Helen Browning’s Royal Oak Pub with rooms in Bishopstone, Wiltshire

Prices from:
£85 per night

David Hancock says:

  • Country-rustic downland pub
  • Quirky, relaxed and fun
  • Totally organic; food and drink
  • Owned by local organic farmer
  • Smart, individual rooms
  • Big welcome to kids and dogs

Sticky FingersMuddy PawsGood for WalkingOutdoor Pursuits90 Minutes from London15 Minutes from the Motorway

Real Time Booking Available

Helen Browning’s Royal Oak Bishopstone, Wiltshire, SN6 8PP

The personal touch

You’ll find Helen Browning’s country-rustic Royal Oak in an isolated village high up on the North Wessex Downs, just a stone’s throw from the Ridgeway. The glorious rolling landscape is fabulous walking country and the far-reaching views from the ridge across swathes of Oxfordshire are stunning. Local organic farmer Helen Browning, who farms 1500 acres of downland close to Bishopstone, rescued the pub in 2005 and it has thrived ever since as a village hub and a dining destination, the draw being with her delicious organic beef, pork and lamb and other organic ingredients, all sourced locally. Don’t expect a posh shiny gastropub, the charm of the Royal Oak is the big rustic bar with its plank floors, mismatched furniture, blazing fires, quirky features and its wonderful relaxed atmosphere. Helen’s partner Tim Finney runs the place in his inimitable style, injecting an air of fun and humour throughout, notably his witty notes on the menus. The garden is the place to be in summer – come for the barbecues, pizzas from the wood-fired oven, occasional live music, and the hugely popular Pigstock, the renowned International Pig Racing Festival held in August. You are welcome to explore the farm – the ancient Ridgeway trail dissects the farm, and lots of footpaths too, so it’s a great place to walk, ride and cycle across wonderful countryside, and there’s plenty of wild flora and fauna, and all the livestock to admire too.

Sticky fingers

A great places for families; they are welcome inside, have great food to eat and they can stay overnight in the family rooms. Children will also love exploring the farm.

Muddy paws

Dogs are very welcome in the bar and overnight in two rooms – Kate’s Folly and Barn Field. It’s the ideal refuge for walkers tackling the Ridgeway Path with their canine companion.


Head out onto the decked front terrace or find a bench amid the flower borders in the peaceful and delightfully rustic rear garden.

What’s the Damage?
12 doubles/twin: £85 – £130

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken (except Amex)
  • Alfresco dining
  • Disabled access to bar & access friendly Barn Field room
  • Parking



Helen Browning’s Royal Oak Bishopstone, Wiltshire, SN6 8PP

Do not disturb

Helen and Tim opened twelve spanking new rooms in 2017 having transformed the derelict village pub Arkell’s closed years ago into a smart accommodation annexe and it’s just a short stroll from the Royal Oak. They have done a fabulous job, all the rooms face a sunny shared courtyard and each room is named and themed after a field on Eastbrook Farm – it’s a truly peaceful spot, well away from hubbub of the pub. In keeping with the pub, they are quirky and fun but stylish and contemporary too, so expect to be very comfortable. Photos of fields and woodland have been blown up to create a statement wall covering, or they have striking floral or farm-related wallpaper, and they feature unusual wooden or metal storage units, wooden floors, crisp linen and cosy down on big beds (some have barn door or plank designed headboards), splashes of bold colour, Nespresso machines, and swish tiled bathrooms with walk-in showers. Kate’s Folly, Cuckoo Pen and Eastbrook Valley rooms also have a roll-top bath. Chill out, play games or some vinyl and share some drinks in ‘The Wallow’, a cool shared space with sofas, chairs, books, magazines and mini-kitchen with tea and coffee making facilities. A hearty breakfast will set you up for your day, whatever it holds, and high-speed wi-fi will keep you connected.


What’s the Damage?
12 doubles/twin: £85 – £130

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken (except Amex)
  • Alfresco dining
  • Disabled access to bar & access friendly Barn Field room
  • Parking


Eat & Drink

Helen Browning’s Royal Oak Bishopstone, Wiltshire, SN6 8PP

Mastering the menu

(Starters: £5.95-£7.50; Main Courses: £10.95-£24.95; Desserts £5.95-£8.50)

Head chef Paul Winch’s menu changes twice daily and reflects the changing seasons and the fresh, totally organic ingredients sourced from Eastbrook Farm, other surrounding farms and local artisan organic producers. Beef, lamb, pork and the bacon, sausages and eggs comes from Helen’s farm and milk delivered from nearby Berkeley Farm, who process the milk from Helen’s dairy herd. Westmill Organics down the road provide the vegetables and buffalo ice cream comes from Laverstoke Park in Hampshire. Local allotment produce is bartered for food and drink. Inspired by all this fabulous organic food, Paul delivers generous portions of simple, quality pub food with oodles of flavour – a typical lunch menu may include a delicious chicken soup served with homemade bread, or deep-fried pig’s cheeks and coleslaw, beer battered hake with chips and aioli, a steaming bowl of moules marinière, and a cheese and bacon burger with pickles and hand-cut chips. Evening extras could be local asparagus with butter and parmesan, beef shin, cabbage mash and jus, and pig’s cheek lasagne with garlic bread and salad. For pudding, try the rhubarb crumble or the baked cheesecake with summer fruits, or tuck into a platter of English cheeses. Behind the bar you’ll find four tip-top ales from Arkells, brewed down the road, organic soft drinks and cordials from Belvoir, and organic wines from Vintage Roots.

Time to Eat

Breakfast: 8am – 10am

Lunch: 12 noon – 2.30pm (3pm Sunday)
Dinner: 6pm – 9pm (8pm Saturday)

Time at the bar

12 noon – 3pm; 6pm – 11pm (12 noon – 10.30pm Sunday)

What’s the Damage?
12 doubles/twin: £85 – £130

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken (except Amex)
  • Alfresco dining
  • Disabled access to bar & access friendly Barn Field room
  • Parking


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 - Helen Browning’s Royal Oak


Upton Smokery, Upton Downs Farm, Burford OX18 4LY

Located in the rolling Cotswold countryside outside of Burford, this family business smokes just about everything from game to fish. They also stock fresh game, paté, potted terrines, charcuterie and olives.


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.


New Wave Fish Shop, 40 Dyer Street, Cirencester GL7 2PF

Being in landlocked Gloucestershire is no excuse to miss out on the best and freshest fish and seafood and New Wave fishmongers stocks a fantastic selection sourced directly from Devon, Cornwall and Shetland. The shop also sells a range of local and seasonal produce, such as Cotswold game, Wye Valley asparagus, and wild mushrooms.


Made By Bob, 26 Market Place, Cirencester GL7 2NY

In the heart of Cirencester located in the former Roman Corn Hall building, this exceptional restaurant and deli attracts discerning foodies from all over the Cotswolds. Owner/chef Bob Parkinson previously worked under the great Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum restaurant in London and is regarded as one of the best chefs in the region.


The Organic Farm Shop, Cirencester GL7 5HF

Two miles from Cirencester on the B4425, this award-winning organic farm specialises in grass-fed beef, which is sold in the farm shop along with organic veg, local dairy products and much more. A daily-changing menu in the cafe includes lots of veggie options, with 'meat as a treat' Sunday lunches featuring beef from the farm.


Umami Deli, 13 Newbury Street, Wantage OX12 8BU

Award-winning deli run by Persian/Turkish owners and offering an imaginative selection of world foods and cheeses, as well as great little café serving good coffee and imaginative sandwiches.


Millets Farm Centre, Kingston Road, Frilford OX13 5HB

Established from a ‘pick your own farm’ with a shop, Millets has evolved in recent years to become an extensive retail operation, with a well-stocked farm shop (in-house bakery & butchery), a new Farmhouse Kitchen serving good food, seasonal pick your own fruits, and family attractions.

Out & About

1 Inn Location - Helen Browning’s Royal Oak



Cotswold Water Park, Cirencester GL7 5QF

With over 150 lakes, the Cotswold Water Park, south of Cirencester, is a superb year-round birding destination ranging from 20,000 wintering water birds to 21,000 wintering gulls to vast numbers of breeding warblers.


Fishing, Coln St Aldwyns GL7 5AN

There's a choice of fishing on offer, including dry fly, nymph and chalk stream. The nearby River Coln, one of the prettiest in the Cotswolds, is a popular fishing destination.


Frilford Heath Golf Club, Frilford OX13 5NW

Frilford's has three 18-hole courses. The Red Course dates from 1908 and is over 6,800 yards long, the Green Course is shorter, but is just as much of a challenge, while the Blue Course is more modern, with a number of water hazards and more undulating greens. Visitors are always welcome. Generally you can turn up and play, but it might be worth checking with the office just in case.


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.


Lydiard Park, Lydiard Tregoze SN5 3PA

On the western outskirts of Swindon, and set in 260 acres of superb historic parkland, Lydiard Park is just the place for a BBQ or picnic. There's also plenty of fun to be had at Jungle Parc where there's an exciting high-wire, tree-top adventure centre.


Swindon & Cricklade Railway, Blunsdon St Andrew SN25 2DA

This is the perfect destination if you enjoy nostalgic train journeys from a bygone era. Based at Blunsdon St Andrew, near Swindon, this very popular visitor attraction operates at weekends and on special days. Arrangements can be made for private parties.


Off-Roading, Cotswold Water Park, GL7 5GF

If you enjoy a taste of adventure, the Cotswold Off-Road Driving School provides expert guidance from 4x4 competitors and instructors. Sample a day’s fun and excitement in a safe, controlled environment at the Cotswold Water Park, south of Cirencester.


Newbury Racecourse, Newbury RG14 7NZ

Dating back to the start of the 20th century and used as a POW camp for German prisoners during the First World War, Newbury Racecourse has courses for flat races and over jumps. Long a popular venue for the Royal Family, this is where Her Majesty the Queen celebrated her 86th birthday.



Cotswold Woollen Weavers, Filkins GL7 3JJ

Not exactly a museum, and not exactly a shop, Cotswold Woollen Weavers is a bit of both. The wealth of the Cotswolds came from wool, and you can learn about that here, and the processes that change wool to cloth. They proudly say they make 'useful and desirable things', and you can browse a selection of unusual items, from clothing to furniture.


Hungerford RG17 0NJ

Hungerford is a lovely little town and it's full of antique shops - some extremely high-end and some a bit more affordable. Take the B4001, it's a nice road through pretty countryside.


Below Stairs of Hungerford, Hungerford RG17 0NB

An amazing and unique shop specialising in items from the 19th and early 20th century, and an ideal hunting ground for anyone doing up an old house. If you need door furniture or actual doors, coat hooks or stair rods, light fittings or kitchenware, or have an obsession with medical collectables, or old keys, fishing tackle or shop fittings, this place is highly recommended. Everything is beautifully arranged as well.

Places to visit


Ashdown House, Lambourn RG17 8RE

Built for the Queen of Bohemia in the 17th century and remotely situated in windswept downland country near Lambourn in Berkshire, Ashdown House has the look of an elegant dolls' house. The house is small and intimate, with a striking staircase hung with fine 17th-century paintings. Ashdown is tenanted, so check opening times before visiting.


Kelmscott Manor, Kelmscott GL7 3HJ

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.


Cogges Manor Farm, Witney OX28 3LA

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.


Uffington White Horse, Uffington SN7 7QJ

The most famous white horse of them all and dating from the Bronze Age, the horse can be seen from miles away and is surely one of the most evocative sights in southern England. The location, at the head of a dry valley on the Ridgeway escarpment, is equally dramatic, and the hill figure is only part of what you can see here. The steeply rippled sides of the valley known as 'The Manger' are the result of retreating permafrost.To the east of that is Dragon Hill, said to be where St George slew the dragon, its blood leaving a scar where nothing grows. The Iron Age hill fort, known as Uffington Castle, crowns White Horse Hill and is the highest point in Oxfordshire, with views over six counties. And across the property there are Neolithic burial mounds, reused until Saxon times.


Buscot Park, Faringdon SN7 8BU

Although Buscot Park is a National Trust property, it's also the family home of Lord Faringdon, who looks after the property on the Trust's behalf. The Faringdon Collection, displayed in the house, includes pictures, furniture, ceramics and objets d'art.


Harcourt Arboretum, Marsh Baldon OX44 9PX

Part of the University of Oxford since 1963, Harcourt Arboretum covers 130 acres and features the best collection of trees in the county, as well as some of the oldest redwoods in the UK. Seasonal highlights include wildflower meadows, rhododendrons and bluebell woods.


Faringdon Folly and Woodland, Faringdon SN7 7AQ

This unique tower is the last major folly to be built in England. It stands on Folly Hill in four acres of charming circular woodland, with spectacular views over five counties. The tower was built in the 1930s by the eccentric Lord Berners - 'the great point of the tower is that it will be entirely useless'.


Wayland's Smithy, Ashbury SN6 8NX

Wayland's Smithy is a brilliantly atmospheric Neolithic chambered tomb, about 2km along the Ridgeway from the Uffington White Horse. Its name comes from the story that the Saxon smith god, Wayland, lived there and would shoe any horse left with a coin overnight.The tomb you can explore today, with its dramatic entrance stones, is the second on this site and was constructed between 3,460 and 3,400 BC.


Badbury Hill, Great Coxwell

The site of an Iron Age hill fort known as Badbury Camp, suggested as a potential site of the (possibly mythical) 5th- or 6th-century Battle of Mons Badonicus, where (just perhaps) King Arthur defeated the Anglo-Saxons. Known locally as Badbury Clump, it's roughly nine acres of woodland, and absolutely full of bluebells in May. Also: nationaltrust.org.uk


Buscot and Coleshill Estates, Coleshill SN6 7PT

Two very English villages and the mosaic of fields, water meadows, spinneys and parkland that surround them. Traditionally farmed and covering 7,000 acres, there are miles of circular walks and family trails. Buscot is a haven for wildlife, and there's a real sense that time has stood still at Coleshill.


Crofton Pumping Station, Crofton, Marlborough SN8 3DW

Designed by Boulton and Watt, the two beam engines, one dating from 1812, operate a huge cast-iron beam and were originally used to pump water up the canal. Restored in recent years and powered by steam, they can occasionally be seen working - an impressive spectacle. Crofton stands by the Kennet and Avon Canal, near Great Bedwyn.


Pendon Museum, Long Wittenham OX14 4QD

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.


Shaw House, Church Road, Newbury RG14 2DR

One of the area’s oldest buildings, Shaw House is a prime example of an early symmetrical H-plan Elizabethan mansion. The house was built by a local clothier and visited by Elizabeth I. In the 1940s it became a school, though concerns about the structure led to a £6 million restoration. Shaw House opened its doors to the public in 2008 for the first time in over 400 years.



There’s good walking to had around these parts, with three long distance paths as well as a network of tracks and trails; walk in the footsteps of prehistoric settlers, Saxons and Romans, as red kites hover overhead. The Ridgeway passes through ancient landscapes and has been used since prehistoric times by travellers, soldiers and herdsmen. The 87 miles of the route take in downland, woodlands, and secluded valleys. The Thames Path follows the river for 184 miles from its source in the Cotswold Hills to the sea. The Oxfordshire Way winds through the county from Bourton-on-the-Water (which is in Gloucestershire) to the banks of the River Thames in Henley, passing through contrasting landscapes, villages and towns. The White Horse Walk is a long-distance route that visits all of the nine White Horses of Oxfordshire and Wiltshire (there are also individual walks for each of them). Buscot and Coleshill Estates (www.nationaltrust.org.uk) offer some lovely walks, too.



The 200 miles of the Oxfordshire Cycleway take you through some of the most scenic countryside in the region, and it links to the Ridgeway National Trail, for those who want to do something a bit more off-road. The Hanson Way is a generally traffic-free route that takes in Didcot, Abingdon and Oxford on its way from Reading to the North Wales coast. The Phoenix Trail is a disused railway line. Then there’s the Didcot to Wantage Way, which is mostly quiet roads and purpose-built paths. The Vale of the White Horse Cycleway starts and finishes in Abingdon and is pleasantly flat, taking in some lovely villages.


Whatever time of year, the Oxfordshire Cotswolds offer a colourful and varied calendar of festivals and special events. There’s usually something happening somewhere in the region just about every weekend. For example, in March Chipping Norton hosts its popular music festival, in July there’s the spectacular Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford, in September you’ll find Blenheim Palace staging its annual literary festival, and in October the Bus & Classic Vehicle Rally takes place at the Oxford Bus Museum. The city of Oxford itself hosts numerous cultural events and individual festivals throughout the year.

Getting there

Location, Location, Location

By Road: Bishopstone is signposted off the A417 just north of the M4. Follow the rural road through Wanborough and Hinton Parva to reach the village

By Rail: Nearest station is Swindon is just over 8 miles away – you can be collected from the station in the pub’s old red Land Rover, where possible


Cues Lane, Bishopstone, Wiltshire, SN6 8PP

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