The Three Horseshoes Batcombe is a reimagined 17th century pub with fantastic food and rooms — and it's inextricably linked to Country Life, discovers Giles Kime.
The birth of Country Life and the evolution of motoring are inextricably entwined; when he launched the magazine in 1897, the founder Edward Hudson recognised that the car would change our relationship with the countryside, untethering his target audience from the constraints of travel by rail and allowing a deeper and more democratic relationship with the countryside that brought previously inaccessible pockets of remote beauty within convenient reach.
Half a century later, many of these were enshrined as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty that identified and protected playgrounds for walkers, climbers and motoring enthusiasts. All outstrip expectations; from the mellowed stone of the Cotswolds and the Blackdown Hills to the vast, empty natural wilderness that is The Trough of Bowland and the empty beaches of Northumberland.
An afternoon tour of the gorges and rocky outcrops of the Mendips AONB in an Audi R8 Spyder is the sort of thing that Edward Hudson might have had in mind — although perhaps not the thrilling possibilities of 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds.
It’s a car — Audi’s last ever petrol-fuelled supercar — that is emblematic of a fading chapter in the history of the internal combustion engine, the development of which has been part of Country Life’s history.
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After a day exploring the natural beauty of north Somerset, the car growled gently through Bruton and delivered us windswept, energised (and conspicuous) to The Three Horseshoes, a recently renovated pub, restaurant and rooms in the pretty village of Batcombe where the menu is presided over by Margot Henderson of Rochelle Canteen fame which offers robust, flavourful dishes such as rabbit pie and pork chops.
After a decade in which a slew of new ‘super hotels’ have opened their doors we need more options like The Three Horseshoes that are intimate in scale, offer good service, carefully curated interiors and luxurious bathrooms for a third of the price.
Prices for a main dish are from £18, rather than for a starter, and while The Three Horseshoes is not cheap it’s not expensive and there’s a feeling of levity at the knowledge that you aren’t forking out so much cash that you need to stay confined to your luxurious accommodation in case you get a debilitating case of FOMO.
For the touring motorist, it means that any early checkouts or late check-ins don’t make you feel like you are being short-changed. The five rooms designed by Frances Penn are furnished with handsome, but simple antiques and commodious upholstery that create a picture of understated Englishness. Not something that can be said for the Audi R8.
Double rooms from £220. Call 01749 326147 to book or visit www.thethreehorseshoesbatcombe.co.uk
What to do while you’re there
Exhibitions, events and artists’ residences are among the many attractions of this restored farm yard a short drive from Batcombe.
Even if wildlife isn’t your bag, this gem of Elizabethan architecture won’t fail to dazzle.
Fussell’s Iron Works
The Three Horseshoes might lack a pool but Somerset is awash with wild swimming options. This old industrial site in the Wadbury Valley is a good bet for splashy fun.