WE packed the dog into the back of the car, filled up with petrol, and then headed for the Cotswolds.
I had been told that the Queen's Head Inn, Stow-on-the-Wold, was one of the most dog-friendly pubs in the Cotswolds. I wanted to check this out.
Stow-on-the-Wold is so easy to get to.
All you do is point the car in the Burford direction, travel down Burford's main street towards the bridge and the traffic lights, then turn left.
From there on it is straight, straight, straight, all the way.
We had hoped to park in The Square, and near the pub, but all the spaces were taken, so we headed for the main car park following the signposts, which took us to a large space only a couple of minutes walk from the main shopping area and the many enchanting little shops that give this little Cotswold town so much character. Actually, the shops proved so fascinating that I admit to leaving Stow with two carrier bags filled with things I didn't know I wanted until I saw them.
On reaching The Square, I left my friend Liz and my border collie, Pythius-Peacocke, outside, while I checked that dogs really were welcome in the Queen's Head Inn.
I needn't have bothered, there were already two dogs sitting comfortably under the tables with their masters. By the time we were ready to leave, a further four dogs had joined the throng.
Although the ceilings are not that low, and the windows appear large enough, its seems quite dark when you first enter the bar - but that experience only lasts a moment. Once inside, you are confronted by a comfortable old bar, bedecked with dried hops, and simply buzzing with life. Locals and tourists alike were enjoying its warm atmosphere.
Yes, this delightful 17th-century pub proved to be everything I'd hoped it would be, and just a little bit more. Standing as it does in the very heart of Stow, it's a perfect example of just what you expect a small Cotswolds town pub to be.
We were greeted by one of the most friendly and efficient bar maids I have ever met. She was one of those rare breeds capable of keeping everyone happy, even during really busy moments, when there are several customers all seeking her attention. So, despite the crowds congregated in the bar area, we were made welcome, given a couple of half-pints of Donnington Best Bitter, and offered a table near the window.
Donnington Best Bitter proved a great choice, and not just because this amber bitter has a superb bitter after-taste, but because it's brewed locally at a site that dates back to the 13th century, and can be found just off the Tewkesbury to Stow road. This family-owned brewery, which stands alongside a mill pond, still uses the original millwheel to drive the small pumps and machinery.
The Queen's Head proved the right pub to enjoy this beer. There's a second bar, a small restaurant area, and a well-kept courtyard at the back, but we preferred to be in the main bar.
The menu offers standard pub fare: ham egg and chips (£8.50), steak-and-ale pie, made with Donnington ale (£8.95), and bangers and mash, at £8.50, are some of the many dishes offered for lunch, along with double-decker sandwiches and baguettes, priced from £5.50. I had the home-made chicken pie, served with seasonal vegetables, at £8.50, pictured, which was fine, while Liz went for the beer-battered fish-and-chips, with mushy peas (£9.95), and enjoyed it immensely.
We followed lunch with a dog walk round the cricket field - the locals suggested that providing we could manoeuvre our way safely across the main A429, having reached it through a small passageway to the right of the Queen's Head, this was the best place to allow a dog to run. Dog loved it.