A country inn that remains true to its traditional roots whilst offering modern day luxury, The Carnarvon Arms Hotel and Rooms is a Grade II listed pub in Highclere, just a few miles from Newbury town centre, that offers guests a comfortable place to dine, wine and rest.
Highclere – the home of Highclere Castle – will look instantly familiar amongst Downton Abbey fans, being that is played host to numerous sets of the ITV Drama. Driving through the beautiful North Wessex Downs, The Carnarvon Arms is set just off the A34 with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside in every direction and is a mere 30-minute walk from the castle. The pub, previously owned by Marco Pierre White, has been beautifully and lovingly restored capturing its former quirks and qualities as a coaching inn for travellers.
Pulling into the car park on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the restaurant was filled with a lively buzz. The venue is clearly the centre point for locals, weekend ramblers and visitors calling in for a weekend refuel.
Having made ourselves known to the manager, we checked in and were shown to our room. Small but beautifully decorated, the room had everything required for a comfortable night including a large double bed, refreshments, toiletries, an en-suite with a shower and a handbook detailing local attractions. Each room has been given its own personal touch and set apart from the main restaurant, the rooms back onto a lovely beer garden sheltered from the view of the road – the perfect spot for a summer drink in the sunshine.
Either a very short drive or half hour walk away, the castle is the village’s main attraction but I recommend checking the Highclere Castle website for opening times and tickets as the castle and grounds were shut the weekend of our visit. With so many walking routes, after settling in, we headed out for a walk around the local area, something that I’d heartily recommend – the staff were eager to offer suggestions.
Back at the Carnarvon Arms, it was time for a pre-dinner drink. Being given the option to choose a dining time that suited us, we were able to relax in the comfortable bar and sample some of the wonderful gins on offer – we opted to stick local as the Bombay Sapphire Distillery is a mere 9 miles away.
The pub offers a seasonal menu serving traditional classics with a contemporary twist – it is safe to say we were very much looking forward to our meal after watching an array of delicious dishes leaving the kitchen. Collected from the bar and lead through to our table, it’s the restaurant that really captures the pub’s former glory. The décor has been carefully considered from the low hanging beams and French cuisine posters, to the metal wine racks that have been allowed to rust and oxidise.
Crowned Historic Luxury Hotel of the Year back in 2016, The Carnarvon prides itself on serving the highest quality and locally-sourced produce, something that was reflected in the staff’s enthusiasm when asked about the menu and was certainly evident when our food arrived. Having been informed of the head chef’s previous experience working with steaks and his exceptional peppercorn sauce, I ordered a rib eye – cooked to perfection – that was served with proper chips and a rocket and parmesan garnish. I can also vouch for their pizzas; generous with their toppings, the base was crisp, light and incredibly morish.
The a la carte menu changes with the seasons and the kitchen works with what is readily available. The dessert menu reflects this and straight from the fridge to our table, we opted for an exquisite lemon posset and a crème brulee – smashing the crunch top was incredibly pleasing.
Finishing our drinks (with sated appetites) it was time to turn in for the evening. Even in sleep, the Carnarvon works its magic, I enjoyed a blissfully relaxing night in crisp cotton sheets. With a 10am check out time, there was plenty of time to refuel over a cup of fresh coffee and a choice of either a cooked or continental breakfast and left with promises of returning for a Sunday roast which costs just £10 after 4pm.
For further information and to book your stay, visit The Carnarvon Arms Hotel.
Visit our Around the UK channel for more short breaks and gastro getaways.Last modified: June 22, 2021