Tim Hughes heads just over the Warwickshire border for a belt-busting stay in old-fashioned Shipston-on-Stour

THOUGH just up and over the Oxfordshire border, the little market town of Shipston-on-Stour feels much further – not only in terms of style, but in time.

Slide down the Cotswold escarpment from Chipping Norton and the Rollrights, and you could be forgiven for thinking yourself in a different decade. The 50s perhaps.

Unsullied by mega supermarkets and trading estates, it's an attractive town of resolutely independent shops (if you're a fan of country wear, antiques or bric-a-brac you'll find it heaven), an unfeasibly large gaggle of pubs and views over the surrounding hills.

At the heart of it, snuggly standing head and shoulders above its neighbours on the High Street, is the grand dame of south Warwickshire, the 18th century George Townhouse.

Freshly spruced up last year, this Brakspear-owned pub, restaurant and hotel looks cosy from the street, but is deceptively Tardis-like inside, with dining rooms, going off in two directions from the comfortable bar. It's tastefully done up in minimal country style – clean space with the odd picture of a badger in a suit – you know the thing. Oh, and should you need any advice in a pub owned by one of the world's finest breweries, the word 'BEER' is spelled out in illuminated letters on the wall of the bar. A fine suggestion too.

It being a rainy Sunday morning we had one thing on our minds: roast! We took a table in the dining room – a light airy space with colourful and (crucially) comfortable mismatched chairs (none of those ex-school seats so beloved of hipster eateries) and a crowd of random pictures on a bare brick wall. We gazed out at the soggy High Street outside, with its equally mismatched jumble of architectural styles, and felt smug.

I had been tipped off about The George Townhouse's legendary Sunday roasts in advance – and warned about their belt-busting size. I have never been one to fall for good advice without making the same mistake myself though – and undecided between chicken, pork and beef, my son and I went for a platter of all three.

Of course it was enormous – enough for four, if not five – but great value at £16.50 each (only £1.50 more each than the regular beef).

It was mighty fine too, with slices of slow roast Angus rump, loin of Toddenham pork with squares of hefty crackling, and moist, flavoursome chicken. It came with pigs in blankets and Yorkshire puddings the size of Mike Tyson's fists. Vegetables came separately in a huge serving, along with crisped roast potatoes cooked the proper way in beef dripping. The juicy broccoli went down particularly well. There was, of course, gallons of gravy.

The fish and chips – a whale-sized slab of beer-battered haddock with triple-cooked chips (£12.50) also looked good and was received with approving noises from the other young 'un. And I can vouch for the chips!

The meat feast went well with the house white, a necessarily crisp refreshing and slightly citrus Le Sanglier Old Vines White from Languedoc (£16 a bottle) – and orange juice for the kids.

I'm not sure I've ever felt so full, and needed exercise – in the shape of a walk around the town and out into the countryside.

On a good day, the Rollright Stones and the Cotswold stretch of the D’Arcy Dalton Way back on the Oxfordshire border, are not to be missed. Likewise the lofty heights of the Three Hills Walk at Brailes – with its amazing views over south Warwickshire. Heading the other way is Stratford, which lends itself to lazy ambles round bookshops, gawping at tourists and wanders along the swan-speckled Avon.

I made do with a muddy footpath and a ploughed field, but felt all the better for it.

On returning, I settled down with the paper and a smooth pint of Brakspear Bitter (guest ales included the excellent Ringwood Boon Doggle).

The George prides itself on the individuality of its rooms, and ours – a suite up in the attic – was a delight. A huge space with a ludicrously comfortable bed, no one would blame you for spending an entire weekend there without coming out.

A bathroom featured a large stylish roll top bath – and, big treat, a lavishly boxed spa set of bath salts, oils, creams and even a little lavender pillow for the bed. All complimentary.

Other lovely touches included a vintage Roberts radio and a writing desk – along with espresso machine and a kettle and wodge of posh teabags.

When I had finished sipping Earl Grey and taking in the view over the rooftops to the Cotswolds, there was some guilty pleasure TV – and then more food.

Dinner was, need I say, fabulous, the highpoint being a goats cheese and butternut squash Wellington – the tang of the cheese and sweetness of the veg packing some serious flavour in a steaming hot parcel of just-baked flaky pastry.

Squeezing in a nicely made creme brulee it was time to hit the attic –waking early enough to catch a crisp dawn and an epic breakfast of fresh pastries and a full English which would make a Beefeater blush – the black pudding being a particular delight.

I loved my trip into the past, and arriving in Oxford barely 45 minutes later, it all felt like a delightful dream.I'll be back – but only after punching some extra holes in my belt. I'd advise you to do the same.

The facts:

  • The George Townhouse, Shipston-on-Stour. Tel 01608 661453. Book through the website link to receive a 10 per cent discount on you stay at thegeorgeshipston.co.uk/
  • Doubles from £100-£200 during the week (depending on the room) and from £140-£250 at weekends on a B&B basis and including VAT. Car parking for guests is available at the rear of the hotel.
  • Offer:

From now until the end of March, you can treat yourself to a cosy night away and enjoy £30 towards dinner.

Bookings must be made in advance using the code WINTER17.

The £30 towards dinner is given per couple per night. For single occupancy it’s only £15 per person. This offer can be used on two consecutive nights and you’ll get up to £30 per night, for a maximum of two nights.