Staycation: The Bell & Crown, Zeals, Wiltshire
by Melanie Leyshon
Melanie Leyshon and her partner wanted a rural stop-off with good walks and food to break their long journey from Cornwall to their home in south-east London. They found the perfect spot at The Bell & Crown, just off the A303
Where is it?
The Bell & Crown is in the quiet village of Zeals, minutes from the A303, between Yeovil and Salisbury. It’s a short drive to Stonehenge (35 minutes east) and Bath (40 minutes north), with the National Trust’s world-renowned Stourhead House and Gardens a couple of miles away.
What’s the accommodation like?
Guests can bed down in one of the six classically comfortable en suite rooms, which were opened in April 2022. They’re elegant and painted in muted Farrow & Ball neutrals that showcase the striking fabrics used for the drapes, window seat and soft furnishings, which are mainly made by local designers.
Beds are king size with sink-into mattresses, Egyptian cotton covers, and feather and down duvets. There’s a perfectly positioned TV on the opposite wall. Antique chairs with lamps double up as bedside tables. Nice touches include a hanging rail on one wall for your clothes, which is perfect for a few nights’ stay.
A tea tray is generously stocked with premium items – a cafetiere, 100% Arabica coffee, and a supply of fresh milk.
What did you eat and drink?
We sipped a spicy Earth Sliqueur negroni (him) and coupe of prosecco (me) before dinner as we chose dishes off the menu.
We didn’t go for your typical pub food starters, but instead had the creamy mini rarebit arancini balls with aioli and the courgette fritters on a rich houmous, pickled fennel and rocket. Both were wholesome yet light.
It was tempting to have their signature shortcrust home-cooked pies, but instead we went for the ribeye steak that came topped with chimichurri and fried padron peppers, and a pub classic – battered haddock with smashed peas and a piquant curry sauce. Off the short dessert list, the in-season rhubarb cream pud with granola and the mojito posset both hit the sweet spot.
What is there to do?
You can’t miss the breathtakingly beautiful Stourhead House and Gardens. It was at The Temple of Apollo in the grounds where Mr Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) first proposed to Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightly) in Joe Wright’s film of Pride and Prejudice.
For a cultural fix, take the 30-minute drive to Messums Wiltshire, a multi-purpose art gallery with a sculpture garden that has thought-provoking special exhibitions all year round. The on-site licensed Mess restaurant serves homemade cakes and lunches by Ecuadorian chef Ana Ortiz. Delicious takeaways are available from The Mess Deli.
What do I need to pack?
Avoid overpacking, as hanging space is limited. It’s smart casual for the pub dining and comfortable clothes for walks and visiting local attractions.
The homemade chocolate chip cookies on arrival. It’s thoughtful touches like this that set The Bell & Crown apart from your normal pub.
Sainsbury’s magazine insider tip
Stay on for a relaxed Monday night, when they serve Neapolitan pizzas under a stretch tent, with heaters and blankets if the weather gets chilly.
How to book
Double rooms at The Bell & Crown cost from £100 a night for two. Visit bellandcrown.com