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Great British boltholes: A review of The Pheasant Inn in Berkshire

Now, perhaps more than ever, we need a proper escape: a doorway through to a differently delightful world. 

And so it is visiting The Pheasant Inn in Berkshire – a beautifully restored 400-year-old drovers' inn just outside the pretty town of Hungerford.

The Pheasant sits squarely in the Valley of the Race Horse: a glorious slice of Berkshire's rolling chalk downs, 20 minutes from Newbury racecourse and a short canter from the major stables of Lambourn, formerly home to both Lester Piggott and Dick Francis.

Rural chic: The bar area and dining room at The Pheasant Inn near Hungerford

Even if you don't know the first thing about racing, you can't help but be charmed. 

Photographs of horses and jockeys jostle for position on the old stone walls and you'll find copies of the Racing Post on the reclaimed wooden tables in the wide-open bar, which features original beams, a character fireplace, racing-green wainscoting and cushion-scattered corners.

A large dining room curves around the bar, leading to the new Garden Room outside and upstairs to a splendid private dining room.

The latter is perhaps designed with racehorse owners in mind, as they often come to celebrate big wins here. Jockeys, including the champion jumper A. P. McCoy, are regulars too. And who can blame them? 

There are 11 bedrooms decorated by designer Flora Soames with 'rural-chic creams and cinnamons'

Pictures of horses and jockeys adorn the inn walls, left, while right, chef Andy Watts sources meat and artisan cheeses from local producers to create British classics

The staff are delightful, following the convivial example set by owner Jack Greenall, who chats amiably, shadowed by the pub's black labrador, Islay.

Jack took over The Pheasant in 2016 and commissioned award-winning designer friend Flora Soames to refurbish the 11 bedrooms. 

They are now styled in rural-chic creams and cinnamons, while the walls are dotted with wildfowl prints.

Over dinner of mackerel pâté with sharp cider jelly, followed by roast rump of Wiltshire lamb, Jack suggested that if we were up early the next morning, we should catch the gallops – the racehorses' dawn training session – at Lambourn.

What a winning tip that was. 

We traced a series of narrow country lanes past idyllic honey-stone cottages until we found a cluster of Range Rovers overlooking the impressive, sloping flanks of the Downs. 

One of the inn's selling points is that it's just minutes from the M4 while being 'folded into England's heritage racing heartland'

And, as if on cue, 30 or more racehorses suddenly burst up those slopes at full pelt, jockeys melted into their backs. 

There are no words to describe the utter thrill of watching these magnificent animals: sleek and sinewy, and galloping so smoothly, it was as if they were on wheels.

The USP: You'd never guess this historic, rural inn is just minutes from the M4. Folded into England's heritage racing heartland, it's both a stylish retreat and hangout for some of the country's best jockeys and trainers.

The rooms: Individually decorated, with comfy kingsize beds, well-stuffed armchairs, Bamford toiletries and splendid views.

The food: Chef Andy Watts sources meat and artisan cheeses from local producers to create British classics. Don't miss The Pheasant's new build-your-own-hamper service, which is perfect for picnics at Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) nearby.

TRAVEL FACTS 

B&B starts from £115 a night on weekdays. Settle In Sunday offers a complimentary room when you spend more than £100 in the restaurant on a Sunday evening (thepheasant-inn.co.uk).  

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