Dog-friendly Cotswolds classics
Belinda Archer takes a tour through the Cotswolds, discovering some of the best dog-friendly places among the region’s seemingly limitless supply of pubs, restaurants and hotels
The Cotswolds is probably the most fashionable destination in the UK right now, second home to the rich and beautiful, and frequented by the glitterati. No wonder it boasts the highest density of stylish gastropubs and posh pubs with rooms in the land. And many are dog-friendly
THE PORCH HOUSE, STOW ON THE WOLD
Stow-on-the-Wold is an impossibly pretty Cotswolds town and attracts its fair share of coach parties, but The Porch House, which sits just off the historic town square, is anything but chintzy.
Recently transformed from tired hotel into stylishly upmarket boutique retreat with restaurant and rooms, its original Grade II listed stonework, inglenook fireplaces and heavy wooden beams have been updated with earthy Farrow & Ball paints, vintage country cool artefacts and wool tweed upholstering.
And it is properly dog-friendly, with an impressive canine attention to detail. A dog station with water and treats greets you in the porch as you walk in, and a water bowl was silently popped down beside our spaniel as we sat in the conservatory having lunch.
The Porch House does pub classics really well. Think ham hock terrine and piccalilli or a generous British cured meat board for starter, followed by the delicious signature Porch House burger or excellent fish and hand cut chips for main.
A post-prandial stroll around the pretty town is worth it; discover the organic food store, artisan chocolatier and high-end fashion boutique. But to properly stretch the legs you can do a lovely four-mile loop to Bourton-on-the-Water, across meadows and through the unspoilt village of Wyck Rissington, or for a bigger hike head to The Slaughters.
Ask at the bar for the Stow Walks pamphlet, which details a number of dog-friendly walks in the surrounding scenic Cotswolds countryside.
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THE WILD RABBIT, KINGHAM
Possibly the poshest pub in Britain, The White Rabbit is owned by Lady Bamford, she of the stylish and wildly expensive Daylesford farm shop nearby. It is impeccably fashioned, lots of bleached wood, tasteful taupe colour palettes and brilliant white bed linen in the rooms. You would only bring your dog here on the basis that he/she is extremely well-behaved, very clean, of a suitably designer breed.
But for all its neat, designer touches, the pub is dog-friendly. All of the garden courtyard rooms are open to dog owners. They are external to the main building to minimise disruption, and there are plentiful treats at the bar as well as a “dog parking” area to tie your dog up to in the front garden, plus big, freshly filled water bowls in the public areas.
Walks abound nearby. A particularly popular one is more of a light cross-country stroll, to Daylesford itself (which is a must-visit, even if only for browsing). This takes around 35 minutes and runs along a farm track rather than the road so your dog can be let off the lead. Another pretty route loops from the farm shop up through fields and woods to the village of Oddington and back, and takes around 1.5 hours, or you can have a nose around the privately owned Daylesford estate, across walled gardens and through lovely woods.
As for the food, this is all organic, where possible, totally seasonal, and superb, with lots of artisan breads, nose to tail cuts and heritage breed meat. The pub earned its name as “Britain’s poshest” because the chips (which are hand-cut, beefy and arrive in a small pile of around four or five) cost about £1 each. So yes, it is slightly on the pricey side. But it is excellent, particularly the apt potted rabbit starter, the organic lamb rack with sweetbreads and tongue, and the absurdly tempting range of desserts.
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THE WHEATSHEAF, NORTHLEACH
The Wheatsheaf is a multi award-winning gastropub with rooms in the delightful small market town of Northleach. It is perfectly styled as a sort of rock ‘n’ roll, rural bolthole by owner Georgie Pearman, has a fantastic kitchen, and manages to be a proper local, while at the same time attracting cosmopolitan overnighters to stay in its gorgeous, eclectically designed bedrooms. Georgie’s own dog, a black Labrador called Pudding, benignly roams through the pub; other dogs must be kept on leads, but are welcome everywhere, even in the dining room.
Northleach itself is a chocolate-boxy Cotswolds village with just a few shops, the pub being the main draw, but there are superb walks nearby. Heaps of dog walking maps are stocked behind the bar, but we did the lovely 1.5 hour walk to Hampnett and back, along a series of footpaths and bridleways so the hounds could be let off their leads.
Once back at The Wheatsheaf, we left our dogs in the room (Room 11 on the ground floor, which had ready access to the pretty garden) with a handful of treats from the bar, then headed to the dining room for some human treats. The head chef Owen Kaagman, formerly of Michelin starred London restaurant Medlar, has put together a gutsy, flavoursome, traditional British menu featuring such gems as devilled kidneys, calves liver with roast beetroot and garlicky Hereford snails, as well as a fantastic selection of steaks. All delicious, and all washed down with an impressive array of craft beers and top wines.
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RUSSELL’S OF BROADWAY
Russell’s of Broadway calls itself “a restaurant with rooms”, but this serves to undersell it as a hotel. The rooms in question are superb – all luxury bedlinen, air conditioning, flat screen TVs and natural stone bathrooms, and most are housed within ancient stone walls and have gnarled feature beams.
Two of the ground floor rooms are available to dog owners, although nothing is supplied so bring your own bowl and basket. Dogs stay for free though, which makes a nice change.
Perhaps the “restaurant with rooms” description is more aimed at emphasising the food, which is not surprisingly, award-winning, as well as local wherever possible. The Cotswolds are a bulging food basket of fabulous produce, from meats and game to pickles, chutneys, cheeses from local dairies and some of the finest vegetables in the UK including the famous Vale of Evesham asparagus.
Expect mouth-watering local fare as well as spanking fresh fish from further afield, such as seared Cornish scallops and sea bass with grilled fennel, as well as a fantastic fillet of 28 day dry aged Scotch beef, which was an award-winner in itself.
For burning off the calories and exercising the dog, head to Broadway Tower which is surrounded by fields and hills and public footpaths. The Cotswolds Way is also accessible nearby. You can catch a taxi to Winchcombe seven miles away then walk back along The Cotswolds Way from there. Broadway itself is also worth a rootle, avoiding the touristy tea rooms and repro antique shops.
THE SWAN INN AT SWINBROOK, NR BURFORD
The Swan Inn enjoys a near-idyllic country setting, quietly sitting on the banks of the River Windrush. The bustling market town of Burford is nearby but you wouldn’t know it. This feels like deepest Cotswoldshire.
While it is dog-friendly it is slightly more cautious than other nearby pubs with rooms. Only one room is set aside, but it is big, it has a door to an outside grassy area, and there is a wet room rather than bath (which it was politely suggested would be useful for washing the dog in).
There are lots of public footpaths and bridleways all around and gorgeous countryside for exploring. You can head into Burford along the river, letting your canine chum splash about in the Windrush en route. This takes about an hour, or, if you are in the mood for something more ambitious, you can cross the fields in the other direction towards Asthall and beyond to Minster Lovell.
The pub has an à la carte menu as well as bar snacks and sandwiches at lunch time. All menus are available everywhere, including the garden, and they specialise in local produce wherever possible, including Aberdeen Angus farmed locally at Fifield Farm, locally shot game in the winter, and cheese from local suppliers Fromage to Age. We enjoyed salt beef dripping with parsley salad on toast, plus a strangely delicious potato soup to start, followed by a golden saffron risotto and sweet shredded venison confit.
THE KING’S HEAD INN, BLEDINGTON, NR CHIPPING NORTON
The King’s Head is another classic Cotswolds pub given a stylish makeover. It sits on a picture-postcard village green with a brook running through it and ducks and bantams wandering around freely, all of which adds up to a near-perfect country setting.
And despite the makeover, the original character of the building remains, with low ceilings, chunky wooden stools, settles and cosy corners to hide away in.
The rooms are pretty and fresh, and the three around the courtyard rather than above the main pub building are where dogs can be installed, by special permission. The manager prefers to discuss this over the phone with the owners, to emphasise the need for well-behaved dogs only.
You can earn your supper by doing a variety of walks, ranging from the 45-minute off-road stroll around the attractive village of Kingham to another, longer one through woodland and fields, away from traffic and the roads, to Westcote. Just ask at the bar for maps.
As for dinner, The King’s Head does unbeatable versions of classics like fish and chips and a good sirloin steak, but it also has classy modern dishes such as cray fish tagliatelle and lamb chump. The same menu is available everywhere, with no separate à la carte on offer in the separate dining room.