As you may recall, Russell and I made a New Year’s resolution to pack a bag and travel beyond the county borders of Suffolk at least once a month. We failed, spectacularly, straight out of the starting gates.
In our defence, it wasn’t through lack of trying. And on the plus side, we got most of our money back (except, of course, for the dosh we had to fork out on the vet bills. C’est la p****n vie, as the French would say).
That was January. In February, we made it as far as Woodbridge, 30 minutes down the road, and still in Suffolk.
So, technically, another fail.
Again, in our defence, it was because we had visitors here for most of the month and couldn’t plan any trips away. Although, I have to admit, the visitors got COVID and left early. Then there was this big storm and we lost power (read: heating, hot water, electric blankets, internet and TV), so we had to move to my brother’s house in Woodbridge for a couple of nights. At least we packed a bag.
Let’s move on to March and our first real road trip: an epic, 6-day pub crawl around the Cotswolds, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. We also went on lots of walks, visited endless chocolate box villages and towns, and caught up with various friends. But the pubs were the star of the show.
It all started at The Trout at Tadpole Bridge, where we spent four nights and way too much money. Here it is: The pub, the bar, our room, the bar (we saw it from all angles), and Tadpole Bridge.
Molly came with us, slept in our bedroom (big treat), slept in the bar, slept in the dining room. She slept through most of the trip, if truth be told.
One evening, with Molly asleep under our table as usual, we finished our dinner, waved goodnight to the barman and retired to our room.
Ten minutes later, there was a knock at the door.
“I think you forgot something,” he said, handing over the dog lead, with Molly still attached to the other end.
Luckily, she slept through most of that experience too.
On Day 2 we met up with our friend Mark for lunch at The Bell Inn in Langford, with its flagstone floors, roaring log fire and pizza oven.
The first of many delicious pub lunches.
The next day, after a fabulous breakfast at The Trout, we decided to do the tourist route through the heart of The Cotswolds taking in Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold. (Have you noticed how so many places in The Cotswolds are either ‘on’ or ‘at’ something?).
Bourton-on-the-Water is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, for obvious reasons. It’s so darn pretty, they made a full-scale model version of it and put it in the middle of the village, in case anyone missed the real thing. Here’s the real thing:
Stow-on-the-Wold is another staggeringly beautiful Cotswold destination, even in March.
We arrived at that time of the day when everyone was getting a little weary and thirsty (particularly Molly who was ready for another lie down), so we parked in the market square and wondered which pub to go to. We counted 4 without getting out of the car.
We chose The Porch House because it claimed to be the ‘oldest inn in England’. It was established in 947 AD. Think about it.
This pub has been serving ale and pies to weary travellers like us for over 1,000 years. It was throwing out drunks and playing host to pilgrims, before the Battle of Hastings. That’s mind-blowing.
After a hearty walk and a brief regrouping back at The Trout, our next stop was – you guessed it – another pub. This time it was The White Hart at Fyfield.
We went for dinner based on a recommendation from Mark. “They’re famous for their roast pork,” he said. “They serve it with a foot long piece of crackling”
He wasn’t joking.
The White Hart is another historic old building, this time built in 1442, so quite a youngster in comparison to The Porch House, but impressively creaky and beamed nonetheless.
It didn’t start life as a pub. It started as accommodation for a chantry priest and his five almsmen. The priest had his rooms in the two stories at the end of the building, while his almsmen slept on the floor somewhere. Probably on the same slabs of ancient paving that Molly slept on, while we ate our foot-long pork crackling.
I know all this because they cleverly provided the back-story of the pub with the menus. I love a bit of history with my red wine.
The next two days included more walks in the sunshine and snow (all in the same ten minutes), and more beautiful villages that look like custom built film sets for bodice-ripping movies. If you’re ever in the Cotswolds, go to Bibury. It will take your breath away. And, yes, it has a pub – The Catherine Wheel.
Our last couple of days and evenings were spent with friends in more pubs. First with Mark and Sam at the wonderfully named The Double Red Duke in Clanfield; and then with Victoria at The Bull in Wargrave.
And so our pub crawl came to an end and we returned to our lovely Suffolk village, and our favourite pub in England, The Dennington Queen.
That’s where Molly sighed in contented relief to be home. And took up her favourite position in front of the fire.