Art and design

Books

Culture

Environment

Fashion

Film

Life and style

Money

Music

Politics

Science

Technology

Travel

Television

US news

World news

The Bull Hotel, Fairford, the Cotswolds: review

Exterior of the Bull Hotel, Fairford, at night with lights on inside and out.
Open invitation … ‘The Bull is a big place but the ambiance is instantly cosy.’ Photographs: Ben Nicholson, except where stated

There’s something inherently festive about the Cotswolds: all chocolate-box villages, ancient churches, and pretty pubs with open fires for warming up after a frosty countryside stomp.

Kate Moss and her posse have been known to enjoy a spot of Christmas Eve cheer at the Five Alls in Filkins – a pub with rooms run by chef/proprietor Sebastian Snow and his wife Lana, which sparkles at this time of year.

Cotswolds map.

The couple’s latest venture – The Bull Hotel at Fairford – adds another string to their bow (they also run The Plough at Kelmscott). Owned by Arkell’s brewery, the handsome stone building on the market square was originally two coaching inns, dating to the 15th century. It reopened in March after a major refurbishment, with the Snows at the helm, breathing new life into a historic hotel.

A bedroom at The Bull Hotel, Fairford, Gloucestershire
One of the Bull’s 21 bedrooms

We arrive on a dark, rainy winter’s afternoon and although the Bull is a big place, the ambiance is instantly cosy. There’s a theatricality to the decor – a dramatic palette of green-black, burnt orange and teal with antique furniture, gilt mirrors and a copper-topped bar – so I’m not surprised to discover that the public spaces were created by Lana’s set designer friend Corina Burrough (whose credits include The King’s Speech and Downton Abbey). A huge, horned bull’s head hangs over one of several fireplaces and a sense of history pervades, with exposed beams, winding stairs and old framed photos and memorabilia.

The 21 bedrooms (by the brewery’s in-house designer) have a calmer white and grey scheme, lovely fabrics and quality bed linens. Each is different: two have freestanding baths, number 12 has a tiny doorway you have to duck through, and there are two spacious family suites.

One of the Bull’s three dining areas, Fairford, Gloucestershire
One of the Bull’s three dining areas

For dining there’s a choice of spaces: the pub, the main Stables Restaurant with banquets and pizza oven, or a smaller, romantic area beyond the striking lounge, which we opt for. The menu covers all bases, with stonebaked pizzas, pub classics and finer British-Mediterranean food (Sebastian’s mother is Italian). Carpaccio of tuna with avocado, lime and ginger dressing is melt-in-the-mouth delicious; the twice-baked double Gloucester cheese soufflé is creamy and fluffy (both £7.95). A roulade of hake with mussels, spinach and new potatoes is fresh and light, and mallard “two ways” comes with chestnuts and rosti potatoes (both £17). For pre- or post-dinner drinks, the bar serves cask ales by Arkell’s including 3B Moonlight and Wiltshire Gold and there’s a decent cocktail list, too.

Meal at the Bull Hotel, Fairford, Gloucestershire
The Bull serves a mixture of pub classics, British-Mediterranean meals and stonebaked pizzas

We emerge next morning to join the Sunday paper readers enjoying breakfast, while the staff ready the Bull Room, a private dining area with its own bar, for a big rugby match on TV. A generous continental buffet is included in the price, but if you want anything cooked it will cost you – £10 for the full English, £9 for eggs Benedict.

Fairford has a military base, from where Concorde took its maiden flight, but it’s main claim to fame is its church, St Mary’s, which has the finest complete set of medieval stained glass windows in England. The congregation is just leaving as we pop in to check out the nave before we stroll down to the Coln river which skirts the village. The Bull has fishing rights to a mile-long stretch of it, great for trout and grayling year-round. It’s a bit nippy for hanging about by the water today though, so we scurry inside to defrost by the fire, plotting a summer return, before heading home. A pub like this, after all, is not just for Christmas...

Accommodation was provided by The Bull Hotel, 01285 712535, thebullhotelfairford.co.uk. Rooms from £100 mid-week, £120 weekends (when there’s minimum two-night stay). Winter deals and discounts available

Ask a local

Jake Sutton, artist

The Red Arrows perform at the 2017 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
The Red Arrows at the 2017 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

Eat
On Fairford High Street is Lynwood and Co Café, which opened recently and is great (there’s another branch in nearby Lechlade). They make everything themselves and have really good coffee and cakes.

See and do
The old water mill over the river Coln at Fairford is one of the prettiest in the country: the view over to the church and water meadows is incredibly picturesque.

Thousands of people come for the three-day Air Tattoo every July. It’s impressive, with more than 200 aircraft – and 2018 (weekend of 13-15 July) will be special: it’s the RAF centenary.

Walk from Fairford to Bibury, which William Morris described as the “most beautiful village in the Cotswolds” and is famous for its weavers’ cottages.

This article titled "The Bull Hotel, Fairford, the Cotswolds: review" was written by Jane Dunford, for The Guardian on Friday 22 December 2017 10.00am

Travel

From Georgia to Grimsby: campaign seeks to save Europe’s neglected heritage sites

An aerial cableway in Georgia, a modernist monument in Bulgaria and an ice factory in Grimsby, are… Read more

10 of the best activity and adventure holidays: readers’ travel tips

Winning tip: Mountain biking, New Zealand There is an almost infinite list of outdoor activities… Read more

Koh Chang to Koh Kood: island-hopping around eastern Thailand

The island of Koh Chang and its satellites – which include Koh Mak and Koh Kood – are the… Read more

Top 10 last-minute half-term holiday deals

A sunny, beachside city break, Cyprus Cyprus is one of the most popular winter sun destinations in… Read more

Damaraland, Namibia: where ‘each day lasts 100 hours’

I walked out into the desert just as the sun was beginning to show above the mountains. I’d been… Read more

Micro chips: Brussels' friteries get stylish redesign as mirrored shacks

No trip to Brussels is complete without a stop at a friterie, the simple kiosks serving the classic… Read more

Carlisle Lake District airport to open for passenger flights in June

Commercial passenger flights will be coming to Cumbria from June from airports including Southend,… Read more

Five fantastic mind, body and soul festivals for 2018

Soul Circus, Cotswolds Launched last year, Soul Circus offers a programme of yoga and pilates, plus… Read more

20 of the best adventure travel challenges for 2018

ADVENTURE Mongolian cycling adventure Where Arrive Ulaan Baatar. Cycling starts at Erdenet When… Read more

Send us a tip on hidden Florida for the chance to win a £200 hotel voucher

You may have been on a nature trek, stayed at a great family-run out-of-the-way hotel, enjoyed a… Read more