Hidden away down quiet leafy lanes, deep in the serene Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you'll find the 16th century Merry Harriers, a historic treasure filled with character, charm, and plenty of photogenic corners. Only a 50-minute direct train ride from London Waterloo, it is the perfect rural retreat from London.
Last week, Kezia and I took a mini Epicurean Club team trip away to experience this special place in our Collection for ourselves.
Kezia (pictured left below) is our reservations manager - you might have spoken to her over email or on the phone. And I'm Alice (pictured right below), in charge of all things marketing at the Epicurean Club.
Curl up on a comfy chair and settle in for a little escape inspiration as we recap our one-night rural adventure at The Merry Harriers. We hope you enjoy.
After a very pretty car journey, through charming villages and rolling fields, we arrived at our destination and headed straight to the bar to find out where we would be sleeping for the night.
Stepping through the inn's front door was like a warm embrace. We were welcomed by a large roaring log fire, flickering candles, and huge smiles from Martine, Mikey, and the rest of the team. We booked a table for dinner, had a peek at the menu which looked amazing, and went to find our rooms.
The Merry Harriers has a wonderful selection of rooms to stay in: inn rooms, garden rooms and shepherd's huts. Each contain special home touches including tiny hot water bottles, huge woollen blankets, a wonderful selection of hot chocolate, tea, coffee and biscuits, and a hefty jar of marshmallows to roast outside on the firepits.
Across from the inn, there are five luxurious shepherd's huts, settled spaciously around a pretty pond and surrounded by peaceful fields. Each one has its own outdoor firepit and is dog friendly.
Inside we found a delightful double bed topped with cotton sheets and woollen blankets, a tiny wood burner with dried logs and firelighters, a comfortable sized en-suite with a large rain shower, and a tiny fridge and kettle.
Special touches included underfloor heating and a hot water bottle to keep you warm during the chillier nights, llama cushions and ornaments, and a bottle of local wine in the fridge to enjoy during your stay.
We also discovered an empty gin bottle on the shelf which you can take along to the local gin distillery, Vann Lane Gin, for some money off - it's only a 1-minute stroll down the road.
The four en-suite inn rooms above the pub brim with rustic charm and character; think wonky floors, ancient oak beams, antique furniture, and wonderful rural views.
This rustic charm combines beautifully with more modern touches: super-comfortable mattresses and crisp linen on great double beds, soothing pastel colours and smart tiled en-suites.
There are also several country chic, dog friendly garden rooms hidden along a leafy pathway behind the inn that leads towards the llama paddock. Each has its own entrance, a cosy double bed and desk, an en-suite bathroom, and a private patio with chairs and a table.
Room 7 has fabulous views of the llamas and fields, which can be enjoyed from the bed and from its private terrace and firepit.
After checking into our inn room and shepherd's hut, we explored our new surroundings using the brilliant map we found in our rooms and met the inn's very friendly llama residents. Then, before dinner, we lit the wood burner in the shepherd's hut and enjoyed a glass of local white wine from the bottle in the fridge.
We had been very excited about dinner since we arrived, not just because we were hungry from our journey, but because everything on the menu sounded delicious! Plus, we had been told that the ingredients in each dish are sourced within 15 miles of the pub, and that the chefs forage in the Surrey Hills for seasonal fruit and wild garlic.
For starters, Kezia went for beetroot carpaccio, served with hazelnuts, goats' cheese, and a cabernet sauvignon dressing. I went for smashed avocado with chilli and pomegranate on toasted ciabatta bread.
I was very happy to find vegan dishes on the menu, and Head Chef Nick said he was very happy to alter other dishes to make them vegan if I wished. He is very passionate about creating dishes for all diets including vegan and gluten free which is brilliant.
It was difficult to pick a main as we wanted to try them all. In the end Kezia chose seared sea bass, served with crushed potatoes, spinach and salsa verde. I went for spinach, chickpea and sweet potato massaman curry, served with basmati rice, a recipe inspired by Nick's travels around Asia. Both were incredible and demolished extremely quickly. A huge thank you to Nick and his team for creating such wonderful dishes!
After dinner we headed back to our rooms, found our thick blankets, marshmallows and sticks, and roasted our marshmallows on the firepit outside our shepherd's hut. We were lucky to have a cloudless night and the stars were incredible. The perfect end to the day.
If you are staying in an inn room or garden room which doesn't have its own firepit, don't worry, there is a nicely sized firepit in the pretty pub garden which you can sit around and roast your marshmallows on.
Waking up to birdsong the next morning along with views of the trees from our beds was idyllic. After a warm cup of tea under the sheets, we both strolled to the pub for breakfast.
The menu was full of delicious options, including full English breakfast which can be made vegetarian, avocado on toast, scrabbled eggs and salmon, porridge, fresh fruit, toast, and more.
Kezia decided to have the full English breakfast. I went for the porridge which Chef Cam was very happy to make vegan by using oat milk, and topped it with freshly cut strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. We also had tea and coffee. A wonderful filling breakfast which set us up perfectly for the day.
The Merry Harriers offers a host of brilliant activities to enjoy during your stay, including llama treks, a Surrey wine tour and tasting at Albury Organic Vineyard (you can order their wine at the inn), a Vann Lane Gin distillery tour and tasting, and mountain biking (bikes can be hired on site and you can book guided tours). Plus, leading up to Christmas they provide wreathe making workshops which include a festive two-course lunch with a glass of prosecco (starts Tuesday 30th November).
There is also a brilliant booklet in each room containing all the inn's doorstep walks and cycle routes across the Surrey Hills which are suitable for all abilities.
We picked the llama trek. So after breakfast, we met up with our llama trek tour guide Clara who introduced us to our new walking buddies, Goji and Champagne. The rest of the herd were also very keen to say hello, and all came rushing over to meet us.
Clara was brilliant. She knew the answer to every question we had, and the llamas were so comfortable and calm around her.
Walking across the picturesque Surrey Hills with the llamas felt a little surreal. The two hours flew by, and we both returned to the inn with huge smiles on our faces. A truly great and unique experience which we would recommend to anyone.
If you're looking for a quirky and unique rural retreat that's surrounded by picturesque countryside, has incredible food and unique offerings, and has staff that go above and beyond to create a truly special experience, then The Merry Harriers is the one to book.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last updated: 05.11.21
Words by Alice Gabriel