Everyone works up such a frenzy about the Olde Bell Inn (me included) and it’s certainly not without merit, I assure you. All rush matting, peeling paint and bartenders wearing suspenders without irony, it’s the single best inn experience I’ve ever had, period. But its sister inn, The Crown–just 20 minutes away by car–is pretty spectacular, too. Owned by Tej and Sarina Dhillon and designed (in the same modern coaching inn vernacular) by UK designer Ilse Crawford, there are a lot of aesthetic similarities, starting with the peacock fabric-upholstered fireside armchair and creaky, worn floorboards. With the same High Wycombe chairs, the same (belted) Welch woolly blankets, the same liberal smattering of sheepskins, it’s a near replica tucked inside a slightly newer skin. Because it’s only about 500 years old, a spring chicken compared to the oldest coaching inn in England–the Olde Bell’s claim to fame. The Crown is famous for something else: It’s the recognizable location of Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Two years ago almost to the day, we spent an extra-long weekend visiting both, a trip that provides endless fond memories of gray skies, cozy fireside pints and chilly November walks. You won’t want to leave the inn (especially if you have a room with a soaking tub), but trust me on this one: Make sure to wander beyond Amersham’s cluster of tony shops and restaurants. Just beyond the town square, we discovered a walking trail that begins behind the 12th-century stone church of St. Mary’s, where bright green moss-encrusted tombstones and craggy trees look less Bronte (than the Olde Bell’s moors), more Sleepy Hollow. The footpath follows along a small stream into a forest of tall trees and gigantic holly bushes before splintering off into a handful of paths. We pick the right one, and standing above the town at dusk (sunset: 4:15pm in November), the small lights twinkle an outline of the town and everything is perfect.