Travel

Great British boltholes: A review of The Three Blackbirds, Cambridgeshire

Great British boltholes: The beautiful boutique pub that’s a heavenly reward for tackling Cambridgeshire’s Devil’s Dyke hike

  • The Mail on Sunday’s Jane Knight checked into The Three Blackbirds, a dog-friendly pub in Woodditton
  • The rooms would ‘not be out of place in a boutique hotel’, with oversized headboards and proper milk for tea
  • And the food? You’ll find burgers and fish ’n’ chips here but fare is ‘a cut above’ normal pub grub

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There are almost 20,000 steps from the door of the thatched Three Blackbirds pub at Woodditton to the other end of the Devil’s Dyke in Reach – and very squelchy they are too after a winter deluge. It’s still a lovely walk, though, along one of the largest and best preserved Anglo-Saxon earthworks in England, taking in tree-lined slopes, chalklands and fens.

Built for defence, and in some places more than 32ft high, the seven-mile dyke is a good vantage point from which to admire the surrounding countryside, and the race course that flanks it at Newmarket.

This is horse-racing country, speckled with studs and stables. Newmarket alone, where even the local branch of Greggs the bakery has horse photos on the walls, has three equine hospitals, the national stud and the excellent National Horse Racing Museum.

Charming: The Mail on Sunday's Jane Knight checked into The Three Blackbirds, a dog-friendly pub in Woodditton

Charming: The Mail on Sunday’s Jane Knight checked into The Three Blackbirds, a dog-friendly pub in Woodditton

Swish: Six of the new rooms in The Barn are dog-friendly. They were unveiled just before the March lockdown, when the rest of the pub reopened after a devastating fire in 2018. Pictured is one of the spacious rooms

Swish: Six of the new rooms in The Barn are dog-friendly. They were unveiled just before the March lockdown, when the rest of the pub reopened after a devastating fire in 2018. Pictured is one of the spacious rooms

Don’t miss the museum’s racehorse simulator, which lets you canter with your bottom in the air, jockey-style.

It is dog-walking country, too: at The Three Blackbirds, most guests are accompanied by canine friends. While their owners enjoy superb breakfasts and dinners, beneath the wooden tables pets can tuck into items from their own menu, including venison jerky.

Six of the swish new rooms in The Barn, across the car park, are dog-friendly. They were unveiled just before the March lockdown, when the rest of the pub reopened after a devastating fire in 2018. 

The rooms would not be out of place in a boutique hotel, with oversized fabric headboards and attention to detail: you even get a flask of fresh milk to make a decent cup of tea.

The inn’s 17th Century charm is preserved with beams and wooden furniture in a series of rooms beneath the thatch. Wood-burners glow in the bar and restaurant, and no one bats an eyelid if muddy paws or muddy boots pad over the flagstone or parquet floor.

That rustic image is brought bang up to date with colourful banquettes, fern-motif wallpaper on one wall and modern lighting. The eye-catching main bar is painted with a metallic copper finish. It’s ye olde village inn, yes, but it comes with a marvellously modern twist.

Rustic: The inn’s 17th Century charm is preserved with beams and wooden furniture. Pictured is the bar

Rustic: The inn’s 17th Century charm is preserved with beams and wooden furniture. Pictured is the bar 

Refuel: You’ll find burgers and fish ’n’ chips here but fare is 'a cut above' normal pub grub, says Jane

Refuel: You’ll find burgers and fish ’n’ chips here but fare is ‘a cut above’ normal pub grub, says Jane 

The USP: A dog-friendly pub in the middle of horse-racing country. Friendly staff have lots of tips on the best walks and where to watch racehorses at the gallops (training tracks).

The rooms: Contemporary chic, in muted colours – battleship-grey tongue-and-groove wall panels with wood floor and pale wood furniture – set off by colourful cushions, throws and armchairs. Pressed flower prints are arranged on shelves and there are cowhide stools to perch on, and a full tea tray.

The food: You’ll find burgers and fish ’n’ chips here but fare is a cut above normal pub grub. A simple but tasty salt-baked beetroot with apple and pine nuts (£6.50) was followed by partridge, celeriac mash and kale cooked so beautifully I had to ask how they did it (£17.50). Finish it off with a brownie – you’ve done the Devil’s Dyke hike to justify it, after all. 

TRAVEL FACTS

The three blackbirds Woodditton, Cambridgeshire. B&B from £100 per night. For more information visit threeblackbirds.co.uk. 

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