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Review: The Old New Inn, Bourton-on-the-Water

A triple treat of Cotswold charm, a new restaurant and a quirky attraction in the backyard - this newly refurbed retreat in the heart of Cotswolds country is really worth a look. See what we thought when we checked in.

THE LOWDOWN

Probably the most popular village in the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is out and out tourist catnip. A permanent fixture on the top 10 bucket list of every discerning Cotswold-bound tourist, this honey-hued crowd-pleaser, tucked into the north of the county, is achingly pretty.

Known as The ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, due to five low-slung footbridges straddling the bucolic River Windrush which runs through it, Bourton wears its chocolate box good looks with pride. Its near mythical status means it is one of the most crowded places in the AONB on any given day, but once you make peace with that then a trip here is a must. Every inch of this village oozes character with old Cotswold stone cottages to coo over, darling boutiques to plunder and ice cream and tea parlours by the dozen.

The Old New Inn couldn’t be more in the centre of the action. Located a few yards off the main drag, it’s a platinum spot, sandwiched between the centre of the village and popular Birdland. Family run, it is owned by husband and wife team Andrew and Julie Lund-Yates. The couple have given the place a real glow-up after buying it, along with The Model Village behind it (more on that later) in 2018. You can tell it’s a passion project, years of experience in hospitality, they fell in love with the village and project having visited with their own children many times.

THE VIBE

A cosy country-style inn, it has nine en-suite bedrooms and a level of Cotswold charm you’d expect from a historic 17th century inn. From exposed stone walls and inviting fireplaces to chunky beams and rustic furniture to sink into. The new Tap Room & Restaurant is the crowning glory, it opened earlier this year (2022) after a substantial £600k, three-year makeover. The inn was ripe for a level-up, and has been transformed into a stylish and visit-worthy wine, dine and recline destination. The inn has a relaxed drop-in-and-dine feel, you never know who’ll come in through the doors in Bourton, and a scattering of visitors from Americans and Scots to a family of Japanese holidaymakers trickled in whilst we settled into the wooden pews for a drink. The Inn obviously attracts a tourist-heavy trade but as you’re slightly detached from the main high street here, it manages also to be a relatively quiet oasis amidst the Bourton buzz, a nice little hidey-hole from the madding crowd for a while.

Recepetion at The New Old Inn

There are some lovely old features here including original parquet floors in the reception and breakfast room areas. A big plus is the parking right outside the inn, but you have to be feeling lucky as it gets filled up quickly. But you can move the car later on when the day trippers head home, as we did. We parked at nearby Birdland which boasts a mammoth car park to cope with Bourton’s overflow. We had turned up a tad early, like the keeno beanos we are to see the village’s attractions, but soon realised reception is only manned between and 3pm and 6pm, so you do need to time your arrival well to avoid being locked out. Helpfully, I was able to leave the overnight bag at reception whilst we headed out to the village until check in time. The new Tap Room & Restaurant are a stylish affair, a lovely wood-pannelled room with all the trappings of a neo-rustic inn, from its deep blue walls and woodwork to elegant leather chairs and warm chocolate tones.

The newly refurbed Tap Room

SCOFF & QUAFF

The Tap Room & Restaurant is open from Wednesday to Sunday with a drinks service on Mondays and Tuesdays. The glow-up has been done really well, the place felt classy and fresh but retaining its rustic charm still. I especially liked the quirky old vintage pictures and paintings of Bourton, reflecting it’s proud heritage.

The newly re-imagined eatery is under the expert direction of head chef, Jason Hyatt, who has 20 years of experience in some of the coolest restaurants in the Cotswolds, most recently at The Fox at Oddington. The menu that’s championed here is locally sourced as much as possible, and seasonal. Families will be happy too, with a kid-friendly menu (smaller portions of the adult meals) and there’s a range of delicious craft and cask ales and a curated wine list. And it’s as relaxed a welcome if you want a Scotch egg and pint by the fire as it is if you’re in full on feast mode.

There is nothing fancy about the menu, instead you’ll find modern, simple, country inn classics done well. We’d brought the teens along for the ride and there were several crowd pleasers for the whole family, with them both ordering the Chicken Milanese, served with ribbon pasta in tomato sauce which went down a storm, and was incredibly filling.

Sharing platter of dreams

The other half went for the Sharing Platter which was a whopper-sized wooden board packed with smoked salmon, fish goujons, garlic prawns, herring, marinated anchovies and a chunk of focaccia, it was totally delicious (there’s also a similar platter for meat-lovers).

I went for the fish of the day which was a Megrim Sole with a generous bunch of fragrant samphire and sautéed potatoes, it was unfussy and very tasty. On the dessert menu were firm favourites such as Sticky Toffee Pudding, Blackcurrant Pavlova and ice creams. I road-tested the chocolate brownie which was generously sized and absolutely delicious.

Breakfast the next morning was a choice of continental or English, the menu seemed to have eggs done in every conceivable way possible. I didn’t spy any avocado or sourdough on the menu which I do usually seek out for breakfast, but it was no biggie. I went for a bowl of warming porridge which came with a sweet coulis and it was no problem to make this with the requested oat milk.

There’s a strong love-for-local here from Cacklebean Eggs from Stow-on-the-Wold for your breakfast to Dolcetti gelato crafted in Cirencester. There are also two bee hives tucked away in The Old New Inn garden (check them out) so guests will also be able to try honey made on site by Cotswold bees.

PILLOW TALK

There are nine bedrooms and they have all recently undergone a super-stylish makeover. The names are beautiful; The Lavender Room, The Sheep Room, The Pheasant Room, and so on. Each is individually and tastefully decorated with lots of little nods to the Cotswolds heritage.

I found myself in the Duck Room, peppered with avian motifs all over, from the curtains and walls to cushions, along with Cotswold style contemporary-rustic furniture and a welcoming Farrow and Ball-style grey colour pallette. Rooms don’t come with fluffy robes and slippers here but you don’t miss them too much because the rooms feel so cosy anyway. There was also a bijou and beautifully designed bathroom, with a shower rather than a bath. The bed was a queen size (although the majority of rooms do come with king or superking versions) but it was extraordinarily comfy, with a deep mattress and lovely feather pillows. Want to go fancy? You can upgrade to the luxe Cotswold Suite with it’s four poster bed.

OUT AND ABOUT

Once you’re done with the life-sized version head to the fascinating Model Village for a pint-sized replica. It’s a famous Cotswold attraction quite literally in your backyard. If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to be Gulliver in Lilliput this is it. Created from local Cotswold stone by craftsmen, it’s an exact replica of Bourton-on-the-Water and the only Grade-II listed model village in the country. Rather like a rustic Legoland, wander the lanes and peer into the little houses, two village churches and at the exquisitely pruned alpine plants and cherry trees. There’s even a dinky River Windrush flowing under the famous bridges and singing coming from the churches. My boys really loved it, and it’s a real delight for big or small. Best of all guests staying at the hotel can visit for free and get in before it opens to the public every morning.

Just minutes walk from the hotel is Birdland. Set in nine acres of gardens and woodland, there are more than 500 birds from owls and parrots to rare species here. Spot flamingos, pelicans, cranes and waterfowl in the riverside habitats and meet England’s only breeding group of King Penguins and the comical Humboldts. Also in the village is the famous Cotswold Motoring Museum, if you’re a child of the nineties you’ll recognise Brum among the many tyred treasures.

Kids will also love the Dragonfly Maze (come early though, we arrived at 1pm and it had sold out for the day). And some of the Cotswold’s best attractions are reachable within a 15 minutes radius to explore, from The Cotswold Farm Park to Far Peak Climbing Centre with its 20ft tower, and other picture-postcard villages from Stow-on-the-Wold to The Slaughters just down the A-road.

THE DAMAGE

A stay in the Duck Room, with River Windrush views, starts from £120, including breakfast, which is great value for its prime location. A meal for four, without starters and one glass of wine, skimmed in at a few pennies under £100, which is on the steeper side for a pub meal, but the food was faultless, the service was really friendly and we left feeling happy and full.

GOOD FOR: Anyone wanting a fabulously full-on Cotswold village experience; you couldn’t be closer to the action. Great for unpretentious lunches and dinners and the hotel’s stylish and comfy vibe will appeal to families and couples wanting to sneak off for a romantic recharge.

NOT FOR: Anyone with a pooch (dogs aren’t allowed in the bedrooms but they are made very welcome in the bar and restaurant). Room service lovers (there isn’t any) or anyone with mobility issues, the bedrooms are upstairs in this authentic Grade-II listed property, although staff will always try to help wherever they can.

For more information or to book contact www.theoldnewinn.co.uk

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