Contrary to the impression my oft-inappropriate footwear may give, I love a good walk. I love it even more when the sun shines, there’s Purbeck ice cream at hand and a flat-ish pathway to stroll along (ideal for pushchairs & sturdy wheelchairs. Golf buggy tours are availably for those with mobility issues). Hence a trip to the breath-taking gardens of Stourhead was in order for me, and my assorted gang of doctors, lawyers, teachers and kiddies. God love the National Trust, it knows how to keep the Waitrose set out of trouble at the weekend. Built in the 1740s, the 2,650 landscaped acres house a glamorous lake, some stunning classical designed temples, and a stone grotto (that did smell a teeny bit of wee. Don’t dip your toe in!).
Onsite is also the puntastic Spread Eagle pub (you at the back, stop laughing!). A picturesque historic Inn, it has a restaurant with expansive windows overlooking the gardens. I had the Sea Bass, and some chips that looked suspiciously like a frozen supermarket brand. The fish was nicely seasoned, the side garnish completely forgettable. No really. I don’t remember what it was at all. It may have involved peas. In-house entertainment was provided in the form of the restaurant staff, who looked and acted like fourteen-year-old girls on work experience. They blinked wide eyed and panicked if you smiled at them or, you know, asked for some ketchup. However, everything that was ordered arrived, and everything was collected once we had finished. So they had all the basics covered. Besides everyone has to start somewhere (don’t worry, we did tip them).
If it’s nippy out then by all means enjoy the Spread Eagle Inn’s fine decor and adequate food, but if the sun’s blazing I’d chose a picnic in what is undoubtedly the star of the show: the glorious grounds.
Further details about Stourhead Gardens can be found on The National Trust’s website.