Where: Hambledon, Surrey
Sleeps: Most accommodation sleeps 2. Option of booking multiple rooms for larger groups. Dogs welcome.
How much: Prices start from £130 per night
The Merry Harriers is the epitome of a ye olde, country pub – cosy fireplace snugs, wooden beams and bar staff who greet the locals by name. Scratch beneath the surface and the Merry Harriers is indeed your typical, friendly country local – but so much more! The pub offers a variety of first rate accommodation: guests can choose to stay in the inn itself, in one of their seven garden rooms or in one of their five luxurious shepherd huts located around a pretty pond opposite the pub. In addition to providing a place to stay for visiting walkers and cyclists the Merry Harriers also offers a selection of Stay Experiences to ensure guests really get the most out of their time here. We were so excited to be invited by the fabulous CJ Hotel Consultancy to try out their Merry Bikation package at the end of November which includes a 2 night stay, bike hire and guide, a 3 course dinner and cooked breakfast on both mornings of your stay. Guests can tweak their cycle package and accommodation options to suit their personal preference or budget. We experienced a stream lined version of the package as we could only get away for one night, but boy we packed a lot into 24 hours!
The Merry Harriers is a 16th Century traditional pub located in the heart of the Surrey Hills in the pretty village of Hambledon. The pub embraces country living welcoming dogs, walkers, cyclists. Visitors can even take up the unique opportunity to explore the surrounding landscapes while trekking with one of 13 resident llamas! The kitchen prides themselves on using locally sourced ingredients to create seasonal dishes for guests to enjoy from breakfast through until dinner. The Inn also offers boutique accommodation across 15 character rooms including luxury shepherd huts.
The team at the Merry Harriers have put together a range of staycation packages designed to provide guests with the very best experience during their stay. There are currently eight packages available including A Taste of Surrey (vineyard tour and tasting), Llama Love (llama trekking with guide), Overnight Ginfluencer Experience (distillery tour and creation of personal gin blend – and our tried and tested Merry Bikation.
As part of our Merry Bikation package we were provided with 2 hours of guiding and e-bike cycle hire thanks to Jon at Surrey Hills Cycle Hire. Both my husband and I enjoy cycling but neither of us had tried riding an e-bike before. Whilst waiting for our guide to turn up we both felt a bit reluctant to take part – it was a particularly cold day with a strong chill factor thanks strong winds and the thought of going outside was not inviting. However, on seeing Jon rock up with his impressive selection of electric mountain bikes we totally forgot about any apprehensions and found ourselves full of excitement and eager to get into the saddle!
The area around the Merry Harriers is the perfect playground for any cyclist. Hambledon is in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding and Natural Beauty with off road routes being accessible a stones throw from the pub itself. Once we were saddled up with helmets secure Jon led the way down dirt trails, through woodland and along quiet country lanes. The scenery here is stunning, an absolute joy to cycle around even on a fairly bleak day. We stopped to take in views across the Hills towards the South Downs before whizzing a few more miles over to Dunsfold to warm up in the local pub.
The electric bikes were very easy to get the hang of and so much fun! It’s going to be hard to go back to riding a standard pedal bike after this experience. The bikes have a small motor that kicks in each time you pedal. You can adjust the power depending on your gradient or terrain – but it means that as long as you keep turning those pedals you can just cruise on up even the steepest of hills. It’s like all your cycling dreams come true! We covered twice as much distance as we probably would have on a standard bike meaning we got to see so much more of the local landscape. Just as our 2 hour session was coming to an end the weather turned for the worse, growing bitterly cold and starting to rain. It was definitely time to take shelter in the safety of the Merry Harriers bar.
Throughout the Christmas period the Merry Harriers offer diners a seasonal Festive Menu at a set price of £35 for 3 courses or £25 for 2 including a glass of prosecco. After our afternoon cycling about in the fresh air we’d worked up a healthy appetite and were eager to get stuck into starter, main and pud! I opted for the chick pea falafel with a beetroot mint dip to start with, an unusual option for a Christmas menu but really refreshing and light. For my main I went for a traditional roast turkey with chipolatas, bacon roll stuffing, roast potatoes and seasonal veg. A generous portion with plenty of sprouts, parsnips and delicious gravy. We stuck with the traditional for dessert going for the traditional Christmas pudding with served with brandy sauce – the perfect sweet delight to finish a truly festive feast!
We stayed in one of the pubs six pretty gardens rooms located just to the rear of the property. Tucked away down a garden path these rooms feel like somewhere Beatrix Potter might write about thanks to an English garden feel and some very friendly wildlife. We were given the Llama View Garden Room which has an outside area facing the llama paddock with a fire pit and seating. The joy of opening the curtains to be welcomed by several big toothed llama grins is something I’ll remember fondly and will certainly make our stay here stand out.
Indoors the room has everything you could need for a night or two. A double bed adorned with llama cushions and hot water bottles to keep your tootsies warm; coffee, tea and snacks to top up energy levels; smart TV so you can snuggle up to watch Strictly and a warm en-suite bathroom with large shower and complimentary smellies. They even provide you with marshmallow and toasting sticks to use over the firepit! As we only stayed for one night we didn’t spend much down time in our room as we were busy cycling, eating and having fun – however it was the perfect pit stop between activities while also providing a bit of an escape from the lively pub atmosphere.
I really enjoyed sitting on the patio with a coffee in the morning listening to the birds chirping in the trees whilst the llamas took it in turns to come over and investigate what I was up to. There was also a gorgeous little robin who happily hopped in and out of the room – clearly familiar with the set up and knowing there might be a few complimentary biscuits going spare! I could have spent hours sat there in the cold, bright sunshine just hanging out with the wildlife…but indeed breakfast was due to be served!
Breakfast is served until 10am, so obviously we rocked up about 10 minutes before making the most of a much treasured lie-in and lazy morning. We were served by a friendly, young chap who promptly took our order and brought us some much needed coffee. The breakfast menu offers a range of cooked options including a traditional full English breakfast, veggie breakfast, avocado on toast and salmon and scrambled eggs. Of course we went for the whole shebang tucking into a hearty full English to start the day.
Our cycle experience was excellent. Having a guide meant that we could focus on enjoying our activity without the stress of following maps or getting lost. Jon was incredibly welcoming and knowledgeable both in the local area and the bikes themselves. In fact he was so hospitable that we ended up spending the whole evening with him joining his team at the local quiz night – now that is going above and beyond the duty of a good host!
Our time at the Merry Harriers was made particularly special by the warm welcome we received consistently from every member of staff we encountered. We were treated like regulars and accepted as locals despite obviously only staying for one night. The atmosphere here is really special – from the excitement of the weekly meat raffle to hubbub and comings and goings of guests preparing for llama treks, cycle tours and local hikes this place is buzzing absolutely with activity. The Merry Bikation is ideal for couples (like ourselves) who like to get the most out of a weekend away while still enjoying the very best guest experience – but if cycling’s not your bag there really is something for all tastes. Merry by name, merry by nature – cheers to this fabulous pub where you’ll leave feeling like everybody knows your name!
Disclosure: We were gifted our stay in exchange for this review. With thanks to the Merry Harriers for hosting our stay and to Carla Judge for organising our itinerary.