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The Wild Rabbit
The Wild Rabbit in Kingham, Oxfordshire, opened last month but is already becoming known as “the poshest pub in Britain” – and it’s not hard to see why. From the road, it looks the very picture of a polished Cotswold local. There are topiary rabbits beside the door, the honey-coloured stone is pristine and the gravel drive to the car park gives the requisite crunch under the tyres of a string of expensive motors.
But inside, it’s immediately clear this is no ordinary country pub. The place is meticulously thought through, from the snug front bar with roaring fires, slumbering dogs and pints of real ale to the light and airy dining-room extension with its exposed beams, hedgerow flowers and superb acoustics. Think Chelsea-on-the-Wold.
Upstairs, the bedrooms – named after animals often found patrolling the local footpaths (deer, owl, hedgehog) – have a studied comfort, with Nespresso machines, iPod docks, Farrow & Ball colour schemes and wood floors. Our large suite, “The Rabbit”, up in the eaves, had a vast bed, with thin birch trunks offering a homespun take on the traditional four-poster.
All of this carefully considered rural-luxe has not just appeared from nowhere. The former Tollgate Inn has been subjected to what I overheard one diner describe as the “exquisite taste” of its owner. That owner? Lady Carole Bamford, wife of billionaire JCB chairman Sir Anthony Bamford and founder of the Daylesford Organic brand. Kingham is just down the road from Daylesford HQ – Lady Bamford’s farm-cum-holistic-lifestyle-mecca complete with spa, cookery school and café.
On Saturday morning, while my wife went to Daylesford’s Haybarn spa for what she said was one of the best massages she’d ever had, I strolled around the sprawling farmshop.
Gazing at the various kinds of kale, squashes and apples, eyeing the bottles of organic biodynamic wine and contemplating the wholesome cookware, it all seemed vaguely familiar – oh yes, from The Wild Rabbit. While the PR there had been at pains to point out that they are separate, unrelated companies, the interior design says otherwise.
Back at the pub, where the kitchen is under the command of Adam Caisley, the Bamfords’ former personal chef, our dinner was cracking. After a blackberry and cardamom bellini, we enjoyed a salad of peach, burrata, cured ham, rocket and basil; a main of organic lamb rack, sweetbreads, braised lettuce and girolles; and chocolate mousse with cherry ice-cream for dessert. Later, we rolled upstairs to our plush room for the kind of sleep only possible when a spectacularly comfortable bed meets the deep silence of the English countryside.
The following morning, after an epic breakfast of coffee, scrambled eggs and local black pudding, we set out to walk it off before Sunday lunch. We struck out from the picturesque nearby village of Oddington, following a trail that took us across fields of cows and sheep and finally to the free-range chickens that had provided my breakfast eggs. All roads round here, it seems, lead to Daylesford.
The Wild Rabbit
Church Street, Kingham Oxfordshire, OX7 6YA 01608 658389; www.thewildrabbit.co.uk. Doubles from £105
Direct trains from London Paddington to Kingham take one hour and 25 minutes
Hot holidays: chic retreats in the Canaries
Finca Malvasia, Lanzarote
As temperatures drop in northern Europe, the Canary Islands continue to enjoy a November average of 21C. Finca Malvasia is a rural hideaway in Lanzarote, set in a vineyard amid volcanic mountains. Accommodation is in four cottages, sleeping from two to four, arranged in gardens around a pool. Cottage for two from €130 per night; www.fincamalvasia.com
Finca Las Longueras, Gran Canaria
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Casa Los Geranios, La Palma
Little La Palma, stuck out in the Atlantic in the west of the archipelago, attracts walkers and stargazers rather than beach-bound package tourists. Casa Los Geranios is a traditional village house with a terraced garden and far-reaching ocean views. The main house has three bedrooms; a separate annexe has another double. House €113 per night, annexe €56; www.i-escape.com