Wantage is an ideal overnight stop for exploring South Oxon, with a couple of great pubs, decent Chinese takeaway and, vitally, a Waitrose. Hotel prices might be described as “ambitious” though; you’re best off camping on this nice bit of greenery;
The town itself is neat but functional, pubs apart. Perhaps it lacks the architectural appeal of similarly sized Wiltshire towns to the west, but there’s always King Alfred.
By Sunday the town was a bit empty, just like the frontage of the otherwise incomparable Wantage Novel Library, the most interesting thing in town. I’m not sure that it’s ever open, though.
The award-winning Royal Oak has equally odd hours; 12-2 on Sunday, so a return visit to that classic will have to wait. Worth visiting just to stare at the GBG stickers. They had a cheese party on my last visit, just after it was a CAMRA Pub of the Year Finalist. I’m not saying there’s any connection between the two.
One new entry in the Guide, and the Swan is the proper “young people’s pub” described in WhatPub, judging by the clutch of youths playing pool and searching for obscure Hawkwind tracks on the jukebox.
The Facebook page has comments from Casper, Florian and “Ian”, attesting to this being “the best place in Wantage to get smashed“, though probably not on Brakspear Oxford Gold. The lovingly homemade advert for Craft promised Shipyard, 13 Guns, and a lager from Wychwood. And why not.
My sort of pub, and the friendliest barman of the month. As with Cambridge’s Portland Arms, a venue best enjoyed on music nights.
There can’t be many pubs left in Wantage that haven’t made the GBG now, but of course the most impressive looking of them all suffers from the apparently debilitating condition of being an Arkell’s house (don’t blame me, I like Arkell’s). Sorry Bear Hotel.
Two miles out of town, you’re back in gastro-land. The Boar’s Head in Ardington is the uniform pub in a uniform village on the Lockinge estate.
The contrast between the Swan and the Boar is exemplified by the music; “Dig, Lazarus, Dig !!!” by Nick Cave in Wantage, a piano recital of “My Favourite Things” here. Yes, the first Sunday lunch pianist since the Cottonwood in Bournemouth, which is a good comparator.
Lots of families in their Sunday dress, so no photos, except this classic;
Yes, they have a stand for that all-important spare pair of glasses. Another first.
No seats for drinkers at the bar, and £2 for a tired house beer, probably from Loose Cannon.
The highlight was the drama unfolding as the tediously slow clientele, with nothing to do in the afternoon except watch “Escape to the Country”, argued about the splitting of the bill. Schnell !! Schnell !!
Tremendous fun, another GBG winner.