The Major’s Retreat (Tormarton, UK)

Our last night of hiking the Cotswold Way had us hike through some rather scenic areas, including Hawkesbury Upton, Little Sodbury (with another nice Iron Age fort: a “Bury”), and Old Sodbury. After stopping in Old Sodbury at the very pleasant Old Dog Inn for a pint of beer, we then crossed the splendidly beautiful and manicured Dodington Park, which is now owned by James Dyson (of vacuum cleaner fame). And then we found ourselves pulling into one of the last towns on our walk, Tormarton.

Tormarton is a very quant little village with stone buildings and a very impressive older church (St Mary Magdalene, which predates the Norman Conquest), and even a healthy selection of B&Bs, most of which caters to the Cotswold Way hiking crowd. What it doesn’t have is a lot of dining options: Our B&B didn’t offer dinner, and the town really has only two restaurants, one in the hotel just outside of town, and the pub. So, we took off our boots, put on our town shoes, and headed in to The Major’s Retreat, the local pub.

The Major’s Retreat is not a fancy pub, it’s one of those quiet, cozy, comfortable neighborhood pub. It’s not aspiring to be a gastropub either, with a menu based on traditional pub fare and simple Italian dishes, plus the obligatory curry. And while it had a few decent local brews like Uley on tap, most of the beer list was fairly plain. But what it does have is a great publican, Roy. Roy is welcoming to everyone coming through the doors, and is well aware that a good fraction of his patrons (about half of the customers when we were there) are hiking the Cotswold Trail, and he’s quite good at giving both trail directions, editorial comments on the various Cotswold Way hiking guides and maps (“The ordnance maps, while nice, show you a good half dozen pubs on the trail between here and Bath. Well, I’ve got news for you… none of them are open”), and handy suggestions for places for refreshment (“Between here and Bath, the official trial is basically a culinary wasteland, but there’s a nice little bakery off-trail”). All around, a very pleasant and helpful host.

And as I mentioned, the menu is basically “pub fare”, but I’ll have to say, Roy and his kitchen staff are doing some good works. Starting with our soup of the day, a pleasantly chunky tomato soup served up with a generous slab of crusty bread, this was a great way to recover from the drizzly and misty weather outside.

Moving on, for our mains, while I was momentarily tempted by the unusual “turkey curry” special, we each ended up getting a slice of the daily meat pie (beef and mushroom), and here it didn’t disappoint, either. To quote Roy, “Some places will just give you a bit of beef stew with a chunk of puff pastry on it and call it a meat pie, but this is the real deal with both top and bottom crusts). And I’ll have to say, this was a rather enjoyable meat pie: a good crust, a moist but firm filling, and a nice gravy tying it all together.

And finally, dessert: a nicely done orange-soaked sponge: a nicely-textured English-style sponge cake, served up soaked hot, tasty, and not overly sweet orange sauce, and then covered with a pleasant custard. I’m not usually a great fan of British desserts, but this is the example of one of the more pleasant British dessert items.

Taking it all into account, the Major’s Retreat was a fine pub: good classic pub food, a nice cozy environment, and a very helpful publican that’s trying to help you out with food, drink, and advice. What’s not to love?

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