When country houses take paying guests, the price is usually as grand as the house. But at Pauntley Court, you get all the luxury of a magnificent home without the formality or terrifying bill. It’s the latest property to join the growing Quintessential B&B portfolio, and overlooks an unspoilt valley on the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire border. This is proper farming country – no blacked-out 4x4s here.
As you pass the 12th-century church and dovecote, you know you’re entering a world of tithes and coats of arms. In the 1300s, Pauntley Court was home to the Whittington family. Dick – yes, the panto star – set off for London from here, becoming mayor four times. By the 1950s, Pauntley was a tumbledown farm, but has been painstakingly restored by the current owner’s mother.
The moment you cross the flagstoned hall and are welcomed with tea and homemade cake, you know you’re going to be looked after. Though the house rambles around three sides of a courtyard, there are only two guest rooms, and with the owners living in one wing, you are made to feel like the place is yours.
A double-height staircase hall, with frescoed walls and ceilings, leads to a first-floor corridor with the Dick Whittington suite at its end. The bigger of the two rooms, it is sumptuously decorated in classic country-house style: 18th-century wallpaper, period furniture and heavy, floor-to-ceiling curtains. The adjoining bathroom shares the same garden views, and has a giant walk-in shower with Neal’s Yard products. Thoughtful touches include fresh flowers, a tin of home-made shortbread and a digital Roberts radio. There’s also a tea tray with proper china cups, a Nespresso machine, and for those who can’t switch off, a TV and free Wi-Fi. The smaller room, the John Masefield (the poet was born up the road in Ledbury) has the advantage of a bath.
We felt like the Queen and Prince Philip as we were served breakfast by the ballroom fire. Breakfast began with natural yoghurt, homemade apple and blackberry compote, and granola, followed by a choice of a full English or Hebridean smoked trout with scrambled eggs. Almost everything is locally sourced: the sausages and bacon come from D T Waller & Sons, jams from Handley Organics, both in Ledbury, and the eggs from hens at the front door.
Melissa and Mark Hargreaves took over the running of Melissa’s mother’s home five years ago, and started the B&B this summer. Mark is a keen cook, while Melissa looks after horses, and can stable your steed should you bring one. They are exemplary hosts, striking exactly the right balance between friendliness and letting you get on with your weekend. The ballroom and panelled drawing room are at guests’ disposal. There’s even a fridge for your wine. They offer a delicious home-cooked dinner in the ballroom if requested in advance. For only £20 per head, you are served fish pie, bread and butter pudding, cheese and homemade quince jelly, followed by coffee or mint tea in the drawing room. Dangerously, Melissa leaves the dishes to help yourself to seconds, or thirds.
There’s plenty of good walking from the doorstep and a lake for catching trout, if you bring a rod. The private hard tennis court can be used all year round. Qualified therapist Grania Naish offers a soothing massage in the house from £35 per hour, using Neal’s Yard oils and products (07549 990351; unfoldmassage.com).
Pauntley lies in a triangle between the market towns of Ledbury, Tewkesbury and Ross-on-Wye, all 15 minutes away. Tewksebury Abbey has a busy musical calendar (01684 856144; tewkesburyabbey.org.uk) while Ledbury has monthly farmer’s markets and a summer poetry festival (led buryfoodgroup.org; poetry-festival.co.uk). For good shopping and racing, Cheltenham is a half-hour drive east (01242 513 014; cheltenham.co.uk).
The pit stop
The Three Choirs Vineyard, one of the biggest in Britain, is in the next valley. It offers a wine-tasting tour and lunch for two people for £85.75 (01531 890223; three-choirs-vineyard.co.uk). Fine dining is also available four miles east, at the Michelin-starred Butcher’s Arms at Eldersfield (01452 840 381; thebutchersarms.net).
Pauntley Court, Redmarley d’Abitot, Gloucestershire, GL19 3JA (01531 828627; quintessentialbedandbreak fast.com/pauntley). The John Masefield starts at £110 including breakfast; the Dick Whittington £120. The nearest main-line train station is Gloucester, a 20-minute drive away.