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Overview

Sparsholt resident, interior designer Caron Williams, rescued her failing village local a decade ago and breathed new life into the attractive, 300-year-old brick and flint building.

The sleepy village setting beneath rolling downland and the Ridgeway Path has always been a challenging, out-of-the-way location for the Star Inn to survive, so the spruced up interior, smartened up rooms, and the imaginative food offering has firmly established this rural backwater as a destination dining pub and as a peaceful place to stay, with some excellent walking and cycling right on the doorstep.

There's a cool, contemporary feel to the nicely relaxed bar, with its smart wood floors, hop-adorned beams, old pine tables, and cosy corner with sofas by the fire, and this extends to the rear, light and airy dining room, which is equally informal despite having laid up tables. Rooms are the icing on the cake; the eight contemporary styled rooms are peacefully located in a smart converted barn to the rear of the pub.

Rooms from:

8 doubles: £100

Good to know

  • Major credit cards accepted (except Amex)
  • Disabled access
  • Alfresco & private dining
  • Parking available
  • Dog stay:

Dog-friendly

Dogs are very welcome in the bar and overnight in some of the rooms. Delicious homemade organic treats too.

The Ridgeway Path

Walk in the footsteps of prehistoric settlers, Saxons and Romans, as red kites hover overhead. The Ridgeway passes through ancient landscapes and has been used since prehistoric times by travellers, soldiers and herdsmen. The 87 miles of the route is easily reached on foot from the Greyhound and takes in downlands, woodlands, and secluded valleys.

Rooms

A rustic converted barn out back houses the eight contemporary-chic bedrooms. Caron has smartened them up, adding furnishings and finishing touches, and refurbishing the bathrooms.

Expect soothing pastel colours, rich fabrics, painted furniture, L'Occitane bathroom products, decent TVs and wi-fi, and the best linen, down and woollen blankets on comfortable beds. Wake up to a excellent breakfast - perhaps pastries with praline chocolate sauce; pancakes with smoked streaky bacon and maple syrup; porridge with fruit compote; poached eggs Benedict or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs - before tackling a section of the Ridgeway Path across the Berkshire Downs.

Restaurant & bar

Chef Matt Williams, who gained invaluable experience working in the kitchens at Claridges and Whatley Manor, is key to the success of the Star as a dining destination - expect to find a blackboard menu of classic British favourites, alongside Matt's more innovative weekly carte.

So, lunchtime walkers can tuck into a 'bloomer' sandwich (bacon, lettuce, tomato and wild garlic mayonnaise sandwich), or the Star Inn beef burger, BBQ pulled pork, cheddar, onion jam and fries with a pint of Hooky. Foodies flock in for the likes of beef blade terrine, carrot and horseradish remoulade, black garlic ketchup and ale bread, followed by roast plaice 'on the bone', Cornish mids, sea herbs, brown shrimp and preserved lemon brown butter sauce, or slow roast beef rump, glazed shin, black garlic, black onion dauphinois potato, and Madeira and mushroom sauce, leaving room for nutmeg custard tart, poached rhubarb, liquorice and rhubarb sorbet.

On Sundays expect to find rump of beef with duck fat potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and red wine gravy on the lunch menu. Wood-fired BBQ and pizzas on Friday & Sunday evenings.

Things to do

Kelmscott Manor is beautiful property, built from lovely mellow golden stone, and once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris and his family, friends and colleagues. Kelmscott is home to fascinating and important collections of textiles, furniture and paintings, spanning more than 300 years and reflecting the ideas and creative legacy of those who lived and worked here.

Wayland's Smithy is a brilliantly atmospheric Neolithic chambered tomb, about 2km along the Ridgeway from the Uffington White Horse. Its name comes from the story that the Saxon smith god, Wayland, lived there and would shoe any horse left with a coin overnight. The tomb you can explore today, with its dramatic entrance stones, is the second on this site and was constructed between 3,460 and 3,400 BC.

Part of the University of Oxford since 1963, Harcourt Arboretum covers 130 acres and features the best collection of trees in the county, as well as some of the oldest redwoods in the UK. Seasonal highlights include wildflower meadows, rhododendrons and bluebell woods.

Getting here

Directions

Nearest train station: Didcot Parkway

Taxi from station: 27min

Drive: Wantage 10min; Oxford 37min; Newbury 38min; London 1hr 51min

Address

Watery Lane, Sparsholt, Wantage, Oxfordshire OX12 9PL

Prices & availability