The Running Horse Inn
Looking for a pitstop for a Winchester weekender with the fam? Giddy up to this local inn for comfy rooms, classic British pub grub and a warm, friendly vibe.
Part of the Upham Inns group (which also includes the nearby Peat Spade Inn in Hants), you’d never know that The Running Horse Inn is just a few minutes drive from the busy A34 and M3. Tucked away down a winding lane in the pretty village of Littleton, a mere stone’s throw from Winchester, the attractive restored inn paints a tranquil country scene with horses grazing in the neighbouring field.
We arrived on a warm evening and were greeted with a friendly atmosphere, bubbly staff and a one-way system to check-in and walk to our room (a new social distancing measure).
Expect a mixed crowd of punters – the garden, with it’s impressive oak tree and bright picnic benches, was bustling with families, young couples, groups of friends and the occasional solo traveller (the inn is close to Winchester, but escapes city prices so is a popular choice). There’s also a patio area at the front with a few outdoor dining tables and cool little teepee that can be booked for special occasions.
Inside, the bar sits plum in the middle, with a relaxed ‘pubby’ area at the front with flagstone floors and a fireplace, and then there’s a more formal dining area at the rear, kitted out with perspex screens.
It’s a classic British heritage theme throughout with racing green, tartan and, true to it’s namesake, horsey accents from printed cushions to black and white photographs of historic Polo games.
SCOFF & QUAFF
For a balmy Friday evening, unsurprisingly, the pub garden was full but we managed to nab a table on the front patio (alas, not in the awesome little teepee) and kicked off the evening with drinks. We opted for fizz, but the gin menu was impressive – 22 options to be exact – with plenty of local tipples (Twisted Nose, Bombay Sapphire, Silverback) each paired with a specially chosen Fever-Tree tonic.
The menu has everything you’d want and expect from a traditional English inn – fish & chips, pie, steak, burgers – so I was surprised to learn that the pub is currently running on a reduced menu as it has a bit of everything. My plus one, who’s coeliac, was especially impressed with the special gluten-free menu brought out for her.
To start, we were both pulled in by the special of garlic prawns (and thank goodness, there was no way I would’ve shared). I continued the fishy theme with another special, impressively invented by the chef earlier that morning – trout with pea puree, sautéed new potatoes and shiitake mushrooms – whilst my friend opted for turf with a sirloin steak, Bordelaise sauce and skin on fries.
My fish was flaky and well seasoned and the pea puree was delicious; the shiitake mushrooms were perhaps not needed, but no complaints! My friend reported the steak as tender and something to shout about (which she did all the way home) and loved the velvety sauce. For a busy service (with only two chefs on the pass), food was delivered hot and in good time.
Too full for dessert? Never. It was a toss up between the dark chocolate brownie and sticky toffee pudding, I chose the latter and it didn’t disappoint. It was heavenly.
Breakfast the next day (you can eat it in bed, or in the garden) was more local café than gastro, but after several glasses of fizz the night before, sometimes that’s just what’s needed. I chose a veggie fry up (an extra £10 for adults, £6 for kids), although the complimentary continental looked tasty with croissants, yoghurt and juice.
The inn has 15 rooms that sit separately from the pub in a stable-like outhouse (fitting with the horsey theme), with future plans to expand into the next-door field where’s there’s room for around 30 more rooms.
We stayed in a comfy double, with ensuite, which was no frills but perfect for hitting the hay after a long day exploring Winchester (or the bar). The caricature painting in our room was a real talking point (after some investigation we discovered it’s Andrew Lloyd Webber by a local artist) – although quite the fright to wake up to in the morning!
Definitely. There’s a brilliantly priced children’s menu (mains £6, desserts £3) as well as family rooms complete with bunkbeds – don’t worry, they’re just for the kids.
OUT & ABOUT
You’re only six miles from Winchester here (see our insider guide to the city in Muddy’s Top 200 Best Places to Live series) where headliners include the stunning Cathedral, the ancient ruins of Wolvesey Castle and an abundance of indie shops. For the little people, Marwell Zoo is a 22-minute drive, or for walks head to the New Forest National Park which is 25 minutes by car.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: A base to explore Winchester without the city noise when it comes to bedtime. Ideal for families with younger kids.
Not for: If you’re after silver service and pillow chocolates – this is a classic country inn through and through.
The damage: Great value. Rooms start from £67.10 per night. Starters and desserts from £6.50, mains around £9.95 for gnocchi up to £24.95 for a steak.
The Running Horse, 88 Main Road, Littleton, Winchester, Hampshire, SO22 6QS. Tel: 01962 880218