The Bull Inn Pub with rooms in Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire

Prices from:
£120 per night

David Hancock says:

  • 16th-century gem close to Thames
  • Timbered, wisteria-clad, by the church
  • Timeless interior; beams and log fires
  • Menus; classic and modern dishes
  • Stylish, contemporary rooms
  • Find the peaceful ‘hidden garden’
  • Parking – tricky; arrive early

Sticky FingersMuddy PawsGood for WalkingCandlelitClose to WaterVisit a Stately Pile90 Minutes from London15 Minutes from the Motorway

Real Time Booking Available
Overview

The Bull Inn Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire, RG4 6UP

The personal touch

Tucked down a dead-end lane in an idyllic Thames-side village, the beautifully refurbished Bull Inn is a fine example of a quintessential 16th-century English pub. Originally a guesthouse for pilgrims visiting the medieval chapel of St Andrews opposite, the ancient black-and-white timbered façade in pretty as a picture, festooned with colourful hanging baskets and dripping with fragrant wisteria fronds in May. Sit outside and admire them and the view across the peaceful parish churchyard from posh tables and chairs on the new covered pergola beside the car park. Fuller’s have spent some money on this historic and much-loved gem, pushing open the doors in May 2018 to reveal seven stylish and individually decorated bedrooms. The traditional bars have been spruced up but remain delightfully unspoilt, retaining the charm and character of the original building – low black beams & standing timbers, wonky walls, wooden floors, old settles, fat church candles on simple wooden tables and an inglenook fireplace, alive with logs in winter. The inn attracted the attention of Jerome K Jerome who mentioned it in his novel Three Men in a Boat, describing the Bull as the ‘veritable picture of an old country inn’. Thankfully, it remains just that following the sympathetic refurbishment by Fullers.

Sticky fingers

Families are warmly welcomed in the bar and dining rooms; kids have their own menu (fresh food) and Room 5 has a sofa beds that can sleep two children (£40).

Muddy paws

With the Thames path so close, dogs are frequent visitors in the bar, where they will find a jar of treats on the bar and water bowls. Dogs are also allowed overnight in the bedrooms.

Alfresco

There are picnic benches under the wisteria and a new covered pergola area across the car park. Venture round the back to find the ‘hidden garden’, a secluded terrace and lawn area set beside the churchyard wall.

 

What’s the Damage?
7 doubles/twin £120-£189

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken
  • Alfresco dining
  • Disabled access to bar & dining area
  • Limited parking: 12 spaces at pub; village lanes

 

Sleep

The Bull Inn Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire, RG4 6UP

Do not disturb

Climb the steep stairs from the bar to locate the seven recently refurbished rooms, all cleverly tucked away under the eaves of this historic building and named after characters in Jerome K Jerome’s book Three Men in a Boat. Rooms come in three different types, one Cosy, three Comfy and three Indulgence rooms, with the latter offering a tad more space, period features, added extras (slippers, bathrobes) and relaxing garden or churchyard views. All are relaxing and very smart, most ooze a stylish country-house feel with a splash of colour, others are slightly more contemporary with attractive and fun statement wall coverings, but brass or iron beds topped with the best mattresses, linen and down, retro lighting, Nespresso machines and Smart TVs are standard throughout. Equally comfortable bathrooms have white bevel-brick tiling, posh Cole & Lewis toiletries, and fabulous walk-in rain showers. Follow a relaxing and hearty breakfast with a stroll along the Thames Path or take boat from Sonning Lock to Henley for lunch.

 

What’s the Damage?
7 doubles/twin £120-£189

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken
  • Alfresco dining
  • Disabled access to bar & dining area
  • Limited parking: 12 spaces at pub; village lanes

 

Eat & Drink

The Bull Inn Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire, RG4 6UP

Mastering the menu

Chef-landlord Jason Smith makes good use of local and seasonal produce, including meat from Owton’s butchers in Hampshire, to create his varied menus, which successfully combine pub classics with more adventurous modern dishes – there’s something for everyone. From light lunch meals like salt beef & heritage tomato salad, fresh horseradish and paprika crème fraiche, or an open fried chicken waffle with bacon jam and fried egg, the choice extends to the pie of day (steak and ale, perhaps) served with mash, spring greens and gravy, and coconut, chilli and lemongrass steamed mussels with chips. We enjoyed a delicious, well-cooked fillet of hake with crab and courgette cannelloni, sweet potato fondant and avocado salsa, followed by passionfruit brulee with shortbread biscuit. Good vegetarian options, perhaps thyme-roasted celeriac, parmesan polenta and sauce vierge, and decent Sunday roasts complete the foodie picture. Choose a beer from the full range of Fullers ales on tap and by the bottles, a decent range of boutique gins and 13 wines by the glass.

Time to eat

Breakfast: 7am – 9.30am (8.30am – 10am Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holidays)

Food all day: 12 noon – 9.30pm (8.30pm Sunday)

Time at the bar

11am – 11pm (10.30pm Sunday)

What’s the Damage?
7 doubles/twin £120-£189

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken
  • Alfresco dining
  • Disabled access to bar & dining area
  • Limited parking: 12 spaces at pub; village lanes

 

Food Trail

Take it back home
Tour the brewery that brewed your favourite pint, visit the shop on the farm that reared your delicious Sunday roast beef, and seek out the roadside stalls selling the local crab and samphire on the inn’s menu, the Food Trail features the local artisan producers and suppliers where you can buy to enjoy at home.

Change of scenery
Looking for a pub for lunch following a country walk, a different venue for dinner, or a good café for coffee, light lunch or afternoon tea, then the best in the area are listed below. If you find a new and exciting eatery in the area that’s worthy of a mention on the Food Trail, then please to do let us know – gabrielle@innplaces.co.uk.

1 Inn Location - The Bull Inn

2

Laverstoke Park Farm Shop, Overton RG25 3DR

Certified as organic and biodynamic, this multi award-winning farm is owned by former Formula 1 champion Jody Schecktar. With its own on-site butchers, the farm shop provides an outlet for its products, including organic meats, seasonal fruit and veg grown in the walled garden, prize-winning mozzarella, ice cream buffalo milk and beers.

3

Windsor Farm Shop, Datchet Road, Old Windsor SL4 2RQ

Situated on the edge of Home Park, this well-established farm shop sells a range of products from the Royal Farms on the Windsor Estate, including quality beef, pork, lamb and seasonal game from the estate shoots. Gerry at The Inn sources venison, pheasant, partridge and hare from the Estate. The farm shop also sells produce from small local specialist suppliers.

5

Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery, Whitchurch RG28 7NR

Discover the artistry and heritage behind Bombay Sapphire at a state-of-the-art distillery, set astride the banks of the crystal clear River Test. Go behind the scenes and discover how the gin is infused with ten exotic botanicals from around the world.

Out & About

1 Inn Location - The Bull Inn

Activities

2

Skydiving, Ipsden OX10 6AS

Take the big leap with a tandem skydive (that's the one when you're safely attached to an instructor) or an accelerated freefall where the instructors are beside you. Thrilling stuff.

3

Racing at Ascot SL5 7JX

Dating back to the 18th century and one of the best-loved racecourses in the world, Ascot is renowned for its thoroughbred racing. Royal Ascot Week in June is one of the country's key sporting and social events, attended by Her Majesty the Queen and other members of the Royal Family.

4

Bisley Shooting Ground, Bisley GU24 0NY

Founded in 1895 and situated near Brookwood, in 3,000 acres of Surrey heath and woodland, Bisley is Europe's largest sporting clay ground. Renowned for its expert tuition and excellent facilities, Bisley is just the place to try your hand at one of the country's fastest growing sports.

12

Bucklebury Farm Park, Bucklebury, Reading RG7 6RR

An ideal attraction for plenty of family fun and entertainment, Bucklebury Farm Park is located to the east of Newbury. The farm has lots of animals, play equipment and even a zip wire. You’ll also find a farm shop, café and range of picnic tables.

13

Hot-Air Ballooning over Berkshire

Weather permitting, you might get a bird’s eye view of West Berkshire and even the stunning landscape that surrounds the Pheasant. There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of this corner of England than from the basket of a hot-air balloon.

24

Higginson Park, Marlow SL7 2AE

Marlow’s main open space is a classic example of a traditional urban park. The 23-acre park has a leisure centre offering a swimming pool, gym and tennis court. Frontage to the Thames means mooring for pleasure craft and boating for hire. The 180-mile Thames Path runs along the edge of the park.

25

Harleyford Golf Club, Marlow SL7 2SP

Located about two miles southwest of Marlow, Harleyford lies beside the Thames on a country estate dating back to the 13th century. The 6,714- yard, par 72 course is both challenging and rewarding to players of all levels.

26

Salter’s Boat Trips, Marlow SL7 2AE

Salter’s is the only company with a landing stage at Marlow. The route is upstream from the town, taking in spectacular stretches of the Thames, before finishing with a cruise along the renowned royal regatta course at Henley. Look out for the Devon Belle, one of the ‘little ships’ that sailed to Dunkirk in 1940.

Shopping

6

Windsor Royal Shopping SL4 1RH

Splendidly located opposite Windsor Castle, in the striking Grade II-listed Victorian railway station, this is where you can visit up to 40 individual retail outlets and an array of continental-style restaurants, cafes and bars. There’s also an arts and craft market open daily.

14

Plume SL7 1ER

Offering the best independent fashion labels from around the world, Marlow High Street-based Plume is one of the most successful women’s wear retailers.

15

The Vintage Look RG9 2AH

Based in Henley’s Hart Street, the Vintage Look offers an eclectic mix of antiques, retro and contemporary home-wares, vintage clothes and garden items. With its beamed ceilings and original features, the shop has plenty of charm and character.

16

Marlow Antiques Centre 35 Station Road, Marlow SL7 1NW

Home to over 35 dealers, the Marlow Centre sells a wide range of antiques and collectables – you’re sure to find that special something in this huge space.

18

Anne Haimes Interiors RG9 2BG

At Anne Haimes Interiors in Henley, you’ll find furnishings, furniture, lighting, bedding, mirrors, scents and accessories.

19

Asquiths Teddy Bear Shop RG9 2BT

Asquiths established the world’s first teddy bear outlets 30 years ago and trades in a 15th-century shop in the heart of Henley. Asquiths specialises in luxury handmade English teddy bears, as well as supporting many other makes.

20

Eton Antique Bookshop SL4 6AF

Described as ‘dusty, disheveled and piled high with old prints, maps and weathered editions,’ this charming old bookshop has just about every thing for the genuine bibliophile.

21

Eton College Gift Shop SL4 6BD

Quirky, unstuffy souvenir shop with frock-coated teddy bears, crockery, tea towels and even the college’s own gents’ cologne – among many other items.

22

Country House Menswear Ltd

Gentleman’s out fitter where you can maintain your personal style and preserve your individuality. Expect exquisite collection of casual wear from Europe’s leading designers. There are branches at Marlow, Beaconsfield, Amersham, Gerrards Cross, High Wycombe and Chalfont St Peter.

Places to visit

5

Windsor Great Park, Windsor SL4 2HT

Open all year, Windsor Great Park stretches for an incredible five miles and offers vast stretches of tranquil countryside and parkland in one of the busiest parts of the country. One of the park's best-known landmarks is the Savill Garden, consisting of 35 acres of woodland, magnolias, rhododendrons and herbaceous borders.

7

Highclere Castle, Highclere Park, Highclere RG20 9RN

Remodelled and virtually rebuilt by Sir Charles Barry in the mid-19th century, Highclere Castle is now one of Britain’s best-known houses, thanks to the international success of the award-winning ITV television series Downton Abbey, whose producers chose much of the interior for filming. A tour of the house and park is a must.

9

Silchester Roman Town, Reading RG7 2HG

Probably better known as Calleva Atrebatum, Silchester offers an intriguing insight into the Roman Occupation when this was the site of an important town. Walk between the walls to get a real flavour of community life during this fascinating period.

10

Sandham Memorial Chapel, Burghclere, Newbury RG20 9JT

Built in 1926-27, Sandham is an unusual war memorial. Inside are hugely impressive and ambitious murals by Stanley Spencer, which took six years to complete and are reputed to be the most important series of decorative paintings produced in England in the 20th century. The images represent scenes from the Great War in which Spencer served as an orderly in a military hospital. The chapel is managed by the National Trust.

11

Welford Park, Newbury RG20 8HU

This is just the place to visit if you like snowdrops. The park is open daily in February when extensive drifts of this delicate little flower create a dazzling picture. The little church of St Gregory has an octagonal spire and a rare round tower. Fans of The Great British Bake Off will recognize this parkland landscape instantly. The BBC series was filmed here.

28

Warburg Nature Reserve RG9 6BL

This tranquil haven of woodland and grassland is where you’ll find a wide variety of wildlife and a nature trail. Tawny owls are known to breed here and the site includes more than 400 species of plants. The reserve is named after the late Doctor E F Warburg, an Oxford botanist

29

Windsor Castle SL4 1NJ

Founded as a fortress by William the Conqueror, the dominant feature of Windsor Castle is its Round Tower, built by Henry II and visible for miles around. Parts of the castle are open to the public.

30

Hughenden Manor HP14 4LA

Close to High Wycombe, Hughenden Manor became the home of Benjamin Disraeli in 1848. By the time he moved here, he was an established novelist and a distinguished politician. These days, Hughenden Manor belongs to the National Trust and is open to visitors.

31

Marlow

The town is one of the prettiest in the Thames Valley. The suspension bridge spanning the river is now the only surviving example of the work of designer William Tierney Clark. T.S. Eliot lived in Marlow between 1917 and 1920 and Percy Bysshe Shelley resided here a century earlier. Jerome K Jerome wrote part of Three Men in a Boat in the town.

32

Greys Court RG9 4PG

The original house was a fortified manor; the present gabled brick and flint house is Elizabethan. Managed by the National Trust, Greys Court , near Henley, includes a Tudor donkey-wheel well-house. The garden contains the Archbishop’s Maze, whose design is based on the theme of reconciliation.

33

River and Rowing Museum RG9 1BF

This fascinating Henley-based museum holds 20,000 items covering the sport of rowing, the story of the Thames and the classic book for children and adults, The Wind in the Willows, published in 1908. There are objects, photographs, books, ephemera and archive material.

34

Cliveden SL1 8NS

Perched on cliffs above the Thames near Maidenhead, Cliveden is an Italianate mansion built for the Duke of Sutherland in 1850-51. The house was once the home of the Astor family. The Profumo scandal, which rocked the government and sparked frenzied gossip in society circles, was played out here in the early 1960s. Cliveden is now a hotel but parts of the house are open to the public at certain times.

Walking

www.visitchilterns.co.uk
Close by are the lovely Chilterns – grassy hills dotted with beech woods, which look glorious in the autumn – while the scenic Thames Path offers plenty of scope for linear and circular walks. Burnham Beeches, Windsor Great Park and Black Park, near Slough, are also very popular.

Cycling

www.cycle-routes-com/england/bucks
Away from busy roads and motorways, the Thames Valley is the perfect playground for cyclists. There are lots of short to medium cycle rides, as well as longer more ambitious routes, including a trail from Windsor to Oxford.

Events

www.visitthames.co.uk/events/marlow-town-regatta-and-festival
One of the region’s biggest events is the Marlow Town Regatta and Festival, which combines a traditional rowing regatta and its garden party atmosphere with a ‘family day’ of dragon boat racing and a splendid ‘tribute band’ and concert to finish. Held annually in June.

Getting there

Location, Location, Location

By Road: Sonning is located beside the River Thames a couple of miles east of Reading. Follow signs for the village and pub off the A4 towards Maidenhead

By Rail: Nearest railway station is Reading is 3 miles or a 11-minute taxi ride away from the Bull

Address:

High Street, Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire, RG4 6UP

Room rates & booking
Reviews

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