The PIG hotels have a reputation for locally sourced produce… so Rachel Ramsay decided to hop in the heli and check one out near Bath
3 May 2023
As ever, I’m slowly working my way through the list of helicopter-friendly venues within a 15 to 20-minute radius of whichever airfield I happen to be flying from (Kemble or Gloucestershire Airport, at the moment). One that’s been on my list a good long while is ‘The PIG-near Bath’, a self-described ‘restaurant with rooms’, and you’ll have to take my word for it that this is indeed how its name is formatted.
There are several PIG hotels dotted about the south of England, and this isn’t the only one with a helipad. But it’s the only one within an affordable distance, especially at today’s self-fly hire rates, so I’d been looking forward to dropping in for lunch.
I’d tried at least three times to fly to The PIG-near Bath, but the weather had other ideas. Then one day, just as the weather was finally good enough, the aircraft suddenly wasn’t available because the owner was about to sell it and had decided at the 11th hour that he didn’t want anyone flying it. The joys of helicopter self-fly hire.
Luckily, the lovely staff at The PIG were incredibly understanding and accommodating about our multiple last-minute cancellations. When the stars aligned and we were finally able to say conclusively that we were coming, it was an easy phone call to the hotel the day before to give their groundskeeper plenty of notice to move the deer.
Indeed, on receiving a Google Maps screenshot with the helipad coordinates, it was apparent that we’d be landing right in the corner of the deer park.
Alex got first dibs on the outbound flight, as I’d done the last one. We were flying from Gloucestershire Airport this time, and we were in Richard Hammond’s R44, which is leased to Heliflight.
It’s around 20 minutes’ airtime, initially following the M5 south, and our tasks for the flight were to dodge the gliders from the club at Nympsfield and to remain below Bristol airspace.
The PIG-near Bath is just outside the little hamlet of Hunstrete, which funnily enough is where I used to go for flute lessons as a teenager. It felt strange spotting my old flute teacher’s house from the air, reflecting on the fact that back then, I never could have imagined that I’d one day be flying past in a helicopter.
We were met at the helipad by a lovely chap by the name of Steff Jones, the hotel director, who was kind enough to show us around. He led us through the hotel – a cosy, wood-panelled place with lots of inviting spaces, open fires and a grand piano – to the gardens, where we had a pleasant wander before lunch.
The magnolia tree was in full bloom, presiding over an outdoor dining area that had a few people out enjoying a sunny Easter Saturday. The kitchen garden was just springing into life, and around the edge of the lawn were little huts where spa treatments were taking place. I paused for a few moments on a bench beneath the gnarly boughs of an old apple tree, which was laden with soft white blossom.
In short, it was an idyllic place. Our table was in the conservatory, which was beautifully done, streaming with sunlight and full of greenery. We noticed that our napkin rings were made from old menus, which is part of The PIG’s mission to re-use, repurpose and recycle as much as possible.
We were presented with the ‘25 Mile Menu’, on which all ingredients are sourced from within a 25-mile radius or grown on site. There was even a section of it entitled ‘Garden, Greenhouse and Polytunnel’, with dishes made from ingredients ‘mostly picked this morning’.
We ordered a couple of starters to share. The Hunstrete venison carpaccio had, I assumed, come from a member of the herd we’d flown over on the way in, while the mozzarella was served with a delicious homemade pesto made from locally foraged wild garlic.
Alex then had lamb chops, while I opted for an Oxford Sandy and Black pork terrine. After that lot, neither of us had room for dessert!
After lunch it was my turn to fly, and bidding farewell to Steff, we made our way back to the helicopter. It’s one of the more scenic helipads I’ve landed at, just the other side of the fence from the main entrance to the hotel.
As I powered up to warm-up rpm there was the usual crowd of people abandoning their tables to come and watch us take off, which never fails to make one feel the pressure.
I’m still getting used to the helicopter joining procedures at Gloucestershire Airport, but so far they seem to be pretty straightforward. On this occasion, we could approach straight-in to Heli South, which had us essentially joining almost direct to Heliflight.
The time saved by not having to do a circuit should, I reflected, save some money to compensate for the landing fee one has to pay even as a based aircraft at Gloucester!
I’m keen to explore as many different types of landing sites as possible, but there are times when nothing beats popping into a nice country house hotel. After the warm welcome we received at The PIG, I can see it becoming a joint local favourite with Lucknam Park as a place to take friends on their first helicopter flight. Which, after all, is what heli flying is all about.