The Fox at Willian is framed by the handsome Grade II-listed Church of All Saints, which is peppered with evocative flint and ironstone rubble walls under a roof of grey Welsh slate.
The hamlet is recorded in the Domesday book, while elements of the church date back beyond Norman times. There are even five headstones maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, one from World War One and four from the Second World War.
Weeping willows and a small pond complete the bucolic scene opposite The Fox, with the tree believed to have given this quiet place its distinctive name, as Willian is believed to have derived from ‘willow’.
It is a perfect microcosm of the understated beauty of our county – with a visit not complete without a restorative pint at the The Fox.
And there is now another reason to visit – newly-built rooms which complement the pub and its restaurant – eight bespoke, country-smart bedrooms.
My partner and I visited purely on a restorative basis. As we both lead busy lives, a relaxing evening of fine food and drink and a room to unwind in was a perfect excuse to sample the place.
After being greeted with a jaunty welcome by their front of house – whose manner was attentive without ever being cloying – we deposited our bags in our charmingly pastoral-themed room. The decorative logs, and rich, warm brown and beige hues throughout the room made us relax immediately.
Each room is decorated with contemporary furnishings and all the finishing touches for a comfortable stay – big cosy, comfortable beds, powerful walk-in showers, fresh tea and coffee facilities, high spec TV, wireless and aircon – as well as a splendid free standing bath in the room we stayed in.
The garden rooms with their outside seating areas overlooking the church offer the perfect spot to enjoy a morning cup of coffee or an evening G&T. Well behaved four-legged friends are welcome in the garden rooms – with dog beds, towels, bowls and treats as standard.
Willian may feel like it is in the heart of our countryside but it is between the busy towns of Hitchin and Letchworth.
Visitors have the option of good walks in the area - perfect for dog walkers and ramblers.
A trip to the appropriately-named ‘locals bar’ – full of bonhomie and buzz – and a couple of pints of Adnams Mosaic later, saw us sit down for our evening meal.
For starters in the dining room with its well-appointed conservatory we sampled for starters we shared curried mussels and saffron chowder; smoked trout potato cake; carrot, cumin and pickled cucumber slaw; and baked cod supreme with nori and prawn butter made my tastebuds sit up and put a smile on our faces.
For dinner I opted for the succulent 28-day-aged 8oz rib-eye steak accompanied with hand cut chips, garlic butter and dressed leaves, while my companion chose the duo of pork, pancetta-wrapped tenderloin. Both dishes were cooked to perfection – and were joined by a cheeky side of maple syrup and wholegrain mustard chatenay carrots and parsnips.
The wine list was extensive without being overpowering and we chose an elegant and crisp Pinot Grigio with citrus and pear drop flavours.
After a restful night in our room we ate a posh fry-up complete with black pudding and coriander.
The Fox at Willian – part of the Anglian Country Inns stable – is a family-run business rooted in a love of good food and proper old-fashioned hospitality.
Don’t just take my word for it – The Fox at Willian is recommended by Hardens, is included in The Good Food Guide, is an Alastair Sawdays ‘Special Places’ – and was recommended in a recent Sunday Times’ listing of Best Places to stay.
Layth stayed at the Fox at Willian courtesy of Anglia Country Inns.
See foxatwillian.co.uk for more.