Best country pubs in the UK
There are few better ways to spend a gorgeous day than a beautiful walk ending at a cosy pub with great food. Here are nine of the UK’s best
Looking for country pubs to end a walk? We've picked some of the UK's best gastropubs that welcome walkers for drinks and pub food... Join our pledge to walk more miles for the chance to win a family walking break, more information here.
Best country pubs
Queens Head, Cumbria
In the heart of the Lake District, the Queens Head at Hawkshead is surrounded by superb walks. Most of these Lakeland rambles start at the Old Grammar School near the pub and they include a five-mile walk through woods and fields to Tarn Hows (regarded as one of the most breathtaking of all Lake District beauty spots) and the equally impressive walk to Blelham Tarn via unspoilt countryside between Hawkshead and mock-gothic Wray Castle close to
the shores of Lake Windermere. As befits a pub that has welcomed tired fell walkers since the 17th century, the Queens Head serves a full menu at lunch and dinner, as well as lunchtime sandwiches. Lakeland lamb makes a star appearance in dishes such as a tagine of shoulder with apricots, almonds, sultanas, tomatoes, coriander and spices. Time a visit for a Sunday and you can tuck into the ‘Royal Roast’, perhaps with a pint of Lakeland Gold brewed by Hawkshead Brewery in the village.
The Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall
This award-winning pub with rooms overlooking the Atlantic is named after the nearby granite headland that juts into the sea and resembles the head of a gurnard fish. Accessed via winding, narrow roads that bisect gorse-covered moorland dotted with cows from the organic dairy farm next door, The Gurnard’s Head occupies an enviable spot on one of the UK’s most dramatic coastlines. It’s little wonder that this wild and remote (you’ll be lucky to get a phone signal) place close to the coastal path between St Ives and Penzance has inspired so many artists and writers over the years, including DH Lawrence, who lived in a nearby cottage in 1915.
People flock to the Penwith Peninsula for some seriously bracing walks along the coastal path with its remains of old tin mines, waterfalls, shallow river valleys and glimpses of tucked-away sandy coves at the foot of the craggy, windswept cliffs. Also nearby is Chysauster, a late-Iron Age village and one of the earliest known pre-Roman settlements in the country.“The simple things in life done well” is the tagline for The Gurnard’s Head, where food and drink is as important as the no-frills but comfortable bedrooms (with pastel-coloured Roberts radios and sumptuous beds). The pub’s popular Winter Escape deal (£160 per couple per night including a three-course dinner) sees a seasonal menu making the most of the region’s produce, with typical dishes including a hearty ploughman’s of Westcombe cheddar, pickles and soda bread, and red gurnard with cuttlefish, spring onions, ginger and seaweed.
The Globe Inn, Norfolk
On a Georgian square in Wells-next-the-Sea, The Globe Inn is as popular with walkers as it is the birdwatchers who flock to this timeless North Norfolk (check out our weekend guide to North Norfolk here) coastal town. The pub has strong links with the town’s farmers and fishermen – expect to eat lobster and crab delivered straight from the quay, and beef that has grazed on the salt marshes on the fringes of centuries-old estates.
With such fine food on offer, a good walk is required to burn off the calories, and the pub is the starting point for a number of coastal routes-. One of the best is the 8.5-mile walk to Morston Quay, which passes fishermen’s huts and creeks with lots of bird-spotting potential, although the circular walk via the deer park on the historic Holkham Estate and the pine woods at West Sands, is also a winner. The Globe Inn’s Antonia Bournes says: “It is such a fabulous area for walks but we are also very lucky to have the Coasthopper bus service just up the road, which means our residents can leave their car and walk as far as they want, catch the bus back to Wells-next-the-Sea, then the next day they can set off on the bus to where they left off and carry on walking.”
Cawdor Tavern, Nairnshire
Close to 15th-century Cawdor Castle, with its links to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and surrounded by wonderful countryside and countless walks, this pub in the village of Cawdor serves proudly modern Scottish food and Highland beers to match. In the dining room, with its oak panels and Jacobean chandeliers, refuel with panko-breadcrumbed haggis bon bons and smoked bacon aïoli or venison haunch steak with kale, celeriac purée, wild mushrooms and bramble jus as you sup a pint of Orkney Brewery Red MacGregor (the Champion Bitter of Britain 2018) or fellow award winner Dark Island Reserve.
Walkers make up a large percentage of the visitors to the Cawdor Tavern, with the riverside walk along the River Nairn and the shorter circular walk to Cawdor Wood with its spectacular gorges among the most popular routes for those with walking boots.
Anchor Inn, Dorset
“When it comes to walking in the area, you really are spoilt for choice,” says Paul Wiscombe, the landlord of the Anchor Inn at Seatown, a pub on the beach overlooking Lyme Bay. “But, of course, it depends on how energetic you are feeling,” he adds with a smile, before listing the different options for “serious” walkers who bring their boots and waterproofs, or those simply looking for a gentle stroll after lunch. On the Jurassic Coast, this pub is next to a shingle beach beneath towering cliffs, and close to the seaside resorts of Lyme Regis and West Bay (the location for the TV series Broadchurch).
One of the most popular walks in the area is a hilly one that starts at the Domesday village of Symondsbury and follows an old drovers’ route, the Dorset Holloways (‘sunken roads’) and Colmer’s Hill before ending at Golden Cap, the highest point on England’s south coast. The beach at Seatown is a popular spot for collecting fossils, which can often be spotted after the tide goes out, and the family-friendly pub serves a range of dishes, from the malt-vinegar and sea-herb-battered fish with crushed peas, tartare sauce and chips, to chargrilled steak with samphire butter, creamed spinach and crushed hot-smoked potato salad. Wash it down with a pint of locally brewed Palmers ale and watch the famous sunsets over the bay.
The Queens Arms, Somerset
An 18th-century village pub with rooms in the rolling hills of Somerset, The Queens Arms at Corton Denham has been run by Jeanette and Gordon Reid for the past decade, during which time they have won countless awards. From the mountain of homemade pork pies on the bar to hand pumps serving pints of Legless Liz – an ale made exclusively for the pub to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday – this pub caters for locals, tourists and the many walkers and cyclists passing the door. The Reids provide maps for local routes, including a circular walk from the pub via quiet country lanes through villages with quaint names such as Chilton Cantelo and Queen Camel. Some of these places also appear on the menu as many of the farms and local shoots supplying the kitchen are within a 10-mile radius. The owners also have their own smallholding two miles away. An autumn meal at the pub might feature pigeon, swede consommé, pickled beetroot, blackberries and radish, perhaps followed by broccoli risotto with Dorset Blue Vinney and almonds.
The Three Tuns, Wiltshire
This pub welcomes muddy boots, paws and children. With its scrubbed pine tables, fresh flowers in old gin bottles, low beams, real fires, leather sofas and window sills lined with old whisky-branded water jugs, it fits comfortably in the village pub bracket. Before taking over The Three Tuns six years ago, James Wilsey worked in a number of high-profile London restaurants including Scott’s of Mayfair and The Anglesea Arms near Shepherd’s Bush. His menu combines pub classics and modern British restaurant dishes, with homemade scotch egg with apple purée and celeriac remoulade sitting happily alongside a rump of lamb, braised lentils, purple sprouting broccoli, Provençal tomato and salsa verde.
There are a number of excellent walks starting from this pub in the peaceful village of Great Bedwyn near Marlborough. A few minutes down the road from The Three Tuns you’ll find the Kennet and Avon Canal, which makes for a lovely walk all year round. “On cold days, you can smell the woodburners on the barges, and it always feels like a different pace of life down by the water,” says James’s wife, Ashley. “It’s a great walk for children as well, as it is quite flat and there’s tons of wildlife around the water. You also get to watch the locks being opened and closed as the boats make their way through.” Walkers can also reach neighbouring villages along the canal, as well as local destinations such as the Crofton Beam Engines. From the base of the locks, you can also walk straight up a small hill to reach the paths of the Bedwyn Brail, known for its wooded copses, hills and farmland, as well as remains of Roman settlements.
Alternatively, you can make your way straight to the woods behind the pub, which can either lead to the little 13th-century thatched chapel at Chisbury, the hamlet and hidden treasure of St Katharine’s Church, or straight into the ancient Savernake Forest, where you’ll find some 3,000 acres of stunning woods with several notable ‘veteran trees’.
And for those with tired feet and blisters after all the walking, it’s worth noting that there’s a mainline train station in Bedwyn with a direct service to and from Paddington, Reading and Newbury.
The Ship Inn, Northumberland
Local lobster and kippers, live folk-music nights and a wood burner make this whitewashed pub close to sweeping beaches and iconic castles, a must-visit pit stop for weary Northumberland coast walkers. Run by Christine Forsyth and her daughter Hannah for the past 20 years, The Ship Inn at Low Newton-by-the-Sea near Alnwick brews its own beer in an on-site microbrewery. Close enough to the rocks to hear seals calling, the pub serves meat from neighbouring farms, and fish and seafood from local day boats. A typical dinner might kick off with Peelham Farm salami, chorizo and air-dried ham and continue with local mackerel fillets marinated with soy and lime, served with a fennel and rocket salad.
It’s perfect fuel for walkers recovering from exhilarating coastal rambles such as the National Trust walk from Low Newton to Craster – home of the legendary kippers. The walk passes the ruins of the iconic Dunstanburgh Castle and Embleton Sands, and is notable for its migrating birds in autumn and spectacular light in winter. Alternatively, the walk to the village of Beadnell takes in Newton Pool Nature Reserve in the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Bell at Skenfrith, Monmouthshire
On the banks of the River Monnow in the lush and green Welsh Marches, this 17th-century former coaching inn has created six of its own circular countryside walks for guests. The walks run to and from the pub, each with a map and description of footpaths and drawings of points of local interest. The walks were created with local couple Eira and Harry Steggles, who have been married and walking together for some 60 years, and include The Black Habits Black Deeds Walk and A Woodland Wander.
Although many weary walkers will stop off at The Bell for lunch or dinner, usually near the warming inglenook fire, owners Richard Ireton and Sarah Hudson also organise picnics, and if anyone gets lost they will rescue them. The Knights Templar trail wanders into England and back again to Wales, taking in Garway church with one of the earliest Knights Templar altars. And it’s not just walkers who are made to feel welcome at The Bell – four-legged walkers are treated just as well with free dog biscuits behind the bar and an outdoor pooch parlour where dogs and the muddy boots of their owners can be washed.