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The Castle at Edgehill

Muddy goes all 'Rapunzel' and checks into an impressive 15th Century folly for the night with panoramic views over a famous Civil War battlefield.

Ever had the slightest of fairy-tale fantasies to be like Rapunzel and let down your locks? Don’t worry, we won’t judge. Muddy checks into an impressive, eccentric 15th Century castle tower for the night with panoramic views over the Battle of Edgehill. Publicans Mark and Claire Higgs serve up scrummy locally-produced food and award-winning Cotswold brewed Hook Norton ales.

THE LOCATION

We arrived at this 4 AA star country pub on one of the windiest days of the year. Edgehill is a small, attractive hamlet, surrounded by woodlands. The village famously gave its name to the very first battle of the English Civil War in 1642, fought in the open fields below. On the southern Warwickshire and Oxfordshire border, it’s 7 miles to Banbury in one direction and 5 miles to Kineton, Warks in the other. Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick and Royal Leamington Spa are all under a 30-minute drive.

THE VIBE

A super-friendly, relaxed and cosy historic inn. Snuggle up in the panelled library with its roaring fire during the chillier months, have a drink in the bar with its characterful nooks and crannies and dine in the restaurant or glasshouse which has floor-to-ceiling panoramic views over the famous Civil War battlefield.  From our scenic table in the modern glasshouse we spotted the twinkling lights of the MOD-owned site in the Warwickshire countryside and Jaguar Land Rover’s futuristic design and engineering centre at Gaydon, in the distance.

Autumnal colours.

When Mark and Claire first took over the pub it was tired and unloved, together with Hook Norton the brewery they totally revamped the entire building and re-opened in April 2014.

You can stay over in one of four en-suite rooms, two of which Prince Rupert and Kings, are actually inside the quirky octagonal tower. The castle tower was built nearly 100 years after the Battle of Edgehill by the owner of Radway Grange, Sanderson Miller, as an impressive folly to entertain friends on the site where Charles I had raised his royal standard before the battle. It is based on Guy’s Tower at Warwick Castle.

In the summer you can sit out in the large Victorian landscaped garden on benches with umbrellas or the open balcony with views over the historic battlefield. There’s also a fire-pit and outside heaters.

Take note, the pub is also said to be haunted by a friendly ghost called Edna. There are frequently ghost hunts, particularly around Halloween.

SCOFF & QUAFF

Food is sourced from the best local supplies nearby including Carpenters Farm Shop, Ridgway Ice Cream, Tysoe Allotments and artisan bakery, Boulangerie Valentine.

We began with succulent Sizzling King Prawns, Garlic and Chilli – the flowers are Red Sorrel – and Creamy Garlic Mushrooms with Parmesan on artisan toast – both delicious.

This was followed by Slow Roast Pork Belly, Lyonnaise Potato, seasonal greens with grain mustard sauce and a Castle Hanging Halloumi and roasted vegetable Kebab on a hook, which came with twice-cooked chips, ‘Castle-slaw’ and dressed leaves.

The slow roast pork belly

Other mains included Beef bourguignon, Bream fillet, Beer Battered Haddock and the Castle burger. Vegetarians are well catered for, the Lentil & Vegetable hot pot and Spicy Bean Castle Burger, both sounded appetising.

A Castle Hanging Halloumi Kebab

For pudding, a seasonal poached pear in red wine with cinnamon-flavoured Chantilly cream was lovely and light with a slight toffee-apple crisp.

Drinks range from a good selection of wines including new Portuguese wines from the Mar Da Palha region, north of Lisbon, a selection of Cotswold brewed Hook Norton Ales, spirits and cocktails.  I can definitely recommend the Mar Da Palha Sauvignon Blanc and Warner Edwards Rhubarb gin with ginger ale for a nightcap.

The Castle’s very cheery assistant manager Jorge Gurreio, from Portugal, and his team of waiting staff were extremely hospitable – entertaining us with amusing ghost stories.

PILLOW TALK

We stayed in the Prince Rupert, one of the top rooms in the main tower. Both Rupert and Kings have four-poster beds, period features, thick stone walls. en-suite shower rooms and magnificent views. The decor is simple and pleasant.

There are two more guest rooms in the smaller tower: Astley a double bedroom with en-suite shower room and an adjoining single room, which can if required be used as a family room; and Verney, a double-room on the ground floor with en-suite wet room style bathroom, suitable for disabled access.

All rooms have digital TVs, an espresso coffee machine, mini-fridge, free WIFI and continental breakfast. if you choose to eat in your room. A superb breakfast in the restaurant is also included.

You can opt for a full English or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.

KID-FRIENDLY

If you have a small child who is a fan of fairy-tales this is a lovely place to visit as The Castle has a real story-book quality to it, plenty of grassy spaces to run off steam outdoors and woodland walks. It’s also a great place for older children to learn about British history and see the site of a real battlefield for themselves. They may also be intrigued by paranormal stories of the pub’s friendly ghost, Edna.

The Children’s Menu includes three mains – sausage and mash; battered Cod, chips and peas or Gnocchi (v) with a scoop of Vanilla ice cream for dessert. ££: £8.

OUT & ABOUT

LIttle detective looking through magnifying glass on grey background

British Motor Museum, Gaydon: Children can put their detective caps on and help the Museum’s Junior Designer find the Missing Plans over October half-term.

Literally on the doorstep of The Castle is a one-hour Civil War Walk if you fancy a ramble or a pre-arranged guided tour of the Battlefield Trail through the woodlands and pretty village of Radway to see where the battle took place. Part of the battlefield remains in Ministry of Defence ownership and is inaccessible. Inside St Peter’s Church is the Kingsmill effigy erected by a mother in memory of her Royalist son, Captain Kingsmill, killed in the Battle of Edgehill.

Upton House and Gardens

Just one-mile away is The National Trust’s Upton House and Gardens. (The morning we visited the gardens were closed due to high winds.) Other local attractions close by include the family-friendly British Motor Museum at Gaydon which has the world’s largest collection of historic British cars; the canal-side Banbury Museum; overlooked hidden gem Broughton Castle, and award-winning art gallery and park, Compton Verney.

Warwick Castle and Racecourse, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Charlecote Park and Hatton Country World are also an easy drive away.

If you fancy going on a gin, whisky or ale tasting tour, Cotswolds Distillery and Hook Norton Brewery are just 10m up the road.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Destination dining and a 30 second stagger to bed. Intimate romantic suppers with a view and weddings –  the 15th Century Castle gained its wedding licence in 2018. Also good for outside summer dining; afternoon teas, Christmas do’s  -and the New Year House Party sounds fun!

Not for: Maybe don’t stay in the tower if you’re scared of heights – although from inside it did not feel too high! The stairway up to Rupert, in the tower is quite narrow and steep – so maybe not for small children or guests who aren’t very mobile.

The damage: Reasonable. Starters: £5.50 £7; sharers £14 – £16; mains from £13 for veggie options, £15 for Castle Hanging Kebabs (chicken, halloumi and salmon) up to £28 for Fillet Steak; £2.50 per scoop for local ice creams, £7 for puddings and £9 for English cheeses and water biscuits. Rooms start at £65 per night for a small double mid-week to £129 per night for Rupert/Kings on weekends.

The Castle, Edgehill, Banbury, OX15 6DJ, 01295 670 255, castleatedgehill

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