Make sure your SatNav takes you via the Drive, Church Enstone, or you’ll find you can’t get in. Weaving through the 440-acre Heythrop Estate, this 18-hole features ancient woodland, lakes and streams – it’s a quintessentially English setting. Visitors are welcome and there are all kinds of other facilities, including a spa.
The Pointer Brill, Buckinghamshire, HP18 9RT
The personal touch
The Pointer is a handsome 16th-century inn at the heart of beautiful Brill, a fine jumble of cottages and grand houses set on hilltop with a windmill, two greens and fabulous views over rolling Buckinghamshire countryside. Local farmer David Howden spent a small fortune renovating the run-down local in 2012, sprucing up the interior, creating a butchers shop at the back to sell his Longhorn beef and other local meats, installing a great chef in the open-to-view kitchen, and adding four comfy rooms across the road in 2017. It’s a great story and The Pointer has recently been riding the crest of a culinary wave and winning awards – deservedly so too. In May 2018, fellow local livestock farmer Harry Aubrey-Fletcher took over the reins and has exciting plans to take The Pointer to the next level, so watch this space! Despite its recent fame as a foodie destination the pub remains rooted in the local community, with a relaxed and informal atmosphere, villagers drinking pints of Vale Gravitas at the bar, a collection of deep sofas and armchairs around roaring log fires, and there’s a simple, rustic feel to the décor throughout. The more formal dining area occupies a restored beamed barn and has views of the walled garden and open kitchen.
Children are welcome in the pub; smaller portions are available; rooms are geared more towards adults.
Dogs are allowed in the bar (treats in a jar) and in the two downstairs bedrooms where they get a bed, bowl and treats.
Enjoy pre-dinner drinks in the pretty walled garden with its posh teak tables and blue brollies, flower borders, weeping wisteria and latch-gate leading to Brill’s lovely parish church.
The Pointer Brill, Buckinghamshire, HP18 9RT
Do not disturb
Conveniently hidden away in a pretty brick cottage across the village lane, the four beautifully decorated bedrooms opened in 2017 and have proved very popular for foodie weekend breaks as the Pointer is an easy drive from west London. Kitted out in luxurious country-chic style using a trendy-cool palette of greys and whites along with exposed oak beams, they are soothing, peaceful and very comfortable boltholes, perfect for resting your head after walk around the village and a delicious dinner at the pub. Enjoy the amazingly comfortable Hypnos bed, topped with White Company feather and down duvet and pillows, the Smart TVs, the Nespresso machine and homemade shortbread, and the big, rustic-contemporary bathrooms, replete with Bramley soaps and lotions, bathrobes and vast walk-in storm showers. Book one of the downstairs bedrooms and you can soak in a slipper bath. Modern wooden furnishings, under floor heating, fresh flowers, leather easy chairs and quality lighting complete the pleasing picture. Breakfast at the pub is worth waking up for and if you fancy some retail therapy, then Bicester Village is 10 miles away, plus Oxford is close, or don your boots and explore the footpaths that criss-cross this beautiful area.
The Pointer Brill, Buckinghamshire, HP18 9RT
Mastering the menu
(Starters: £8-£10; Main Courses: £17-£30; Desserts £8-£11; Farm Menu 2 courses £18; 3 courses £22.50)
James Graham heads up the kitchen and he has a passion for authentic, honest and delicious food, having plied the stoves at Allium in Fairford, where he was chef-patron, and at Cowley Manor in the Cotswolds, among other great kitchens. His short modern British menus change regularly, evolving with the seasons and the availability of the best local ingredients, which are sourced from local farms, including owner Harry’s Longhorn beef, and artisan producers who share his ethics and passions towards quality food. He has created a truly individual style of sustainable, responsible, farm to table dining and there are plans to develop this further on Harry’s farm. A deft touch with top-notch ingredients allows key flavours to shine through, as experienced with a well-cooked hake fillet served with wild garlic and pea fricassee and chive oil from an inventive spring menu. Alternatively, perhaps order slow-roasted Middle White pork, braised fennel, fennel and lemon puree, and radish, or a hearty Longhorn beef rib-eye steak, dripping chips, wild mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and béarnaise. Kick off with ham hock terrine with red onion marmalade and finish with apple crumble cheesecake, golden apple puree and blackcurrant sorbet, or a plate of artisan British cheeses. For lunchtime or a light bite, order the pork pie with piccalilli or the charcuterie board to share and wash down with a Pointer Pint or a bottle of wine from the well-chosen list that champions innovative and small artisan producers, including Dinton Folly, a sparkling wine made from grapes grown 9 miles away.
Time to Eat
Breakfast: 8am – 10am
Lunch: 12 noon – 2.30pm (4.30pm Sunday)
Dinner: 6.30pm – 9pm (9.30pm Friday & Saturday)
Time at the bar
12 noon – 11pm (10pm Sunday). Closed Monday. Butchers shop: Wednesday-Friday 2.30pm – 6.30pm (9am – 2.30pm Saturday)
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Inn Location - The Pointer
1 Inn Location - The Pointer
This comprehensive clay shooting school, situated amid the pastoral scenery of the Cotswolds, at Enstone, near Chipping Norton, offers great facilities and caters for beginners right through to experienced shots.
Family-run and welcoming rally, performance car and off-road driving centre situated near Chipping Norton. Here, you can try your hand at rally driving in authentic conditions and in the safe hands of trained professionals.
Promoting contemporary British craftsmanship for over 30 years, the shop sells an extensive selection of creative wooden objects, furniture, sculpture, bowls, kitchenware, jewellery boxes, games and toys.
One of the south of England's best-known and most popular retail centres, Bicester Village is where you can explore a wide range of chic boutiques stocking stylish lifestyle brands that are at the heart of world-class fashion.
Nice interiors shop selling furniture, kitchenware, lighting, objet d'art and collectables They also sell Annie Sloan paint so you can have a go at creating this ‘look’ yourself.
More than 80 dealers over two floors offering all kinds of objects from furniture, paintings, gold and silver, kitchen items and homewares.
Expect beautiful bedcovers, cushions and jackets and discover a striking collection of colourful furniture covered in vintage textiles and an assortment of rare and authentic rugs at this eclectic emporium in Woodstock, characterised by the irresistible, heady atmosphere of India and Central Asia.
All the items in this eclectic shop are personally sourced and chosen by Rosie herself. Situated in Horsefair in Chipping Norton, it’s a good place to get ideas and buy special gifts; you’ll find vintage and antique pieces for the home, mirrors, kitchenalia, glass and ceramics.
Founded in 2002, this highly respected Woodstock-based art gallery exhibits paintings, sculpture, ceramics, glass, craft and jewellery from established artists and burgeoning talents. More than 100 English, Scottish and Russian artists are represented.
Expect a varied choice of hand-stenciled pottery at Aston, near Witney - all of it manufactured and decorated on the premises. This is just the place to browse and buy, and there's a good and popular cafe, too.
Spread over two floors, the Old Pill Factory in Witney is the place to visit for furniture, glass, toys, clothes and garden pieces. You’ll find a group of dedicated antiques experts who are passionate about antiques and vintage homeware.
Places to visit
Hidcote is one of the country's greatest gardens, full of rare shrubs and trees, herbaceous borders and unusual plants from all over the world. In addition, there are superb views across the Vale of Evesham from the garden.
One of Britain's largest and most famous stately homes, Blenheim Palace offers a host of treasures to discover. There are guided tours of the staterooms and a chance to explore the estate's sumptuous parkland. A new Winston Churchill Memorial Garden and Footsteps Trail opened in 2015, taking visitors on a journey through the key achievements in the great statesman's extraordinary life and his early years in this area. Churchill's grave can be seen in the churchyard at nearby Bladon.
An unusual circle of 77 heavily weathered, closely-set slabs of local Neolithic limestone, known as the King's Men, traditionally a monarch and his courtiers petrified by a witch. The Rollright Stones also include the Whispering Knights burial chamber, and single King Stone, which is on the other side of the road. They span nearly 2,000 years of Neolithic and Bronze Age development.
With the pretty River Cherwell flowing through the grounds, Rousham is one of Oxfordshire's loveliest mansions. Dating back to 1635, the house was remodelled over 100 years later and there is more than a hint of the Italianate about the garden with its cascades and ponds, groves, the Temple of Echo and the seven-arched portico known as Praeneste. A peaceful stroll along the tree-shaded Long Walk is a must.
Based in Woodstock, the Oxfordshire Museum celebrates the delights of this varied county by focusing on local history, art, archaeology and landscape. There are events and activities for children and adults, four galleries of changing exhibitions and attractive gardens to explore.
This beautiful house, built from lovely mellow golden stone, was the Cotswold retreat of William Morris and his family, friends and colleagues. Kelmscott is home to fascinating and important collections of textiles, furniture and paintings, spanning more than 300 years and reflecting the ideas and creative legacy of those who lived and worked here.
Minster Lovell Hall, Minster Lovell OX29 0RR
Shrouded in mystery and with a haunting, tangible air of the distant past, the romantic ruins of Minster Lovell Hall stand on the banks of the River Windrush. The village of Minster Lovell captures the essence of sublime Cotswolds' architecture.
Cogges Manor consists of a 13th-century house and 17th-century farm buildings. These days it's a popular heritage centre with a strong emphasis on horticulture, rural crafts and family-friendly entertainment. It's also just the place to help understand the origins of early rural life and put the past into perspective.
This English Heritage site at North Leigh, near Witney, consists of a large, well-constructed Roman courtyard villa with a historically important, near complete mosaic floor, which can be seen through a viewing window.
Located on the edge of the Cotswolds, Bampton is a bustling village with many fine buildings and a good range of amenities, including the West Ox Arts Gallery, based in the town hall. Renowned for its Morris Dancing traditions, Bampton is also regularly used for village scenes in the hugely popular television drama Downton Abbey.
This meticulously detailed model of the Vale of White Horse in Oxfordshire is a breathtaking spectacle. Everywhere you look there are quaint thatched cottages, olde-worlde pubs and exquisite churches. Pendon is where the English countryside comes to life under one roof.
Just like London, Oxford can hold your attention for days. There really is that much to see and do. A walk through the ancient streets of Matthew Arnold's 'city of dreaming spires' is surely the best and most effective way to see this world-famous seat of learning. As well as the 12th-century Carfax Tower, with its memorable views, and the Botanic Garden - a quiet backwater in the heart of Oxford - there's the chance to visit many of the University's 38 colleges and even explore the familiar haunts of Colin Dexter's legendary detective, Inspector Morse.
Historic 15th-century chapel with beautifully carved and painted woodwork and many fascinating features, including two17th-century roofed pews and a musicians’ gallery.
The National Trust Ashridge Estate is a huge area of woodlands and downland near Berkhamsted with many walking and cycling routes and a visitor centre with shop and cafe. There is a year-round programme of guided walks and events.
The 102-mile Cotswold Way National Trail takes in some of the best scenery the region has to offer. There are thousands of miles of footpaths and the area has a reasonable claim to be a walkers’ paradise. The Oxfordshire Way starts in Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire and takes you to the banks of the River Thames in Henley. The route passes through a variety of contrasting landscapes and settlements including two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the rolling Cotswold Hills and the Chilterns. Why note explore the myriad of footpaths that radiate out from the front door of the Pointer.
Not too hilly, not too flat – Oxfordshire’s a good place to cycle, with lots of lovely scenery and a variety of routes for all abilities. There are several long distance routes, plus lots of bridleways. The Hanson Way starts in Oxford itself and follows the Thames Path to Abingdon and Didcot. The Cotswolds are particularly good for off-roading, with a network of tracks, but road cyclists won’t be disappointed either, as there are some spectacular hills and very tricky climbs.
Look out for a great many festivals, special events, sporting fixtures and cultural evenings in the Cotswolds region. Cogges Manor Farm (see places to visit) hosts traditional festivals and theatrical performances. Among other annual events are the Blenheim Horse Trials, Countryfile Live at Blenheim, the Stroud Food Festival in September and the Cheltenham Literary Festival in October.
Location, Location, Location
By Road: Leave M40 (junction 9) and head towards Bicester, then follow A41 towards Aylesbury before turning right onto B4011 for Thame. In 3 miles take minor road left signed to Brill and climb steeply to reach the village. From M40 (junction 7) head towards Thame on A329 then take A4011 north through Long Crendon and follow signs right for Brill
By Rail: Nearest stations are Haddenham & Thame (7.8 miles), which is 50 minutes from London Marylbone, and Bicester Station is 8.7 miles away
27 Church Street, Brill, Buckinghamshire, HP18 9RT