Churchill’s finest lunch hour: Inside the charming 17th-century pub with rooms in Oxfordshire that the former prime minister liked to slip away to during his stays at Blenheim Palace
- Churchill is said to have enjoyed driving along the country lanes to get to The Killingworth Castle in the 1930s
- T.D. Isacke checked into the inn and found that it ‘has the feel of a much-loved pitstop on a well-trodden route’
- It has eight plush rooms (two are dog-friendly) in a former stable and the food is a ‘big step above pub grub’
When Winston Churchill stayed at Blenheim Palace in the 1930s, he would occasionally slip away for a spot of lunch at The Killingworth Castle.
This charming inn, now with eight plush rooms in a former stable, is four miles away and Churchill is said to have enjoyed driving along the winding country lanes to get there, sometimes testing a new car in the company of his friend William Morris, founder of Morris Motors.
Little can have changed in the village of Wootton in the decades since: the little Cotswold stone cottages with foxgloves and climbing roses in the gardens; the venerable facade of the Church of St Mary the Virgin (parts date from the 13th Century); the trickle of the River Glyme; the buzz of bumblebees on a summer’s day.
Old favourite: When Winston Churchill stayed at Blenheim Palace in the 1930s, he would occasionally slip away for a spot of lunch at The Killingworth Castle (pictured). T.D. Isacke stays the night and finds that it ‘has the feel of a much-loved pitstop on a well-trodden route’
The phrase ‘quintessentially English’ seems made for the area.
The Killingworth Castle was opened in 1637 by Thomas Killingworth to service travellers on what was then the busy London to Worcester and Aberystwyth road, known as the Woodstock Weye.
It is now in the hands of Jim and Claire Alexander, who took over in 2012 when the pub was in a dreadful state.
The 17th-century pub was in a ‘dreadful state’ when it was taken over by owners Jim and Claire Alexander in 2012, but now it has been ‘freshened up and made more alluring than ever’
Above is one of the inn’s eight plush rooms, which are set within a former stable and are decorated in an understated rustic style
A freestanding bathtub in the inn’s ‘King Luxury’ bedroom
They focused their attention full-time on Killingworth after selling a sister pub, the Ebrington Arms near Chipping Campden, last year because of pressures caused by the pandemic. The result? Killingworth has been freshened up and made more alluring than ever.
It has the feel of a much-loved pitstop on a well-trodden route. You enter into a bar with a low ceiling, beams and simple stone walls. A stuffed fox stares down from a corner. Church candles flicker. Guests on leather chairs enjoy pints of Stroud Brewery beer, cocktails or fine wines.
The former stable where horses for passing carriages were once kept – renovated from a semi-derelict condition – is at the front, facing a lawn.
The comfortable rooms are decorated in an understated rustic style. Expect polished wooden floors, antique furniture, more beams, plus high-quality linen on wide beds, smart tiled bathrooms, comfy armchairs and good wi-fi. There are two dog-friendly rooms, with a maximum of two dogs per room.
Guests can look forward to polished wooden floors, antique furniture, beams, plus high-quality linen on wide beds
A roast at the pub. ‘The food is a (big) step above pub grub,’ says Isacke
The food is a (big) step above pub grub. Head chef Adam Brown used to work at the Ebrington Arms, which had a Michelin recommendation.
The tartar of Cornish monkfish with caviar was a fresh and appetising starter.
A main of sirloin beef with morel sauce was perfectly medium-rare, and a chocolate pudding with salted caramel completed a fine meal. Three courses from £35.
Bar snacks such as sausage rolls with red onion marmalade (£7) are first-rate, as are the full English breakfasts with freshly baked sourdough bread. Most of the produce is organic.
The pub lies about four miles from Blenheim Palace (above). ‘Churchill is said to have enjoyed driving along the winding country lanes to get there, sometimes testing a new car in the company of his friend William Morris, founder of Morris Motors,’ says Isacke
The Killingworth Castle, Wootton, Oxfordshire. B&B from £145 per room per night (thekillingworthcastle.com).