This is the second full-size golden pig that the gal has seen. The first was outside the first Pig hotel, in England’s New Forest. Now there are two siblings, with one more, at Studland, to open shortly… but until then, the newest modern-luxury hotel in this exciting brand is The Pig Near Bath, a transformation of Hunstrete House. It opened mid-March and by the end of the first week it was already a phenomenal success. Local residents and weekenders from London flocked to its bars and its restaurant, and returned for more of a jolly good thing. Overnighters came from far and wide, attracted by many things.
Drive in, past the golden pig, to what is a 71-acre estate. Immediately to your right, sensibly fenced off, is a 30-acre run for the hotel’s 80 deer, who have their own deer master. Just ahead is the biggest hen run I have ever seen. I later venture round the rear of the estate, to the tennis court, and find another enclosure, home to a pair of Kune Kune. Now, dear reader, learn something. Maoris took pigs with them when they settled in what is now New Zealand, and this pair of genial animals are among the few, and protected, descendants – Kune Kune can be any colour, but they are distinguished by two tassels, called piripiri, under the chin.
The original Hunstrete House is, frankly, an unexciting colour, namely grey. But outside, the two-floor building has been transformed by a large side conservatory, glass and soft green. And inside the house is just gorgeous. You go in past a neat stack of logs for the many real-wood fires, and colourful Wellington boots in many sizes, and a croquet set. Floors are unadorned, unpolished wood, recycled planks from French rail carriages apparently (the designer is the highly-talented Judy Hutson, wife of long-time hotelier Robin Hutson who is masterminding the entire The Pig growth together with marketing genius David Elton (financier Jim Ratcliffe is also involved).
Bedroom 18, an upstairs corner room, had these wood floors, and wood posts rising from the four corners of the extremely comfortable bed. Colours are palest avocado-putty. I love the modern-meets-retro. A cabinet opens to reveal Nespresso machine and tea kettle, already plugged in, and instant WiFi is free. Retro? Black bakelite telephones have circular dials, the light switches are simple flips on protruding black bases, the toilet has a high-up cistern with long chain pull. I have a retro Roberts radio. Downstairs, one of the many public rooms has an old-fashioned gramophone with a stack of vinyls.
Modern luxury requires more than a hint of nature, and you sure find it in the Conservatory, where living creepers, with flowers, climb the columns, and tables are interspersed with wood trays holding real potting plants, piled high on other wood trays. The tables are plain wood, and uncovered, and, as all Pigs, no table, no chair, no glass, no knife, fork or spoon seems to match any other. You have a feeling that The Pig’s team has been to every flea market and antique stall in the whole of Europe, but the result is quintessentially English, with big international appeal. I think, for instance, that Japanese will love this place.
The spa at this modern-luxury hotel is certainly quintessentially English, if a little wacky, with perhaps Hobbit thrown in. There are two sheds, Potting Shed 1 and Potting Shed 2. Come here for your massage, organic of course. They are in the two-acre Walled Garden, designed by David Elton and physically overseen by the Hutsons’ son Ollie. It is GENIUS. Parterres are neatly labeled showing how many different chards (well, rainbow, red, silver, Russian) they are growing, and amazing asparagus and every herb in the book. There are entire bay-tree bushes. Now I cannot wait to sample some of the home-grown fare…