UPDATE Aug 3, 2014: The Olde Bell has changed ownership since we stayed in 2013 and whilst still beautiful, the service that made for an incredible first stay was sadly long gone. We recommend Danesfield House as a fantastic nearby option.
Situated in the gorgeous Thames-side village of Hurley in Berkshire, The Olde Bell is a five star inn, for centuries a rest stop on the London-Oxford coach route and more recently a luxurious stay just moments outside of London and Henley.
Everything housed within the original walls of the 1135 building breathes modern elegance as composed by Ilse Crawford famed for her work in New York’s Soho House. The original bar area, fireplace, and heavy Tudor roof beams are offset by rustic chic glass lanterns, seagrass carpets, and generous oak tables adorned with muted-toned mohair throws.
Amongst all of this, the ambience that greeted famous visitors happily lingers; at the dark timber bar, you can imagine past wartime guest Winston Churchill holding court, martini in hand. It’s not hard to picture Errol Flynn beside the fireplace, or Carey Grant tucked up with a good read in the divine wood panelled library. In the large, elegant rooms, Liz Taylor could easily be reclining in the beautiful, free-standing bath – charmingly located within the bedroom – a flute of bubbles in hand.
It’s clear why this place is an obvious choice for such accomplished guests and also regular weddings and receptions, with up to 50 rooms available within the tastefully converted barns.
The Olde Bell restaurant is also a key attraction for the inn, recently awarded two Rosettes from the AA Restaurant Guide for the excellent fare available breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menus feature seasonal produce from local farms, resulting a memorable herb crusted lamb rump, crispy Atlantic bream with cabbage-bacon parcels, velvety potato and leek soup, and a truly naughty warm chocolate fondant with orange sorbet. For breakfast, the buffet doesn’t disappoint with French yoghurts and homemade pastries among the many delights.
While Hurley itself has been described as “the smallest, prettiest village ever” (and it also hosts some great tales from its time as host of the U.S. intelligence base), for entertainment, it’s best to don your wellies (provided by the Inn) and take off along the Thames for either a 45 minute walk to nearby village Harlow, a two hour walk to Maidenhead, or a 2.5 hour circular past the river and through the hills.
As the first “modern coaching inn” we have experienced, it would be most difficult for another to live up to its standard, although perhaps sister establishment The Crown would put up a good challenge. And if we haven’t convinced you yet, the phone reception in Hurley is patchy at best, which makes The Olde Bell an even more peaceful and secluded getaway.