White Hart Inn

The Square, Stow-on-the-Wold, GL54 1AF, United Kingdom
The White Hart Stow
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More about Stow on the Wold


House in the villageHouse in the village

11th century evidence.11th century evidence.

Old coaching inn, with arch.Old coaching inn, with arch.

Sezincote orangerySezincote orangery

Travel Tips for Stow on the Wold

'Where the wind blows cold.'

by leics

I hadn't been to Stow for decades, so decided to pay a visit on a sunny mid-October Saturday.

I already knew the Cotswolds were hugely popular with visitors (from the UK as well as from abroad), that they make a good daytrip from London.......and that many of those who live there are pretty well-off (has been the same since Roman times).

But I was surprised by the sheer number of visitors in what I thought would be low season, and by the myriad of antique shops, art galleries, tea shops, designer clothes chops etc etc which made up by far the majority of the retail outlets I saw. Goodness knows where the local ordinary folk go shopping: presumably at the nearest supermarket (there's one at Moreton-in-the-Marsh).

But yes, it is pretty. There's a huge amount of history attached to the Cotswold (from prehistory onwards) and Stow, like other Cotswolds towns and villages, still has a visible past.

Stow grew as a market town, mainly for sheep, set on a hill (hence the cold wind in the traditional rhyme). It stands at the junction of seven major roads, including the Roman Fosse Way (which runs from Leicester to Cirencester, and down which I drove) and must, in its day, have been a most impressive place.

The market square is enormous, with narrower streets and alleyways ('tures') leading up to it so that livestock could be handled more easily. It is said that over 20000 sheep changed hands during one market during the 1800s. There were horse fairs too, and these have long replaced the sheep market. Two of them still survive, held in May and October. Many travelling folk (Irish and Roma) attend these, as they are great horse-traders in the UK (and Ireland).

The rather lovely church, St Edward's, dates from the 11th - 15th centuries and reflects the wealth of the town with its impressive 14th century bell tower. It is a 'proper' English church, built (as are most of the old buildings in Stow) of the honey-coloured Cotswold limestone, with yew trees in the churchyard and Medieval carvings inside. It's worth taking the time to go in: as with all such churches, the silence you experience on closing the outside door is almost tangible. Do walk round the outside to see the wonderful ancient yew trees, planted right by by the north-facing door to ward off evil spirits. Read some of the gravestones too: they are always fascinating. More about the church in my travelogue.

Stow was also important as a coaching town. Many of the pubs/inns have an archway through which coaches and horses passed. At the rear there would be stables, and tired horses could be exchanged for new ones whilst the passengers revived themselves at the inn (or stayed the night, if the journey was a long one).

So......Stow is still worth a visit to admire its architecture, to wander its streets and explore its church. Maybe to take tea (or a pint) in one of the many tea-rooms and inns as well.

But best to do it out of season, I think. It was busy enough with visitors when I visited (and parking was a nightmare): goodness knows what it must be like on a summer weekend!

St Edward's

by leics

I like English churches.

I like exploring them, to see what remains of their Medieval (and, sometimes, earlier) past.

I particularly like it when I find evidence of 'pagan' beliefs creeping into a Christian place of worship. We know that many early churches in the UK were built on pagan ritual sites (a deliberate policy to make converts) and we know that whilst many ordinary folk were 'Christian' (for they had no choice) pagan beliefs lingered for centuries.

You will find carvings of the 'green man' (a symbol of fertility) in many English churches: he peers out through his leaves in cathedrals too. Was he supposed to be there, part of the design plan......or did the master masons and their workers decide it was a good idea to put him there, just in case?

You'll find yew tress in ancient churchyards too.they are supposed to prevent people from letting their animals graze in the churchyard (yes is deadly poisonous, both berries and leaves)....but yew is also a magical tree, with great importance in pagan ritual. 'Hedging our bets', perhaps?

St Edward's is a big church, reflecting the wealth of the town at the time it was built. There was almost certainly a Saxon wooden church oin the site beforehand, but what you see now dates partly from its origin as a stone building in the 11th century and partly from later Medieval times.The impressive tower was built in 1447.

Inside, in the silence created by thick walls and ceturies of worship, you can find just one or two remanats of what once was. Look up:the corbels supporting the roof beams are Medieval carvings. You can see a woman with a classic early Medieval head-dress, an old man..........and a couple of very strange and rather scary gargoyles. Fighting off those evil spirits again?

There are one or two other early Medieval carvings remaining at a lower level (it's hard to take photos of those high up in the roof).

And this one is tucked away behind the organ.

When they were doing some renovations they discovered some fragments of floor tile from tile from the earliest (Norman) church. These are now set into the wall by the altar.

If you walk round the church you can see evidence of the very earliest stone church, dating from the 11th century. It's the rougher stonework on either side of the (much) later window.

But the best (for me) was to come on the north side. That's the side that the Devil can enter the church.....but not in Stow. All English churchyards have yew trees, but I have never seen them planted so deliberately right next to the north door, as in the photo............they obviously wanted to make absolutely certain the devil wasn't going to come into their church!

A close-up of the door to finish.

I think it is entirely wonderful.

I love the idea that a Christian church thought it needed more protection from the devil, and wanted to use pagan magic.

It made my day!


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 White Hart Inn

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White Hart Hotel Stow-on-the-wold

Address: The Square, Stow-on-the-Wold, GL54 1AF, United Kingdom