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The 50 Best country pubs

From rustic locals for hearty grub and perfect pints to stylish taverns for luxury stays, Sophie Morris and her team celebrate out-of-town places to eat and drink

Sophie Morris
Friday 18 May 2012 21:00 BST

The experts:

Sophie Morris is a seasoned pub-goer and food and drink writer (@morris_sophie).

Joanna Busk is features editor of 'Fork Magazine' (

David Hancock is editor of 'Alastair Sawday's Special Places Pubs & Inns of England & Wales' (

Fiona Stapley is co-editor of 'The Good Pub Guide' (

Jackie Bates is editor of the 'AA Pub Guide' (

With rooms:

The Bell at Ticehurst

Following a £2m refurb, The Bell is making Ticehurst an East Sussex destination. The seven rooms are quirky and luxurious and the food well-sourced, but the main bar area is still a proper pub, and dogs very welcome.

Details: High Street, Ticehurst, East Sussex TN5 7AS (01580 200234; Doubles from £90

Groes Inn

"One of Wales's oldest pubs, tucked between the Carneddau mountains and the verdant pastures of the Conwy Valley," says Jackie. "The views are extraordinary, the bedroom suites luxurious and stylishly traditional, and the beers are mostly from the Great Orme micro-brewery."

Details: Tyn'-y-Groes, Conwy LL32 8TN (01492 650545; Doubles from £125

Piddle Inn

"Smirks at the name turn into rumblings of pleasure upon discovering this idyllic, partly creeper-clad village inn," says Jackie. "A particular favourite among ramblers, the rooms here come complete with fresh flowers and some lovely views."

Details: Piddletrenthide, Dorset DT2 7QF (01300 348468; Doubles from £75

The Woolpack

"This old drovers' inn has been sympathetically smartened up," says Jackie, "creating a sense of calm modernity while still retaining the classic feel of a country pub. The rooms are in cottages out back, and are named after game birds. Guest comfort is definitely top priority."

Details: Totford, Northington, Hampshire, SO24 9TJ (0845 293 8066; Doubles from £85

The Royal Oak Inn

"With creepers round the door and a charming village setting, this Georgian inn is at the foot of the South Downs," says Jackie. "The five AA star accommodation is luxurious – expect flat-screen TV, DVD player, L'Occitane toiletries and deeply comfortable beds."

Details: Pook Lane, East Lavant, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0AX (01243 527434; Doubles from £90

The Beckford Arms

"After a severe fire this country house inn has risen, phoenix-like, from the ashes," says David. "The garden is ridiculously pretty, the bar serves an excellent local pint and pleasing food. Bedrooms are small but well-equipped with wonderful bathrooms, and the new attic rooms are perfect for a family."

Details: Fonthill Gifford, Tisbury, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP3 6PX (01747 870385; Doubles from £95

The Gunton Arms

"The beautifully restored Gunton Arms overlooks 1,000 acres of parkland," says David. "Art dealer Ivor Braka has lavished money on the once-faded hotel and the results are impressive. Quaff pints of Wherry alongside gamekeepers and gentry and tuck into meats cooked over the fire."

Details: Cromer Road, Thorpe Market, Norfolk NR11 8TZ (01263 832010; Doubles from £95

Cross Foxes

"Nicol and Dewi have worked wonders breathing new life into this former farmhouse," says David. "Sup Purple Moose's Snowdonia Ale and gaze up at lofty Cadair Idris. Food comes with impeccable local credentials."

Details: Brithdir, Dolgellau, Gwynedd, LL40 2SG (01341 421001; Doubles from £90

The Royal Oak

"An atmospheric inn deep in Exmoor with charming cottagey bedrooms and hearty breakfasts," says Fiona. "The basic bar has a log fire, plenty of locals and dogs, several smarter dining rooms with good food, and local beers."

Details: Luxborough, Watchet, Somerset TA23 0SH (01984 640319; Doubles from £75

The Brace of Pheasants

"Well-equipped, individually decorated bedrooms in a 16th-century thatched pub," says Fiona. "The beamed bars have three ales tapped from the cask, 18 wines by the glass, generously served food and welcoming staff."

Details: Plush, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 7RQ (01300 348357; Doubles from £99

The Royal Oak

"This ancient stone pub in a peaceful village has comfortable beamed bedrooms in the original coach house and stable block, unpretentious bars with log fires, three or four ales, daily specials and nearby walks," says Fiona.

Details: High Street, Ramsden, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire OX7 3AU (01993 868213; Doubles from £75

The Wheatsheaf Inn

"This family run pub has 14 rooms that would put many posh hotels to shame," says Joanna. "Stylish design, great local food and even a small spa, it slightly stretches the definition of the pub, but in a good way."

Details: West End, Northreach, Glocs GL54 3EZ (01451 860244; Doubles from £130

The Parkers Arms

Contemporary comforts and great food in a traditional country inn, next to Newton Hall. The Parkers Arms is the ideal base to explore the Trough of Bowland from, and your dog will be welcome too. The four rooms have wonderful views over the fell and river.

Details: Newton-in-Bowland, Nr Clitheroe, Lancs BB7 3DY (01200 446236; Doubles from £77

For food:

The Three Fishes

A much-lauded member of the Ribble Valley Inns stable, the menu at The Three Fishes is inspired by Nigel Haworth's nearby Northcote Manor and makes the most of local Lancashire produce – Morecambe Bay shrimps and Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire cheese.

Details: Mitton Rd, Mitton, Nr Whalley, Lancs BB7 9PQ (01254 826888;

The Wellington Arms

"A 12-table dining room in this award-winning pub serves local produce alongside leaves and herbs from the kitchen garden and homemade -breads and ice creams," says Joanna. "In the garden, rare-breed hens lay eggs, two hives produce honey and they breed their own pigs and sheep."

Details: Baughurst Road, Hampshire RG26 5LP (0118 982 0110;

The Horse Guards Inn

"A daily changing menu in this eclectic, friendly and welcoming Sussex pub serves up ingredients from local suppliers, their own vegetable patch or foraged from the hedgerows and seashores nearby," says Joanna.

Details: Upperton Road, Tillington, West Sussex GU28 9AF (0179 834 2332;

The Butchers Arms

"Deep in rural Gloucestershire, this tiny pub won a Michelin star last year for its outstanding food cooked with locally sourced ingredients," says Joanna. "Traditional real ales are served straight from the cask including Wye Valley Butty Bach and Wickwar Brewery Cotswold Way."

Details: Lime St, Eldersfield, Glocs GL19 4NX (01452 840381;

The Gloucester Old Spot

"Enjoyable, interesting food (strong on rare-breed pork) in a carefully restored pub with companionable bar, handsome dining room, log fires, individual country furnishings, own-brewed cider, real ales and friendly, helpful staff," says Fiona.

Details: Tewkesbury Road, Coombe Hill, Elmstone Hardwick, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL51 9SY (01242 680321;

The Red Lion

"A genuinely friendly country pub with inventive food, but plenty of chatty drinkers enjoying the four real ales, too," says Fiona. "The Red Lion has contemporary paintwork, an informal atmosphere and a woodburning stove, and an enclosed garden for hog roasts and summer barbecues."

Details: Aldworth Road, Upper Basildon, Reading, Berkshire RG8 8NG (01491 671234)

The Grove

"The Grove is a thatched 17th-century pub in a lovely Devon village," says Fiona. "It serves highly thought-of food using local produce, 26 wines by the glass, 60 malt whiskies and West Country ales."

Details: Kings Nympton, Umberleigh, Devon EX37 9ST (01769 580406;

The Duke of Cumberland

"In spring the Duke looks divine, its brick and stone cottage walls engulfed by wisteria," says David. "Rescued from closure by a local a few years back, it has Simon Goodman as chef-landlord and the show-stopping new dining room serves popular daily menus of fresh local produce."

Details: Henley, Midhurst, West Sussex GU27 3HQ (01428 652280;

The Berkeley Arms

"An exemplary pub," says David. The Berkeley Arms is a wonderfully intimate place to drink and eat. Owners Louise and Neil met at Hambleton Hall so the food is special and the suppliers are lovingly listed."

Details: 59 Main Street, Wymondham, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, LE14 2AG (01572 787587;

The Sun at Northaw

"The 16th-century pub overlooking Northaw's pretty green shines in this north-of-London culinary desert," says David. "Oliver ensures his menus bristle with fabulous produce, most from Hertfordshire and neighbouring Essex. Children are looked after with organic, guilt-free portions of their own."

Details: 1 Judges Hill, Northaw, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire EN6 4NL (01707 655507; thesunatnorthaw.

The Nut Tree Inn

"Set by the village pond, this 15th- century free house has its own kitchen garden and offers some great modern British cooking," says Jackie. "Dishes, which might include Oxfordshire beef, Gressingham duck, seabass and wild mushroom, are often prepared using produce bartered from the locals."

Details: Main St, Murcott, Oxfordshire OX5 2RE (01865 331253;

The General Tarleton Inn

"Named after a British general who fought in the American War of Independence, this former coaching inn specialises in Yorkshire produce, with seafood arriving from the boats within hours of being caught," says Jackie. "Expect accomplished use of local ingredients and a strong wine list."

Details: Boroughbridge Road, Ferrensby, Knaresborough, North Yorks HG5 0PZ (01423 340284;

The Bell at Skenfrith

"On the banks of the River Monnow, this family-run 17th-century coaching inn is full of character and Welsh-country charm," says Jackie. "The restaurant uses produce from the inn's kitchen garden as well as name-checked suppliers to dish out wonderful meals with a modern British style."

Details: Skenfrith, Monmouthshire NP7 8UH (01600 750235;

For real ale:

The Pelican

"A rambling pub with bargain local beer (it includes a little beer shop), beams, timbers, flagstones and log fires, relaxed country chat, good food and even a few bedrooms," says Fiona.

Details: 136 Norwich Road, Tacolneston, Norwich, Norfolk, NR16 1AL (01508 489521;

The White Horse

"An old-fashioned place tucked away from the commuter belt with a happy mix of customers and warmly welcoming licensees," says Fiona. "There are eight changing real ales (beer festivals, too), unspoilt character in the cottagey main bar and simple lunchtime food."

Details: Village Lane, Hedgerley, Slough, Berkshire, SL2 3UY (01753 643225)

The Moulin Hotel

"At the foot of Ben Vrackie on an old drovers' road, this great all-round inn dates back to 1695," says Jackie. "Head to the bar for the excellent home-brewed beers Ale of Atholl, Braveheart, Moulin Light, and Old Remedial."

Details: 11-13 Kirkmichael Road, Moulin, Pitlochry, Perth & Kinross,PH16 5EH (01796 472196 ;

The Tom Cobley Tavern

"They come by the hundreds to drink the ales at this shrine to the hop," says David. "Roger treats his ales the way most of us treat our children, nurturing them with love before sending them out into the world. You'll find more than 20 waiting."

Details: Spreyton, Crediton, Devon,EX17 5AL (01647 231314;

The Kirkstile Inn

"It is hard to imagine a more glorious setting tucked among the fells, stream trickling past and a half mile from the lakes of Loweswater and Crummock," says David. "Settle down with a pint of Loweswater Gold, Melbreak Bitter or one of the Cumbrian Legendary Ales, brewed by Roger the landlord."

Details: Loweswater, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 0RU (01900 85219;

The Fur and Feather Inn

Recommended by the Good Pub Guide and CAMRA, the Fur and Feather Inn serves Woodforde real ales, brewed with local barley and malted in Norfolk. The varied food menu includes many pies – Norfolk venison & stilton, and rabbit, bacon & thyme.

Details: Woodbastwick, Norwich,NR13 6HQ (01603 720003;

The Drunken Duck

The isolated location makes The Drunken Duck worth a visit in itself. Add to that the views over Lake Windermere, smart contemporary décor (although the inn itself is 17th-century), and top-notch food and rooms, and you'll want to stay long enough to drink your way through the microbrewery's fine Barngates ales, now supplied around the region.

Details: Barngates, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 ONG (01539 436347;

Camping and walking:

The Tunnel House Inn

Jackie, David and Joanna have all discovered the Tunnel House Inn, a Cotswold pub with year-round camping in the grounds and a beer festival in July. Dogs are welcome so you can stop by after walk in the spectacular surrounding countryside, and there are sandwiches, beers and a smart full-meal menu.

Details: Tarlton Road, Coates, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 6PW(01285 770280;

The Wheatsheaf

"Hidden away in the Vale of Lorton, The Wheatsheaf is handy for Whinlatter Forest's great walking and mountain biking and has Jennings ales and traditional pub food," says Jackie. The campsite has caravans for hire.

Details: Low Lorton, Cumbria, CA13 9UW (01900 85199;


"Ramble across one of the most secretive dales in the Peak District before enjoying lovely views from the walled garden of this traditional country pub," says Fiona. "There is an open fire and five real ales in the beamed bar,."

Details: Over Haddon, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1JE (01629 812501;

Strines Inn

Fiona recommends this isolated moorland inn on the edge of the High Peak National Park. "The Strines Inn is much enjoyed by walkers and their dogs," she says. "The menu includes seasonal game and fresh fish dishes."

Details: Strines, Bradfield, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S6 6JE (0114 285 1247;

The Muskett Arms

The Muskett Arms is within the grounds of Clippesby Hall, a Norfolk Broads holiday site with cottages, lodges, a caravan site and camping, as well as a pool, tennis courts and great play areas.

Details: Clippesby Hall, Clippesby, Norfolk, NR29 3BL (0149 3 36 7800;

The Bell Inn

"This Camra real ale pub has an award-winning campsite," says Joanna. "A takeaway menu of food and ale lets you bring the pub to your tent."

Details: Buckland Dinham, Frome, Somerset, BA11 2QT (0137 346 2956;


A good base for exploring the Borders, Hadrian's Wall and Keilder Forest. The Battlesteads consistently tops lists for responsible tourism.

Details: Wark on Tyne, Nr Hexham, Northumberland, NE48 3LS (01434 230209;


The Stein Inn

"The island's oldest inn is just above a sheltered inlet with stunning views and sunsets," says Fiona. "There's a lot of character in the two bar rooms, 125 malt whiskies, a short choice of sensibly priced food including local fish and highland meat, and bedrooms looking over the water."

Details: Stein, Waternish, Isle of SkyeIV55 8GA (01470 592362;

The Carpenters Arms

"A stone tavern on the edge of the Black Mountains run by the same landlady for 70 years, though she's helped by her daughter now," says Fiona. "The Carpenters Arms has two snug dining rooms and pubby food."

Details: Walterstone, Hereford, Herefordshire HR2 0DX (01873 890353;

Sheildaig Bar & Country Kitchen

"This pub is in a stunning location beside Loch Shieldaig, with Upper Loch Torridon and its astonishing mountains just round the corner," says Jackie. "Look out for otters, seals and the nesting pair of white-tailed sea eagles. Beers come from Skye or the Black Isle; live music adds a weekend buzz."

Details: Sheildaig, Highland IV54 8XN (01520 755251;

The Shipwright's Arms

"In a remote location on the Swale marshes, this charming creekside pub is best reached on foot or by boat," says Jackie. "You'll be well rewarded for the effort by this homely brick and weatherboard inn; all wood-burning stoves and original timbers, plus locally brewed Goachers and Whitstable ales tapped from the cask."

Details: Hollowshore, Faversham, Kent ME13 7TU (01795 590088;

The Bulls Head

"Set in a remote spot at the foot of the Black Mountains, this old drovers' inn is not easy to find but well worth the effort," says Jackie. "It is close to Hay on Wye and popular with walkers who enjoy the log fires in winter and the real ales and farmhouse ciders."

Details: Craswall, Herefordshire HR2 0PN (

The Milecastle Inn

"A wonderfully remote and peaceful location, high on the moorland edge; one horizon serrated by the line of Hadrian's Wall," says Jackie. "Beers from Newcastle's Big Lamp Brewery are ample reward for a breezy stroll, accompanied by classic pub food. Sit outside and enjoy the curlew-haunted countryside."

Details: Military Road, Cawfields, Haltwhistle, Northumberland NE49 9NN (01434 321372;

The Inn at Whitewell

"The old deerkeeper's lodge sits just above the river Hodder with views across parkland to rising fells in the distance," says David. "Barbours and muddy dogs mix with posh frocks and suits. You can eat in the cracking bar or drink in the views from the terrace and restaurant."

Details: Dunsop Road, Whitewell, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 3AT (01200 448222;

The Gurnard's Head

"The coastline is magical and as for the pub, you couldn't hope for a better base," says David. "It's earthy, warm, stylish and friendly." "The food is as good as the view," says Joanna.

Details: Treen, Zennor, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 3DE (01736 796928;

The Birch Hall Inn

"Beck Hole is a hamlet of nine cottages, a farm and possibly England's smallest pub," says Joanna. "Time has stood still for generations here. Order a beer through an ancient serving hatch and sit with a pork pie and pickle or their legendary beer cake."

Details: Beck Hole, Whitby, North Yorkshire YO22 5LE (01947 896245;

The West Arms

"This remote pub at the foot of the Welsh hills used to be a cattle drovers' inn and has been there since 1570," says Joanna. "Recently included in the Good Food Guide, it has a riverside garden with views over the Berwyn Mountains."

Details: Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, Nr Llangollen LL20 7LD (01691 600665;

Best for...Four-legged friends

The Bell at Ticehurst

The the food is more gastro than pub and its just had a £2m revamp, but dogs are always welcome at this East Sussex favourite

Best for...Country charm

The Bell at Skenfrith

Sitting on the banks of the River Monnow just outside the Brecon Beacons National Park this pub has fine open views across the Welsh countryside. Ideal for pint in the open air.

Best for...Coastal views

The Gurnard's Head

Sitting on the Cornwall's Atlantic coast between St Ives and St Just, this great boozer offers fine views and even finer local ales, fresh food and welcoming locals

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