Whilst summertime may be the peak time for travel, there’s something quite charming about a countryside getaway in the late autumn/winter months. Having spent half of my life in the UK, I must admit that I haven’t explored as much of the British countryside as I should have. As much as I love the buzz of the city and sipping cocktails at the top of skyscrapers, I’m equally as comfortable trudging through muddy paths and revelling in the warmth of an open fireplace. So when an invitation came through to stay at The Merry Harriers, I could not decline – even more so at the mention of llama-trekking as part of the experience!
After about an hour-long drive from London, it was a breath of fresh air to be out in the great outdoors, the grounds covered in white frost; a brief flurry of dancing snowflakes added a touch of magic to our arrival. We were welcomed with warm cups of freshly brewed coffee before heading off for an invigorating trek on a crisp late-autumn morning accompanied by llamas; what is said to be a hugely bonding experience and growing in popularity due to their calming and therapeutic nature.
Each member of the herd had their own unique personality, and we were coupled up with one of the older llamas, Mungo, who was known to be one of the calmest. The average route is about 3 miles, our experienced guide steered us through the surrounding areas of the Surrey Hills, the views made even more beautiful by the mist floating above the vast landscape. At the end of our trek, we bid farewell to our woolly friends and retired to the Inn for a hearty pub lunch and mulled wine by the fire.
With about an hour of daylight left by the time we had finished lunch, we settled into our cosy Shepherds Hut, located at the front of the Inn, next to a pond that overlooked the horse dotted fields of the rolling Surrey Hills.
There are five huts in total, and we were specially checked into one with an outdoor hot tub. Each hut comes with underfloor heating, a log burner, a cosy seating area with games, and a downy double bed topped with colourful pillows adorned with llamas (of course). Our hut in particular was facing in the direction of the hills where we caught sight of the sunrise from the comforts of our cosy bed the next morning. At the bottom of our handy kitchen corner was a mini fridge which contained fresh milk and a complimentary bottle of wine. The bathroom was much more spacious than I had imagined, which included a luxurious walk in rain shower with toiletries and soft towelling bathrobes. Each Hut also comes equipped with Netflix enabled smart TV and thoughtful little extras such as a hair dryer and a hot water bottle, with plenty of storage space for those travelling with a bit more baggage. An open firepit is certainly a novelty for city dwellers, which was where we spent the rest of the afternoon, enjoying a bottle (or two) of wine whilst toasting marshmallows under the stars.
Dinner was served back at the Inn, our regular haunt for the weekend, where we tucked into some pub classics accompanied by a bottle of red wine, before finishing with a round of Espresso Martinis – ‘tis the season, after all. Breakfast in the morning included freshly cooked dishes from the kitchen, such as crushed avocado on toast, and smoked salmon & scrambled eggs, enjoyed alongside a selection of breads, pastries, homemade condiments and juices.
Although our plans for a late-night dip in the hot tub fell through, we did eventually manage to make the most of it in the morning before we checked out – perseverance pays off!
Blessed with good weather and great company, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and would highly recommend it as a staycation option, ideal even in the colder winter months. And if llama-trekking has never been on your bucket list, it most definitely should be now.
- My experience at The Merry Harriers was complimentary – views and photos are my own