There are pockets of the county totally blessed for lovely country pubs, and there’s a particular sweet spot up around North Oxfordshire, where the stone turns to Cotswold, there’s history in every floorboard and the pubs, being more rural, retain a fantastic community feel.
As often happens on Muddy, it was a tip off from a reader who is a local brought The Killingworth Castle in Wootton to my attention, a stone and brick 17th century inn just off the A44. It’s imposing and grand from the roadside rather than what I’d consider pretty, but when you step inside it has the kind of feeling that relaxes the shoulders – log burners, wooden floors, exposed brickwork, old wooden settles and that hum that comes with locals at the bar.
The decor as you can see, is tasteful and doesn’t rock the boat, with a good use of darker painted walls in sections and warm touches like nooks with books (surely there has to be shop with that name somewhere, I love it!) and a spot of taxidermy for good measure.
There’s the main bar area that has that bustle-ish pubby feel to it (and where I like to be generally), but there are also two other smaller areas further back that would work well for bigger or more private parties.
The food I’d describe as excellently pubby – my brother, who is often my date on my trips out, thought his fish and chips was the best he’d ever had. I chose shepherd’s pie (below) which came beautifully presented with sweet baby parsnips and kale. Very rich with neck of lamb, a bit indecent for lunch in some ways but, you know, *sniff*, I managed it. Dessert was a wonderfully wobbly pannecotta. I can’t vouch for the evening á la carte but I suspect it’s very good too.
There’s picnic seating outside for the Summertime though I suspect The Killingworth Castle is at it’s best in colder months when and the fire’s on, candles twinkle at night and the pub is packed. A big plus for The Killingworth Castle I should mention are the 8 bedrooms, so it’s a really good option for family get togethers, as you’re 14 miles from central Oxford, 11 from Bicester Village and a stone’s throw from Woodstock. I nobbled the restaurant manager to quickly show me a room and looky here, it’s nicely done isn’t it? Ideal for an overnighter.
Good for: Sunday lunchers on a day out, relaxed groups (kids would be fine in here), anyone searching out a local pub with atmosphere. The back rooms would be atmospheric for romantic meal.
Not for: those who are picturing bucolic country scenes from a bay window – the position on the side of the road is, well, ‘roady’!
£££: mid range. Lunches around £13.50, sandwiches from the bar £6.50, á la carte starters £6-8, mains £15-21. There’s a Valentine’s Dinner that works out at £72 for two (without booze) that sounds great value.
The Killingworth Castle, Glympton Rd, Woodstock, Wootton OX20 1EJ. Tel: 01993 811401.