Just a 90-minute drive from London is a gorgeous Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty called Inkpen, which is home to The Crown & Garter Pub with Rooms. The picturesque village in the North Wessex Downs is full of friendly locals, birdsong and perfectly quiet stillness. Given the somewhat stressful year we’ve all gone through, it acts as a perfect getaway especially when trying to escape the city.
The Crown & Garter Pub with Rooms dates back to 1640 and offers a diverse array of activities including walking and cycling, as well as cultural highlights like Highclere Castle, which was made famous by Downton Abbey; the cellars and former staff quarters are currently home to the Egyptian Exhibition, celebrating the 5th Earl of Carnarvon’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. The Bombay Sapphire Distillery is also just a short drive away and is well worth a visit. Partake in a discovery tour or a cocktail making masterclass, it’s a an afternoon well spent since the distillery’s a beautiful location even if you’re not into gin. But of course the real attraction is The Crown & Garter itself.
The 10 individually designed rooms are situated around a very pretty courtyard, which is a great place to enjoy a drink in the sunshine and read your book. The rooms are spacious and clean, and feature a very comfortable king-sized bed with top-notch Egyptian cotton linens. The walk-in shower is a really nice touch too, helping you to relax at the end of the day before climbing into bed.
In accordance with government guidelines, there is also now a contactless check-in, whereby you’re notified of your room number before arrival and your key is left in the room. All rooms are thoroughly cleaned beforehand and there has now been a 24-hour vacancy period introduced between each guest checking in too.
The food here is superb and they champion local produce; all their meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and dairy is sourced from local suppliers. Examples of this on the menu include the lightly battered “Good Old Boy” fish and chips; the Good Old Boy is an ale (a very good one at that I might add) that comes from the local West Berkshire Brewery. Expect homemade pâtés and terrines in addition to the gourmet pub classics. I personally would recommend their 8OZ Rump Steak, which very well cooked and packing flavour. You could tell it was real quality ingredients being used here. All bread and baked goods, including breakfast pastries, are made by Honesty Bakery and delivered to The Crown & Garter Pub with Rooms twice daily. Breakfast, too, includes colourful dishes such as Breakfast Galette, which is a delicious plate of bacon, sausage, tomato, mushroom and fried egg wrapped in homemade puff pastry!
After a hearty breakfast it’s always good to go for a nice long stroll. For those who prefer a gentler walk, just take a nice leisurely stroll through the village. You’ll come across chalk ridges, magical woodland and quaint farmland ranging from one and a quarter hours to five and a half hours, which will suit the walkers who prefer more challenging routes. Many of the walks loop back round to The Crown & Garter so you’ll easily find your way back.
The Crown & Garter Pub with Rooms is also situated on the National Cycle Route 4 and there are several routes that take in the local area. Many of the cycle routes are suitable for all skill levels across Berkshire and the Chilterns. Some of the routes are circular and begin and end at The Crown & Garter Pub with Rooms, which also has plenty of bike racks and a range of much-needed refreshments!
If instead of rambling and cycling you’re seeking more areas of culture to explore, then families with children may want to consider a visit to Wilton Windmill – a working 19th-century mill that still produces stone ground flour. Take a picnic with you because the vast open countryside that you can view from the chalk hill it’s situated on is worth a moment in itself.
Houghton Lodge is frequently referred to as ‘the jewel of the Test Valley’ and is within close proximity to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery. The Lodge itself was thought to be designed in 1790 by John Plaw and is one of the finest and earliest surviving examples of a Cottage Ornée – a genre of ‘picturesque’ Gothic architecture that flourished for about 25 years from 1790. Today the house is Grade II* listed and regularly attracts visits from students of architecture and has become one of the must-see houses to visit Hampshire has to offer. The gardens, meanwhile, of Houghton Lodge are breathtaking and include a kitchen garden, a woodland grotto, a peacock garden and the orchid house!
After a spot of retail therapy? Then take a trip to nearby Hungerford. It’s full of independent shops, antique stores and clothing boutiques.
For more information on The Crown & Garter Pub with Rooms, visit www.crownandgarter.co.uk