pub of the season - autumn 2021
the folly inn, napton
There is an introduction on the Folly website which says it all:
"There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn." So said Dr Samuel Johnson in 1776 and 245 years later this still rings true.
So what do we think makes a ‘good tavern or inn’, in other words ‘a real pub’? It's an essential part of the community; it's where friends choose to meet and relax; where you can choose to enjoy either a quiet drink or have fun with your friends; where regulars and newcomers are given an equally warm welcome, and where you can always rely on good beer, wines, spirits and excellent wholesome food.
That's why we describe the Folly at Napton as a real pub.
The Folly at Napton must be one of the most famous pubs on the cut.
On the banks of the Oxford Canal, the pub is set well back from the waterside and yet remains one of the most favoured stopping off places for boaters.
The pub certainly has a reputation for good food, real ale, fine wines and such like. And the interior of the pub is cosy, with roaring fires and absolutely choc a block full of curios - walls smothered with pictures, ceilings strung with instruments, helmets, antiques. It seems as though the tables are fitted in almost as an afterthought.
But perhaps one of the major attractions is the dominant presence of the landlord, Mark. With his handlebar moustache, waistcoats, neckerchief and welcoming smile, he must be one of the true characters of the cut.
Mark is always ready to welcome friends and strangers alike, and perhaps tell a few jokes or even perform a few magic tricks. He is a born entertainer and will not hesitate to get up and sing with a band on open mic night.
Mark is very ably supported by his partner Caroline who provides the artistic touch and is certainly responsible for the hand written notice boards and the mass of potted plants.
Many boaters will remember the 'field' outside the pub, where at one time a stage was erected to enable live music to be performed. Well that's gone. And in it's place, what can only be described as a floral village of cosy marquees. Mark and Caroline have not been idle during the Covid lockdowns.
Caroline explained that due to Covid restrictions, they had to lose half of the tables in the pub itself. As the rooms are small anyway, this meant that they could hardly fit in enough people to make opening worthwhile. So they began to create an outdoor/indoor eating area which would enable them to boost customer numbers, at least during the warmer months.
Somehow they have managed to include a long bar, plus a large function room at the back which is used on Wednesday nights at the moment for an Open Mic and Ukulele Night. It must be through the artistic skills of Caroline and her ability with potted plants that the marquees do not look or feel like marquees, but instead provide cosy and intimate spaces.
The Potting Shed
Mark and Caroline's ideas did not end with the village of Marquees. No - they have built an enormous, balconied shed - which looks stunning from both outside and inside.
Caroline told me that the idea behind the Potting Shed was to create an indoor area which could be used in any season as a supplement to the seating within the pub - more or less compensating fully for the reduced seating allowed in the pub itself.
They could, of course, have put in a bar and a few tables. But we know already that that is not how Mark and Caroline like to do things. The result is astonishingly beautiful, with the themed creation of areas for pots, plants, garden tools, and carefully thought out seating areas.
Not only has the Potting Shed created another beautiful area in which to eat or drink, but the overall effect is that the combination of the garden area, marquees and the Potting Shed have given a unity to the area. Wherever you sit, you are part of what is going on, and there is a continual buzz of voices, all adding to an incredible atmosphere.
The pub itself is closed for now, because everyone is choosing to enjoy the new outdoor area. But it mustn't be forgotten, and will undoubtedly come into its own again at Christmas, when Mark and Caroline will be offering great food in an unrivalled festive setting.
Mark and Caroline will always hold a welcome for you at the Folly Pub, Napton. There are plenty of moorings nearby, and a very ample carpark if you are visiting from further afield. You can expect the very best in food, drink, company and live entertainment.
We are very glad that we called in to the Folly once again, and are amazed at how much it has grown (grown, not changed) since we were last here. We can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone - definitely one of our very favourite pubs of all time!