Wylde World: The Porch House
The Porch House, Stow on the Wold
Review and photos by Etienne Gascoine-Leopold
If Stow-on-the-Wold is the quintessential English village, with its picture-perfect market square dotted with old fashioned pubs, gorgeous antique shops and a smattering of fashionable new boutiques, then The Porch House is its perfect ambassador.
Billed as England’s oldest inn, The Porch House dates back to 947 AD, when, rumour has it, the building even had its own bear pit (now a lovely terrace to sip your cocktails on!) Following a major refurbishment, the Grade II listed hotel has managed a careful balancing act.
Its stylish refit is perfectly judged, with the modern touches adding not only beauty but function, and making the hotel a very welcome destination for sophisticated travellers longing for some old world charm but new world comforts. Thankfully the traces of its medieval ancestry still remain: cosy bedrooms nestle under robust wooden beams, whilst the dining room with its two impressive stone fireplaces, sits under the warm light of a pair of striking ‘antler’ chandeliers.
In the rooms, vintage sewing-machine worktops make for beautiful bedside tables, antiques and curiosities line the book shelves, whilst flat-screen TVs, WiFi, Nespresso machines and a freestanding cast iron bathtub (below) add to the tailor-made yet modern feel of the rooms.
In fact, anywhere you wander around The Porch House, you keep discovering different nooks and crannies dotted with curiosities that seem hand picked from Stow’s own eclectic mix of shops. One favourite guest area, the “Snug”, boasts a fireplace, shelves full of antiques, books and boardgames as well as its own little bar... the perfect countryside retreat!
Though we dined in a few places in Stow, The Porch House’s own restaurant really sets itself apart as a more upmarket but intimate and effortlessly on-trend venue. With its rustic elegance, the main dining room is a perfect complement to the hearty mix of traditional but also more modern entrées and mains, all prepared using locally sourced ingredients where possible.
From an Oxford Gold Ale and Onion soup, served with cheese toast, that had a lovely comforting ‘taste of home’ about it, to a succulent fore-rib cut of beef (above), with Bordelaise sauce and skin on cut chips, to a terrifically crunchy Eton Mess (below), The Porch House’s cuisine is superb, with the kind of attentive but unfussy service that’s perfect for a romantic tête-à-tête.
But there was Stow itself to explore too... here are a few of the hidden gems to visit while at The Porch House.
For treasure hunters: Christopher Clarke Antiques, one of the only shops in Britain specialising in campaign furniture (collapsible antique furniture made for travel) and, best of all, the enchanting Alice in Wonderland curios of Vintage and Paint, only a few doors down from The Porch House.
For foodies: not in Stow, but minutes away by car, (near Kingham station), don’t miss Daylesford Organic’s Farmshop and Café, bursting with mouth watering displays of produce and products that leave you in no doubt that this is truly the ‘Harvey Nichols of the Cotswolds’!