Five-hundred year-old coaching inn, The Crown hotel in Amersham has undergone a modern-rustic makeover at the hands of style guru Ilse Crawford, seeing its original olde-worlde features seamlessly complemented by a fresh, contemporary-comfy design. The pub-style restaurant is still at the heart of the hotel – expect lots of juicy meats and fresh fish dishes to sink your teeth into.
Double rooms from £99.00, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates include full English or Continental breakfast.
There is a little garden area behind the hotel which is set up for croquet during the summer.
At the hotel
Courtyard, free WiFi throughout, free parking. In rooms: flatscreen TV, free bottled water, White Company bathroom products.
Our favourite rooms
The Ilse-Crawford-overhauled rooms in the main inn and courtyard are all pictures of peaceful, pared-down rusticity, with spotless white walls, Welsh wool blankets and rush matting. For a glimpse of the inn’s history, check into Room 12, where there’s a section of hand-painted and National Trust-protected wall dating back to 1550. We also like Room 5, which has a raised bathroom area up a little stairwell. Room 1 in the main inn is the only room with his ’n’ hers basins. Courtyard Suite 101 was featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral and 102 – one of the largest – has a dramatic four-poster beneath an imposing chandelier. The courtyard rooms all have claw-foot tubs in the bedrooms.
Wellies for countryside trudging; don’t worry about reading matter though, you’ll find a stash of Penguin classics in every room.
Welcome. Cots can be provided for free and extra beds can be added to certain rooms for £20 a child, each night: call Smith24 to ensure you get a room with enough space. Dinky versions of adult meals and highchairs can be supplied in the restaurant.
In the summer, grab a table in the cobbled courtyard; in winter, cosy up by the fire.
Hiking socks and waterproofs (damp dogs discouraged).
Hawkyns restaurant – helmed by twice Michelin-starred Atul Kochhar – is the beating heart of the Crown. The menu combines classic British and Indian flavours, with dishes such as chicken tikka terrine, chili-spiced butternut squash risotto and smoked lamb rump with asian ratatouille. For dessert, order a cooling mango kulfi or a tangy saffron yoghurt tart. You may not spot the same specialities every time, as dishes are seasonal and sourced from local farms. However, the Sunday roast is a firm favourite with guests and locals alike – book an early seating to avoid disappointment as they sell out fast.
Mismatched chairs, chunky tables and woolly blankets dominate the bar at the heart of the Crown. It’s a place to quaff a pint of locally brewed Rebellion ale while nibbling from a bowl of spicy nuts and soothing ramble-weary limbs in front of the log fire.
Breakfast from 7–10am (7.30–10.30am at weekends). Lunch from noon to 2.30pm (until 3pm on Friday and Saturday) and dine from 6.30–9.30pm Monday to Thursday (until 10pm on Friday and Saturday) and 5–9pm on Sunday. It's bar menu only on Sunday and Monday.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 10am (Monday to Friday) and 7.30am to 10.30am (on weekends). The all-day menu is served from 11am 9.30pm (Monday to Saturday) and 11am to 9pm on Sunday.
The Crown is set in the heart of Amersham, in London’s rural outskirts. This quaint and quirky market town wears its history with pride and is surrounded by the bounding hills and valleys of the Chilterns.
Heathrow is the most convenient airport just 18 miles away. You can fly here from all over Europe and the UK, and regular flights from the States arrive daily. A taxi to the hotel should take around 35 minutes.
Chiltern Railways run directly from London Marylebone to Amersham in around 35 minutes. You can also hop on the Metropolitan Tube line, which takes around 50 minutes from Baker Street. Amersham station is just a mile from the hotel.
Taking your own set of wheels can be handy when exploring bucolic Buckinghamshire. The Crown is just five miles from the M25 and six from the M40. Drive times from London can vary, depending on your route. Traffic permitting, it should take a little over an hour; there's free parking by the hotel, tucked away on Whielden Street.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Chilterns is pure rambler’s paradise, with dozens of scenic walking trails running from Amersham, Henley Marlow and the surrounds. If you prefer pavements to pastures, London is a half-hour Underground ride away. Disraeli’s country home, Hughenden Manor in High Wycombe makes an excellent day trip, with insights into Victorian stately life and lovely riverside parkland for picnicking. A short drive from Amersham, Cookham was a ‘village in heaven’ according to the famously religious British painter Sir Stanley Spencer, who was born and buried there and often featured scenes of the village in his paintings: see them at the Stanley Spencer Gallery.
Amersham and its neighbouring villages are dotted with a selection of traditional alehouses and eateries serving up delicious fare. Artichoke in Market Square, has a menu full of Master Chef-worthy dishes made using free range and organic ingredients foraged from the region. For classic pub fare – beer-battered fish and chips, dijon mustard burgers and sausage and mash – stroll five minutes down the road to the Kings Arms. They also serve full afternoon and cream teas from 3pm to 5pm daily.
Just down the road from the Crown, Seasons Café Deli, is a contender to the title of best coffee shop in the country – decide for yourself with a hot breakfast-brew.
Just three miles outside Amersham in Winchmore Hill, The Potters Arms is a charmingly English country-pub offering a terrific selection of real ales to wet your whistle with, and they’ve got plenty of fab food to boot.
Old Amersham has a tranquilising effect. Stepping from beneath the shade of Parsonage Wood I was presented with the prettiest view of the market town, flanked by rising country pastures and cast in the sanctifying light of a blue-sky sunset. A whiskered man in tweed came strutting up the hill towards me, swinging a walking stick, whistling a jaunty tune and brandishing the most terrific set of sideburns ever seen on someone not at a terrific-sideburns convention. He gave me a genial grin and one of those sideways nod-cum-winks that only country folk can pull off, and then he tootled past into the woods. This all transpired within a few seconds but it shifted my mood from city-stress to country-calm in an instant.
A few moments earlier I’d been trudging through muddy woodlands cursing myself for taking directions to the hotel from a man who’d just fallen out of a pub, and for using an old roller suitcase that waited until I was completely surrounded by puddles before bursting open. I thought to myself ‘boutique-hotel reviewing isn’t supposed to be like this’ as I dolefully picked the dirt from my new Paul Smith shirt. But with my mood swiftly ameliorated and a pile of filthy clothes tucked under my arm, I set off with purposeful gait towards the Crown.
I’d hoped this trip to the Chilterns would deliver me from London’s din and gift me with a simple rural escape. Although Old Amersham is hooked onto the end of the Metropolitan line and so technically still a part of London, I was comforted with the realisation that a couple of days in Buckinghamshire would be a very pleasant alternative to a weekend in the city. The entrance to the Crown is just off a central courtyard; it was filled with tables of cheerful chaps and cordial ladies enjoying the last of the day’s light and glasses of chilled white wine. Hopping over the cat curled up on the cobbles, I stepped inside.
This 500-year-old property certainly looks well for its age. The unfussy interiors run counter to what you might expect from a boutique bolthole in the heart of the home counties, famously featured as the Lucky Boatman in Four Weddings. Twisted original oak beams, lattice windows and creaking floorboards bring an old-world warmth. At the end of the higgledy-piggledy coir-carpeted first-floor corridor, was my room. Big on character, it featured a sheepskin-covered rocking chair beneath the market-hall-facing window, a Roberts radio, a collection of English historical novels, and an antique stable-style door leading to the super-modern ensuite with a shower the size of a modestly proportioned barn.
Throwing my clump of clothes into the closet and booting (deservedly hard) my broken suitcase under the plush double bed, I took to the backroom snug for a pint of local brew and a browse of the pub menu. I resisted the more hearty offerings via a Caesar salad, knowing that when Mrs Smith turned up late the next afternoon I’d be gorging myself into a stupor on the Chop House’s renowned country tucker.
The next morning it was still sunny and conditions were perfect for an exploratory stroll through the Chiltern Hills – but not before breakfast. Now, buffets can present problems: I don’t do well with too much choice. When it comes to picking between a full English, freshly baked bread, slices of salmon, prosciutto, all kinds of cheese, juicy fresh fruit and a selection of crunchy cereals, I will invariably decide to have all of them which routinely renders me incapable of any and all physical movement for several hours. Were it not for the three cups of coffee, I’m not sure I would have got up from the chair.
After a quick change into elasticated shorts I donned my backpack and set off rambling. Roaming across low-cut fields, through tall-tree woods, over rickety stiles and past dozing cows brought me to the Red Lion Pub in Little Missenden where I repaired with an ice-cold frosty top and a small bite to eat. ‘Busy?’ I asked the landlady. ‘Swamped’ she said – in all seriousness from what I could tell. There were only two other people there and they were both asleep in their chairs. ‘This is more my speed,’ I thought as I found a spot in the garden, sat down, and fell asleep in my chair.
Back in town, I met Mrs Smith at the station and proceeded to energetically point out all the wonders of bucolic Buckinghamshire in a vein similar to a child showing his farther how his new bucket and spade works. After leading her through Parsonage Wood along the ‘shortcut I’d discovered’, telling her all about John McCririck winking at me, showing her my favourite view of Old Amersham and the puddle my shirt was in, we stopped by the Seasons Café Deli on the high street for a coffee-kick before setting off on more exploring. This time our rambles included walking along the River Misbourne, watching a local game of cricket, me explaining how cricket works, me admitting I have no idea how cricket works, skipping, climbing trees and chasing sheep. The coffee at Seasons Café Deli is excellent!
We decided it was only right that we cap off a day this enjoyable with a meal from head chef extraordinaire, Will Hughes, at the Chop House restaurant. His menu makes artwork out of simple rustic grub – I can say with some certainty that his veal chop and turnip gratin will produce an almost emotional reaction in anyone who eats it. After polishing off a couple of carafes of Citta dei Ponti we retired fully sated and certain of a future return. The next morning I was no more abstemious at the breakfast buffet, before we headed back towards the station whistling a jaunty tune and nod-winking at anyone who cared to look our way. That, ladies and gents, is the Old Amersham effect.