It’s the week before Christmas, and all through the land
We doggies are waiting, a bright merry band
For wintery walks, festive dinner and bones
And stockings to hang in each doggy home.
So tag every present, and deck every hall
Here’s to us, dogs of Britain! Merry Christmas to all!
Much excitement this week, fellow travel phans, as I’ve been off for a festive break in the Cotswolds, not an area that’s previously had the pleasure of my furry company. We’re staying in Moreton-in-Marsh, which sounds very dog-friendly and muddy and splashy but Sara says I can’t expect too much in the way of marshes, as she thinks they may have done something about the drainage in the last few hundred years.
Moreton’s a bustling market town, on the crossroads of the Fosse Way Roman Road and what’s now the A44. It’s a pretty place, with shops and houses built in the local honey-coloured stone, with plenty of mullioned windows and wonky doorways to add a bit of character. Our home for the next two days is the White Hart Royal Hotel, a Grade II listed former coaching inn that’s four hundred year old, which is two thousand eight hundred in dog years. Apparently, in 1644 a King Charles spaniel sheltered there following the battle of Marston Moor – or it may have been a bloke called King Charles I, I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, a copy of his unpaid bill is on display in the hotel lobby. I wonder if I could get away with that too?
We’ve chosen the White Hart Royal as it claims to be ‘very dog friendly’, and they immediately get a paws-up from me when I discover a goody bag in our room. It’s crammed with biscuits and chewy strips, and I’m just starting to investigate when Sara whisks it out of my reach. Oi! I think you’ll find that’s mine!
After a brief pause to settle into the room, which is lovely and spacious, we sally forth to find somewhere for dinner. We’re not eating in the hotel tonight, so it’s a brisk walk round the town to admire the Christmas lights and find somewhere that’ll give me a right royal welcome. Several pubs have ‘dog-friendly’ signs up, including the Black Bear and the Swan, but we settle for the Redesmere Arms, where I’m welcomed into the bar. There’s a slight kerfuffle when the diner next to us drops a piece of fish on the floor and I dive for it, forgetting I’m tied to the table, but I don’t think anyone really notices. Ahem.
On the way back to the hotel, Sara stops to speak to a lady with two spaniels, who tell me that nicest local walk is from Moreton to Batsford, a little village a couple of miles away. Hooray! Back at the room, I go straight to sleep to conserve my energy for the morning. In honour of the occasion, Sara’s packed my best travelling bed, covered in little pictures of ducks. It might not be the most masculine of travel accessories, but it’s a look I feel I can pull off.
In the morning, we get straight out for our walk. Leaving the car at the hotel, we walk down Corder’s Lane in the centre of the town and are almost immediately out across the fields on footpaths. It’s an easy, level walk to Batsford, a small estate village dominated by a 19th century mansion and the Batsford Arboretum and Garden Centre. We walk out through the arboretum, and make a two-hour loop round the estate before ending up at the garden centre for coffee. Here, dogs are welcome not only in the outside eating area but also in the shop and cafe. There are strategically-placed water bowls available, and a tap – top marks, Batsford!
After coffee, we drive to nearby Chipping Camden, another very pretty town with mellow sandstone buildings. From there, it’s easy to get onto the start of the Cotswold Way, a 100-mile footpath which runs down to Bath. I’m game for walking it all, but in the event we have to turn back after only a couple of miles when Sara remembers she’s left her rucksack in the car. Dozy woman – it’s a good job she’s got me to take care of her!
That evening, the humans head off to the hotel restaurant for dinner, which is the one public room in the whole hotel that I’m not allowed into. Cheers, guys! At least they bring me back a piece of fish, elaborately wrapped in a fancy tin foil parcel, and I can confirm that the restaurant deserves its AA rosette, but needs to work on its portion sizes.
The following day – Tuesday – the market’s on in Moreton and Sara decides to go and look round, as it’s such a historic event. I’m quite interested in a stall selling oven-ready pheasants and grouse (grouses? grice?), but Sara won’t buy any as she assures me they won’t last the car journey back to Cheshire. Too right they won’t! Ha ha!
After a last look round Moreton, we pack up and head back, driving through the town with its Christmas trees and decorated shop windows. It’s time for me to get home and hang up my stockings ready for Santa Paws – I always hang up four, which I think is only fair.
Merry Christmas Phileas Phans and a very happy New Year!