What's the draw?
Swathes of tartan, snug lambswool duvets, and – if you're lucky enough to stay in either Kate's Folly or Cuckoo Pen – luxuriously deep clawfoot baths and plush, downy-soft towels all go into making Helen Browning OBE's Royal Oak feel like a home away from home. Located right in the heart of Browning's organic farm in Wiltshire, this quaint country pub with rooms (plus one gentle greyhound and many a free-roaming chicken) is just a short drive from Swindon train station. With the option to hitch a ride in the farm's beaten-up bright red Land Rover, the Royal Oak's fragrant pockets of bee-filled wildflowers and homegrown herb gardens are laughably easy to get to from London Paddington.
What to eat?
Not many pubs can claim to have reared, grown or otherwise created most of the items on its menu, but then again, the Royal Oak isn't any old pub. Browning is a pioneer in organic farming and she just so happens to be the chief executive of the Soil Association, too. But what does that mean to you, a hungry punter looking to fill the void created by a day exploring the Marlborough Downs? Well, the menu goes with the seasons and changes most days, but expect to tuck into lots of organic produce, including plenty of pork belly – succulent and full of rich, farmy flavour – beautifully prepared vegetables, and the odd piece or two of fresh mozzarella made by Claudio down on the farm.
Distance: 72.2 miles
Picturesque Bishopstone is the vision you conjure up when you think of rural charm – thatched cottages, a pretty little village pond, and the Royal Oak at the centre of it all.
You know that farm we've been banging on about? Well, grab your walking boots and get exploring. The scenic Ridgeway National Trail is only half a mile south of the village and cuts straight through the estate. The Royal Oak has loads of maps on hand, so you don't have to worry about losing your way, but if you want the best guide around, Browning usually hits the trails after a late breakfast on the weekend, so chat to the staff and maybe she'll let you tag along. Fingers crossed you go by way of the pigs – just ten minutes with those snuffling oinkers will make your weekend.
Double rooms from £80; Helen Browning's Royal Oak, Cues Lane, SN6 8PP; helenbrowningsorganic.co.uk