Great British boltholes: The 250-year-old Cambridgeshire pub renovated with a contemporary twist that’s a joy for humans and hounds alike (there’s even a canine menu)
- The Carpenters Arms now has a wraparound glass extension that has created a spacious new dining area
- Following the facelift, the interiors include marble-topped tables and lime-green leather banquettes
- There are just four bedrooms, all named after a type of carpentry joint, and dogs are ‘positively encouraged’
Many times, heading up the A11 through Cambridgeshire, I’ve noticed signs to The Wilbrahams and imagined a hospitable family, ready to welcome weary travellers with a drink and maybe a bed for the night.
In reality, the Wilbrahams are two villages, Great and Little, both dating from the Bronze Age, separated by the Little Wilbraham River. And the place to go for hospitality is the Carpenters Arms.
The 250-year-old pub has recently been renovated, and the addition of a wraparound glass extension has created a spacious new dining area.
Lizzie Enfield checked into The Carpenters Arms in Cambridgeshire, which has recently been renovated
The addition of a wraparound glass extension in the pub has created a spacious new dining area, reveals Lizzie
Lizzie explains that the 18th Century origins of the pub are evident in the low wooden beams in the older part of the building
The interior is all wooden floors, marble-topped tables, orange and lime-green leather banquettes and houndstooth check upholstered chairs. A row of floor-to-ceiling silver birch branches prevents falls on the slope leading past the bar.
It’s a far cry from the 18th Century origins evident in the low wooden beams in the older part of the building, and the large stone fireplace in the original bar. Here you can enjoy a Suffolk Adnams pint or a Newmarket gin before dinner.
The menu is more traditional but given a contemporary twist, and mostly sourced from the surrounding Fenlands and coast.
We dined on Cromer crab tartlets and Cambridge asparagus, followed by chargrilled Suffolk lamb with ratatouille and roast romanesco cauliflower with white beans and pickled raisin.
There are just four rooms at the pub, ‘all named after a type of carpentry joint’
Lizzie stayed in Mortise, ‘a double (or twin) room painted chalky blue with bright crewel embroidered headboard, matching blinds and a back-buttoned dusky velvet chair’
Following its renovation, Lizzie says the pub’s interior is ‘all wooden floors, marble-topped tables, orange and lime-green leather banquettes and houndstooth check upholstered chairs’
The menu is ‘more traditional but given a contemporary twist, and mostly sourced from the surrounding Fenlands and coast’
Fresh Bungay cream complemented the strawberries, and Fen Farm mascarpone the chocolate torte, for dessert.
There are just four rooms, all named after a type of carpentry joint. We stayed in Mortise, a double (or twin) room painted chalky blue with bright crewel embroidered headboard, matching blinds and a back-buttoned dusky velvet chair. The panelled and beamed bathroom boasted a powerful walk-in shower.
As well as Cambridge, historic Ely and Saffron Walden to explore, there are plenty of nearby Fenland walks. On our bed we found a printed ‘Wellington Boot Wander’, which took us across ancient Wilbraham Common and through Fulbourn Fen, a nature reserve that’s home to chiffchaffs and great spotted woodpeckers.
Dogs are not only welcome at the Carpenters Arms – they’re positively encouraged, with a bed, bowl, doggy towel and take-home tennis ball. There’s even a canine menu.
We opt for the human breakfast in the jewel-pink and turquoise breakfast room: a selection of fresh fruits, granola, baked muffins and local chalk stream smoked trout.
In fact, just the kind of breakfast my imaginary Wilbraham family would have served.