Take a look around the Marlborough Arms, a traditional Cotswolds coaching inn with history that dates back through the centuries.
If you’re planning a visit to the Cotswolds, you might be considering staying at a hotel or booking a cosy self-catering cottage. Or perhaps you might decide to check into a coaching inn, as travellers have done throughout the centuries.
The Marlborough Arms in Woodstock is a historic coaching inn that has been welcoming guests for hundreds of years. I was invited to visit recently, and Mark joined me for a short break in the Cotswolds.
At the Marlborough Arms, we found a hotel that blends period features with modern facilities, and offers guests a wonderfully warm welcome.
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A Historic Coaching Inn
The town of Woodstock has a long history dating back to the Domesday book in 1086, and it was given a royal charter by Henry II in 1179.
The town grew up around the Royal Hunting Lodge, which is now the site of Blenheim Palace. The lodge housed royal guests and their entourages, and so the town became a popular coaching stop.
The coaching inn which is now known as the Marlborough Arms can be traced back to 1469, when it was called the George Inne. It was originally built as a residence for Henry II’s mistress, Roseamund Clifford, who was not able to stay at the Royal Hunting Lodge.
Over the years, monarchs including King John and Richard the Lionheart stayed at Woodstock. And Elizabeth I is known to have slipped out to visit the Inne, when her half-sister Queen Mary I placed her under house arrest at the Royal Hunting Lodge!
The George Inne was given the name ‘The Marlborough Arms’ some time after the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. Many of the period features around the hotel date back to this time.
More recently, family history has an important part to play at the Marlborough Arms. Sally and Alistair McEwen, the hotel’s current owners, inherited it when Alistair’s father passed away around 40 years ago. Sally and Alistair are still very much involved in the day to day running of the hotel, and as you’ll discover, their ancestors have their own part to play.
How to Get to the Marlborough Arms
The town of Woodstock lies on the eastern edge of the Cotswolds Area of Natural Beauty. It’s around 10 miles away from Oxford, 30 miles away from Stratford-upon-Avon, and is very easy to reach by car.
If you’re travelling up to Woodstock from London, the town is around 15 miles away from Junction 8 of the M40, and the roads are easy to follow.
If you’re travelling from the Midlands or North, you’ll leave the M40 at Junction 9. Alternatively you could break your journey at Stratford upon Avon, which means leaving the M40 at Junction 15
The nearest station to Woodstock is at Oxford and the Park & Ride service will take you directly to Woodstock.
The Marlborough Arms is located in the heart of Woodstock, and there is private parking behind the hotel. If you plan to arrive early, there is a public car park a few metres away on Union Street.
And when you walk through the Marlborough Arms’ front entrance, you’ll immediately notice the historic charm of this lovely hotel. It’s got character in spades!
A Peaceful Room at the Marlborough Arms
As you might expect with a property of this age, the rooms are accessed via a narrow winding staircase. If accessibility could be an issue, you may need to take this into account.
After checking in, I headed up to my room. Room 10, the Sienna room, is on the top floor of the Marlborough Arms overlooking the town’s streets.
Each of the hotel’s 15 rooms has its own individual look and feel, designed by the hotel’s owner, Sally.
Room 10 is decorated in light, neutral shades and has a peaceful air about it. The room makes good use of the hotel’s historic features to add character, but also cleverly blends in modern facilities.
The comfortable super king sized bed has high quality cotton bed linen, and soft plump pillows. The gloomy weather outside made the room a little dark, but overhead lighting throughout the room gave it a cosy air.
There is free high-speed WiFi throughout the hotel, and I got great signal even up on the top floor.
And as well as a well stocked hospitality tray with a selection of teas, coffee and biscuits, there was also an Italian coffee pod machine with a wide selection of different pods to try out.
You’re sure to find the perfect room to suit your needs at the Marlborough arms, from cosy double or twin-bedded rooms, to grand deluxe rooms that can be set up as a suite. There’s even a family room which sleeps three and has room for an additional cot.
My room was very spacious, with a generous sized sitting area. A flat-screen TV, coffee table and plenty of seating mean that this room would be ideal if you’re planning to make the Marlborough Arms your base for a longer stay in the Cotswolds.
And the electric log burner made the room feel very cosy indeed, even despite the cold, wintry weather outside.
Actually, I say ‘room’ but this was more like a suite. Not only was the bedroom a very generous size, but the large bathroom next door made it feel more luxurious.
Here the hotel’s owners have taken the traditional black and white beams and continued the theme throughout the room.
There’s a large stand-alone bath, perfect for soaking in after a day of sightseeing, and a powerful rainfall shower that was incredibly refreshing.
Complimentary toiletries and plenty of soft towels complete this luxurious bathroom.
Take a Look around the Hotel
Mark was going to be joining me at the Marlborough Arms later on in the day. So after settling into my room, I headed back downstairs to take a proper look around.
As you come into the hotel through the front entrance, you walk into a large open plan space. This includes the reception area, a bar and two separate seating areas.
The Marlborough Arms retains a lot of period features, making the most of its five centuries of history.
The floors are a little uneven, the staircase narrow, and there are beams visible throughout the hotel. You can feel the character of the hotel resonating throughout it.
This area is furnished with blue leather seats, and a large period fireplace, while large windows provide plenty of natural light. This is where I chose to sit and relax with a cafetiere of coffee when I arrived at the hotel.
The small bar area is stocked with a selection of wines, beers, spirits and soft drinks, and is only open to hotel guests.
The bar is open until 10pm, but if you plan to return to the hotel after that time, you can request drinks that will be left on the bar for your return.
We took our drinks over to the second lounge area, which is in front of this rather grand fireplace. It was a lovely, cosy place to linger over a glass of wine at the end of the day.
The Marlborough Arms now offers afternoon tea, and this can be served in front of the fire if you wish.
Afternoon tea is available to to non-residents as well as hotel guests, but it needs to be booked in advance.
They also serve afternoon tea in the front room, which has beautiful wood panelling and a large marble fireplace.
And a door near the fireplace gives access to this peaceful courtyard, which leads through to the hotel’s car park.
I could just imagine sitting here with a glass of something cold on a summer’s evening!
Breakfast at the Marlborough Arms
The Marlborough Arms doesn’t serve dinner but they do offer breakfast, which is served in their large, airy breakfast room.
And as you head down to breakfast, you can see just how important family is to the hotel’s owners. This wall is filled with vintage family photos showing Sally and Alistair’s parents and other relatives.
It’s a lovely touch, which adds to the character of the hotel.
Inside the spacious breakfast room, there are more vintage pictures filling one wall and large mirrors make the space feel bright and airy.
This room can also be hired for private events, and the Marlborough Arms would be a lovely place to celebrate a wedding or other special occasion.
There’s a continental buffet to help yourself to, including a selection of meat and cheese, juices, fruit, cereal and yoghurt. There was also a selection of pastries, muffins and waffles with a jug of syrup.
A pot of tea was brought to the table for Mark, and I sipped a good, strong cup of filter coffee while we perused the breakfast menu.
The menu includes a traditional full English breakfast together with options such as poached egg and avocado on toast, porridge, or boiled eggs and toast.
Mark ordered the full English, and commented on how good the sausage and bacon were. This was a hearty breakfast!
I don’t often choose pancakes for breakfast, but on this occasion I felt like something sweeter. You can have the pancakes with berries and yoghurt or bacon and maple syrup, and I chose the second option.
I have to admit that I was expecting a stack of fluffy American pancakes rather than a more traditional thin pancake. But it still tasted good, with the thick cut, maple-cured bacon being particularly delicious.
With more hot coffee, and some of the Marlborough Arms home-made marmalade to spread on my toast, this was a good way to start the busy day ahead of us.
Places to Eat in Woodstock
As I mentioned earlier, dinner is not available at the Marlborough Arms. But there are plenty of options nearby, and guests receive a discount at several of the local restaurants.
Thanks to its location, Woodstock is a popular destination for people keen to explore the beautiful Cotswolds. And this means plenty of choice for places to eat.
I ate lunch at the Star Inn on the day I arrived in Woodstock. It’s a charming, cosy pub which offered welcome respite from the February rain.
The menu includes a range of sandwiches, salads and hearty main course. They also serve some wickedly delicious desserts like this dark chocolate and orange cheesecake.
On the evening of our stay at the Marlborough Arms, I booked us a table at Brothertons Brasserie. This is on Woodstock High Street, about a five minute walk from the hotel.
It’s a lovely little restaurant which offers authentic Italian food and a warm Italian welcome. It was packed out when we ate there, so book ahead if you plan to visit during your stay at the Marlborough Arms.
Things to Do near the Marlborough Arms
The Marlborough Arms makes a fantastic base if you’re planning to spend a few days exploring the Cotswolds. You’re close to several of the popular towns and villages like Stow on the Wold, Bourton-on-the Water and Chipping Campden.
You could spend a day in the historic city of Oxford or go shopping at nearby Bicester Village designer outlet. But the town of Woodstock has lots to offer as well!
The Marlborough Arms is within walking distance of Blenheim Place. This ornate 17th century house and World Heritage Site is home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough. It was also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.
The Palace, park and gardens are open to the public, and there’s much to see here including gardens designed by Capability Brown.
We didn’t visit on this occasion, but it’s certainly on my wishlist. I’ll just have to visit Woodstock again!
Also worth a visit when you’re staying at the Marlborough Arms is the Museum of Oxfordshire. It’s quite a small museum, so won’t take up too much of your time.
The museum is within a beautiful 18th century house. It follows Oxfordshire’s history from Roman times through to today, and offers fascinating insights into rural life in Oxfordshire.
If you’re travelling with children, the museum has plenty of displays aimed at younger visitors as well. There’s also a Dinosaur Garden which contains the fossilised footprints of a megalosaur which were found locally.
Entrance to the main part of the museum is free of charge, and there’s a cafe and gift shop on-site.
The Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum is housed within a purpose built museum inside the gardens of the Museum of Oxfordshire.
This is not so much a Regimental Musem, as a museum which tells the story of the Oxfordshire solders, their families, the towns where they lived and the impact that conflict had on them.
The entrance fee for this museum is currently £4.50 for adults (rising to £4.75 in April).
And because Woodstock has so much history, you can while away the day just wandering around and spotting the details.
There are cute cottages and townhouses built from the lovely honey-coloured Cotswold stone. Some of the houses have plaques on them which tell the story of their owners. Amongst others, they include a house and cottage owned by Thomas Chaucer and the house where the fictional Ancient Mariner lived.
The Marlborough Arms: The Verdict
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Marlborough Arms. This hotel offers excellent service, and has bags of character and historical features.
Our room was spacious and light, with a wonderful mix of the old and the new. The size of the Sienna room makes it ideal for a longer break, and I loved the dramatic monochrome bathroom.
And the staff at the Marlborough Arms made sure that we were comfortable at all times. We were, of course, because this historic coaching inn looks grand but feels cosy and welcoming.
Whether you’re staying overnight while you visit Blenheim Place or exploring the Cotswolds for a few days, the Marlborough Arms is a lovely place to stay.
The Marlborough Arms
26 Oxford Street, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1TS
01993 811 227