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As we crawled through the Cotswold icon of Burford in bumper to bumper traffic, we watched the crowds jostle on the pavements. Those picture postcard honeycomb coloured buildings that were serving day trippers were full to their historic rafters, crammed full of weekend trippers. We knew there and then that we had made the right decision – to drive on through to lesser known fields.
Do not get me wrong, I like Burford but it suffers from being too well known, too well liked. One antidote is the hidden gem of Bledington. Very specifically, it is a night or two at the prodigiously award winning Kings Head Inn.
Located in the heart of the Cotswolds, equi-distant on the arc between Oxford and Cheltenham, the village is surprisingly conveniently served by Kingham railway station just over one mile away and making it a mere 6 stops (1 hour 18 minutes) from London’s Paddington station.
Wrapped around the large village green and bisected by the mere trickle of nascent River Coln, Bledington nonchalantly glows with the charm of light honeycomb buildings dating back a hundred to hundreds of years. The first recording of settlements in Bledington was in the 9th century with the church, St Leonards, hailing in parts from 1175.
The 16th century Kings Head Inn has been the only public house in the village since 1889. They have, therefore, had time on their side to find their feet and perfect their offering. In a long litany of awards, this year it has been crowned, “Inn Of The Year,” in the Good Pub Guide 2021, having secured no less than Pub of the Year in 2018.
Overnight guests can choose from 12 immaculate bedrooms, with six situated above the inn and six in the tasteful new Courtyard. Dining at the Kings Head is an awarding winning attraction in itself. Alfresco summer dining in the courtyard, either shaded under the trestle of vines or out soaking the warm sunshine directly, is the stuff of Summer dreams.
Needless to say the service on our visit was very warm, very helpful and pretty efficient. They did misplace my order for a second glass of the Sauvignon Blanc but made amends by bending to our un-ending requests to satisfy the vagaries of our one year old’s dietary habits.
Rural distractions abound from small but perfectly formed Bledington. The Kings Head Inn suggests three well explained walks, of which we chose the shortest, owning in part to having a hefty one year old nestled on my shoulders. The ‘Evenlode Circular‘ led us across fields of arable crops, affable roaming cattle and, should you enjoy laughing at yourself and your walking companions, amusingly muddy pastureland aside the River Evenlode.
For those happiest – or just happy-ish – on two wheels, the Cotswolds National Landscape promote eight rides from nearby Kingham station. The country lanes make for enticing cycle rides, with rewarding views for every brow crested and most well planned routes finding something of interest along the way, be it a historic watering hole or something more cultured.
It’s not all walks and rides, fuelled and refreshed at historic hostelries. For those with their own wheels, the famed Daylesford Organic Farm is under 4 miles away. Browse their delicious fresh produce and stylish homewares collection, perhaps as an entrée to dining at their Trough Café, Old Spot Restaurant or a snifter at the Legbar. (OK, perhaps this author is all about the food and drink. Other travel blogs are available…)
Either a reason in itself to stay, or stay away, Alex James’s Big Festival is held in August in fields close by to Bledington. The village itself hosts an annual classical music concert in early June; another glorious attraction or distraction depending on your tastes.
With well-known Cotswold favourites of Burford and Stow-on-the-Wold within easy driving reach, if you feel the need, the Kings Head Inn is the most discrete and understated epicentre for your Cotswold getaway.
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The author visited the Kings Head Inn at his own cost in May 2021.