Winding through the Cotswolds countryside on our way to the small village of Didmarton, it is easy to see why this region has earned its badge as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Hills and fields in deep shades of velvety green, honey-coloured villages and forests clad in a silvery morning mist make the Cotswolds one of Britain’s finest treasures known for its sheer rural beauty. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to drop everything, get a Labrador and spend your days walking it through the many lanes and paths that crisscross the landscape.
Didmarton itself is a postage stamp village that comprises of a cluster of stone cottages that hugs the narrow road passing through, aptly named ‘The Street’. Framed by low stone walls and hedgerows sprinkled with roses, it has that quintessential charm that makes the English countryside so alluring. It doesn’t take long to reach The King’s Arms, a lovely stone pub quietly announced by some roadside blackboards.
Originally a 17th century coaching inn owned by the noble Beaufort family, the Grade II listed pub enjoyed a facelift earlier in the year with an extensive refurbishment and the resulting new look is a welcoming mix of contemporary design and cosy country pub. Charcoal black interiors throughout give a stylish edge to the various rooms, nooks and crannies. In the main bar, walls are adorned with huge blackboards heralding the wine lists and specials while plush window seats and large leather armchairs lie invitingly in front of a log-burning fire, crackling along happily on this chilly autumn day.
We decide to treat ourselves to a glass of wine from one of the fine bottles in the King’s Cellar before receiving our grand tour. As well an elegant restaurant, a second ‘locals’ bar at the back of the pub has a more traditional pub mentality with large benches and a well-used dartboard. A vast garden stretches out back, peppered with wooden benches and white cast iron chairs that give a hint of Alice in Wonderland – there’s even a walled garden where you can play croquet in the summer months.
Carrying on the theme of English tradition, next we are taken upstairs to view the private dining room which is nothing short of spectacular. Once a local courtroom and private party chamber for old English gentry, today chandeliers drip from the ceiling over regal black tables overlooked by large portraits of British aristocracy past. Pillar candles flicker on the table whilst in the centre of the room a large fireplace is decorated with a few choice golden ornaments. The whole effect is one of stately luxury and promises of fabulously decadent evening soirées.
Perched as it is on the edge of the glorious Badminton Estate, home to the Duke of Beaufort and the Beaufort Hunt, The King’s Arms gives more than a little reference to the area’s rich hunting heritage. Stag heads and pheasants are dotted throughout and the menu features exquisite seasonal fare which this time of year includes some fabulous game dishes plucked straight from the nearby fields and forests – we plumped for the roasted partridge with parsnips and an elderberry sauce, a dish bursting with wonderful autumn flavours.
Each of the six elegant pub rooms are named after prize hounds of the Beaufort Hunt and give a nod to the hunting legacy with scenes from esteemed equestrian painter George Stubbs covering the walls. Dressed in muted tones of onyx and slate grey, the rooms emanate a lux cottage feel with polished antique dressers, wooden trunks, sumptuous sheepskin rugs and tea trays laden with Tea Pigs teas and treats from the local Marshfield bakery. We happily flump down onto our king-size four poster bed and nibble on handmade caramel shortbread as we rest our heads in the heart of the Cotswolds – this is true countryside living.
YOUR COTSWOLDS BOLTHOLE
After a hearty full English breakfast and a gentle woodland stroll we’re taken to see the wonderful private cottages. These beautiful stone outbuildings were converted from the original 17th century stables. There is an instant homely feel to these light and spacious cottages, where wooden beams and buttery leather sofas give a classic cottage atmosphere – perfect for a romantic hideaway or countryside bolthole. The marvellous claw foot baths looked especially enticing after our morning walk. Although these are self-catering cottages, there is the option of having your breakfast brought to your door every morning as well as a dry cleaning service – just a few examples of the warm hospitality and kind touches you can expect from the staff here.
Striking the ideal balance between rustic tradition and countryside luxury, if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the beauty of England’s hinterlands then The King’s Arms is an absolute hidden gem.