Review: The Swan at Stoford
The road from Bournemouth to the West country is one I know well. Since starting university, I have whizzed up and down the A36, amazingly with just the one speeding ticket to show for it.
Now I live in Salisbury and split my time between Bournemouth and Bath, I am getting reacquainted with this route and exploring some of the fine eateries along the way. After all, if you enjoy the journey, you enjoy the destination more – right?
My first stop was The Swan at Stoford, an iconic stone-clad coaching inn overlooking the River Wyle. It offers B&b accommodation and breakfast, light lunches and gourmet dinners for weary travellers. You can eat inside, admiring pictures and paintings from the inn in its early years; or take a seat outside, right on the riverbank, with views of fields, people fishing and at the moment super-cute baby lambs.
I was writing a feature about culture and nostalgia in Salisbury when a friend recommended the Swan. It’s part of a boutique chain of just five hostelries, including the Stonehenge Inn and The Solstice Rest. The tight-knit boutique chain is much loved by locals for a warm welcome, homemade cakes, a homely feel, friendly staff and an inventive menu that takes pub grub to the next level taste wise, without inflated prices.
As such, it is perfect for coach parties and ramblers, being situated by part of the Monarch’s Way, the route taken by King Charles II in 1651 as he fled the country, and close to the pretty Grovely Woods or nice riverside walks. You can even take the Swan Hospitality Challenge – walk from the Swan at Stoford to the Stonehenge Inn & Carvery across country or vice versa.
They are also popular with cyclists being close to Route 24 of the National Cycle Network and having plenty of storage space. You can see the route by following the link.
I visited for dinner after a hectic day seeing the sights in Salisbury, which is now my second home when I’m working in either Bournemouth or Bristol, being in the middle of both.
The dish (pictured) was seasoned and flavoursome with some punchy flavours perfectly balanced. The chicken was stuff with smoked cheese and wrapped in Parma ham and served with crushed garlic potatoes but nothing was overpowering; add in some crunchy fresh veg and a creamy shallot and white wine sauce and it was a heavenly mix of some of my favourite things.
My other half opted for ribeye steak (£18) and I was jealous – but only for a second. He declared it delicious but the huge portion of handcut chips would have put me off, especially after a large amount of olives and freshly baked bread to start.
Desserts looked lovely but we were both defeated by the hearty portions so retired early to one of the most cosy, homely bedrooms I have ever had the priviledge to stay in. There was no noise from the road outside thanks to reinforced glass – just a lovely view of the river and a four-poster bed that screams “special occasion”. With a lovely function room AND outdoor terrace, it’s no wonder that the Swan is popular with local brides and grooms wanting a classy yet fuss-free reception and overnight stay.
Breakfast in the morning was a well-stocked continental buffet and a fabulous full English. I went vegetarian and my other half went traditional – both were fantastic, piping hot and a sizable portion.
The scrambled eggs are particularly flavoursome, firm without being dry, with a hint of cheese. My only criticism is that there was no brown toast available, only white and a little music would have been nice, rather than just the sound of a vacuum cleaner. A minor issue, I’m sure you agree, even with a 6am start, and I loitered til almost 11am checking emails and proofing copy, while overlooking the garden.
Coach trips will adore the food; couples will love the bedrooms; business travellers will like the service and facilities, including super-fast WiFi and excellent coffee.
The Swan at Stoford really does cover all bases and I now know why it came so highly recommended.
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