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 and 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 £108.00, 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 Hawksmoor steak-slingers Richard Turner and Richard Sandiford 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 Dublin Bay scampi with lemony mayonnaise, Marie Rose-drizzled prawn cocktail, pie of the day (pig’s head and anchovy, perhaps, or a take on shepherd’s pie with duck), fish and chips and various steak cuts to be raked over the embers then slathered in blue cheese or ‘gentlemens’ relish’. But imaginative outliers include spit-roast turbot for two with lemon ketchup, milk and honey lamb chops with pea and haggis salad and asparagus with Cacklebean-egg salad cream. Desserts are of the immensely comforting sort, with toffee-apple pudding, brown-butter cake and molten carrot-cake cookies, so be sure to leave room. If you plump for the Sunday roast, may we suggest the ‘a bit of everything’ option, because it’s all good. Breakfasts feel delightfully retro too, with the likes of devilled kidneys; omelette with bacon, sausage and onion gravy; 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 reigns in the bijou Oxfordshire village of Clanfield, set by a 13th-century church and opposite a 17th-century tavern, 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.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this champion of British makers tucked away in the Thames Valley and unpacked their bottles of Hooky cider and Abingdon’s lavender and pine gin, a full account of their endlessly appetising break will be with you. In the meantime, prepare to take a knee for the Double Red Duke in Oxfordshire…
The steaks are high when not one but two chefs – and a team of butchers – with decades of grilling experience between them are given à la carte blanche in the kitchen of charming new Cotswolds hideaway the Double Red Duke (named for a local folk tale). Richard Turner and Richard Sandiford, (alumni of the Hawksmoor restaurants, Pitt Cue and Co, Turner & George butchers and the McQueen Grill, among others), man the flames in the restaurant to spit-roast turbot with lemony ketchup or grill thick steaks with ‘gentlemens’ relish’ to pinkish perfection, when they’re not devilling kidneys for breakfast or whipping up the densest of puddings. It’s exciting cookery that calls back to Seventies dinner parties (asparagus and Cacklebean-egg salad cream, anyone?) while feeling utterly fresh, and they’ve taken the time to source responsible high-quality suppliers, such as Brixham Seafish or Taste Tradition for rare-breed meats. But that’s not all that thrills in this wisteria-clad charmer. It has a high hotelier pedigree too, and owners Sam and Georgie Pearman (of the Lucky Onion and Country Creatures group) have done considerable homework. They’ve invested the full force of their hospitality know-how and British pride in finding the finest makers to spruce up the interiors. Handprinted artisanal textiles from Rapture & Wright, pigments from the established-circa 1773 Little Greene Paint Co, bespoke fabrics from Fermoie, rustic tiles from Handcrafted Designworks, and bathroom fittings made using centuries-old methods from Samuel Heath conspire to craft character-imbued spaces that would likely impress even the Arts and Crafty William Morris (he used to summer just down the road). This is a pitch-perfect paean to homegrown handicrafts and sleeves-up, hands-on cookery in glorious English pastures.