Fancy a chukka? Try a spot of polo at the gorgeous Cirencester Park Polo Club with a day at their academy. Perfect rounded off with a stay at the cosy and charming Kings Head Hotel in the heart of the Cotswold’s prettiest market town.
My newfound coordination went to pot when astride one of the academy’s gorgeous horses. Just managing to hit a ball at a lazy walk took extreme concentration, although once we were cantering I was having too much fun to mind if my aim wasn’t the best. Luckily, Tim still rewarded me for my hard work with a gallop around the club’s wonderful leafy grounds, and I’d sign up for another lesson in a second – the session is a dream for anyone who misses being in the saddle, and even non-riders can grab a stick and try their shooting skills.
After a lesson you’re free to enjoy the afternoon’s games from the club’s lovely clubhouse. Cirencester is the most historic club in the UK, sat in an enviable 3000 acres of lush parkland and woodland, yet it feels relaxed and friendly, full of people picnicking in the grass and watching play from the sidelines. Observing a match after a morning learning the basics gives you a new respect for the skill of the pros – they guide their steeds into battle fearlessly and move incredibly gracefully around the ball and other players, all at a breakneck gallop. No wonder the ponies get swapped every quarter.
A morning cantering about and cheering from sidelines is pretty tiring. Luckily, charming Cirencester is only three miles away, and in its heart is a cosy treat of a hotel to flop in. The King’s Head is, on first impression, rather modern and sleek, full of eyecatching design in warm Cotswolds creams and tan, with fat sofas to sink into and a sumptuous paneled restaurant to sup in.
Look more closely, though, and you’ll see the building’s past as a Roman dwelling and as a bustling 14th century coaching inn on show. The hotel has been warming weary travellers for decades – King Charles II is even said to have once popped in for refreshment. Rooms have gorgeous exposed beams, there are ancient mosaics on show and downstairs is a warren of brick cellars beautifully restored and now full of quirky old finds, including a rather spooky iron maiden. A lovely little spa hides in the arches, kitted out with saunas, a hot tub and a chill-out room draped with furry throws. I can’t imagine anything more relaxing for tired riding muscles than a massage in a cosy little cavern of a treatment room.
If you can tear yourself away from the cocoon of the King’s Head for a wander, the streets of Cirencester are perfect for getting lost in, and are full of boutique shops, narrow cobbled streets and countless picture-book cottages festooned in flowers. There’s also a stately park, the Bathurst Estate, to explore.
Make sure you leave time for dinner back at the hotel. I think solo trips to romantic inns might be my new guilty pleasure – dinner with a good book and a cocktail in hand in the King’s Head’s elegant, blue velvet-ed dining room is bound to make you feel like the heroine of a 1940s novel on a secret mission. Well, at least until you head off to your room to collapse into your enormous, feathery white bed. Bliss.
The Polo Package at The King’s Head, Cirencester is from £240 (£140 B&B with polo £100 pp for a lesson) with additional guests £100. Includes:
-Welcome briefing with tea, coffee and biscuits at Cirencester Polo Academy.
-Three hours of polo instruction with all horse and equipment hire.
-VIP tickets to access the members clubhouse and grandstand to watch the professional polo games in the afternoon.
-Overnight accommodation at The King’s Head in the heart of Cirencester with a full Cotswold breakfast the next morning.
-Quote ‘Polo Mint’ on booking. Valid for Sunday nights only.