Fancy stretching your legs this summer? If so, you’ll find some of the finest walks and cycling in the country between Swindon and Reading – to the north of the M4 and south of the Thames near Oxford.
The 87-mile Ridgeway trail stretches through glorious farmland beyond the North Wessex Downs.
On the edge of the trail is Letcombe Regis and at the heart of this village stands the Greyhound Inn, which has a lock-up for bikes and a selection of excellent walking maps.
One of the rooms at the Greyhound Inn in Letcombe Regis in Oxfordshire. There are a total of eight rooms
The pub is the handiwork of husband-and-wife partnership Catriona Galbraith and Martyn Reed, who purchased it in 2014 when it seemed likely the old hostelry would be converted into a house.
This charming 18th Century inn now has eight stylish new rooms decorated in Farrow & Ball colours (Green Smoke, Light Grey and Incarnadine, Catriona reliably informs me) and a renovated bar/restaurant with a wood-burning fire and rugs scattered on a plain wooden floor.
Lovely old county maps decorate the walls here, along with a series of striking photographs of local wildlife: foxes, deer, owls and a rare white hare.
Candles flicker beneath original beams in snugs with comfy armchairs. Chalkboards advertise wines and ‘gins of the moment’. Locals gossip in the early evening as music plays gently in the background.
After a walk or a ride (packed lunches are on offer), this is the perfect place for a pint of bitter brewed by Butts Brewery in nearby Hungerford.
‘We have poured our soul into this place. We didn’t want to lose the pub,’ says Catriona. ‘We love our village.’ And it shows. Children ‘of all sizes’ and dogs are heartily welcomed.
The Greyhound Inn is on the edge of the 87-mile Ridgeway trail, which stretches through glorious farmland beyond the North Wessex Downs
The USP: It’s all about the countryside, with the top of the Ridgeway a 25-minute walk away (nationaltrail.co.uk). Thames walks are another enticement, as is Oxford, just a 30-minute drive. Some guests also head to the Bicester Village designer outlet (bicestervillage.com).
The rooms: Cosy, warm and well decorated, with a scattering of antiques, tasteful art, fast wi-fi, good linen, Roberts digital radios and bathrooms with Bramley Products. There’s little noise from the bar, so it’s quiet at night too. And if you want to plan a hike the next day, walking maps are provided in a folder, with treks of up to five miles.
The food: The menu, which changes seasonally, is overseen by talented head chef Phil Currie, a New Zealander. Burgers, steaks and fish and chips are fine choices on the ‘pub classics’ list, while the main menu features such delights as roast wood-pigeon, guinea fowl, and mackerel with beetroot, potatoes and a dill sauce. I devoured a perfect tarte tatin with goats’ cheese, followed by first-rate roast venison, and a moreish creme brulee. Guests rave about the divine breakfasts, particularly the eggs Benedict.