By Sandy Zimmerman
(Photos by Sandy Zimmerman)
When we arrived at the charming, 400 year old Alvanley Arms Coaching Inn, their coat of arms and large wagon of flowers immediately attracted our attention. What a beautiful setting in the Cheshire countryside! The owners, Alistair and Janet King told us about the ghost of Ruth Ellis (the last woman to be hanged in England) rumored to be seen around the Inn’s halls and in the stables. She is said to be looking for her lover with whom she stayed at the Inn. We were happy not to see Ruth’s ghost during our stay and had a chance to inquire about the Inn’s past. That was the time of England’s harsh justice, sending people to prison for such minor crimes as keeping a greyhound, taking timber, or ploughing land. It was mentioned in the Quarter Sessions, in 1602, the landlord was fined for lodging rogues, lewd and wandering persons. In 1969, Alistair became Innkeeper as the youngest licensee in the country at the age of 20.
The character of a historic inn creates the feeling of the past! The Oak beams on the ceiling, the traditional pub, log fire and memorabilia add to the excitement of being there. You can see Alistar and Janet’s love for Shire Horses everywhere! Pictures of their horses and award winning ribbons hang in the bar as well as a picture of HRH Prince Charles when he was at the village last year.
The main place to visit is the adjacent Cotebrook Shire Horse Centre & Country Park, named “Visitor Attraction of the Year.” Alistair is proud of his award winning champion Shire Horses, the Centre is a breeding farm and exhibition center open to the public. They have been breeding prize winning Shires for over 35 years, the largest breed of horses in the world. Visitors see the Stallions, Mares and Foals while they learn the art of braiding the show horses’ hair and their history from carrying knights in armor to modern times. Alistar showed one Shire Horse 27 times and it won each time. Do these horses work? Alistar remarked, “If you have Miss World, you do not have her doing washing and ironing. The Shire Horses are too good to work, just meant to breed. From the day I pull it out of its mother, I know the foal is going to be a champion.” Each horse has a story and Alistar is happy to tell everybody.
Even if you go to the Alvanley Arms Inn for lunch or dinner, it is worth the trip. Mike’s medallions of pork filet on a bed of sweet apple chutney coated with brandy and sage sauce and my Cajun chicken were so delicious, it was hard to believe there was such a fine dining restaurant in the country!
Guests can wander around 50 acres of nature trails to see wildlife and farm animals. Have a picnic by the lake among the ducks and hens. The Alvanley Arms Inn is in the Cheshire countryside, near the Cotebrook Village, 10 miles from Chester, 30 miles from Manchester, and 30 miles from Liverpool. Their seven individually decorated luxury rooms have views of the countryside. firstname.lastname@example.org www.cotebrookshirehorses.co.ukwww.alvanleyarms.co.uk