The Black Bull Inn

Pub with rooms in Balsham, Cambridgeshire

From £120 per night

Curator's notes:

  • Thatched 17th-century village inn
  • Rambling, country-rustic interior
  • Good food; classic/modern dishes
  • Simple, comfortable rooms
  • Handy base for Cambridge
Book a room

Speak to us on +44 (0)20 8161 0100

Overview

Having been unloved and unsuccessful many years, Alex Clarke put the heart and soul back into this thatched 17th-century pub when he bought it back in 2011 and it now thrives as a village local, destination food pub and as a pub with rooms.

It's a classic Grade II listed country pub and one of Cambridgeshire's historic gems situated in the heart of pretty Balsham, just off the A11 and within easy reach of Cambridge. The location and style of the pub fits perfectly with Alex's sister pub, the Red Lion in Hinxtion, a 12-minute drive away (see entry).

Significant investment in the property resulted in a contemporary makeover of the bedrooms, complete renovation of an ancient timbered barn to create a comfortable dining area with oak-panelled walls and a high-vaulted ceiling. The bar area rambles around a central servery and features beams and standing timbers, bare boards, and an eclectic mix of furnishings, including leather sofas fronting a blazing fire - perfect for perusing the papers with a pint of Adnams.

Rooms from

5 doubles: £120

Good to know

Major credit cards accepted (except Amex)

Alfresco dining

Parking available

Dog stay: £10

A touch of culture

The unspoilt town of Saffron Walden is dominated by the 193ft spire of Essex's largest spire and the tangle of 15th and 16th-century timber-framed buildings are worth seeing for their elaborate plasterwork (pargeted) facades.

Dog-friendly

Dogs are allowed in the bar and overnight in all the bedrooms for a small extra charge (£10).

Rooms

Tucked away from the hubbub of the pub, the five simple, contemporary decorated bedrooms are housed in a single storey building adjacent to the pub with easy access to the car park.

Local interior designer Annie Lambert has given them a fresh, modern feel with oak floors, solid oak furnishings, bold colours and statement wall coverings. All have quality 6ft super-king beds with comfortable coil-sprung mattresses and bright blanket throws add a spash of colour to the rooms. Added comforts include fresh coffee and milk, Freeview TVs, telephones, and ceramic tiled bathrooms.

A great base for visiting Cambridge, exploring the delights of Suffolk and north Essex - historic Lavenham, antiques in Long Melford, and glorious Constable Country - or as an overnight stop en route to the Norfolk coast.

Restaurant & bar

Changing menus carefully balance traditional pub food with more innovative meals and daily fish specials and give diners a good food choice, which has been key to the success of the Black Bull as a dining destination.

Everything is cooked fresh from locally sourced ingredients. From a typical autumn menu perhaps follow whitebait with garlic and lemon mayonnaise with a hearty, proper pastry steak and ale pie with creamy mash, kale and gravy, or sea bass with rocket pesto, or thyme-roasted chicken with mushroom and tarragon sauce.

Round off with homemade ice creams or a classic sticky toffee pudding. Lunchtime sandwiches include roast beef with rocket and blue cheese sauce. Booking is essential for the excellent Sunday roast lunches - local beef, pork and chicken with all the trimmings.

Beer drinkers will find four East Anglian brews on handpump, from Adnams Ghost Ship to Woodfordes Wherry, and the wine list offers good choice and 18 by the glass.

Things to do

You're not far from Cambridge here, so why not spend the day wandering the historic city or punting on the river? Told through the eyes of local foodies around the city, award-winning Cambridge Food Tour will take you off the beaten path. Either join a public date or arrange a bespoke private tour.

Duxford Airfield has seen real and screen action and now belongs to the Imperial War Museum. You'll find a superb collection of historic aircraft from First World War fighters to the first Concorde ever flown.

Fowlmere Nature Reserve is an oasis for resident warblers and kingfishers in this 85-acre fen reed bed with boardwalks and hides.

Getting here

Directions

Nearest railway station: Whittlesford Parkway

Taxi from station: 13min

Drive: Haverhill 16min; Cambridge 25min; Bury St Edmunds 32min

Address

27 High Street, Balsham, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire CB21 4DJ

Prices & availability