This week we were exclaiming ‘Lord love a duck!’ as we marvelled at The Muddy Duck – a cosy pub turned luxury hotel near Bath – formerly known as the Kings Arms. Our Smith spy (Keith Oswin, a Wiltshire native from our Smith24 team) propped up the bar with a whisky, put away a gourmet meal of spiffed-up pub grub and cocooned himself in a spacious room with a selection from the DVD library; leaving infatuated with this country guesthouse’s new incarnation.
Need to exorcise some ghosts? Where better to do so than a pub-cum-hotel built on the remains of a former monastery? This Bath bolthole served its ghost-slaying purpose admirably – as my former local there were a few lurking spirits alongside the ones served on the rocks – but staying here also gave me the chance to see what that fuss has been about since the Kings Arms was reborn as the Muddy Duck a month ago – the signs on the road may use the old moniker, but inside it’s a whole new space. Bath is just a drop kick down the road as well, a real blast from the past for Wiltshire natives like myself.
Here, you step into a real country pub where a lingering aroma of wood smoke promises log fires and big armchairs to perch in as you nurse a large malt. This being summer in England the fire was already lit, but before the whisky could be poured Joe – mine host and proprietor – tore me away on a guided tour of the rooms; Room 3 is so big it probably has two postcodes. We then crossed the car park to my room where the downstairs bedroom had a marshmallow-soft mattress, which could swallow its occupants whole, and the lounge upstairs had its own woodburner. They’ve made great use of the space while offering unspoiled views across the fields; raid the DVD library, lock the door and you could hide for the weekend quite easily. However, this Smith food-fan felt the restaurant beckon. The Muddy Duck offers sensibly priced local fare – a step up from pub-grub but not as precious as haute cuisine. When full I tottered back to finish the film (and the sauvignon blanc) before dozing off, replete in every sense.
The Muddy Duck has kept the traditional pub feel while adding a modern twist that simply works. The bar and restaurant have retained a hint of gentlemen’s club and the bedrooms have individual quirks, while the two new out-bedrooms are modern but not impersonally so. Room 3 would be a perfect honeymoon suite (come to think of it you could probably hold the ceremony in there too!) and Joe and his team are informal yet attentive, the perfect hosts for a cold, wet weekend when the activity of choice involves venturing from your woodburner-adjacent seat only when you need a top up from the bar. The locals may have had a hissy fit over the name change but their stomachs could not be denied and having returned to the restaurant they’ve found the hotel to be going from strength to strength.