The Inspector calls at the Beckford Arms, a ‘wonderfully atmospheric’ 18th-century Wiltshire inn


The Inspector calls at a ‘wonderfully atmospheric’ 18th-century Wiltshire inn that guarantees to warm the cockles on a frosty winter’s night with its crackling fires and ‘proper bar’

  • The Inspector checks into the Beckford Arms, which is set on the Fonthill Estate 
  • He’s impressed by his ‘excellent’ sirloin steak main course in the inn’s restaurant
  • Remember, the Inspector pays his way… and tells it like it is 

Nothing quite warms the cockles as arriving at the Beckford Arms on a frosty winter’s night. Crackling fires; flagstones; proper old wood bar; comfy sofas; walls decked with art (and a Cambridge University oar); wellies in the hall but not all lined up as if auditioning for a glossy magazine; an original bay window; happy chatter.

There are eight rooms in this wonderfully atmospheric 18th-century inn on the Fonthill Estate, owned by Lord Margadale, near Tisbury, Wiltshire. Ours is described as ‘extra small’ — and full marks for honesty. It’s tiny, with a shower room in what at one time must have been a cupboard. The casement window measures about 2ft x 1ft.

We fancy a cuppa but notice there are spent tea bags in the pot. And we wonder why the only picture looks as if it’s of sperm flying through the air.

The Inspector checks into an 'extra small' room at the 'wonderfully atmospheric' Beckford Arms, an 18th-century inn on the Fonthill Estate, near Tisbury, Wiltshire

The Inspector checks into an ‘extra small’ room at the ‘wonderfully atmospheric’ Beckford Arms, an 18th-century inn on the Fonthill Estate, near Tisbury, Wiltshire

It’s a relief to get back downstairs, where there’s a series of interconnecting rooms and snugs, including a private dining room with places for 12 people. Out the back is a terrace with woolly rugs and heaters, perfect for smokers.

Some of the paintwork could do with a touch-up and there may be a few too many stains for some people. ‘More shabby than chic,’ says my wife.

I remark that it’s just the sort of place that Prince Harry and his posh mates would have loved in the good old days — sinking pints of real ale and arguing over whether Eddie Jones should have been sacked as England’s rugby coach.

‘Nothing quite warms the cockles as arriving at the Beckford Arms on a frosty winter’s night,’ says the Inspector 

Out the back is a terrace with woolly rugs and heaters, perfect for smokers

Out the back is a terrace with woolly rugs and heaters, perfect for smokers

When the Inspector leaves the inn, he passes through the Arch (above), which was built in 1755 to serve as a gatehouse to the Fonthill Estate

When the Inspector leaves the inn, he passes through the Arch (above), which was built in 1755 to serve as a gatehouse to the Fonthill Estate

TRAVEL FACTS 

The Beckford Arms, Fonthill Gifford, Salisbury, SP3 6PX.

Doubles from £125. For more information, call 01747 870385 or visit beckfordarms.com.

Rating out of five: ***

There are a few dining tables in the sitting room. We opt for one by the window. A toddler is asleep on a sofa, her parents reading next to her.

It’s a clever menu, which includes a ‘pub’ section (burgers, fish and chips etc). Our sirloin steaks are excellent and it’s a treat to have proper linen napkins. We linger because the prospect of squeezing into our ‘extra-small’ space doesn’t fill us with glee.

Breakfast the next morning is a relaxed affair, perhaps a little too relaxed. There seems to be only one member of staff doing the fetching and carrying. I have to seek her out to ask for a second cup of coffee.

On leaving, we pass through the Arch, which was built in 1755 to serve as a gatehouse to the Fonthill Estate.

It’s an exquisite Grade 1-listed building and one half of it now has two rooms for guests, a new addition to this venerable operation.

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