the wood throughout the house with the colouring of the paint Marianne had chosen for the walls. It worked perfectly and made the cottage feel very warm and homely. A place you wanted to linger.
If you are looking to stay at Rowley Cottage, here are a couple of ideas for what you could get up to if you can tear yourself away from the beautiful estate! Being situated on the Wiltshire and Somerset border, Rowley Cottage is perfectly situated for a whole wealth of places to visit including the city of Bath which is just 20 minutes away.
The Bridge Tea Rooms
In the nearby town of Bradford-on-Avon which is just a five minute drive away from the cottage, you will find one of the best tea rooms in the country, The Bridge tearooms. Set in a 15th century property, staff in period Victorian dress serve up a superb afternoon tea. I would advise booking in advance as this place is very popular!
The Courts Garden
Just a 15 minutes drive away you will find The Courts Garden. A lovely garden that is in the care of the National Trust and one I always try to visit when I find myself in the area. On our visit it was full of snowdrops, crocus and hellebores which were all newly in bloom. They were a welcome tonic after the barren winter. Just a five minute drive away you will also find the magnificent Great Chalfield Manor.
Looking for more to do in the area? Read: A 3 Day Wiltshire Road Trip Itinerary
Norton St Philip
Twenty minutes away is the charming village of Norton St Philip where you will find The George Inn. This gem dates back over 700 years and here we grabbed a table and lingered next to the massive open fireplace which was roaring away on this particularly cold day. The George is a 14th century coaching inn with an abundance of old world charm and character to match the incredible history this place has seen. With claims to being one of Britain’s oldest taverns, this place is definitely a must visit. It was originally built as a wool store for the nearby priory and to accommodate travellers and merchants coming to the annual wool fairs that were held in the village from the late 13th century up until 1902.
Leaving The George behind, we set off for the nearby village of Mells which is home to another fabulous pub called The Talbot Inn. This 15th century coaching inn lies at the heart of the village and is very popular with the locals. We stopped for a glass of wine in the bar area and sat listening to the hubbub of animated chatter amongst friends and locals. Before leaving I took a peek into the restaurant dining areas which were lit up with natural candle light – always a bonus in my book! The food here comes highly recommended however we didn’t however stop to eat here on this occasion. I’ll be returning here next time I’m in the area in April to sample the food for you. Instead, we wanted to enjoy food back at the cottage so ordered Indian takeout from the nearby Royal Bengal in Frome. There was an hour and fifteen minute wait for food so we popped down the road to Bistro Lotte Bar whilst we waited. The restaurant to this bar is usually always fully booked so worth noting for dinner ideas whilst in the area. Heading back to collect our Indian, the staff told me how they had sold out of everything by 7pm the night before and even on this particularly evening they had had to shut down their online ordering system and turn the phone lines off as they had too many orders coming in. This goes to show how popular it is! Getting back to the cottage and taking a bite out of my first lamb samosa, I could see why!! I’ve not had a lamb samosa that good since my days living in Saudi. I’m definitely returning on my next trip to Frome, it was the best Indian meal I’ve had in the UK.
A half hour drive away from Rowley Cottage you will find Dyrham Park. I decided to pay a visit on my last morning in the area before I headed home. When you get to the house, you’re met with a brilliant display of giant snowdrops at this time of year, which were a most welcome sight. The house itself wasn’t open as it was still closed for the winter season so I had a wander around the gardens, enjoying the view back towards the house and church before departing to nearby Newark Park. Both of these properties are in the care of the National Trust (as are The Courts Garden and Great Chalfield Manor I mentioned earlier) so may we worth considering getting an annual pass if you were wanting to visit a few of these places as it would save you money. The weather decided to turn rather wet and windy on me so I call it a day there and got back onto the motorway and made my way home to Heidi.
Lots more to explore next time – I adore Wiltshire and find it such an overlooked area with SO much to offer. If you plan a visit here, I’m sure you’ll leave loving it as much as me!