Chris Woodage worked for years as a chef in a number of swanky London restaurants but he’s also a photographer, extreme sports fan and coffee aficionado, which might explain why this quirky cafe specialises in selling artwork, artefacts and exceptional locally roasted coffee.
The George & Dragon Rowde, Wiltshire, SN10 2PN
The personal touch
In truth, the plain, yellow pebble-dashed façade of the George and Dragon may not set the heart racing with anticipation as it looks like just another roadside boozer. Things improve at the back, where there is a delightful summer terrace and tucked away garden with the higgledy-piggledy nature of the building indicating great age and character. Step inside the rustic bar, however, and you are transported back to 1645, to a world of wooden floors, simple benches and farmhouse chairs, old school tables and a log fire blazing on the hearth in the impressive stone fireplace. Equally unfussy is the black and white timbered dining room, decorated with pictures and displays of homemade chutneys, leaving the food to take rightful centre stage. It’s been famous for fresh and beautifully cooked fish and seafood for many years and the three quirky upstairs bedrooms provide offer style and comfort, and a great base for exploring the Caen Hills Locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal. Until recently, the ebullient and much loved owner Chris ‘Chippy’ Day spent much of his time working for Soho House, opening new venues around the world, but tired of all the travelling he’s now fully hands-on at the George & Dragon and the place ticks along like clockwork when he’s around.
Children are very welcome in the bar and overnight in the bedrooms (extra bed); Room 3 has a day bed suitable for a child.
Dogs are allowed in the bar but not overnight in the bedrooms.
There’s a super shaded rear terrace replete with posh tables and chairs and wood burning stove, which is fired up every evening and beyond you’ll find a secluded garden with benches and two wooden rocking chairs with views of the village church.
The George & Dragon Rowde, Wiltshire, SN10 2PN
Do not disturb
Wonky floors, wood panelling and wall timbers are prominent in three quirky and very individual bedrooms – all recently spruced up by Tina Foster from Mushroom London. Think funky wall coverings, loads of cushions, plasma screens, feature fireplaces, White Company goose down duvets on big beds, I-pod clock radios, and Cow Shed toiletries and fluffy white bathrobes in gleaming tiled bathrooms. Room 1 has a French wooden bed and Room 3 has a day bed and an old claw-foot bath in the bedroom. Continental breakfast is included in the room price but there’s a full breakfast menu to choose from as well.
The George & Dragon Rowde, Wiltshire, SN10 2PN
Mastering the menu
(Starters: £6-£12; Main Courses: £14-£35; Desserts £6; set menu 2 courses £17.50; 3 courses £22.50)
Fish is the speciality. It is delivered daily from Cornwall and the ever-changing chalkboard menu has been wowing landlocked Wiltshire diners for years, with starter dishes ranging from dressed crab and spicy fishcakes with lemon mayonnaise to half a dozen oysters served natural or grilled Kilpatrick style (with bacon and Worcester sauce). Straightforward grills, say whole Dover sole, skate wing with caper butter and whole Cornish lobster, are mixed with more enterprising ideas, such as hake with prawn and whiskey chowder and rainbow card, and roast monkfish with curried chickpea risotto. Why not splash out on the renowned seafood platter. If you don’t fancy fish and red meat is more to your taste, then you may find rack of lamb with garlic mash, green beans and red wine jus, and pork belly with borlotti beans and salsa verde among the main courses. The short list of simple, traditional puddings might include honey-baked plums with raspberry sorbet and Blueberry Eton mess. The set Sunday lunch (served until 4pm) is excellent value and, to drink, you’ll find local Butcombe ale on tap and a raft of wines by the glass.
Time to eat
Breakfast: 8am – 10am
Lunch: 12 noon – 3pm (4pm Saturday & Sunday)
Dinner: 6pm – 10pm
Time at the bar
12 noon – 3pm; 5.30pm – 11pm. Open all day Saturday; closed Sunday evening
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 – email@example.com.
1 Inn Location - The George & Dragon
Named as one of the top five garden restaurants in the UK by the Financial Times and winner of several awards, this nursery and farm shop supplies much of the vegetables for the kitchen at the Methuen Arms and it has its own butchery, which holds regular workshops and classes.
This wonderful farm shop and butchers offers a wide range of seasonal produce including spring-time gull's eggs and autumn game from local shoots including wild venison from Salisbury Plain.
Having farmed in the Winsley area for five generations and run a successful farm shop and café since 2008, the Bowles family jumped at the chance to extend their business and took on Neston Farm Shop in early 2015. Produce from the farm, including beef, pork, fruit, vegetables, honey and free-range eggs, are sold in the farm shop alongside breads, ales, ciders, chutneys and deli goodies from local artisan producers. There’s also a butchery and an excellent farm kitchen/café.
This long established family-run butchers prides itself on using traditional skills passed down through the generations and it now supplies Michelin star chefs. Its award-winning meat, sourced mainly from the local countryside, includes beef from the Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cross breeds.
Right in the heart of the historic Wiltshire town of Devizes, Wadworths is famous for its Victorian tower brewery. The 'Brewery Experience' lasts about 2 hours and afterwards you can sample a selection of the hand-crafted ales.
Taking place in Frome's town centre on the first Sunday of the month (between March and December, this brilliant market champions local food and drink producers, as well as contemporary designers and makers, vintage fashion stalls and furniture.
Established in 1997, this was one of the very first farmers' markets to be set up in the UK and it's still going strong every Saturday. Close to the city centre and railway station, it features dozens of local producers selling a range of products, from meat and vegetables to cakes and preserves.
Spruced up and re-opened in July 2015 by chef Alexander Venables and partner Alison Ward-Baptiste, formerly at the Tollgate at Holt, the new-look George offers pub classics, imaginative specials, excellent Sunday lunches, all prepared from local seasonal produce, and local ales in the informal bar. Super terrace and garden.
The Bowles family has been farming the area for five generations dating back to the late parts of the nineteenth century. The farm shop has been open since 2008 and it sells predominantly produce from the farm including beef, pork, fruit, vegetables, honey and free-range eggs. Excellent coffee and cream teas are served in the on-site cafe.
1 Inn Location - The George & Dragon
If you own a performance car and want to drive it as the designers intended, then book a track day at Castle Combe circuit to the north-west of Chippenham, If you're new to track driving, a team of instructors will be on hand to guide you.
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.
This family-friendly 37-acre farm site offers plenty to see and do. There's a farm shop, nature trails and a host of animal residents to meet, including Shetland ponies, Dexter cattle and six popular pygmy goats.
At this Victorian boating station at Bathwick in Bath, you can enjoy a family jaunt on the water in a variety of vessels - skiffs, canoes and punts among them. Keep an eye out for kingfishers, herons and otters. It's a memorable day out for all ages.
Established some three decades ago by Clive and Christine King, this is an independent pottery selling quality ceramics on the premises.
If you love browsing in bookshops, then make a point of visiting Ex-LIbris in The Shambles, right at the heart of Bradford-on-Avon. Out-of-print books are sourced and the stock includes 4,000 second-hand books as well as a range of cards and book tokens.
The business has been running at The Granary in Bradford-on-Avon for over 30 years. Granary Trading specialises in shabby chic furniture and vintage pieces are expertly restored in the Wiltshire workshop.
Full of gift ideas, both traditional and contemporary, from its own handmade artisan soaps to design-led gifts and quirky vintage accessories, Quintessentially English in Lacock is just the place to find ideal presents for birthdays, weddings and anniversaries.
Situated in picturesque Tetbury on the edge of the Cotswolds, Lorfords is the place to go for decorative European antiques from the 18th century through to the 20th century. Discerning private buyers, antique dealers and interior designers are key to the business's established clientele.
Situated in Lacock's High Street, the National Trust Gift Shop represents an excellent destination for all manner of gifts to suit all occasions.
Near the splendid medieval Tithe Barn in Bradford on Avon's Barton Farm Country Park, you can browse amid a range of arts, crafts and antiques. It's the kind of place where it's easy to lose track of time. There's also the added bonus of a traditional tearoom on site.
Occupying three floors in Bradford-on-Avon's The Shambles, Tillons offers an extensive selection of china, glass, cutlery and cookware from leading manufacturers, including Bath Aqua Glass and Portmeirion.
Places to visit
Acknowledged by historians as one of Europe's most important Neolithic sites, Avebury is one of numerous ancient landmarks found within the Wessex region. It's fascinating to stroll among these brooding standing stones, which make up one of the largest remaining henge monuments.
Located just outside Melksham, this moated medieval manor has oriel windows and rooftops adorned with striking statues of soldiers, griffins and monkeys. Aside from the house, there are colourful gardens, a spring-fed fishpond and a gatehouse.
This picturesque Saxon village has changed little since the Middle Ages. Preserved by the National Trust, Lacock's stone cottages and narrow streets are regularly visited by film and television crews and looking round, you can understand why. Harry Potter and Cranford have been filmed here, among many familiar productions and adaptations. While in the village, take a look at Lacock Abbey and the Fox Talbot Museum of photography.
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.
Just a few minutes' walk from Corsham's historic town centre, Corsham Court is well worth a visit. This Elizabethan mansion dates back to 1582 and was acquired by Paul Methuen in 1745 to house his family's collection of 16th-and 17th century Italian and Flemish Master paintings and statuary.
Westonbirt is one of the best-known visitor attractions in the Cotswolds. A short drive to the south of Tetbury, the site has one of the largest collections of trees and shrubs in the world. A stroll between the trees at Westonbirt is an experience to cherish.
Bowood House lies within easy reach of Corsham, Chippenham and Calne. In addition to the house, which includes collections of heirlooms, porcelain and paintings, there are terraced gardens, in which to enjoy a leisurely stroll, and a lake. Expect, too, a gift shop, garden centre, tearoom and licensed restaurant.
Voted the prettiest village in England in 1962 and occupying a snug spot amid trees and hidden valleys, it's not surprising that Castle Combe is one of the region's most popular attractions. At one time the village was an important weaving community dotted with fulling mills. Expect handsome houses, chocolate-box cottages, several inns and a tearoom.
Nearby Lacock is not just about handsome buildings and centuries of history. Starting in the village, you can sample a choice of fine circular walks of varying grades and distances. Not far away is Corsham where you can take a stroll in Corsham Park, enjoying its peaceful atmosphere and lake views. Also close by are the Kennet and Avon Canal and the Cotswolds, great for country walks. For something a bit different, try Bath, the ideal city for walking. One of its most popular trails is the Bath Skyline Walk, a six-mile loop through glorious neighbouring countryside.
Around the villages of Lacock and Whitley, there’s a network of winding lanes and hidden tracks – perfect for cycling. To the north lie the Cotswolds and away to the east are the breezy expanses of the Marlborough Downs. The countryside around the nearby village of Box is also great for cycling – a superb mix of level terrain and dramatic landscape characterised by rolling fields, drystone walls and breathtaking views.
March is the month for the annual Bath Literature Festival, the end of May is the date for the four-day Chippenham Folk Festival, while June is when you’ll find the Corsham Walking Festival, offering a good selection of local trails to fascinating sites and ancient landmarks. The same month sees the town’s Pound Arts Summer Festival. Bradford-on-Avon stages talks, film shows and a comedy club during the year and in September the town hosts a popular annual walking festival.
Location, Location, Location
By Road: Rowde is located on the A342 Devizes and Chippenham road, just 3 miles west of Devizes. Pub is in the village centre
By Rail: Nearest railway station is Chippenham (10 miles) and a 20-minute taxi ride away from Rowde
, Rowde, Wiltshire, SN10 2PN