Discovering an award-winning spot for a nearby short break.
Unless you’re particularly familiar with Warwickshire, the charms of Shipston may have passed you by. Nestled as its name suggests, south of Stratford on the River Stour, this small town is full of character and charm, alongside some mighty good food.
There are plenty of reasons to make the journey, aside from the rather obvious attractions of Stratford itself, and its lesser-known possibilities for a good bit of messing around on the river. The countryside between Stratford and Shipston is serenely beautiful, punctuated by a chain of pretty villages, rolling fields and the occasional farm shop. Head a little further and you find the Rollright Stones, a stone circle set high on a hill with the King Stone and the Whispering Knights overlooking some placid sheep. Turn right at the A429 crossroads and you can tour the delightful trio of small Cotswold towns Moreton in Marsh, Stow and Bourton on the Water. If it’s all too much to enjoy in a single day another option presents itself.
Shipston itself has plenty to offer. Alongside tearooms, craft shops and a rather good deli (don’t forget your cheesecake), there’s the opportunity to stay at The George Townhouse.
We had eaten a memorable lunch there some time ago, eschewing the charms of its extensive outdoor patios for the beautifully restored interior. Recently we decided to stay the night to make the most of a quick early Summer break. One of the collection of Brakspear pubs, The George is closer to a boutique hotel in feel. Kitted out in serene slate blues and country-flavoured art work, The George achieves a delicate balance of being sumptuous while remaining comfortable.
We stayed at the very top of the building, reached by an enclosed set of stairs. The suite in the eaves was equipped with all the features you would expect of a boutique hotel: Nespresso machine, Temple Spa toiletries, delicious home made shortbread and a decanter of sherry. The bath boasted splendid views of a sunny sky, while the double shower offered the choice of rainfall or conventional showerheads. Much restored by the liberal application of Temple Spa products, and smelling rather like an expensive spa ourselves, it was difficult to resist the temptations of the comfortable bed in order to head down for dinner.
We had an additional bonus at dinner with monthly live music being scheduled that evening. The bossa nova interpretation of a diverse selection of favourites made a really relaxing background to our meal. From a menu broad enough to cater for preferences and select enough to demonstrate a commitment to great cooking, we chose starters of a smoked salmon and crayfish salad studded with capers and a cheese souffle on a bed of spinach. Mains of chicken supreme with a rocket salad and a fiery beetroot, tenderstem and tomato dish accompanied by chicken were delicious. So delicious in fact, that there was room for only one dessert: a chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream. We were finished in time to catch the end of the band’s second set on the terrace.
It was a calm and peaceful night, and breakfast lived up to the expectations raised by dinner. With one of our party having food intolerances, it was pleasing to see great care taken at both dinner and breakfast to ensure safe dining, and to note how knowledgeable staff were about ingredients and preparation methods.
A buffet selection offered fruit, cereals, breads and a selection of drinks, with a number of additional choices available from the breakfast menu. We chose cooked breakfasts, with the guilty pleasures of local sausages and bacon (ah…beautifully crispy bacon), and for one of us, there may even have been dripping toast involved.
We left feeling as though we had been on holiday, not just a single night away.
We were not surprised to find later that week that The George Townhouse has recently been voted Best Pub in Warwickshire and Best Pub in the West Midlands at the National Pub & Bar Awards 2017. You’ll find The George here.
We stayed as the guests of Brakspear Inns, www.brakspear.co.uk