Luxury glamping and llama trekking
For a staycation with a difference head to The Merry Harriers in Hambledon - where you can stay in a shepherd's hut and trek with llamas.
The Merry Harriers is a traditional pub in the small pretty village of Hambledon, near Godalming. It feels like a million miles from anywhere with views out over fields and woodlands, but it’s an easy drive to the A3, and Witley and Milford railway stations, with direct services to London Waterloo, are also just a few miles away.
There’s not much to Hambledon, and if you arrive from the north you may only come across the pub. But there’s also a church, village hall and the Hambledon Village Shop, a community-run cafe and shop where you’ll find a selection of local produce and artisan food, wine and spirits, and great baked goodies.
Next door to the pub, there’s a creative hub called Coal Yard Creatives a collective of artisan producers that includes the Village Spirit Collective gin distillery (more on that later) as well as a florist, artisan cake maker, carpenter and caterer.
The Merry Harriers is a traditional village pub which offers a range of boutique rooms including five luxury shepherd’s huts. It’s a warm and cosy pub, popular with the locals as well as guests from further afield who looking for a cosy countryside retreat.
It’s owned by Peter De Savary, the multi-millionaire hotelier and former chairman of Millwall Football Club, who lives in the village and bought and renovated the pub about three years ago.
The 16th century inn is down-to-earth with reams of history and character, and a friendly, warm and cosy feel. There’s a huge inglenook fireplace and plenty of timber beams and, in a charming nod to the owners from days gone by, the walls have been etched with the names of the former landlords dating back to the early 1700s.
The llama trekking is a big draw, and there are a range of trekking packages on offer including the ‘Llama love experience’ which includes dinner, an overnight stay, breakfast, a 2.5 hour llama trek and then finishing off with lunch at the pub. There are also gin experiences and bicycle hire packages which offer guided and non-guided tours.
I signed up for the Llama love experience and also experienced the gin tasting – which was really good combination. The trekking is a quirky, fun and relaxing way to spend a morning. Goji and Lorenzo were our llama friends – cute and adorable, but stubborn and a bit kooky as well. Goji is an old hand at trekking, and while you might be the one holding the lead rein, it’s really he who is in charge. Lorenzo is fairly new to trekking, at just 18 months old, had an adorable dislike of mud.
Our guide was Clara who led us on a pretty route through the hills and woodlands, whilst chatting about all things llama related.
Ian Cox is a local who set up the Village Spirit Collective Distillery a couple of years ago and now produces two artisan gins – Vann Lane Gin and Haslemere Gin – plus a range of limited edition seasonal gins. He’s a knowledgable chap – passionate about gin and its production. His two regular gins were formulated with the help of two teams of local gin tasters who tried an tested his botanical variations. He also produces a range of gin liquors, including a rather tasty toffee apple gin tonica.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The menu is classic gastropub fare – with traditional favourites like bangers and mash, burgers, honey glazed ham, eggs and chips, and fish and chips sitting alongside steak and fish options.
Where possible the ingredients are locally sourced – Surrey beef, Farncombe sausages and home-made beef burgers.
I shared a lovely seafood platter with Mr M which was beautifully presented and a great way to start. Moving on to mains, I chose the seabass fillets with pak choi, cashew nuts served on spring onion mash while Mr M went for sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce. Both were good choices, well presented, beautifully cooked and very tasty.
For breakfast the next morning, I went for the poached eggs and smashed avocado on granary toast. Mr M went for the vegetarian breakfast of halloumi, grilled tomato, mushrooms, baked beans, hash browns and eggs. Both were excellent.
There are 15 rooms at the Merry Harriers – four in the main inn, six in a converted barn off the garden out the back, and five shepherds’ huts across the road. The bedrooms are all elegantly turned out in a mix of neutrals with cosy natural throws and antique prints on the walls.
I stayed in one of the shepherd’s huts – waking up to views out over a large pond and the fields beyond. The shepherd’s huts are gloriously chic and cosy – immaculately and thoughtfully designed to boutique hotel standards. There’s underfloor heating, a log burner, a wall-mounted TV, a proper bathroom complete with fluffy robes and beauty products, a cosy sleeping area piled high with bright and quirky cushions and a well-equipped mini-kitchen including a fridge. Plus an outdoor seating area.
I couldn’t resist firing up the woodburner, and even though it was a cool night the hut heated up to a level somewhere just below sauna. Cosy? Definitely. A little too cosy? Quite possibly.
Rooms and huts are for two, and it seems a shame to burst that bubble of tranquility and calm by bringing the kids. Having said that, kids are welcome (as are dogs) and they’d certainly love the llama trekking. Z beds and cots can be set up, and there’s a kids menu as well as a kids play area in the garden. Kids must be over 8 years to lead the llamas.
OUT & ABOUT
There’s plenty of walking in the area, with both the Greensand Way and the the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offering miles of walking and cycling trails. Winkworth Arboretum and Hydon’s Ball and Heath (both National Trust) are also nearby, as is Oakhurst Cottage (also NT) and Ramster House and Gardens (check opening times, it’s not open all year round). Guildford, Godalming and Haslemere are also a short distance away.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for? A romantic getaway, or for anyone who needs to disconnect and unplug for a while. There’s no Wifi in the shepherd’s huts (yet) and phone coverage is sketchy. If you’re looking for a countryside retreat, you’ll love it. And if you’re big on walking, hiking or cycling, it’s the ideal spot.
Not for? You feel a bit cut off from things here, so if you like to be connect at all times – I’d make for a city break.
The damage? The llama love experience with a stay in the shepherd’s hut is £310 during the winter and autumn and £390 in the summer and spring. A single night in the shepherd’s hut is from £185 which includes breakfast and £130 for a garden room and £140 for an inn room including breakfast. Food is £6.50-£9 for a starter, £11-£17 for mains with the fish platter and steaks a around £25 each. Sides are all around £3.
The Merry Harriers, Hambledon Road, Hambledon, GU8 4DR. Tel: 01428 682883. merryharriers.com