The Wild Duck Inn at Ewen
The Wild Duck Inn is a quintessential Cotswold country inn. Dating from 1563, it is found near to the source of the River Thames, at Ewen, just three miles from Cirencester. Having walked along the River Thames National Path (some 184 miles from source to sea), I was keen to return to this area and discover more. So the Wild Duck Inn provided an ideal base for a two-night break.
The Cotswolds, much of which is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is a tourists’ delight. This unspoilt countryside is a place of soft honeyed limestone walls and ancient buildings, open skies, rolling meadows and beech woods. Captivating villages and market towns await you. Rivers give plenty of opportunities for romantic rambles and nature watching, while the variety of the terrain and miles of tracks make it a walking, cycling and horse riding dream.
We wanted a characterful and traditional Cotswolds pub that would provide a friendly and relaxing atmosphere with quality food and comfortable rooms. The Wild Duck Inn didn’t disappoint.
Located in the tranquil village of Ewen, the Wild Duck Inn was our gateway to exploring the Cotswolds. It seems buried in a by-gone age, yet it’s easily accessible from motorways and direct rail links to London, Cheltenham and beyond.
The outside is welcomingly picturesque, with a unique clock overlooking the entrance. By opening the grand old oak front door and turning left, you step into the delightful Post Horn Bar, a visual treat. The walls are colour-washed dark red; twisted oak beams festooned with hop bines. The original small rooms have been opened up by revealing their half-timber framing, so providing a spacious feel while retaining all manner of private nooks and crannies to sit in. Rusticity is what the Wild Duck is all about; ceilings are low, floors uneven. An Elizabethan open fireplace provides cosy warmth in winter. Those with canine companions will be pleased to find it is also dog-friendly.
There is plenty of real ale choice. Three beers made by their micro-brewery; Duck Pond, Ewen Oil and Golden Duck. On sunny days, an enclosed courtyard offers a delightful spot for alfresco drinking and dining. Shaded by an old apple tree, with the walls covered in ancient wisteria, this is a verdant hideaway.
The Wild Duck has twelve en-suite bedrooms and the doubles all have four-poster beds. We stayed in the Chinese Suite, a charming superior first floor double room with exposed beams and whitewashed walls. The four-poster ensured a good night’s rest, as did the country silence — peace isn’t something you can take for granted when staying in a busy pub.
The food is hearty and wholesome, and the dining experience is relaxed and unstuffy. We had arrived on Steak Night, a very popular mid-week promotion, with every table was occupied. Steaks for two and a bottle of wine (an Italian Merlot) for £25.00. There is a wide choice of steaks, sauces and accompaniments plus other menu options for those feeling less carnivorous. Locally sourced meat came sizzling and rare as ordered, a watercress salad added a little pep and the service was both friendly and speedy. Just the ticket after a long drive!
There is so much to see and do in the Cotswold’s that it’s wise to have a plan. A gentle sunny evening ramble from the Wild Duck down the Thames helped work up an appetite. Herons and Egrets are plentiful here, and Kingfishers dart from riverside perches. Nearby is the Cotswold Water Park, comprising some 150 lakes for sailing, fishing and cycling, with several lakes designated nature reserves.We visited some of the local market towns and villages, often reached by single-track roads, their hedgerows bursting with autumn fruit.
Cirencester and Chedworth have Roman ruins, while Bibury is one of the most beautiful and certainly one of the most photographed villages. On then to unspoilt Tetbury with the nearby Royal Gardens at Highgrove, transformed by Prince Charles into an organic haven. Fairford, with its air-shows, is nearby, while towns such as Stow-on-the-Wold, Cheltenham and Bath are all within easy reach.
Back at the Wild Duck, the full menu is an eclectic collection of hearty pub favourites. The meat comes from Highgrove and the fish from Brixham when available.
In flickering candlelight, we sat at an old pine table enjoying generous starters. Garlic mushroom bruschetta came with parmesan, fresh rocket and balsamic drizzle. Thai fish cakes were clearly home made and delicious. For mains, we chose two pub favourites — chicken breast in Parma ham and a portion of Scampi were both excellent. Meanwhile, fellow diners were sharing some stylish mini-plates that garnered favourable comments – Tapas in the Cotswolds. Desserts are classic British, rib-sticking and appealing – Eton Mess, sticky toffee pud and ice cream. All washed down with glasses of Ewen Oil.
In short, the Wild Duck Inn offers an unpretentious escape from modern life and is an ideal base for exploring the Cotswolds.