A Shepherd’s Hut and Fine Food in Wiltshire – My weekend stay in a cosy shepherd’s hut with suggestions for some amazing places to eat when in and around Salisbury, Wiltshire. This beautiful English county has so much to offer for the discerning diner, as well as some great places to see.
Although I love travelling to Far-Flung parts of the world, my heart is always in Great Britain when it comes to short “staycation” breaks and holidays, and never more so on a recent trip to Wiltshire where I stayed for a long weekend exploring the area in and around Salisbury. Salisbury has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons, and therefore it was a pleasure to visit this beautiful and ancient city in the heart of old Wessex for a much-needed break. This is part one of my stay in the area, and in today’s post A Shepherd’s Hut and Fine Food in Wiltshire, I’ll be sharing my experience about staying in a Shepherd’s Hut on a working farm, as well suggesting some amazing places where you can go to eat and drink.
Firstly, our abode for three nights – this was in a beautifully restored, very cosy and comfortable Shepherd’s Hut on Marshwood Farm in Dinton near Salisbury. I’ve always wanted to stay in a shepherd’s hut, it appeals to my inner literary self…..I feel that once ensconced in one of these former shepherd’s homes, I would become a best-selling author overnight! They are small, there is no doubt about that, but ours was furnished in a very practical way, and apart from wandering over a small stretch of rough pasture to the loo (and shower), everything we needed was there, from solar lighting, a comfy double bed, a dresser with cutlery, crockery, drinking water and a camp stove for a hot cuppa and a simple meal, to ample fuel (wood) with kindling for the wood-burning stove, seating and a table.
The views over the Wiltshire countryside were a bonus, and we were loved the “glamping” feeling of being out in the countryside but in a warm and well-insulated hut. There’s no television, and I did not want or expect one, but there is a radio which we listened to every morning whilst waiting for our breakfast to be delivered to the hut and whilst making the first brew of the day. The breakfast hamper is a lovely idea, and was delivered by Mark in the farm’s Land Rover right to our door. You order what you want the night before and at a time to suit you…..the choices were fruit, cereal, granola, juice and a selection of hot farmhouse style butties, freshly prepared by Mark’s wife, Fiona, who on the previous day when we checked in welcomed us with a cup of tea and some cake. And, if you fancy a full cooked breakfast, then you can take a short stroll across the fields to the farmhouse, which we did on the last morning before we left.
Our three days in and around Salisbury in Wiltshire was also filled with great food, from “Artsy” cafes to Michelin Star pub dining, the area is packed with lovely places to eat. After a short visit to Britford Farm Shop, which is now a charming little tea room, and after checking into our accommodation, we enjoyed a wonderful meal (as well as a very therapeutic garden experience) at Pythouse Kitchen Garden. Pythouse Kitchen Garden is an enchanting 18th Century walled garden, restaurant, bar and venue set in the stunning landscape of South Wiltshire not far from where we staying, and before we had dinner, we wandered around their extensive gardens, where many of the herbs, fruit, flowers and vegetables that are on their menu are grown.
Pythouse Kitchen Garden’s ethos is to “eat the seasons” and their seasonal and changing menus reflect this, as you can see here: Autumn In The Restaurant. We both enjoyed our seasonal meal when we were there, and especially their speciality dish of the Fire Pit Smoked Salmon. Each new season brings a unique atmosphere in the garden and a different menu to the table. They specialise in outdoor cooking over fire and regular events include their popular Pytfire Barbecue Supper, and The ‘Get Down’ disco night, which we attended on the Friday night we were there. They say that their menu is short and sweet as it consists largely of fruit and vegetables that they have grown themselves. The menu changes on a daily basis according to the availability of garden ingredients. They also offer a regular breakfast, lunch and dinner menu as well as high tea on Fridays & Saturdays.
Next on our food odyssey was the wonderful Fisherton Mill in the heart of Salisbury; their Gallery Café is vibrant and colourful, being right next to the shop. The Gallery Café has been recognised four times in the Observer’s national Food Awards, while the Daily Telegraph described Michael’s puddings as “to die for”, and although I didn’t have a pudding, they all looked amazingly sinful. The Gallery Café’s varied menu changes to suit the seasons and the recipes often use fresh, locally sourced ingredients. There’s no turkey and tinsel at Christmas, but the fabulous food is guaranteed to put you in a good mood. Pop in for a coffee, a cup of tea and a piece of cake, or something more substantial in a wonderful old building packed with original arts and crafts. I enjoyed one of their innovative (and very large) salads, whilst Malcolm had one of their famous (and equally large) sandwiches. For diners with special dietary requirements, the Café’s menus frequently include gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian options. Also, the Gallery is dog-friendly, so feel free to bring well-behaved canine companions with you.
After a full morning and afternoon of sightseeing, we stopped in at the National Trust property at Mompesson House for afternoon tea in their Garden Tea Room. Here we enjoyed a freshly baked and still warm cheese scone for him, and a slice of homemade coffee walnut cake for me, made by one of the ladies who work there and who has been baking for the tea room for over 15 years. The garden tea-room serves tea, coffee and light bites throughout the day, including soup, sandwiches or a savoury tea. You can also indulge in some delicious locally-made cake, as I did, or a cream tea. The charming tea room was staffed by the most wonderfully friendly people and was furnished simply in the style of a conservatory, with vintage mismatched china and cake stands.
Before we went to the Salisbury Playhouse, more about that in my second post, we both enjoyed a lovely meal at The Old Ale and Coffee House in Salisbury. I enjoyed a perfectly cooked 5 week dry-aged Scottish ribeye steak served with fat chips and Béarnaise sauce , and for him it was another pub classic, Beer battered fish & chips, with tartare sauce and mushy peas. They have an extensive selection of craft beer, real ale, craft gins and wines, and I was tempted with a glass of prosecco before my meal. As one of the few gastropubs in Salisbury they pride themselves on cooking with fresh ingredients, often locally sourced, as the fish was, and whether you want a quick pub lunch, a long lazy pub supper or a pre-theatre high tea as we enjoyed, there is something to suit everyone on their menu. But, it IS a pub at the end of the day, with games for the clientele, so be aware that the noise levels may be high, albeit it with lots of raised voices and laughter!
The next morning dawned to another full day of exploration in and around Salisbury, and lunch was at the Red Lion Freehouse in East Chisenbury, near Stonehenge. I love pub food, but the Red Lion Freehouse takes pub food to another level, and the meal that we enjoyed there was one of the best I have ever eaten any where in the world. Run by Guy and Brittany Manning, who say “We’re just a couple of chefs working to create a place with real soul – where the food has personality, the surroundings are relaxed and the hospitality is warm and sincere.” On arrival we were met by the Martin, the very able, friendly and informative pub manager. As well as the main pub, there is a private dining room upstairs, and the pub also has rooms in Troutbeck Guesthouse a few hundred yards down the road. The atmosphere in the pub is warm and welcoming, and all of the staff look happy and it’s obvious that they all genuinely enjoy they jobs there. We were booked in for Sunday Lunch and what a spectacular lunch it was.
This (above) was my delectable starter….Carpaccio of Slow Cooked Octopus with Fennel Salad, Gordal Olives, Rye Crostini and an Orange Dressing. An intelligent and delectable dish they delivered on all levels – smell, sight and taste. The bread was made in-house with Gilbert the sourdough starter and the butter is made by Guy’s father……I loved this dish so much, the octopus was soft and tender (after 14 hours of sous vide cooking) and the combination of textures and flavours was innovative and clever. My husband enjoyed the Roast duck liver with poached Chisenbury quince, chicory, candied cocoa nibs & sherry vinegar sauce , it was all so beautifully presented, and this was just two of the starters on offer on the Sunday Lunch menu.
My main course was Roast Rump of Wiltshire Beef with a Yorkshire Pudding, Horseradish Cream, Roast Potatoes, Roast Golden Beetroot, Roast Shallot, Griddled Courgette, Green Beans and Savoy Cabbage in a Red Wine Jus. Enjoyed with most delicious glass of Red wine….utter bliss after walking miles around Stonehenge in the morning, in driving wind and rain. The beef was cooked perfectly and was melt-in-the-mouth, the roasties were crunchy on the outside and fluffy in the middle and the horseradish cream was creamy with just enough astringency. I love my veg too, so to have so many different seasonal vegetables with this meal was a big bonus.
My husband had the delicious hand-dived Orkney scallops with fondant potatoes, sweetcorn, girolles & langoustine bisque…..both meals were beautifully presented and were utterly divine. The pub dining room was full, and yet the service was seamless and discreetly attentive. Dessert followed, and we decided to share a cheese board platter of local and British cheeses, with homemade chutney and biscuits.
After lunch, Martin took us out to see the back gardens (and the chickens)….here they grow many of the herbs, fruit and vegetables that are featured in the dishes in their menu. We then went down to look at the idyllic Troutbeck guesthouse down the lane. The whole enterprise is very impressive, and next time I am in the area, I will be going back there.
Our final culinary stop of the trip was to have dinner at The Lamb Inn in Hindon; this lovely pub is located in the centre of the beautiful village of Hindon, which can be found in the West Wiltshire Downs, an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are 18 beautiful boutique-style bedrooms as well as a traditional pub, restaurant and two private dining rooms, but it was the pub restaurant that we were dining in that night. We both had a starter from the menu, mine was Roasted squash, toasted pine nut & wilted spinach salad, and Malcolm had one of his favourite dishes, Roll mops with horseradish cream and watercress. Our main courses were taken from the seasonal specials blackboard. For me, hake with creamy mash, truffled peas in a butter chive sauce, and for him, pan-fried megrim sole with new potatoes in a caper sauce….all perfectly cooked.
It was a great way to end the weekend, and as you can see, there are lots of fabulous places to visit and eat when in the Salisbury area in Wiltshire. For more information about the area and where to eat and drink, please visit the Visit Wiltshire Page here: Wiltshire Food and Drink. With a wide selection of choices available, eating out at restaurants is a pleasure. Don’t worry if you’re travelling with a pet too, as there are plenty of pet friendly food stops to choose from. As well as some fantastic food and drink establishments, Wiltshire has a fine selection of local tipples which you can taste at one of their Vineyards and Breweries. We certainly enjoyed out stay there, and it won’t be long before we are back! Karen
*All our accommodation, food and drink as well as activities were paid for. I was not asked to write a favourable review, but I chose to share my experiences as I believe it will help travellers when visiting this part of the UK. With a huge thanks to ALL of the people, restaurants, pubs and places that welcomed us so generously, and made us feel at home in this lovely county*