Travel

Ale and hearty: 10 of the best UK country pubs for a winter weekend


Tarr Farm Inn, Exmoor

In the summer months, Tarr Steps heaves with families and visitors who come to cross the medieval clapper bridge that spans the River Barle. But in winter the woodland is tranquil, with lovely walks to the picturesque village of Dulverton. The Tarr Farm Inn – set right by the Steps – dates back to the 1600s, with nine comfortable rooms that come with fluffy bathrobes and Egyptian cotton, and homemade biscuits and fresh milk on the tea tray. Settle in for hearty dinners of chermoula-spiced scallops and a rack of Somerset lamb, with cream teas available until 5pm each day as a reward for a hearty walk.
Doubles from £90 B&B; tarrfarm.co.uk

The Bath Arms, Wiltshire

Photograph: Jake Eastham

In the tiny village of Horningsham, facing the green, stands the Bath Arms. Built in 1736 on the Longleat Estate, it remains a wonderfully peaceful spot in which to unwind. The cosy bar offers a range of local ales, while the candlelit restaurant serves seasonal Wiltshire produce, including meat and game sourced directly from the estate. With 16 bedrooms, service, like the food, is impeccable. The pub was recently taken over by the Beckford Group, owner of several other acclaimed West Country pubs. Relax in the new Bramley Spa Cabin, or take a short walk through a stone arch to the magnificent Elizabethan Longleat House and safari park. Or go a little further afield and visit Stourhead’s glorious 18th-century classical gardens.
Doubles from £140 B&B; batharmsinn.com

The Jolly Sportsman, East Sussex

Photograph: Lorna Roach/The Guardian

No one ever stumbled across the Jolly Sportsman, tucked away down high-hedged country lanes in the quiet hamlet of East Chiltington, yet in spite of its rural location, this isolated, comfortable foodie pub with rooms is one of the best in East Sussex. On wintry days, the firelit dining rooms – with sleek leather chairs in bottle green and plum and heavy oak furniture – are wonderfully cosy, serving a menu of inventive but hearty classics: smoked beef croquettes, Sussex venison or locally caught fish. The four bedrooms are crisp and comfortable, dogs are welcome and there are walks through the countryside from the door.
Doubles from £140 B&B; thejollysportsman.com

The Jack Russell Inn, Hampshire

Photograph: Helen Cathcart

Ideal for a winter walking weekend, the Jack Russell has undergone major restoration work in recent years, with sleek wood panelling and deep blue hues in the buzzy bar areas and 11 chic bedrooms split between the pub and the adjoining Dog House lodge. Part of the 4,000-acre Faccombe Estate, there are walks from the door into the North Wessex Downs AONB and attractions nearby, including Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey). After a day exploring, return for a cosy dinner with many ingredients sourced from the Estate to create a diverse menu ranging from Asian-cured sea bream to hearty pies and sinfully good desserts.
Doubles from £140 B&B; thejackrussellinn.com

The West Arms, north Wales

A 16th-century inn in Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, hidden away in the unspoilt Ceiriog Valley, this is a truly rural retreat, with stunning views towards the Berwyn mountains, surrounded by lush, rolling hills. Rooms in the old part of the inn have original oak beams and whitewashed stone walls. The award-winning restaurant focuses on local ingredients, with a good selection of Welsh gins and locally brewed ales available in the firelit bar.
Doubles from £165 B&B; thewestarms.com

The Creggans Inn, Argyll

Spectacular winter sunsets come as standard at the Creggans on the shores of Loch Fyne, with many of the bedrooms having views out over the tranquil waters of the lake. Food is a big part of a stay here, with MacPhunns Bar and Bistro serving Scottish classics, including cullen skink and steamed Loch Fyne mussels, with daily specials created from the best local, seasonal produce. The nearby village of Strachur has good walking trails and some of Scotland’s best castles, including Inverarary and Old Castle Lachlan, are within easy reach.
Doubles from £139 B&B; creggans-inn.co.uk

Joiners Arms, Northumberland

Pair blustery walks on Northumberland’s spectacular beaches with cosy afternoons hunkered down by the fire at the Joiners, a surprisingly luxurious inn tucked away in the quiet village of Newton-by-the-Sea. Accommodation ranges from rooms above the pub – with timber beans, Juliet balconies and feature bathtubs – to two quirkily styled cottages and a shepherd’s hut with outdoor hot tub, a cute retreat for two. At night, the pub comes alive with tables full of diners tucking in to classic Chippy Teas, steak frites or North Sea crab, with a good kids’ menu and activity sheet to keep them occupied. Dunstanburgh Castle and the picturesque fishing town of Craster are a short drive away.
Doubles from £155 B&B; joiners-arms.com

The Timble Inn, Otley, West Yorkshire

Escape to the tranquillity of the Washburn Valley – one of the least famous of the Yorkshire Dales – and settle in at the Timble, an 18th-century coaching inn that makes the perfect winter retreat. The nine bedrooms ooze cocoon-like comfort, with pocket-sprung beds, Egyptian linens, fluffy robes and a well-stocked tea tray, and the restaurant serves modern British dishes – pickled mackerel with seaweed sourdough, roast loin of venison with pine and chestnut crumble – alongside a standalone vegan menu. The Nidderdale AONB is on the Timble’s doorstep, with walks for everyone from serious hikers to Sunday afternoon strollers, and Harrogate is just nine miles away.
Doubles from £132 B&B; thetimbleinn.co.uk

The Duncombe Arms, Staffordshire

Photograph: Jake Eastham

A sleek gastropub with Colefax and Fowler wallpaper, Bamford products and sumptuous fabrics in the 10 individually styled bedrooms and a charming firelit bar area to complement the more modern dining room. Set on the edge of the Peak District, great walks, fishing on the River Dove and watersports on Carsington Water are all nearby, along with the pretty market town of Ashbourne, renowned for its antique shops. Back at base, the regularly changing menus have won a Michelin Bib Gourmand, with the twice-baked Staffordshire cheese soufflé an unmissable treat.
Doubles from £195 B&B; duncombearms.co.uk

Chequers Inn, Derbyshire

A stone’s throw from Froggatt Edge, a spectacular escarpment that offers some of the best views in the Peak District, the Chequers is a pleasingly traditional inn. Built in 1735, it has seven unfussy rooms (no dogs) and a refreshingly ungastro-ised bar, with a roaring fire, walls scattered with pictures and a wooden grandfather clock. The menu specialises in hearty dinners, with good veggie options including blue cheese and shallot frangipane tart, and butternut squash and artichoke lasagne. On rainy days, Chatsworth, Haddon Hall and Eyam are all within a 10-minute drive, with Bakewell and Buxton also within easy striking distance.
Doubles from £130 B&B; chequers-froggatt.com.



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