Country breaks don’t come much better than this. Clinging to the side of an ancient country lane in the West Sussex hamlet of Tillington in the South Downs National Park, this 350-year-old inn – a stopping-off point for the Household Cavalry in the 1840s – is the perfect spot for a rejuvenating weekend getaway.
Proprietors Sam and Misha Beard preside over a ridiculously handsome retreat, with a bustling bar full of crackling fires and a cluster of attractive nooks and crannies, all adorned with vintage signs and ephemera.
In the summer, take drinks outside and slump in a deckchair or perch on a straw-bale seat in the glorious garden. You won’t want to leave. But leave you must, if only to take the short walk into Petworth Park, 700 unspoilt acres of ancient trees, herds of deer and Petworth House, a 17th Century gem run by the National Trust. An afternoon here is guaranteed to rekindle your love for the English countryside.
Last orders: The 350-year-old Horse Guards Inn, in Tillington, was a stopping-off point for the Household Cavalry in the 1840s and retains many of its original features
The rooms: Above the pub there are three en suite bedrooms, fashionably country-chic in style, with Egyptian cotton towels, locally made lotions and home-made biscuits. Think brass beds, distressed wooden picture frames, stripped floorboards, Farrow & Ball pastels and wild flowers in vintage vases. The inn is child-friendly and takes well-behaved dogs. We took neither but stayed in ‘the cottage’, a dinky suite to the side of the pub, with its own front door, a downstairs lobby and a cosy upstairs bedroom with lovely views over the lane and across to the churchyard.
The food: Tasty, wholesome and inventive dishes are served in the ramshackle dining room (mind your head on those oak beams) or the inviting bar. Either way, on a busy Saturday evening the atmosphere was bordering on just the right side of boisterous.
For starters, we had potted chalk stream trout, caraway soda bread and pickled cucumber, and plump West Country mussels in brown ale, chilli and coriander.
The inn crowd: The inviting bar at the Horse Guards Inn where the atmosphere is described as ‘bordering on the right side of boisterous’ on a Saturday night
Mains were a lip-smacking soy and tamarind braised duck leg, chilli, star anise, sticky rice and bok choy for me; a gleaming and super-fresh Brighton bream fillet with Bombay potatoes and romesco sauce for Mrs T. Eight hours later we were up for a home-cooked breakfast. As the bells chimed for morning service at All Hallows Church and the horses clip-clopped their way up the hill for a Sunday hack, all was right with the world.
The USP: There’s a tranquillity about this place that transports you back to a simpler time. Petworth Park is virtually unchanged in centuries (head for the Capability Brown-landscaped gardens before you leave). Otherwise, switch off your phone, let Sam pour you a pint and feel your levels of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin soar.
The Horse Guards Inn, Tillington, West Sussex. Double rooms are from £110 a night B&B. For more information visit thehorseguardsinn.co.uk.