We’re on the hunt for the best weekend breaks that are easy to get to from London. We’ve found a peach in The Swan Inn, a 16th century pub-with-rooms nestled in Ascott-Under-Wychood, a classic Cotswolds stone village with a church, a school, a cluster of houses and a tiny shop. Burford, Chipping Norton and Stow-on-the-Wold are all close by for exploring by day, but you’ll be glad to retreat back to this homely pub come the evening, that still feels like Ascott’s meeting place with locals as well as weekenders lazing around inglenook fires on snug sofas.
The pub was formerly owned by Charlie and Willow Crossley and under their stewardship each of the rooms was given over to a different interior designer – Oka (room 1), Barneby Gates (room 8), Molly Mahon (room 4) with our bedroom – room 5, done by Penny Morrison. This year it was bought by Sam and Georgie Pearman, also of the nearby Chequers as well as The Talbot in Yorkshire that make up their new Country Creatures group of hotels and inns. The pub has retained the boutiquey feel with new touches such as the introduction of 100 Acres bath products, (Georgie’s own) a welcome addition. Made with Cotswolds flora and fauna, these are a real treat, particularly when you have a bath in the room as we did here. Our bedroom was gorgeous with green walls and exposed beams and an enormous comfy bed with patterned headboard. Supplied with stacks of up-to-date magazines, fluffy dressing gowns and tea, relaxing here is made easy.
Eating and Drinking
The Swan excels at breakfast, assemble your own spicy Bloody Mary or pour a fresh juice from the selection lined up along the bar. The Continental is complimentary so take your pick from pastries, yoghurt and compote and cereals or order on the menu for eggs and porridge with Cotswolds honey and snuggle in by the fire with the papers. In summer, there’s a huge leafy terrace where we longed to eat outdoors, though it was too cold on this occasion. Lunch and dinner is English pub fare but with contemporary touches – try the mucky toast, sourdough with pork scratchings and apple sauce, and the decadent Jaffa cake pud. Sip cocktails in the cosy bar and eat in the smarter dining room with its striking patterned wallpaper.
Break up all the pub food with lunch at Daylesford, where the menu includes cold-press juices, delicious autumnal salads and wood-fired pizza. Allow time to wander round the farm shop where there’s no end of tempting treats for the larder like their market garden pickles, a DIY muesli bar and Leoube rose and olive oil – but put your name down for lunch before you do as there’s usually a wait for a table. There’s also a cookery school here, try cider making, nose-to-tail butchery or a pasta masterclass.
Poke your nose into the Wild Rabbit for a pint where there’s not one but two crackly fires. Owned by Carole Bamford, the pub and its collection of cottages over the road (named the Bunny etc.) seem to be Daylesford-ifying the village of Kingham – even the pub’s sign is perfectly rabbit-shaped. If that’s all too much for you, continue up the lane to the more laid-back Kingham Plough.
If you’re in a group take over an upstairs room at The Chequers for lunch or dinner where there are two private spaces, both equally inviting with hand-printed wallpaper plus your very own bar. Otherwise, settle in with the locals who pack out the pub downstairs bringing children and dogs with them. Do as we did and forgo pudding for the squidgy chocolate truffles with your after-lunch espresso – delicious. Enter at the front and you might miss the terrace behind the pub, it’s the perfect spot for a scotch egg in the sunshine.
Things To Do
Delve into the treasure trove that is Cutter Brooks in Stow-on-the-Wold. Every item has been hand-picked by Amanda Brooks, ex-Fashion Director at Barneys and the whole experience is transporting. Tables are laid up with bamboo cutlery, Vladimir Kanevsky’s blackberry sculptures, Perle coloured glassware and Zsuzsanna Nyul plates. As well as homewares there are exquisite clothes too; highlights being the new Amanda Brooks x Grenson boots and Love Shack Fancy dresses. You wish you could move in.
Antiques shops abound in most of these towns, but make a beeline for Station Mill, down a rather unpromising-looking cul de sac in Chipping Norton where there are 2 floors for happy trawlers to explore. Book well ahead for treatments at Bamford Haybarn, the spa at Daylesford. There are no swimming pools or steam rooms here, just really lovely treatments and wellness classes too. And of course, there are country walks. Situated in the Evenlode Valley, we were perfectly happy setting off directly from the pub and doing a loop past the lake and out across the fields, returning back to the village and wandering along the magnificent lime tree avenue through the churchyard.
The Swan Inn is a 3-minute walk from the train station, Ascott-Under-Wychwood. Trains run from London Paddington four times a day and take 1 hour 35 mins. Driving from London takes around 1 hour 40 mins. Rooms from £90 per night, no minimum stay even on weekends. https://www.countrycreatures.com/the-swan/