THE long haul up Danbury Hill, along what is now the A414, must have been exhausting in the days of horse-drawn traffic.

Ramblers can empathise with those horses, and the drivers trying to tug them up the hill.

To compensate, there are regular inns to offer refreshment to man, horse, and, these days, ravenous ramblers. The most magnificent, architecturally, is the Griffin, a timber-framed Elizabethan building which looks more like a manor house than an inn.

It’s greatest claim to historic fame is the fact the great novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott stayed there. As a young writer, he had been commissioned to complete a book called Queenhoo Hall, by a local writer who had died suddenly.

The first reference to food at the Griffin comes at this stage. Sir Walter, good Scotsman, asked for porridge for his breakfast. He was given a dusty answer: “Sir, here oats are strictly for horses.”

Until recently, the Griffin was a traditional village boozer, and something of an antiques emporium, full of old tables and chairs. Now the furniture is modern and the food ambitious.

The Griffin is very much a gastro pub. Even if you only want a pint and a packet of crisps, it is worth reading the menu. Feast your eyes, for instance, on “duck egg and chunky chips, rabbit and hazelnut terrine, Sicilian artichoke pizza,” or “goat’s cheese and herb mousse.”

One small mystery remains. For hundreds of years, the pub was known as the Griffin’s Head. At some stage, it lost the most important part of its anatomy.

What happened to the Griffin’s Head? Given the scale and ambition of the pub’s menu, it probably ended up as a chef’s dish of the day, served with a white truffle dressing.