Puddle hopping and sharing the shelter of an umbrella as we dash through a torrential downpour, the illuminated country inn across the way has the magnetic allure of a mirage in the desert.
After navigating tree-lined lanes perfect for a daylight meander in walking boots, we’ve just checked in to our botanically-inspired room, right opposite the pub, for a romantic weekend stay at The Cricketers in Clavering, Saffron Walden, in north west Essex.
Impressed by the plush décor and exquisite finishing touches of The Newlands – one of the new-look Cricketers’ aptly named Best Rooms – we’re in need of food, warmth, a glass of wine, and … oh my goodness yes, a roaring fire.
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Drinking in striking brickwork and exposed beams, a window seat by the crackling flames offers both panorama and a cosy sense of peace as we peruse the menu and extensive wine list. The truffle and parmesan creamed mushrooms, succulent ribeye steak, melt-in-the-mouth sea bream and heavenly sticky toffee pudding that follow are an apéritif of what promises to be a weekend of fine dining, fresh air and traditional Great British hospitality.
Previously owned by TV chef Jamie Oliver’s parents and now a proud jewel in the Chestnut crown, The Cricketers changed hands in October 2020 and underwent a chic makeover of its 22 en-suite bedrooms and shared spaces, including the bar and restaurant.
With many 16th century original features retained, including open fireplaces and wooden beams, this much-loved village inn oozes historic character, whilst its enchanting rooms are ideal for awaking rejuvenated to a hearty full English breakfast and exploring the sublime Saffron Walden countryside.
With a range of packages including Spring three for two, Secret Sundays, Dinner, bed and breakfast, Muddy Paws for dog-lovers, and Romance – featuring overnight stay, dinner for two, bottle of prosecco, breakfast and late check out - there’s a break tailored for all.
Each one unique, room types range from Good – situated in the pub itself and bursting with boutique charm – to Better, modern stylish and located in the courtyard right outside, to The Best, housed in The Willow and Pavilion, for those seeking ultimate luxury, fine furnishings and floral elegance.
Drinking and dining at The Cricketers is a connoisseur’s choice, thanks to a well-stocked bar with cask ales, refined single malt whiskies, artisan gins and a mouth-watering menu showcasing inspirational chef specials and locally sourced seasonal ingredients.
When your taste buds are suitably tantalised, the surrounding area is a hotbed of history, beauty and interest just waiting to be devoured.
Translated as ‘the place where clovers grow’ and enjoying an enviable location on the banks of the River Stort, pretty Clavering is the epitome of bygone charm, with thatched cottages, timber-framed houses and a rich history dating back to Norman times. With a popular cricket club, seven village greens and rolling greenery as far as the eye can see, it’s a haven for some stunning scenic strolls, making it a walker’s dream, especially when the sun shines.
Just a 20-minute drive from The Cricketers, the picture book medieval market town of Saffron Walden is alive with attraction, its charming homes splashed with distinctive Suffolk pink, yellow and blue.
Its famous market – held on Tuesdays and Saturdays – dates back to 1141 and is an artisan must-see, whilst The Fry Art Gallery , the beautiful Bridge End Gardens and The Cricketers’ sister pub, The Eight Bells, just beg a visit come rain or shine.
Aviation enthusiasts will be in their element at IWM Duxford, Europe’s largest air museum, right on the doorstep and featuring over a century of compelling history, including The Battle of Britain. Time your visit right and you can see the famous RAF Red Arrows display team, wing walkers and the RAF Falcons parachute crew in their hugely popular annual air show.
Fantastic for families or those interested in conservation and farming, this entertaining National Trust estate is a superb fun-filled day out.
Just a 40-minute drive away, be sure to pop to Home Farm for a little animal magic in the form of quirky Bagot goats, Shire horses, long horn cattle and – if you’re very lucky – maybe even a piglet or two!
After hours of discovery and adventure, there’s no better way to end a memorable day than with a nightcap and a delicious evening meal in the warm welcome of The Cricketers, before retiring to your comfy bed to plan tomorrow’s pursuits in this captivating part of the country.
Chestnut, which owns The Cricketers, is a collection of 16 pubs, inns and restaurants in East Anglia, all delivering locally sourced, seasonal food inspired by the area.
A one-night stay at The Cricketers in Clavering, Essex, for two people costs from £160, including breakfast. For more information or to book, thecricketers.co.uk or call 01799 550442.