Oh, the joy of the British countryside! Perhaps a picturesque village with rustic charm; could there be an historic coaching inn? Yes, indeed, and quite near London too. It’s the George and Dragon in the stunning village of West Wycombe. The village features many buildings of architectural value which were built between the 16th and 18th centuries.
The current George and Dragon pub was a coaching inn dating from 1720. However, the site has been used as an inn since the 14th century, and yes, it is said to be haunted!
The village of West Wycombe was once owed by the Dashwood family and that is a name you might have heard of. It was an important coaching halt on the highway between London and Oxford. In 1929 the village was bought by the Royal Society of Arts as part of the Society’s ‘Campaign for the Preservation of Ancient Cottages’. The National Trust has maintained the village ever since. The village retains much of its historic charm and the High Street has a number of traditional shops as well as three pubs.
The visitor to the village can enjoy streets fringed with cottages, inns and boutiques of different architectural styles dating from the 16th century. West Wycombe pre-dates nearby and better-known High Wycombe. In 1767 there were said to be a total of 17 pubs in the village.
The Hellfire Caves have been the inspiration of many a dubious film and particularly in the 1960s when cinema-goers could watch buxom wenches fleeing (or sometimes yielding to) the advances of the lord of the manor and his rowdy chums.
Sir Francis Dashwood had the caves built as a project to support the local community, after three successive disastrous harvests between 1748 and 1750. Sir Francis was also co-founder of the notorious Hellfire Club, which had their meetings in the caves. There is a rumour that there is a secret passage from the George and Dragon to those very caverns!
The George and Dragon allows the guest to step back in time. The pub is as authentic as one could ever want. It is warm and cosy and enjoyed by the locals as well as those staying at the hotel. Yes, one can actually sleep here in one of the charming and individually furnished and decorated rooms.
Our room looked out over the high street. It was large and comfortable with its en-suite of equally generous proportions. One can’t overlook the fact that this building is centuries old. Exposed beams and uneven floors attest to its age. But this is such a glorious change from some international chain hotels with their uniformity and lack of character. A night here is a treat – even without a ghost!
The hotel has a marvellous restaurant (read my review here) and dinner at the George and Dragon won’t disappoint. But if your timetable doesn’t allow an evening meal here then there is still breakfast. It’s taken in the restaurant which is small and cottage-like and there one finds the wine ‘cellar’ which is thought to have once been the entrance to the tunnel leading to those aforementioned caves.
We were offered fresh fruit, honey flavoured with either lavender or spice and made by Chef Arnaud Stephens; piles of hot toast, yoghurt, cheeses and hams, pastries, and cooked options too. I, still being full of the previous night’s feast, opted for a light plate of fruit and a pot of tea. My companion, who I suspect has certificates in eating, chose avocado and poached egg on toast along with fruit juice, toast and honey, some cereal, a pain au chocolat, and more tea. Yes, breakfast at the George and Dragon is just as worthy and warm as the hotel, the pub and the village. Highly recommended.
George and Dragon Hotel and Restaurant
Phone: 01494 535340