Walking into The Olde Bell is like stepping back rather than forward. The creaky pub welcomes guests like an old woollen jumper and a hot bath after a day out on the windswept moors. Only you’re not on the edge of wilderness, you’re in Berkshire. But you wouldn’t know it. The village, with chocolate-box-perfect property on the banks of the River Thames, is a great place to get away from it all.
Room for Romance
The rooms are wonderful. So simple, they’re all basics and barely any furnishings. But don’t be fooled by the lack of public displays of accessories. Luxe lovers will feel at home surrounded by discreet touches such as Roberts radios, soft throws, sheepskin rugs and crisp linens – Ilse Crawford has designed these rooms to absolute paired-down perfection.
And then there’s the bathroom. Marvellously minimalist, the walk-in glass shower is made for washing away the city and welcoming you to the country. The claw-foot bath sits discreetly in-room yet shouts jump-in-me-now. Goodies from Aesop extend the comforting welcome.
Just a tip, if you want quality Do Not Disturb time, request a room far away from the bar – 300-year-old floorboards, someone else’s one-for-the-road and your early night don’t always go. Rooms on the far side of the building are quieter.
Time to dine
Foodies, rejoice! The bar snacks are heaven. A pint of prawns with a slab of brown bread, or a pork pie and a blob of chutney? Yes, please.
Loved-up couples, families, and walkers in gaiters read the supplements and play Scrabble alongside low-key fashionable types (the trench coats and leather holdalls give it away; they must come via the Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue recommendations).
At dinner, the steak is cooked to perfection, with just a smattering of thick-cut chips and a handful of rocket thrown on the side.
A breakfast of warm brown bread, cut at a communal table with a simple bread knife, and jam straight from the jar, creates a low-key, homely feel and is much finer than ‘fine dining’.
Best of the rest
Come and go as you please. If the weather’s against you, borrow a pair of wellies from the reception area and go exploring.
Take a walk along the Thames into Marlow or Henley (they’re in opposite directions), or reserve a bike from reception for a ride along one of the many local bike paths, then head back inside for an in-room massage.
If the weather’s with you, get yourself outside in the garden for more drinking and nibbling from the fabulous jars of nuts and olives washed down with an organic ginger beer.
Be prepared to go it alone here: the staff won’t bother you. On hand to help? Yes. In-your-face or over-fussy? No.
It’s perfect territory for a weekend away with your fiancé. Turn the iPhone off, lower your voices and enjoy the vibe.
Don’t leave without…
…using the general bathroom. Wind in the Willows is played through the speakers to really get you in the hideaway mood.
For couples looking for the ultimate laid-back country feel for their big day, without a chair cover in sight, book The Malthouse(pictured), next door to the Olde Bell, or historic Tithe Barn, over the road. Both buildings are licensed to hold civil ceremonies and can be hired exclusively.
Standard double, £115; Executive double, £135; Inn double, £155; Inn suite, £200
Trains from London Paddington to Maidenhead run every half hour.
The Olde Bell, High Street, Hurley, Berkshire SL6 5LX. 01628 825 881
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