Exploring the Cotswolds on a sunny day is one of most delightful things you can do but when the rain clouds gather overhead, the best thing to do is to find a cosy pub with an open fire and stay put for the afternoon. That’s exactly what I did one cold February weekend and thankfully The Kings Head Inn Bledington was exactly the type of pub I was looking for.
An overnight stay at The Kings Head Inn Bledington
The King’s Head Inn is in the very heart of the Cotswolds, in the middle of the triangle created by Chipping Norton, Stow-on-the-Wold and Burford. It is just a few minutes’ drive from famous Cotswolds icons including Daylesford Organics, Jeremy Clarkson’s Diddly Squat farm shop and Kingham, home to celebrity-favoured pubs The Kingham Plough and The Wild Rabbit.
Just a mile from Kingham is the less well-known village of Bledington which has all the charm of a traditional Cotswolds village – the iconic sandy-coloured Cotswolds stone is very much in evidence – but is much quieter than its larger neighbours, with a central village green, a 12th-century church, a primary school, a scattering of shops and what seems like the focal point of activity in the village, The King’s Head Inn pub.
Inside The Kings Head Inn
This 16th-century pub looks quiet and unassuming from the outside, but inside it is all you could hope a classic English country pub to be, with an open fire, stone walls, old oak beams and flagstone floors. There was a good selection of local ales on tap, and with the rain starting to come down heavily outside there seemed to be no better place on a Saturday afternoon than at a table in front of the fire with a book and drink.
The pub is popular with locals and visitors alike, with dog walkers and hikers all coming to warm themselves by the fire, and in the summer months the courtyard at the rear of the pub and the village green at the front with a brook running through it would be the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon.
The King’s Inn Head has won various honours from the industry bible, the Good Pub Guide, including Pub of the Year 2018 and Inn of the Year 2020 and 2021, so owners Archie and Nicola Orr-Ewing must be doing something right, and judging by the staff throughout our stay, one of the big plus points was the warm and friendly service from all members of staff, from the bar staff to the waiters and receptionists, all of whom managed to combine efficiency with relaxed charm which made for a really pleasant stay.
Rooms and food at The Kings Head Inn
The pub has 12 bedrooms and ours was just a few paces from the pub itself to the courtyard rooms at the back of the pub. With a four-poster-style bed, coffee and tea-making facilities and windows overlooking the front and back of the pub, the room wasn’t overly-opulent but perfectly fine for an overnight stay and the bathroom with a bath and shower fitting was perfectly adequate.
The real draw of The King’s Head Inn though, is the two AA rosette restaurant which is rightly acclaimed for serving fresh, local and predominantly organic food. The menu had a wide-ranging choice of tempting dishes, including bang-bang chicken or devilled kidneys to start, and pheasant and pancetta ragout with tagliatelle for mains.
I had mackerel escabeche with new potato and black olive salad to start which was as fresh, light and tasty as I could have hoped for, while my partner had the coconut tiger prawns with green bean and peanut salad, pickled ginger and crispy seaweed which was pronounced ‘excellent, with the right amount of kick from the ginger.’
For our main course I had the pan-fried hake fillet, red pepper and fennel casserole, saffron potatoes and broccoli, while Stephen had the Tamworth pork loin, with pig cheek, rarebit-topped potato cake, parsnips, Savoy cabbage and ginger ale jus. My fish dish was excellently cooked and flavoured, while Stephen was delighted by his pork and ample crackling (although the ginger ale jus was a little overpowering) and halfway through we both realised at exactly the same time – the portions were huge! The King’s Head Inn certainly doesn’t skimp on its serving sizes, and one course would have been enough for all except the very hungry.
In spite of feeling incredibly and happily full we didn’t want to miss out on dessert so we shared a creme brulee and was glad we had done, as it was as good as expected. Thankfully it was just a short stagger to our room and a long sleep, before the treat of breakfast the next day, always a highlight of a pub stay away.
Breakfast at The Kings Head Inn
Breakfast at The Kings Head Inn Bledington is served between 8.30am and 9.45am on weekends, so we headed downstairs to the restaurant behind the main bar for some excellent coffee, Greek yoghurt and orange juice, before indulging in a full English breakfast and Eggs Royale respectively (other hot choices were smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, porridge with fruit compote, grilled Cornish kippers or grilled mushrooms while there were also pastries and cereals on offer).
After having a lovely chat about the pub with our excellent waitress, Louise, we headed off to explore the rest of the Cotswolds, including the lovely town of Burford which was just a 15-minute drive away. Just one night away in the Cotswolds is enough to provide a lovely and relaxing break, and The Kings Head Inn is certainly a bright food spot among stiff competition.
Hotel details and how to book The Kings Head Inn Bledington
The Kings Head Inn, The Green, Bledington, Oxon OX7 6XQ
Thanks to The Great Inns of Britain and The Kings Head Inn for hosting my stay. The Great Inns of Britain is a collection of traditional coaching inns and small luxury hotels located in Britain’s best countryside and coastal regions.
If you love exploring the Cotswolds, then here are some other excellent places to stay in the Cotswolds: Luxury in the Cotswolds at Lygon Arms, Broadway; Whatley Manor hotel and spa, a true Cotswolds gem; Relaxing in grand style at The Hare and Hounds near Tetbury; A classic English estate at Bowood hotel, spa and golf; The Greenway hotel and spa, Cheltenham – luxury with the fizz factor; A picture-perfect stay at The Manor House, Castle Combe; Cosy Cotswolds charm at the award-winning Painswick hotel; Snug Cotswolds luxury at Dormy House, Broadway; Calcot Manor, family-friendly luxury in the Cotswolds; Barnsley House, a wonderfully cosy Cotswolds retreat;