The Merry Harriers is entrepreneur Peter de Savary’s tribute to the great British pub. With timber beams, bulging plaster walls, landlords’ names listed on the walls dating back to the 17th century and local ales, the pub embodies the very best of the traditional hostelry. Jake Andreou, the manager gives everyone a warm welcome – whether they’ve got muddy boots or damp paws.
Since taking ownership, PdeS has looked to encourage guests to stay at The Merry Harriers and enjoy a slice of peaceful Surrey life. This is a place for cyclists taking a break, hikers, dog walkers and weekenders. Four cosy rooms sit on the first floor as well as Garden Rooms too – but the unique attraction is the five Shepherds Huts.
PdeS fell in love with the artisan concept of a Shepherds Hut after staying in one of these modern creations of Shepherds’ yesteryear boltholes. Now he has five sturdy huts, sat on cast iron wheels, looking out over a pond and views of the Surrey Hills beyond.
Today’s take on the Shepherds Hut has come a long way since Gabriel Oak sought refuge from the winter weather in his humble abode in Thomas Hardy’s, Far from the Madding Crowd.
A woodburner, with logs chopped and ready, plus underfloor heating, ensure that guests will be cosy in the depths of winter. Luxury comes as standard with Egyptian cotton king size bedding, a 32 inch wall mounted television, coffeemaker, fridge with a complimentary bottle of wine and double power shower.
The huts provide the best of both worlds. At night there is peace, quiet and views of the stars. Yet, you are but a three-minute walk from a buzzing pub that is the heart of its local community with Jazz Jams and friendly locals. Dogs are welcomed with a Doggy Menu and water bowls, labelled Doggy Beer. There’s even a letter welcoming dogs, advising them to keep their owners on both a leash and their best behaviour.
David Totterdell, a chef who enjoys foraging for fresh ingredients in the local countryside, focuses on a menu that with, top class sourcing and great cooking, elevates Pub Grub to new heights. Totterdell pays homage to Great British Pub Classics and traditions with Roasts, Steak and Stilton Pie, Fish and Chips, Liver and Bacon, Bangers and Mash. Wherever possible ingredients are sourced from within 15 miles. Guests who stay overnight have the chance to enjoy the local butcher’s bacon and sausages as part of a Full English Breakfast. The food is so good that PdeS, who lives locally, brings his family along for lunch most Sundays.
The real stars at the Merry Harriers are the pack of nine llamas, though the number may hit double figures soon, there are rumours that Toffee is pregnant. Clues are that she’s moody and more eager than ever to get at the muesli-like Goats Mix which is the llamas’ staple date. A scan is required to see if she’s embarked on an 11-month gestation period.
An hour from frenetic London, half-a-day with the llamas, as they amble through the hills is becoming increasingly popular. Walking alongside these cuddly and sociable creatures, whose inner tranquillity is contagious as they stop to graze on holly and thistles, it’s impossible not to relax. Llamas are pack animals so at least two take part in the trek, with one carrying a picnic hamper, for the humans’ refreshment.
Each of the llamas has his or her own distinct character. Mungo, born in Scotland, is the Alpha Male and knows it: his neck and tail rise haughtily above the rest. Louis, now 15 and retired from trekking is the friendly grandpa figure, keen to meet visitors but young Diesel is going through a difficult “teenage” hormonal stage. Something of a rebel, he is not yet mature enough for trekking.
This pack of chilled llamas personify the always relaxed but sometimes slightly quirky spirit of the Merry Harriers. It’s the sort of place where landlords travel from afar to see for themselves how the Great British Pub is done.
About this short break
You’ll find The Merry Harriers just up the road from the picturesque village of Hambledon in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Telephone: 01428 682883
Email: [email protected]
The Winter Llama Love package
Available from January to 31st March and again from December 1st
Included within Winter Llama Love:
3 Course Dinner at the Inn
Overnight stay in your accommodation of choice
English breakfast with continental buffet
2 ½ hour Guided Llama Trek within the Surrey AONB starting at 11am
Shepherds Hut £265 based on 2 people sharing, (sole occupancy rates available)
Inn Room £240
Garden Room £230