The 50 Best: Pubs - A Drinker's Guide To The Best Of British

Britain's pubs come into their own in the summer months, when rain-lashed gardens are transformed (briefly) into Mediterranean suntraps. So for this week's 50 Best, we asked Alisdair Aird, editor of The Good Pub Guide 1999, to come up with a list of his favourites, and a few suggestions on how to turn a quiet drink into a glorious day out. Enjoy!

n 10 BEST CITY PUBS

n 10 BEST COUNTRY PUBS

n 10 BEST PUBS FOR FAMILIES

n 10 BEST RIVERSIDE PUBS

n 10 BEST SEASIDE PUBS

THE GOOD PUB GUIDE

Now in its 17th year, the highly respected Good Pub Guide (Ebury Press, pounds 14.99) selects the best 5,000 town and country pubs in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands, all described county by county. Based on more than 45,000 annual reader reports, which are backed up by anonymous inspections from the editorial team, the guide is entirely independent - no free hospitality or paid-for entries are accepted. With excellent cross-referenced maps to point you in the right direction, the Good Pub Guide 1999 is the essential companion for every discerning pub-goer.

1

BRIDGE HOTEL, NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE

A traditional beer-drinkers' pub, one local devotee assures us. It comprises a large, high-ceilinged room divided into several areas designed for comfortable socialising. There are tables outdoors on the flagstoned terrace at the back, which has fantastic views of the Tyne, its magnificent bridges and the old city wall. A good venue for live music, and very popular with students. Where: Castle Garth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (0191-232 6400).

What to do nearby: fantastic shopping in the city, and don't miss the castle.

2

THE BELL INN, BERKS

A marvellous place to start or finish a walk, this unspoilt 14th-century free house has been run by the same family for more than 200 years. The quiet, old-fashioned garden is lovely in summer, plus there's occasional entertainment from a troupe of Morris dancers. It gets pretty busy at weekends with a good mix of customers, but there's always a warm welcome in the bar, where service comes through a glass-panelled hatch rather than over the bar counter. Where: Aldworth, nr Reading, Berks (01635 578272). What to do nearby: the Downs are excellent for long or short walks.

3

THE OLDE GLOBE, DEVON

Children are made welcome in this rambling 13th-century pub - there's a playframe and ball pool inside, and an activity house in the garden. The dimly lit, homely rooms have low ceilings, curved deep-ochre walls, and floors of flagstones of ancient lime-ash embedded with silver coins. The crazy-paved front terrace has some old-fashioned garden seats. Where: Berrynarbor, Devon (01271 882465).

What to do nearby: the Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park at Ilfracombe offers 20 acres of family fun in a woodland setting.

4

THE SWAN, ESSEX

Parts of this old, timbered pub - in a fabulous setting, with the River Colne running through the garden - date back to 1390. Fresh fish is the speciality here, with treats such as rock eel, plaice, haddock and trout appearing on the reasonably priced menu. The sheltered, cobbled courtyard is a suntrap with a continental feel: parasols, flower-filled tubs, and French street signs. Gas heaters have been installed to extend its use beyond the summer season.

Where: Chappel, Essex (01787 222353).

What to do nearby: train buffs should head for the Railway Centre, just a few minutes' walk away.

5

OLDE SHIP, NORTHUMBERLAND

Very much a fisherman's local, this bar is a treasure-trove of seafaring memorabilia. Peer through the clear window (the others have stained-glass sea pictures) or take a pew on the battlemented terrace for views across to the Farne Islands and Longstones lighthouse. The cabin bar and dining room are no-smoking, with good-value bar food or a three-course dinner. Note that The Good Pub Guide deems it not really suitable for children.

Where: Seahouses, Northumberland (01665 720200). What to do nearby: book boat trips to Farne Bird Sanctuary at the harbour; or go for a bracing coastal walk to Bamburgh, birthplace of 19th-century sailors' heroine Grace Darling.

6

SHIP ON THE SHORE, EDINBURGH

Easy to spot by the intricate ship model that serves as its sign, this lovely old pub is in the heart of Edinburgh's newly fashionable dockland area. Tables outside allow you to enjoy the late evening sun in summer, or sit inside among the nautical paraphernalia and old painted signs for companies like Podgie Mullen, fishmonger and greengrocer. It's well regarded for food, with an emphasis on locally caught fish and seafood. Where: 26 The Shore, Leith, Edinburgh (0131-555 0409). What to do nearby: see the decomissioned Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith docks, or, by contrast, the grungy flats featured in Trainspotting.

7

BARBON INN, LANCS

There's always a good mix of locals and visitors in this 17th-century coaching inn with a sheltered, prettily planted garden. Take your fill of its owners' hospitality, then walk off lunch with a stroll along one of the many tracks and paths leading up to the fells - the hospitable licensee may even provide a friendly dog to keep you company.

Where: Barbon, via Carnforth, Lancs (01524 276233).

What to do nearby: the inn is situated at the start of a beautiful drive to Dent.

8

THE PARKERS ARMS, LANCS

This delightfully located timbered pub has a well-stocked animal garden (pygmy goats, rabbits, pheasants, parrots) that will keep kids happy while their parents take in the view from picnic tables overlooking the river and hills beyond. Generous helpings of bar food might include soup, sandwiches and ploughman's, and a wide choice of daily specials like home-made beef- and-ale pie.

Where: Newton, Lancs (01200 446236).

What to do nearby: head for Clitheroe, where the castle museum will keep children occupied with reconstructions of bygone days - peer into old printers' and cloggers' shops.

9

THE BULL'S HEAD, W4

The original building on this site served as Cromwell's HQ in the Civil War. It was here that Moll Cutpurse overheard him discussing troops' pay coming from Hounslow, and intercepted the loot. Little rooms ramble through alcoves and up and down steps, and small windows look past hanging flower baskets to the river. It's busy at weekends, especially for the annual raft race (next one 10 Jul).

Where: Strand-on-the-Green, nr Kew Bridge, Chiswick, London W4 (0181- 994 1204).

What to do nearby: visit the Deer Park, Steam Museum or Kew Gardens, all a short drive away.

10

ROYAL OAK, HANTS

Charmingly placed on the edge of a landlocked natural harbour, this pub has fine views from seats on the terrace. Inside, the spacious, atmospheric flagstoned bar has windows from which you can see the ancient wadeway to Hayling Island. Morris dancers come to entertain drinkers in the summer, and there are good coastal paths nearby. Be warned, though, that parking can be a problem.

Where: Langstone, Hants (01705 483125).

What to do nearby: good coastal walks nearby, and folk evenings take place on the first Wednesday of every month.

11

SPANIARDS INN, NW3

This authentically old-fashioned former tollhouse has tables on a paved terrace, opening on to a flagstoned walk around a small lawn. Admire the roses, wisteria and clematis, even an aviary, before tucking into bar food such as sausages with leek mash, fish and chips or chargrilled salmon steaks; on Sundays, they just do a roast. Beware that parking can be difficult owing to the pub's proximity to Hampstead Heath. Where: Spaniards Lane, Hampstead, London NW3 (0181-731 6571).

What to do nearby: walk on the Heath, or visit the Iveagh Bequest art collection at Kenwood House.

12

THE ROSELAND, CORNWALL

This charming little pub with a low-beamed bar and antique seats draws a mixed crowd and creates a good, chatty atmosphere. In fine weather, the pretty, paved front courtyard is a lovely place to sit beneath the cherry blossom and linger in the lunchtime sunshine. A small outdoor play area will occupy the children as you tuck into the pub's popular home-cooked food, which features dishes such as shoulder of lamb wth rosemary and thyme gravy or simply sandwiches and ploughmen's lunches. Where: Philleigh, Cornwall (01872 580254).

What to do nearby: take a trip on the King Harry ferry, or wander round Trellissick Gardens.

13

COOMBE CELLARS, DEVON

Big, bustling family pub open all day - and serving food all day - with plenty of diversions for kids, including an indoor play area, a children's menu, "fun" days and parties, an outside play galleon and a fenced-in playground. The place is in a delightful estuary setting, with tables on pontoons, jetties and big terraces; or you can dive into the roomy, comfortable bar adorned with sporting and nautical bric-a-brac. The disabled facilities here are good, says The Good Pub Guide. Where: Combeinteignhead, Devon (01626 872423).

What to do nearby: Dartmouth Castle enjoys a dramatic position jutting out into the narrow Dart estuary; or why not get the whole family to try out some of the watersports on offer around here?

14

THE BOAT, GLOS

The Boat has been in the same family since it was granted a licence by Charles II, and the charming landladies work hard at preserving the unique character of this gentle, unspoilt old cottage. It occupies a lovely spot on the bank of the River Severn, with a sunny, paved courtyard, bright with plant tubs in summer: sit at the picnic tables under parasols, or under cover at the sides. There are usually good rolls available, and ploughmen's lunches with home-made chutney at lunchtimes during the week. Where: Ashleworth Quay, Glos (01452 700272).

What to do nearby: park at the medieval tithe barn - it's quite striking to look around - and walk from there to the pub.

15

THE SHIP, FIFE

The setting of this welcoming harbourside pub is hard to beat, overlooking Elie's broad sands, which serve as the pitch for the pub's cricket team in summer. The beamed bar has a lively nautical feel, as well as friendly locals and staff, and lovely panelled walls hung with old prints and maps. Good bar food includes fresh local haddock, Scottish steaks, and traditional Sunday lunch, and beers include Belhaven Best and Theakstons Best. If you can't tear yourself away, book in at the guesthouse next door and get concessions on the pub's food and wine. Where: Harbour, Elie, Fife (01333 330246).

What to do nearby: golden beaches, golf and watersports are all on hand, or try looking for garnets at Ruby Bay.

16

PROSPECT OF WHITBY, E1

Built in 1520, this pub has a rich history: it was once known as the Devil's Tavern, thanks to its popularity with smugglers; Turner came here to study its glorious Thames views; Pepys and Dickens were both frequent visitors; and, in the 17th century, the notorious Hanging Judge Jeffreys was able to combine two of his interests by enjoying a drink in the waterside courtyard overlooking Execution Dock. Basic bar meals are served, with a fuller menu in the upstairs restaurant, and there's modern jazz on the first Wednesday of every month. Where: Wapping Wall, London E1 (0171-481 1095). What to do nearby: walk through ancient, cobble-stoned Wapping to Tower Bridge, and visit the Tower of London.

17

POT KILN, BERKS

Described by The Good Pub Guide as "unpretentious and cottagey", the Pot Kiln is a very friendly place, with a big suntrap of a garden. Picnic tables enjoy good views of the surrounding woods and countryside, which make for an excellent dog-walking area - dogs are allowed in the public bar on a lead. Well-behaved children are also admitted in the back room and public bar (presumably off leads), and there is Irish music played here most Sunday evenings Where: Frilsham, near Yattendon, Berks (01635 201366).

What to do nearby: the Corn Exchange arts centre in Newbury offers top- quality music, contemporary dance and theatre events.

18

THE CHESWOLD, S YORKS

Staff here are "friendly and efficient", according to The Good Pub Guide: which is just as well considering the hordes of youngsters that flock here. While grown-ups relax over a few drinks, children can enjoy a host of diversions: there's a big playroom and outdoor play area, plus a children's shop and a mini leisure park, and special events all year round. Where: Leisure Park, Herten Way, Doncaster, South Yorks (01302 533000).

What to do nearby: families will also enjoy the Doncaster Bowl ten-pin bowling centre, which boasts 24 lanes and the latest hi-tech computer scoring.

19

THE INN AT WHITEWELL, LANCS

This country-house hotel is set deep in the Forest of Bowland, surrounded by wooded rolling hills against higher moors. It houses a wine merchant (hence the excellent selection of bottles) and an art gallery, and owns several miles of trout, salmon and sea-trout fishing on the Hodder; with notice, they'll arrange shooting. It gets very busy, but is spacious enough to stay peaceful. Down a corridor lined with strange objects like a stuffed fox is the pleasant, sunny garden, with wonderful views down to the valley. Very highly praised bar food, as well as coffee and cream teas served all day. Where: Whitewell, Lancs (01200 448222).

What to do nearby: fishing and shooting (see above), walking in the Forest of Bowland.

20

DUKE OF YORK, WHITBY

At the foot of the famous 199 Steps leading from the abbey, this bustling, popular pub overlooks the harbour entrance and the western cliff. The comfortable, beamed lounge bar is decked out with fishing memorabilia, and offers a wide choice of good-value local fish: there might be fresh crab sandwiches or fresh cod fillets, as well as leek-and-stilton bake or chicken tikka masala (children's meals available). Wash these down with Black Dog Abbey Ale (brewed in Whitby). Where: Church Street, Harbour East Side, Whitby, North Yorks (01947 600324).

What to do nearby: Whitby has famous associations with Bram Stoker and Captain Cook - visit the latter's heritage museum.

21

THE IMPERIAL, EXETER

To get to this sumptuous place, you have to pass by the gated lodge and up a sweeping drive. It was built in 1801 as a private mansion, and stands in a six-acre park, with plenty of picnic tables in the grounds and elegant, metal garden furniture in a cobbled courtyard. Inside, an island bar looks into the house's former orangery. The furnishings offer Wetherspoons' customary solid, well-spaced comfort, and there are plenty of interesting artefacts to admire. Low-priced beer and a good selection of bar meals are available, but beware that under-18s are not admitted. Where: New North Road, Exeter (01392 434050). What to do nearby: indulge in the local summer delicacy - Devonshire ice cream topped with clotted cream.

22

CRICKETERS ARMS, EAST SUSSEX

With an unhurried atmosphere, this delightful, unspoilt old flint cottage has universal appeal. "Sound and simple" is how The Good Pub Guide describes the food served here. The old-fashioned garden is very pretty, with plenty of mature flowering shrubs and plants, lots of picnic tables, both in front of and behind the building, and little brick paths - idyllic on a sunny summer's day.

Where: Lower Road, Berwick, East Sussex (01323 870469).

What to do nearby: the wall paintings in the nearby church, some the work of the Bloomsbury group during the Second World War, are worth a look if you fancy a stroll after lunch.

23

THE OTTER, DEVON

Even when really busy, this rambling pub keeps its happy, relaxed atmosphere. Ducks often fly in to explore the sizeable lawn which runs down to the River Otter, with picnic tables among the pretty climbing plants, hanging baskets and flowering tubs. A veritable library exists off the main bar, offering plenty of reading material plus a selection of games. Young guests enjoy a warm welcome: there's a special menu for children (those in high- chairs get a free meal), plus a rocking-horse, a climbing frame and a slide in the garden. Where: Weston, Devon (01404 42594). What to do nearby: Woodlands Leisure Park has 12 outstanding Playzones, four of them for pre-schoolers; plus a falconry centre and animals galore.

24

THE MALTSTERS ARMS, DEVON

In a lovely spot by a peaceful, wooded creek, with tables by the water and moorings for boats, this is a place where you can pop in for a pint or a glass of wine without feeling obliged to eat. But the food is excellent, using the best of local produce (seafood from Brixham, game - even ostrich from a nearby farm). At lunchtime, there might be butternut squash and ginger soup, or rabbit casseroled in ale, and there are weekend barbecues in summer. Where: Tuckenhay, Devon (01803 732350).

What to do nearby: take time out to explore the glorious south-Devon countryside.

25

PANDORA, CORNWALL

The sheltered waterfront position of this charming medieval thatched pub is irresistible; in fine weather, sit at picnic tables on the long, floating jetty. People often arrive by boat, and there are showers available for visiting yachtsmen. The several rambling, interconnecting rooms are marvellously atmospheric, with low wooden ceilings, polished flagstones, cosy alcoves and a log fire (in a high hearth, in case of flooding). Bar food includes delicious local crab, fish pie and daily specials. Not surprisingly, Pandora gets crowded in summer, when parking can be difficult. Where: nr Mylor Bridge, Cornwall (01326 372678).

What to do nearby: just a few miles away is the maritime museum at Falmouth.

26

WINDSOR CASTLE, W8

Many London pubs promising a garden have, in truth, little more than a cramped backyard, so the big, tree-shaded area at this unchanging old place is a real draw in summer. There are lots of sturdy teak seats and tables on flagstones - move fast to bag one on a sunny day - as well as a brick garden bar, and a secluded feel within its high, ivy-covered walls. Food includes unusual sausages, and oysters and mussels. Usually fairly quiet at lunchtime, the pub often gets packed in the evenings with a smart, young, local crowd. Where: 114 Campden Hill Road, London W8 (0171-243 9551). What to do nearby: take a leaf out of Julia Roberts' book, and sample the delights of Notting Hill.

27

APPLECROSS INN, HIGHLAND

Wonderfully placed in a beautiful West Highlands bay, this small, friendly inn is busier than you might expect from the loneliness of the setting. Reached by a breathtaking drive over the Pass of the Cattle (one of the highest in Britain), Applecross is particularly well regarded for its food, which includes venison, lobster, crab and local oysters (you must book for the no-smoking restaurant). There is a pleasant garden with tables by the shore. Where: Applecross by Strathcarron, Ross-Shire, Highland (01520 744262).

What to do nearby: you won't run out of hills to climb in this part of the country.

28

WHITE LION, HERTS

Children visiting this 17th-century brick pub will spend many happy hours in its wooden play area, which is reached through the conifers in the garden, and is fully enclosed. There's also a bouncy castle, football nets (the football-playing dog is called Mr Bobby), and the satellite cartoon channel on the terrace in summer. The owners have recently added a smaller bouncy castle, a sandpit and a crawl-through tent. Grown-ups will appreciate the jugs of Pimms served all summer. Where: Walkern, Herts (01438 861251).

What to do nearby: Cromer Windmill, currently under restoration, offers guided tours and a video presentation.

29

ANCHOR, SUSSEX

Run by the same family for over 35 years, this cheerful pub by the River Ouse has waterside lawns, picnic tables, and barbecues in summer. In winter the approach road can flood, so they leave out a boat for transport. Inside, two tiny bars are decorated with motor trophies won by the landlord's late father (the Vintage Sports Car Club meets here). Bar food includes local pork sausages with onion gravy and poached halibut with citrus butter, plus there's a no-smoking restaurant featuring some local wines. A family room has toys and videos.

Where: Barcombe, Sussex (01273 400414).

What to do nearby: hire boats for the three-mile stretch of river through the meadows (pounds 3.20 an hour per adult, half price for children).

30

FISHERMANS COTTAGE, ISLE OF WIGHT

Just a few minutes' walk from Shanklin's busy Esplanade, this simple, thatched cottage is tucked into the cliffs and quite literally on Appley beach. It's a lovely walk here along the zigzagged path down the steep, sinuous chine - the beautiful gorge that was the area's original tourist attraction. Tables on the terrace soak up the sun by day, while later, moonlight shimmers on the lapping waves. There is wheelchair access, and children are welcome. Where: bottom of Shanklin Chine, Shanklin, Isle of Wight (01983 863822); closed out of season.

What to do nearby: visit the heritage centre here, which features exhibitions on the area.

31

FIDDLE & BONE, BIRMINGHAM

This remarkable converted schoolhouse beside a canal offers excellent live music every evening plus some weekend afternoons. Since it opened last year, nearly 600 bands have played in the main bar: mostly jazz, but also blues, soul, classical and folk. Some activities you can participate in; join in the weekly choir practice or salsa lessons (there's a charge for these). There are picnic tables outside, but you get a better view of the canal boats through the windows of a bar upstairs. Visit the pub's website (www.fiddle-bone.co.uk) for a list of forthcoming gigs. Where: 4 Sheepcote Street, Birmingham (0121-200 2223).

What to do nearby: if you've tired of singing and salsa-ing, visit the National Sea Life Centre.

32

THE FROG, BUCKS

A deserved reputation for excellent food draws most people here. Generous meals include lunchtime baguettes, warm tartlet of roast peppers, basil and mozzarella, pork loin with onions and mushrooms in a green peppercorn sauce, or baked marrow and ratatouille topped with goat's cheese. Through a gate at the side of the pub is a lovely garden centred on a large tree, with pentagon-shaped tables well placed for views of the valley. Where: Skirmett, Bucks (01491 638996).

What to do nearby: Henley is close by, making this a good place for refreshments on Regatta Day; and the windmill at Ibstone is an unusual treat for children.

33

THE WIGHT MOUSE, ISLE OF WIGHT

With a toddlers' play area, swings, slides, a bouncy castle, a junior adventure challenge, Shetland pony rides, a pets corner and even Punch and Judy shows in the spacious back garden, this rambling family pub is excellent value for an afternoon. And don't worry if it's raining - under- 12s can let off steam in the indoor play area (admission pounds 1), while adults amuse themselves in the pool room, complete with video games, a juke box, darts, dominoes, fruit machine and pinball. Where: Chale, Isle of Wight (01983 730431).

What to do nearby: Blackgang Chine Fantasy Park offers 40 acres of imaginative play areas, gardens and themed zones, plus a maze.

34

CHOLMONDELEY RIVERSIDE, SHROPSHIRE

This converted hotel has an emphasis on good, often rather unusual food. As well as home-made soups, you might find asparagus with smoked salmon and mousseline sauce, calf's liver fried with butter and sage, and puddings like hot, baked chocolate sponge with chocolate sauce. French windows lead out to tables in a perfectly positioned garden, overlooking a very pretty stretch of the Severn - in less clement conditions you can enjoy the same idyllic view from the conservatory.

Where: Cressage, Shropshire (01952 510900). What to do nearby: coarse fishing on the river costs pounds 4 a day, or is free if you're staying here.

35

GLENELG INN, HIGHLAND

Drive past heather-strewn peaks with spectacular loch views to Glenelg, the closest place on the mainland to Skye (there's a car ferry in summer). The welcoming bar feels a bit like a mountain cabin; there are few tables, but crates and fish boxes serve as extra seating. A blackboard lists good bar meals such as hoagies, chicken with haggis and whisky sauce, or baked salmon; evenings, there's an excellent three-course meal using fresh local produce. A good choice of malt and cask-strength whiskies. Sometimes fiddlers play in the bar. Where: Glenelg, Highland (01599 522273). What to do nearby: visit the historic Iron-Age Glenelg Brochs, or cross over to the Isle of Skye.

36

THE PERCH, OXFORD

Set in a big garden off a riverside meadow, this part-thatched pub is big and busy but well kept, with flagstones, stripped stone, high-backed settles as well as more modern seats, and a no-smoking eating area inside. Open all day in summer, The Perch has a good children's play area (and a giant chess set for everyone to enjoy), barbecues, a landing stage, and some attractive waterside walks. Where: Binsey Lane, Oxford (01865 240386).

What to do nearby: educate yourself by taking a guided walking tour around the historic university town.

37

THE HORSESHOE, N YORKS

This friendly inn has attractive gardens with pretty roses, mature redwoods and some comfortable seats on a quiet terrace and lawn beside a little stream with ducks, geese, and bantams. A large stuffed trout (caught near here in 1913) hangs proudly on the wall. Perhaps the best way to reach this beautifully situated pub is to park by the Roman Catholic church, walk through the village and cross the River Esk by stepping stones. Not to be confused with a similarly named pub at Egton. Where: Egton Bridge, North Yorks (01947 895245). What to do nearby: good walks and fishing are available on a daily ticket from Egton Estates.

38

THE BRIDGE, RATHO, LOTHIAN

All age groups enjoy this 18th-century pub, whose food, served all day by helpful, chatty staff, has good vegetarian and children's options, plus a range of dishes for those with smaller appetites. Adults can relax in the garden, by the partly restored Union Canal, while children run riot in the well-stocked play area. Unsurprisingly, The Bridge gets very busy in summer. Where: Baird Road, Ratho, west of Edinburgh (0131-333 1320). What to do nearby: take a trip on one of the pub's canal boats (catering for the disabled, among others), or visit Edinburgh Zoo, with over 1,000 animals, as well as the wonderful new African Plains experience.

39

THE WOODBRIDGE, WILTS

It's in the food area that this pub excels, with an enormous selection of dishes from around the world. In the early 1990s they were already ahead of the recent fad for Mexican food, and are still popular for their fajitas - spicy beef, chicken, vegetables or prawns in a skillet, served with hot tortillas and soured cream. Do book ahead for Sunday lunch. The huge garden, alongside the River Avon, has plenty of tables, boules pitches and a play area, plus space for a few tents or caravans. Where: North Newnton, Wilts (01980 630266).

What to do nearby: a day's fly-fishing here costs just pounds 25.

40

THE ANCHOR, DORSET

In a splendid position just a few steps from a cove, by the 617ft Golden Cap pinnacle, this well-run old inn almost straddles the Dorset Coast path. Seats and tables on the spacious front terrace are perfectly placed for stunning sea and cliff views, but get there pretty early in summer to bag a spot, as it can get ridiculously busy. Entertainments include darts, shove-ha'penny, table skittles, cribbage, dominoes and a fruit machine (summer only), while piped, mainly classical, music is supplemented by folk, blues or jazz on Sat and Wed in school holidays.

Where: Seatown, nr Chideock, Dorset (01297 489215). What to do nearby: head up the Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast, or along the coastal path.

41

WHITE CROSS, SURREY

This busy old pub enjoys a perfect riverside position that's delightful in summer. The paved garden in front is furnished with plentiful tables sheltered by a large, fairy-lit tree (identified by Kew Gardens as a rare Greek Whitebeam), and has an outside bar in summer. Make sure, when parking outside, that you know the tide times - it's not unknown for the water to rise up the steps into the bar, covering anything that gets in the way.

Where: Riverside, Water Lane, Richmond, Surrey (0181-940 6844).

What to do nearby: take a boat from immediately outside to Kingston or Hampton Court.

42

ROSE & CROWN, KENT

The welcoming licensees make sure that a visit to this flower-bedecked 16th-century farmhouse is an aesthetically pleasing experience. There's much attention to detail, with fresh flowers by the corner timbers in the central servery, hop vines strung from the beams, and a variety of old-fashioned corn-dolly work. It's a favourite haunt of the local TVR owners' club, which meets here for the first Sunday lunch of every month. The sizeable garden is full of flowers, plus a very good children's wooden play-frame, lots of picnic-sets, and a small aviary. Where: Selling, Kent (01227 752214).

What to do nearby: Canterbury, with its beautiful cathedral, is only a short drive away (even if your car isn't a TVR...).

43

THE CHEQUERS, ISLE OF WIGHT

This former Customs and Excise house has exceptionally good facilities for families - including a mother-and-baby room, a large no-smoking family room with a Lego table and colouring competitions, a separate building behind with table tennis and a ball pool, and a large play area, toboggan run and bouncy castle in the garden. It's all carefully designed so as to avoid the mayhem that large numbers of children can cause - they are restricted to one area of the pub itself. Views of the rolling downland are impressive. Where: Niton Road, Rookley, Isle of Wight (01983 840314). What to do nearby: climb the mound at Carisbrooke Castle, then explore its seven acres of grounds.

44

THE TROUT, OXON

Bustling and friendly, this Thames-side pub attracts a good mix of people. The small L-shaped, flagstoned bar has a good selection of real ales on handpump, plus several malt whiskies. Tasty bar food includes lunchtime snacks such as fish pie, home-made soup, crab-and-pepper cakes with a spicy tomato salsa, and honey-roasted barbary duck breast with a tart lime sauce. The garden is pretty in summer, with small fruit trees, attractive hanging baskets, and flower troughs. Where: Tadpole Bridge, Oxfordshire (01367 870382).

What to do nearby: fish on a two-mile stretch of river (the pub sells day tickets), or take a boat trip - the pub has moorings.

45

KING'S HEAD, DEAL, KENT

This handsome three-storey Georgian inn is particularly attractive in summer, when its hanging baskets and window boxes come into full bloom. Picnic tables on the broad paved terrace, just across the road from the promenade and the sea, are a grand setting to enjoy the wide choice of good-value food. Just beware that traffic wardens here are vigilant; there's pay-and-display parking nearby. Where: 9 Beach Street, Deal, Kent (01304 368194).

What to do nearby: explore the three castles in the area, or try your luck on one of the three championship golf courses.

46

THE CRYSTAL PALACE, BATH

This cheerful, busy, modernised bar has a sheltered courtyard that boasts some beautiful hanging flower-baskets; when summer evenings get chillier, retreat to the heated conservatory. Food is simple, good value and includes a variety of lunchtime snacks, served up by friendly, efficient staff.

Where: 10-11 Abbey Green, Bath (01225 423944).

What to do nearby: Take the waters at the city's Pump Room, next door to the famous Roman Bath.

47

THE HORSESHOE INN, WILTS

The pretty little garden at this secluded old country pub overlooks the steep, sleepy valley of the River Ebble, and a paddock with three goats. The landlord also has a couple of highly entertaining dogs. Booking is advisable for the small no-smoking restaurant, which serves good-quality home-cooked food. The barn opposite is used as a pool room, with darts and a fruit machine.

Where: Ebbesbourne Wake, nr Salisbury, Wilts (01722 780474). What to do nearby: if it's the country you want, try the Farmer Giles Farmstead between here and Salisbury, where you'll find many animals and birds, including some rare breeds, plus a Beech Belt walk and a wind pump.

48

THE MILL AT WORSTON, STAFFS

Spacious and welcoming, this family dining pub in a converted 1814 watermill features the original wheel. There is also an attractive conservatory, and children are catered for both inside and out: the garden has an adventure playground and a nature trail with lakes and islands. Adults can enjoy jazz most evenings. Where: Great Bridgeford, Worston, Staffordshire (01785 282710)

What to do nearby: explore the mill museum in the pub itself, or take a peek at Isaac Walton's Cottage, with its fishing memorabilia.

49

THE DOVE, W6

This old-fashioned Thames-side tavern has a very pleasant tiny back terrace, where the main flagstoned area, down some steps, has a few highly prized tables and chairs. Feast on good, wholesome food while looking out over the low river wall to the Thames reach just above Hammersmith Bridge. This was supposedly the site where "Rule Britannia" was composed; and outside, a plaque marks the level of the highest ever tide here, in 1928. Where: 19 Upper Mall, London W6 (0181-748 5405).

What to do nearby: stroll or cycle along the river path, admiring the rowers and keeping your eyes peeled for herons.

50

THE SHIP, N YORKS

Occupying a picturesque setting among beached fishing boats, The Ship offers seats outside or inside in its tasteful, nautical-style black-beamed bars and a big, plainer summer dining lounge. There's a good range of bar food, and restaurant fare in the evenings (not Sundays). Service is quick and friendly, with a children's room and menu available, making this a particularly popular spot during holidays. Where: Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorks (01287 622361).

What to do nearby: visit the smuggling exhibition next door.

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