Bourton-on-the-Water advertises its charming English quaintness in a perfect, one-to-nine town replica, complete with signage and living greenery.
In the insistently charming Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water, there is one World War I memorial, one bird sanctuary, but four Kingsbridge Inns. That’s quite a few Kingsbridges, even in England, where pubs’ names often sound like they were dreamed up by an uninspired Mad Libs player with limited combinations of King’s-, Queen’s-, Lion’s-, and -Arms, -Head, et cetera. With so many Kingsbridges, one might suspect fierce loyalties among the townspeople, or age-old rivalries between the proprietors, but the odds are diminished by the fact that only one Kingsbridge is large enough to stand in. The other three don’t even serve drinks. The smallest is about the size of a Monopoly house.
The lone, ordinarily proportioned Kingsbridge Inn overlooks the River Windrush, a foot-deep dribble wending through the town, which looks as if it could be the main attraction in an Anglophilic water park, with a drove of bored kids on inner tubes soon to round the bend after the next flock of mallards. The inn is owned and operated by Marston’s, a brewing and pub-operating behemoth that commandeers more than seventeen hundred pubs in the UK. The local residents, at least according to a tipsy and garrulous patron I meet named Gavin, prefer the Kingsbridge to Bourton’s other pubs, which lends it a strange sense of authenticity despite its corporate ownership—rendered authentic precisely because Bourton’s tourists are attracted to its more outwardly authentic competitors.
From the adult-size Kingsbridge, where Gavin bids me a boozy farewell, the Windrush (which lends Bourton its bathetic nickname, the “Venice of the Cotswolds”) trickles alongside more restaurants, pubs, knickknack shops, and tearooms, before flowing past the perplexingly named Old New Inn. It’s here that, if you’re willing to fork over a reasonable £3.60, you will find the other three Kingsbridge Inns: in Bourton-on-the-Water’s model village.