No one’s entirely sure exactly how old the bricks and mortar of the Kings Head are, but the artefacts and Roman mosaics found during the renovation of the hotel suggest that this central Cirencester stay has been around for quite some time. The former fourteenth coaching inn reopened in 2014, following a two and a half year renovation to transform it into the sleek boutique hotel it is today. Hotel, restaurant and lounge bar aside, the Kings Head serves visitors and locals alike, with regular blues and comedy nights in the cellar bar, plus wine and cheese tastings in the intimate Wine Vault Cellar. There’s also a small, but perfectly formed spa. Hello, perfect weekend break!
On one hand, the Kings Head feels very much a modern hotel, with clean lines, plush furnishings, LCD TVs, Nespresso machines and plump velvet sofas. And then there are little touches, such as the original cast iron staircase; vaulted, exposed brick cellars, and Roman mosaic, all harking back to another time lending the hotel its Grade II listed status as a ‘building of archaeological and historical interest’. There are also rumours of a faceless monk that roams the building, but having had a paranormal-free stay, I can’t confirm that…
The hotel’s 45 rooms are split over two floors, and each one is different. I was staying in Room 101 – which was drowned in light from the two large windows, while high ceilings, an original fireplace, a lovely big bed, velvet sofa, walk-in shower and freestanding bath, plus a stack of coffee table books, lent a Georgian manor house feel. There were also welcome little touches such as complimentary bottles of San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna water and fresh milk in the fridge, Nespresso machine, with enough coffee capsules to serve a small gathering, various teas and homemade biscuits.
Room 103 next door is the one I would request if I returned with my beau, as chic and delicious as 101, but with the added romantic touch of a copper bath next to the bed. Even the lowest grade room feels luxurious here, which is rare for a hotel. Also rare for a hotel with such abundance of velvet furniture and white linen is its open door policy for dogs. There’s a £10 supplement fee, but otherwise, you’re free to take the pooch.
This Cotswolds abode stands grandly, slap bang in the middle of town, making it the perfect place to rock up, dump your bags and have a wander around the local area, before heading back, lounging in the spa and settling in for drinks and dinner. With everything in close vicinity, even if it’s a bit drizzly out there, it still makes for a lovely short break. And let’s not forget a visit to the spa – a chic little space, tucked under the low arched ceilings of the cellar, with four treatment rooms (including a twin for couples), a sauna, steam room, experience shower, hot tub and cosy relaxation room.
The Kings Head’s spa treatments range from Leighton Denny manicures to full body massages and express facials for men. The 80 minute Lubatti Pure Luxury Indulgence was the perfect anecdote to the r‘n’r I was craving on this little solo escape from London, with its promise to ‘completely cleanse the body and mind’. The softly spoken Sophie, who looked far too delicate to serve up my requested firm massage, got right in there with her knuckles and elbows, releasing tension from my feet, hands, back, décolleté, shoulders, neck and face, with applications of oil and the gentle scrub of Lubatti’s Caramel Body Polish. After what seemed like a ridiculously indulgent amount of time, I emerged glowing, buzzing, and soft skinned.
By dinner I felt rejuvenated, aided in part by the little aperitif I whipped up from the complimentary in-room gin tray, and hungry for some seasonal British fare. The menu is split into straight forward pub-style grub, such as scotch egg, fish and chips or burgers, listed under the Something Simple section; Something Special, which included dishes around pigeon, crab, venison, partridge and lemon sole; and Something Sweet. Starters average around the £6-7 mark, mains all come under £20 and desserts around £6, which for the presentation, generous portions and, more important of all, the taste, seems reasonable. Wine is accessible here too, with a number of bottles under £25, as well as by the glass or carafe.
Hand-dived seared scallops with some seasonal forced rhubarb to add some tart and colour was my dish to start, though I was equally tempted by the beetroot with whipped goats cheese and truffle honey. For main, the Gloucester Old Spot Pork rack and belly jumped out. I’m a sucker for local ingredients, and this hearty sounding dish, served with meaty, crunchy croquettes, savoy cabbage and bacon puree, well-seasoned black pudding and a cider jus, was exactly the sort of food one craves after a day in the countryside.
The waitress tried to persuade me to try a warm chocolate sponge, created by their new pastry chef, but out of intrigue, I ordered the WORLD FAMOUS CHEESECAKE, dominating the Something Sweet list with its confident capitals. I’m not sure I’m qualified to confirm its claim, but it certainly was the prettiest cheesecake I’ve seen, dotted with edible flowers and a white chocolate halo, with a citrus tang and all the textures you want from a cheesecake. The fact I cleared the plate, despite being pretty full by this point on two generous courses and two large glasses of Bishop’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc, is testament to how good it was.
Twelve hours later I was back in my trusty corner seat for breakfast, with a prime view of the continental spread of cereals, fruit, glass jars of yoghurt and various compotes, mini pastries, meats and cheeses. Clocking the local reference, and remembering something I once read about smoked salmon being good for your skin after drinking the night before, I ordered the Coln Valley salmon, (caught in Scotland and smoked around ten miles from the Kings Head), with Tetbury scrambled eggs. Accompanied by a pot of Earl Grey and a marmalade on toast chaser, my slightly sore Sauvignon Blanc head was healed. With a couple of hours still left until check-out, it was back to my room for a final lounge. There was a deep freestanding bath that had been winking at me to try since I arrived…
The Kings Head Hotel, 24 Market Place, Cirencester, GL7 2NR. Tel: +44 1285 700900. For more information and to book: http://kingshead-hotel.co.uk/
The market town of Cirencester has all the traits you’d expect from the ‘Capital of the Cotswolds’: sugared almond-coloured buildings, narrow streets lined with independent shops, and a choice selection of places to eat…
Make for m.a.d.e (Makers & Designers Emporium): for pretty cards, colourful socks, fairy lights, quirky gifts, prints, and tea towels, with an emphasis on British designed or made. Cirencester Antiques Centre, which looks expensive and stuffy from the outside, but is a rabbit warren of reasonably-priced antiques and collectables, vintage home ware, clothing, and toys and games that’d induce a warm glow in any child of the 70s and 80s. Test your restraint at Sue Parkinson where you’ll find a covetable edit of women’s clothing from the likes of J Brand, Des Petites Hauts and Diane Von Furstenberg. Head to the Corn Hall for the daily market: Mon-Thurs – home, fashion and garden bazaar; Fridays: antiques and collectibles; Saturdays: crafts. Pick up a bargain read from the Oxfam bookshop, where fashion and cooking tomes mingle with Penguin classics, vinyl and a 99p table where I found a 1930s edition of Rudyard Kipling’s Fifty Poems.
When I asked the ladies at M.A.D.E for their recommendation for a good lunch spot, they gave a resounding thumbs up to Jack’s – a laid back café serving generous hunks of homemade quiche, salads, jacket potatoes, and a tempting selection of cakes, including the biggest Victoria sponge I’ve seen. Eat Wild, founded by the fresh-faced Thompson brothers, is the place to fill up on countrified classics, such as wild venison lasagne, buttermilk fried partridge and rosemary salt fries, washed down with a cool glass of draught local American pale ale, Deya.
After exploring the town centre, head behind the Parish Church to the park and lakeside benches to picnic. Visit Bathurst Estate to spy Britain’s biggest yew hedge, at 40ft high it makes for interesting Instagram fodder. New Brewery Arts, home to a community of open artists’ workshops, gift shop and a calendar of crafty courses for everything from vintage origami to tiara making. For a taste of the town’s history, visit the remains of one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in Britain, Cirencester Amphitheatre, built in the 2nd century.
Getting To Cirencester
Typically for a market town, parking is limited, but with Kemble train station a ten minute taxi away, you can hop on at Paddington and be there in under two hours.