Historic, honey-hued Oxfordshire hideaway the Double Red Duke is a rare breed. Owners Sam and Georgie Pearman have nurtured many a fine stay with their Lucky Onion and Country Creatures hotel brands, and for this latest they seem to have taken a cue from the Arts and Crafts movement (after all, William Morris did summer close by), creating colourful, characterful interiors using wallpapers, bathroom fittings, textiles and paints from heritage craftsmen across the country. And, securing two of the UK’s finest chefs, Richard Turner and Richard Sandiford, from the Hawksmoor, Pitt Cue and other establishments with meaty reputations. Alongside spot-on steaks and spit-roasted turbot, there are retro starters (say, a zhuzhed-up prawn cocktail), nose-to-tail nibbles (pig’s head and anchovy pie) and desserts you’ll need to lie down after, like sticky-toffee-apple-pudding. Lucky then, that your super-soft bed is just upstairs.
11am. Earliest check-in, 3pm; both are flexible, subject to availability and a charge that ranges from £30 to £50 (no early check-ins in before 11.30am and no late check-outs after 2.30pm).
Double rooms from £190.00, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates usually include the Continental breakfast, a counter full with bircher muesli, homemade granola, pastries, fruit and sourdough from a local bakery (cooked items are available for an extra charge and are worth the splurge).
Intimate weddings can be held in the charming 13th-century church opposite the hotel, and if you’re yearning for a feast of straight-from-the-shore fish and lengthily-cured free-range meats cooked over an apple-wood fire, private dinner parties can be arranged. Keep abreast of the hotel’s events too – curry nights, guest spots from starry chefs, and sociable barbecues inject a frisson of fun into nights here.
At the hotel
Snug, living room, garden, wellies to borrow, free WiFi. In rooms: TV, retro-style phone, Roberts radio, free WiFi, tea- and coffee-making kit, bathrobes and 100 Acres bath products. All rooms, except some of the larger rooms, have air-conditioning too.
Our favourite rooms
All rooms are so meticulously crafted using pieces from British makers, lucky vintage finds, Fermoie printed fabrics, bold Rapture & Wright wallpapers, Little Greene Paint Co’s colours and elegant bathroom fittings (and some beautiful rolltop tubs we’d love to be lying in right now) from Samuel Heath, that you’ll be pleased with whichever you pick. But, if you’re going by space alone, the Large Room certainly lives up to its name and has an attractive wood-beamed ceiling. Four-legged friends can stay here with you too.
The garden’s shepherd’s hut provides shelter and agrarian bliss, as it’s where nimble-fingered masseuses use all natural oils and lotions from 100 Acres, scented with heady botanicals, to work out knots and recalibrate post-ramble muscles.
If you’re considering an interior revamp back home, then bring a pad, because you’ll want to take notes. Bring tweed accessories too, in case of a spontaneous shooting party.
If the heavens open while you’re here, head to the snug where there’s a stash of board games and a roaring log fire.
Furry friends are welcome with bowls and beds £25 a night. Up to two medium-sized dogs can stay in a room. Please note that dogs can only be accommodated in five specific rooms, please contact the hotel in advance to confirm availability. See more pet-friendly hotels in Oxfordshire.
Children of all ages are welcome; baby cots are available on request. The Family Rooms sleep up to four comfortably and there’s a dedicated menu for smalls in the restaurant.
Juniors and tweens will fare best here.
The Family Room comfily sleeps up to four.
There’s a range of books, puzzles and board games for rainy days and an outdoor playground and plenty of wide-open countryside where smalls can let off steam. Beyond the hotel, the Cotswold Country Park & Beech has picturesque sandy stretches and a giant inflatable water course to slip and slide over. And kids won over by creature encounters will love both Cotswold Wildlife Park and the Cotswold Farm Park.
Little ones will be well fed here too, with their own menu of mac and cheese, chicken and chips, pizza and even mini roasts, plus sticky-toffee pudding and sundaes for dessert. Highchairs can be loaned, there are baby-changing facilities and the kitchen team will heat up milk or tweak menu items on request.
No need to pack
There are board games at the hotel, but few other distractions, so bring any favourite toys and tech from home.
Pros like Turner and Sandiford make manning the grill pure theatre, so book the chef’s table for a front-row seat. For more intimate meals, tuck yourselves away at one of the dining room’s corner tables.
Bring something with a bit of give – you’ll want to indulge heartily here.
With Chef Henrik Ritzén in charge, the dining room is one of the most exciting spaces in the hotel – not least for its lively chef’s table. This is trip-down-memory-lane cooking with a fine edge, served in either the brick-lined dining room with two fireplaces at either end or the sage- and sienna-hued Orangery Room. The menu stars throwback favourites like woodfired lemony chicken, a classic burger, celeriac pie, fish and chips and various steak cuts to be raked over the embers then slathered in blue cheese. But imaginative outliers include chalk steamed trout with smoked velouté, devilled kidneys served on toast, and aubergine with miso and sesame dip. Desserts are of the immensely comforting sort, with sticky-toffee pudding, bakewell tart and homemade chocolates, so be sure to leave room. If you plump for the Sunday roast, may we suggest a little bit of everything, because it’s all good. Breakfasts feel delightfully retro too, with the likes of devilled kidneys; steak, eggs and hash browns; and curried and shirred eggs to start your day, plus a posher take on Maccy D’s muffins: this version has bacon, sausage, egg and Ogleshield cheese.
The struggle is real here while deciding what to drink – the wine list unfurls to reveal sippers from all top appellations, and pints from local breweries such as Rook Wood and Clavell & Hind’s prop up the bar. If you need something to soak up the pints, the bar snacks are a temptingly roguish lot, ranging from lobster rolls with chilli-garlic butter and cheese toasties, to smoked sardines and bacon with ‘angry’ sauce and local sausages with rhubarb mustard.
Breakfast runs from 7.30am to 10.30am, lunch from 12 noon to 3pm and dinner from 6pm till 9.30pm. The bar pulls pints till 11pm.
The Double Red Duke is a boutique hotel in the Oxfordshire village of Clanfield. Set by a 13th-century church and opposite a 17th-century tavern, it's just a short drive from Cotswolds villages.
Heathrow is the closest major international airport (around a 90-minute drive away via the M40) and Gatwick and Luton are both around a two-hour drive away, and limited services from Amsterdam and major cities in the UK arrive direct at Oxford International Airport, a 40-minute drive from the hotel.
Shipton and Oxford are the closest stations to the hotel, both a 30-minute drive away; for Shipton, trains from London Paddington arrive direct in just over an hour and for Oxford, catch the train from Paddington or Marylebone to arrive in an hour.
The hotel is easily accessed using the M40 or M4 motorways, and there’s free parking onsite. You can choose to pass through the Chiltern Hills or North Wessex Downs – either way you’re guaranteed a glimpse of green. And there’s free parking onsite.
Worth getting out of bed for
Whether you’re snuffling through the warren of inviting snugs and sitting areas looking for a good book-reading nook, getting slathered with 100 Acres lavender- and chamomile-scented lotions in the shepherd-hut spa, downing something local with a good head on it in the garden or watching the chef hold court over a flaming grill, the hotel caters for cosseting and carnal pleasures. If you reach your limit of either, there are genteel pursuits close by, say a trip around Kelmscott Manor (open Wednesdays and Saturdays from April to October), where William Morris retreated to dream up his intricate Arts and Crafts patterns, to see his prints in situ. Key scenes in Downton Abbey were filmed just down the road in Bampton Village, and if you want to see how IRL blue-bloods live, Blenheim Palace – still home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough – sits in sprawling grounds a 30-minute drive from the hotel. On leafy Sherbourne Estate keep your eyes peeled for roe deer, foxes and the odd badger, and use the cherry blossoms at Batsford Arboretum for a colourful backdrop. And, the Cotswolds’ constellation of honey-hued villages make for a quintessentially British day of tea-shop cruising, antiques hunting, duck feeding and drinking with the locals – hop from Roman-settled market town Cirencester to Chedworth, Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water and Burford. Each has its own lures, say Bibury’s trout farm and museum, Bourton-on-the-Water’s miniature village, and cream teas at Burford’s Huffkins Café (who also supply cakes to Fortnum & Mason). History buffs can trip along the Ridgeway Footpath to get a good view of the prehistoric Uffington White Horse, carved into Oxfordshire downland, or journey into Oxford proper to delve into old-school miscellany at the Ashmolean or Pitt Rivers museums, take the Oxford University and City Walking Tour and toast its literary darlings (CS Lewis, JR Tolkien) at former haunt the Eagle and Child pub.
Want to kick it with the locals? Get to grips with a gun at the Oxfordshire Shooting School, then show off your newfound marksmanship at a shooting party on one of the surrounding estates (the hotel only works with the best reputed) capped with a meaty feast in the hotel’s private dining room. The largest inland lake area in the UK, the Cotswolds Water Park, and the South Cerney Sailing Club offer aqueous opportunities aplenty: swimming, waterskiing, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding and more. For those with more stamina, the hotel’s a stop on the Carter Company’s 10-day Thames Sea to Source cycling tour, and the Country Creatures Cycling Tour, which traverses the Cotswold Hills on the way from the Thames to Clanfield, via the Double Red Duke’s sister properties. Or follow the trail on foot with the four-night Country Creatures Walking Tour, which covers four-to-seven miles a day. Westgate and Bicester Village shopping centres both have a wide array of designer and indie wares, but if you would prefer to up your liquid assets, dive into the offerings at Hook Norton brewery, Abingdon Gin Distillery or Bothy Vineyard.
You’ll probably want to exhaust the hotel’s menu before you venture further afield – there are plenty of temptations to keep you coming back – but if you do run through all the onsite delicacies, you’ll be thrilled to hear that the owners run two more equally welcoming and gastronomically talented inns, both within a half-hour drive of the Double Red Duke. The Chequers Inn, in Churchill village, has a roaring fire and hefty scrubbed-wood tables that the chefs pile up with plates such as scallops with smoked marrow, breaded pig’s head with baked-apple purée and more mighty meats, with robust pints of locally made Hooky cider and Blunderbuss from the Clavell & Hind Brewery. Smith stablemate the Swan at Ascott-under-Wychwood also ensures patrons leave well fed, with barbecued prawns and truffled cheese gougères to nibble on; toad-in-the-hole punched up with toffee onions and roast duck liver for a main; and a Jaffa Cake pudding or spiced Banbury cakes with cheddar for dessert. It may not be huddled under the family umbrella, but at a mere 10-minute drive away, with the sort of menu that would elicit an ‘oohh’ from Fergus Henderson (Cotswold IPA Welsh rarebit; bone marrow, shallots and garlic flatbread…), the Bell Inn in Langford is worth a nose around.
An iconic Cotswolds lunching spot, the Daylesford Organic farm café in Kingham uses local produce to spectacular effect in garden salads, fish dishes, beef burgers and country puds.
The hotel bar has all the local drinkables you could desire, and an impressive wine list, but the Clanfield Tavern across the road has an appealing traditional atmosphere too.
Mr Smith, Indy the cavapoo and I have spent an afternoon driving westwards through pleasingly preserved English villages, past undulating fields scattered with sheep, and along narrow lanes, flanked by ancient dry-stone walls. We’re in the blissfully bucolic Cotswolds. Its villages and market towns are populated with timeless, thatched cottages, built in honey-hued Cotswolds stone. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any more idyllic, cue the late summer sun to bathe the scenery in the kind of golden light that only comes with that impending change of season, when the night air takes on that chilly nip and the scent of cool, dewy mornings returns.
The Cotswolds is England’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; a walker’s paradise of hills, grasslands and hostelries, and these days home to a long list of movie stars. It’s easy to see why.
Having passed through the charming village of Bampton (which fans of the TV show Downton Abbey will recognise as Downton’s doppelganger), we arrive a couple of miles down the road in the quiet Oxfordshire outpost of Clanfield, and instantly spot our weekend abode – the setting for our last hurrah (babymoon) before trips away become that bit more complicated. Or a lot more complicated… Time will tell on that one.
Mr Smith and I had swooned over seemingly innumerable photos of the Double Red Duke on social media, such was the hype around its post-lockdown revamp and new lease of life under a change of ownership. Its now iconic red-and-white-striped parasols line up by the garden bar, seemingly mingling on the terrace beside a striking 17th-century coaching inn that’s most often pictured heaving with wisteria. And they set the tone for the fun, vibrant interiors within.
Each room is overflowing with personality; individually designed, full of bold colour, striking patterns and floral wallcoverings. There are 13 rooms in the original coaching inn, and a further six in the more recently built, timber-clad annexe. A handful of these are dog friendly. They’re full of the kind of touches I aspire to recreate in our own home but how do they make it so chic? It’s that skilful blend of carefully curated antique pieces with contemporary details, so that every corner is worthy of a shoot in House & Garden. Having had a snoop around both the inn and the annexe, on our return (yes, we’ve already started plotting our return), Mr Smith and I agree we’ll opt for one of the spacious garden rooms with lovely terraces backing onto the garden.
Quickly unpacking our bags, we grab a couple of homemade cookies from the sideboard, and head straight out to the garden for a sundowner before dinner. A blend of locals and city-dwellers are all soaking up the last of the summer and the first of many drinks, such is the extent of the impressive cocktail menu – there’s a full page dedicated to local vodka blends alone, and another for virgin cocktails, which is much appreciated. There are only so many elderflower spritzes a pregnant gal can drink.
Dining here is an event. The restaurant is buzzing, with fine-dining aficionados who like to see the action up close, taking their seats on studded-leather dining chairs at the counter overlooking an open grill. As it’s still fairly toasty, we choose a spot in the light and airy Garden Room conservatory on sumptuous velvet banquettes.
Here, meat takes centre stage – unsurprising, since chefs Richard Sandiford and Richard Turner of those capital connoisseurs of cuts, Hawksmoor and Pitt Cue, have taken the helm. Our stomachs rumble as plates piled with rare steaks and burgers laden with accoutrements are whisked past us to other diners. The food envy is real. We decide to let our delightful waiter guide us on his favourite picks on the menu, opting first for a selection of small plates: devilish bacon rib croquettes, melt in your mouth apple-glazed bacon ribs (are you sensing a theme here) and juicy scallops with parsley and garlic butter.
I am eating for two of course, and so I can wholeheartedly justify indulging in further courses, I tell Mr Smith, much to his delight I’m sure, as he was eyeing up that rare rump steak I mentioned. I’m curious about the barbecue hispi cabbage and miso butter – a revelation, and a meal in itself, and giving the prime cuts some charred and flavourful competition.
As darkness draws in, Mr Smith and I ponder the positives of a return in winter, so cosy are the coachhouse's small interconnecting sitting rooms, all wood panelling and (when the mercury drops) crackling fires. At any time of year, they’re an idyllic spot for an intimate nightcap after the main event of our stay…the food.
The following morning we are woken by the pooch bounding onto our cosy bed for a cuddle – and who can blame her… Though we do tell her that the lovely squishy bed provided for her by the hotel, along with ample doggy treats, sets the bar in canine luxury. We slowly wend our way to breakfast, pampered pup in tow, where a wholesome buffet is laid out on the bar, stocked with local produce and freshly baked treats – flaky cinnamon rolls and marmite-and-cheese pin-wheels, steaming bowls of porridge and enticing platters of charcuterie. And bowls of fruit too, if, like me, you’re still feeling the indulgences of the night before.
Burford beckons today, and the sun is shining yet again as we leave our luxurious lodgings. It’s one of our favourite Cotswolds towns, for a spot of shopping and a stroll. But our briefest of babymoons is soon at an end and we set off on the short hop down the motorway back to London. No prizes for guessing our conversation topic along the M40 – planning the next trip to our new favourite weekend retreat all the way home.