The Star Inn Pub with rooms in Sparsholt, Oxfordshire

Prices from:
£95 per night

David Hancock says:

  • Hidden away village below Ridgeway
  • Rejuvenated inn with foodie emphasis
  • Contemporary smart, yet relaxed vibe
  • Innovative carte and classic dishes
  • Peaceful rooms in converted barn

Sticky FingersMuddy PawsGood for Walking

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Overview

The Star Inn Sparsholt, Oxfordshire, OX12 9PL

The personal touch

Sparsholt resident, interior designer Caron Williams, rescued her failing village local in 2012 and she has slowly 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, Sparsholt to survive, so the spruced up interior, smartened up rooms, and the much improved 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. Caron’s son Toby manages the place and has brought some much needed stability to the Star and all bodes well for the future.

Sticky fingers

Children are welcome in the bar and dining room and overnight, one of the larger rooms has a sofa bed.

Muddy paws

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

Alfresco

Trees offer welcome shade to the smart picnic benches in the side and rear garden. Food is served here on warm summer days.

What’s the Damage?
8 doubles/twin: £75 – £100

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken (except Amex)
  • Alfresco dining
  • Parking

Gongs
AA 4 Star Inn & 2 Rosettes; Waitrose Good Food Guide

Sleep

The Star Inn Sparsholt, Oxfordshire, OX12 9PL

Do not disturb

A rustic converted barn out back houses the eight contemporary-chic bedrooms, which Caron has been gradually smartening up, adding furnishings and finishing touches, and refurbishing the bathrooms, which are now fully tiled and have quality fittings. Expect soothing pastel colours, rich fabrics, painted furniture, and the best linen, down and woollen blankets on comfortable beds.

Creature comforts

L’Occitane bathroom products.

Gadgets

Flatscreen TV; free wi-fi.

What’s for Breakfast?

Fresh fruit with crème fraiche sorbet; pastries with praline chocolate sauce; pancakes with smoked streaky bacon and maple syrup; porridge with fruit compote; poached eggs Benedict; smoked salmon and scrambled eggs; full English breakfast.

What’s the Damage?
8 doubles/twin: £75 – £100

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken (except Amex)
  • Alfresco dining
  • Parking

Gongs
AA 4 Star Inn & 2 Rosettes; Waitrose Good Food Guide

Eat & Drink

The Star Inn Sparsholt, Oxfordshire, OX12 9PL

Mastering the menu

Fresh from Whatley Manor, young Matt Williams, who has also gained invaluable experience working in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen at Claridges, joined the team as head chef in early 2015 and settled in well. Key to the successful of the Star as a dining destination is a blackboard menu of classic British favourites, which runs alongside Matt’s more innovative weekly carte. So, lunchtime walkers can tuck into a Club sandwich, or cottage pie, or an amazing burger with a pint of Hooky. Foodies flock in for native lobster salad with orange, fennel and tarragon, followed by lamb rump, sweetbreads and breast served with wild garlic, peas and heritage potatoes, or roast brill with lemon, haricot beans and wild nettles, leaving room for pistachio sponge with lime curd and yoghurt sorbet. Locally grown and reared produce is sourced for quality suppliers.

On the menu

Salmon ballotine, sesame, cashew, pickled ginger, coriander
Glazed pork cheek, black pudding, kohlrabi
Kelmscott Farm, pork loin, belly & shoulder, hazelnut & artichoke
Red mullet, saffron farfalle pasta, fennel & lemon
Banoffee soufflé, Valrhona chocolate, banana textures
Blood orange cake and sorbet, orange blossom parfait
Blackboard Classics

Cod & salmon fishcake, cashew nut salsa and coriander
Creamy fish pie
Star’s deluxe burger, melted cheddar, steak bacon
Club sandwich (lunch only)

Sunday Roasts

Rump of beef, duck fat potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, red wine gravy
Wiltshire pork loin & shoulder, duck fat potatoes, seasonal vegetables

Time to Eat

Lunch: 12 noon – 2.30pm
Dinner: 6.30pm – 9pm (9.30pm Saturday)
Sunday: all day menu 12 noon – 8pm

Local, local, local

Kelmscott pork, Kelmscott (www.kelmscottcountrypork.co.uk)

Time at the bar

12 noon – 11pm

What’s the Damage?
8 doubles/twin: £75 – £100

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken (except Amex)
  • Alfresco dining
  • Parking

Gongs
AA 4 Star Inn & 2 Rosettes; Waitrose Good Food Guide

Food Trail

Take it back home
Tour the brewery that brewed your favourite pint, visit the shop on the farm that reared your delicious Sunday roast beef, and seek out the roadside stalls selling the local crab and samphire on the inn’s menu, the Food Trail features the local artisan producers and suppliers where you can buy to enjoy at home.

Change of scenery
Looking for a pub for lunch following a country walk, a different venue for dinner, or a good café for coffee, light lunch or afternoon tea, then the best in the area are listed below. If you find a new and exciting eatery in the area that’s worthy of a mention on the Food Trail, then please to do let us know – gabrielle@innplaces.co.uk.

1 Inn Location - The Star Inn

2

The Cotswold Cheese Company, Moreton in Marsh GL56 0AH

A purveyor of an incredible selection of the finest cheeses with a good selection from local producers. They also sell other artisan and local produce such as local breads, biscuits and crackers, chutneys and local potted meats.

3

Upton Smokery, Upton Downs Farm, Burford OX18 4LY

Located in the rolling Cotswold countryside outside of Burford, this family business smokes just about everything from game to fish. They also stock fresh game, paté, potted terrines, charcuterie and olives.

5

The Rose and Crown, Shilton OX18 4AB

Cracking foodie pub run by chef-Patron Martin Coldicott. The 16th-century Cotswold-stone pub has low beams, stone floors and a menu that keeps things suitably simple.

Out & About

1 Inn Location - The Star Inn

Activities

2

Frilford Heath Golf Club, Frilford OX13 5NW

Frilford's has three 18-hole courses. The Red Course dates from 1908 and is over 6,800 yards long, the Green Course is shorter, but is just as much of a challenge, while the Blue Course is more modern, with a number of water hazards and more undulating greens. Visitors are always welcome. Generally you can turn up and play, but it might be worth checking with the office just in case.

3

Skydiving, Ipsden OX10 6AS

Take the big leap with a tandem skydive (that's the one when you're safely attached to an instructor) or an accelerated freefall where the instructors are beside you. Thrilling stuff.

Shopping

16

Cotswold Woollen Weavers, Filkins GL7 3JJ

Not exactly a museum, and not exactly a shop, Cotswold Woollen Weavers is a bit of both. The wealth of the Cotswolds came from wool, and you can learn about that here, and the processes that change wool to cloth. They proudly say they make 'useful and desirable things', and you can browse a selection of unusual items, from clothing to furniture.

17

Hungerford RG17 0NJ

Hungerford is a lovely little town and it's full of antique shops - some extremely high-end and some a bit more affordable. Take the B4001, it's a nice road through pretty countryside.

18

Below Stairs of Hungerford, Hungerford RG17 0NB

An amazing and unique shop specialising in items from the 19th and early 20th century, and an ideal hunting ground for anyone doing up an old house. If you need door furniture or actual doors, coat hooks or stair rods, light fittings or kitchenware, or have an obsession with medical collectables, or old keys, fishing tackle or shop fittings, this place is highly recommended. Everything is beautifully arranged as well.

Places to visit

4

Ashdown House, Lambourn RG17 8RE

Built for the Queen of Bohemia in the 17th century and remotely situated in windswept downland country near Lambourn in Berkshire, Ashdown House has the look of an elegant dolls' house. The house is small and intimate, with a striking staircase hung with fine 17th-century paintings. Ashdown is tenanted, so check opening times before visiting.

5

Kelmscott Manor, Kelmscott GL7 3HJ

This beautiful house, built from lovely mellow golden stone, was 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.

6

Uffington White Horse, Uffington SN7 7QJ

The most famous white horse of them all and dating from the Bronze Age, the horse can be seen from miles away and is surely one of the most evocative sights in southern England. The location, at the head of a dry valley on the Ridgeway escarpment, is equally dramatic, and the hill figure is only part of what you can see here. The steeply rippled sides of the valley known as 'The Manger' are the result of retreating permafrost.To the east of that is Dragon Hill, said to be where St George slew the dragon, its blood leaving a scar where nothing grows. The Iron Age hill fort, known as Uffington Castle, crowns White Horse Hill and is the highest point in Oxfordshire, with views over six counties. And across the property there are Neolithic burial mounds, reused until Saxon times.

8

Buscot Park, Faringdon SN7 8BU

Although Buscot Park is a National Trust property, it's also the family home of Lord Faringdon, who looks after the property on the Trust's behalf. The Faringdon Collection, displayed in the house, includes pictures, furniture, ceramics and objets d'art.

9

Harcourt Arboretum, Marsh Baldon OX44 9PX

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.

10

Faringdon Folly and Woodland, Faringdon SN7 7AQ

This unique tower is the last major folly to be built in England. It stands on Folly Hill in four acres of charming circular woodland, with spectacular views over five counties. The tower was built in the 1930s by the eccentric Lord Berners - 'the great point of the tower is that it will be entirely useless'.

11

Wayland's Smithy, Ashbury SN6 8NX

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.

12

Badbury Hill, Great Coxwell

The site of an Iron Age hill fort known as Badbury Camp, suggested as a potential site of the (possibly mythical) 5th- or 6th-century Battle of Mons Badonicus, where (just perhaps) King Arthur defeated the Anglo-Saxons. Known locally as Badbury Clump, it's roughly nine acres of woodland, and absolutely full of bluebells in May. Also: nationaltrust.org.uk

13

Buscot and Coleshill Estates, Coleshill SN6 7PT

Two very English villages and the mosaic of fields, water meadows, spinneys and parkland that surround them. Traditionally farmed and covering 7,000 acres, there are miles of circular walks and family trails. Buscot is a haven for wildlife, and there's a real sense that time has stood still at Coleshill.

Walking

www.southernoxfordshire.com
www.nationaltrail.co.uk
www.whitehorsewalk.co.uk

There’s good walking to had around these parts, with three long distance paths as well as a network of tracks and trails; 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 take in downland, woodlands, and secluded valleys. The Thames Path follows the river for 184 miles from its source in the Cotswold Hills to the sea. The Oxfordshire Way winds through the county from Bourton-on-the-Water (which is in Gloucestershire) to the banks of the River Thames in Henley, passing through contrasting landscapes, villages and towns. The White Horse Walk is a long-distance route that visits all of the nine White Horses of Oxfordshire and Wiltshire (there are also individual walks for each of them). Buscot and Coleshill Estates (www.nationaltrust.org.uk) offer some lovely walks, too.

Cycling

www.southernoxfordshire.com

The 200 miles of the Oxfordshire Cycleway take you through some of the most scenic countryside in the region, and it links to the Ridgeway National Trail, for those who want to do something a bit more off-road. The Hanson Way is a generally traffic-free route that takes in Didcot, Abingdon and Oxford on its way from Reading to the North Wales coast. The Phoenix Trail is a disused railway line. Then there’s the Didcot to Wantage Way, which is mostly quiet roads and purpose-built paths. The Vale of the White Horse Cycleway starts and finishes in Abingdon and is pleasantly flat, taking in some lovely villages.

Events

www.oxfordshirecotswolds.org
Whatever time of year, the Oxfordshire Cotswolds offer a colourful and varied calendar of festivals and special events. There’s usually something happening somewhere in the region just about every weekend. For example, in March Chipping Norton hosts its popular music festival, in July there’s the spectacular Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford, in September you’ll find Blenheim Palace staging its annual literary festival, and in October the Bus & Classic Vehicle Rally takes place at the Oxford Bus Museum. The city of Oxford itself hosts numerous cultural events and individual festivals throughout the year.

Getting there

Location, Location, Location

By Road: From A417 between Faringdon and Wantage, take B4001 towards Lambourn, then follow signs right for Sparsholt. Pub is on Watery Lane in the village centre.

Address:

Watery Lane,Wantage, Sparsholt, Oxfordshire, OX12 9PL

Rooms rates & booking

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