The Bridge Inn, Herefordshire
Getting to The Bridge Inn is half the fun, down the narrow roads in the rural wilderness of Herefordshire. The pub sits in a pretty spot down by the river, beneath the Black Hill of Bruce Chatwin fame, with willows weeping down the footbridge. Walkers descend, so do dogs, and families, for delicious food and a fine wine menu. In summer you can camp in the field above the pub or – for romantics – in a super yurt with decking and a vintage interior up a wooded path.
Lunch £8-£22. Dinner £12-£22. Double rooms from £95 per night.
The Bell at Skenfrith, Monmouthshire, Wales
The position here is magical: an ancient stone bridge, a river snaking through the valley, glorious hills rising beyond, cows grazing in lush fields. The pub itself is popular with walkers, who visit because the roads are quiet and wind through some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. Inside, you find a locals’ bar with sofas in front of a wood-burner in the sitting room, then an airy restaurant for some very good food. In summer, doors fly open and life spills onto a stone terrace with views of hill and wood – a fine spot for lunch in the sun.
Lunch from £5.95. Sunday lunch from £12.95. Dinner, 3 courses, around £35. Double rooms from £150 per night.
The Pheasant Inn, Northumberland
Located in the deep, rural heart of the Northumberland National Park, there are no traffic jams and no rush. Just beautiful views out over the countryside and a wonderful community atmosphere. The house ales are expertly kept and Robin cooks with relish: Kielder cheese soufflé, game and mushroom pie, and their famous slow-roasted Northumbrian lamb, all with colour from a pair of rather productive veg and fruit gardens. After lunch, hire bikes and cycle round the lake, or saddle up on a pony and take to the hills.
Dinner, 3 courses, £20-£30. Sunday lunch from £11.50. Double rooms from £95 per night.
The Inn at Freshford, Bath
Just outside Bath, tucked between fields and woodland, is the lovely village of Freshford and this gem of an inn where the food is fresh, the staff are friendly and the garden makes al fresco dining irresistible. Dive inside to the bar where local ales are on tap, or take a coffee upstairs where you can sprawl on a sofa. You’ll soon be tempted back outside where the terraced garden (complete with fish ponds) provides picture-perfect views across the river and meadows to the woods beyond.
Starters from £4. Mains from £11.
The Millbrook Inn, Devon
Gloriously situated in the charming village of South Pool and on the bank of the Kingsbridge Estuary, many visitors arrive to the pub by boat. The pub clientele are local, and a lively cross-section of characters include farmers and sailors. Inside, the food is a fusion of French cuisine and Devon produce, with on-the-doorstep fish and game. After lunch, walk miles along the rugged clifftops, get the ferry to Salcombe or explore the estuary in a canoe or paddleboard.
Dinner from £14. Sunday roast from £15. Double rooms from £150 per night.
Y Ffarmers, Ceredigion, Wales
The drive to this pretty village is well worth it as you’ll pass the rural delights of the Welsh countryside. You can walk into the quarry-tiled bar with mud on your boots and not an eyelid will be batted; settle in and enjoy one of the many craft gins or real ales and ciders. After a hearty lunch, take the mountain road across to Ponterwyd and watch flocks of Red Kites feeding every afternoon or follow one of the beautiful way-marked walks in this isolated but inspirational area of the Ystwyth Valley.
Lunch & dinner £5-£18.50. Sunday lunch £16-£19.50.
The Royal Oak, Somerset
After a walk in Chargot Woods with the dogs, what nicer than to drop in at the Royal Oak? The pleasing red stone pub is in a deep green valley in the Exmoor Country Park, so there’s acres of beautiful countryside all around. Step in to find blackened beams, ancient flags, a hotch-potch of pine tables, a rustic oak settle: this bar is the place to be, especially when the wood-burner is roaring. As for the food, enjoy mackerel quenelles with Melba toast; pheasant from the beat with allotment vegetables and crunchy roasties.
Mains from £11. Sunday lunch, 2-3 courses, £14-£16. Double rooms from £80 per night.
The Crown at Pantygell, Monmouthshire, Wales
On a quiet lane above the Usk Valley between the Sugarloaf and Skirrid mountains sits a whitewashed building with tables and umbrellas outside and hanging baskets framing a slate-roofed porch. Step in to a traditional pub with oak beams, dogs lazing on the floor and a series of red-carpeted rooms with white stone walls and wood burners. Landlords Steve and Cherrie run a real community pub thanks to a convivial atmosphere, regular events and a menu of hearty old favourites made from local produce wherever possible.
Mains from £10. Desserts from £5.50.
The Carew Arms, Cornwall
A charismatic, community-minded village pub in the rolling countryside of Cornwall’s Forgotten Corner. Head chef and forager Jack Clayton sees to it that almost all fresh ingredients are sourced within 10 miles: from the nearby coast, and the Antony Estate. Sample fabulous cakes and coffee in the former skittle alley and, in its role of village shop, you can buy papers, eggs and other essentials, like craft beers and wine. Locals and visitors mingle by the old fire, under original beams, in the rustic-smart bar/dining room
Mains from £12. Sunday, lunch only, 2-3 courses, £18-£22.
The Kilpeck Inn, Herefordshire
A dapper little inn standing on the edge of the village overlooking beautiful fields. Outside, smart white walls sparkle in the sun. Inside: old stone, slate floors and a warm contemporary feel. Find darts in the locals’ bar, alongside the daily papers and a smouldering fire, and original beams, candle lanterns and painted panelling in the airy restaurant. Dig into the sort of food you’d hope to find in a country inn: River Exe mussels in a cider and sage cream sauce with hand cut chips; shepherd’s pie, green beans, redcurrant and red wine jus.
Lunch & bar meals from £5.95. Dinner £9.95-£17.95. Sunday lunch, 3 courses, £15.95.
Ebrington Arms, Gloucestershire
The glorious gardens at Hidcote Manor and Kiftsgate Court are a ramble across fields from the Ebrington Arms, lovingly restored and revived by Claire and Jim. Little has changed in the 17th-century bar, hub of the community and beloved by locals, cosy with low beams and roaring fires. Worn stone floors, fresh flowers and a delightful mishmash of tables set the scene for some terrific pub food cooked from mostly local produce.
The Windmill, Essex
A rural pub pulling in locals and foodies for excellent dishes from talented chef Mick Binnington. Meals are made with mostly local ingredients – delicious native lobster ravioli or Shalford pork and chorizo Scotch egg to start, a rich roast rump of Essex lamb with celeriac or pan-fried sea bream to follow. Sit contentedly by the roaring log burner or on the laneside terrace, and match the food with a good wine list.
Starters from £7. Lunch From £12. Mains from £15.
Nobody Inn, Exeter
Found down a maze of country lanes, the Nobody Inn attracts rural walkers, ale-drinkers and diners love who love to detour. The wine and whisky lists remains over 200-strong, and the Devon cheese board continues to draw rural winers and diners from afar. Settles and tables are crammed into every corner, horse brasses brighten low beams, there’s an inglenook glowing with logs and part of the bar dates from Tudor times. Start with a bowl of Teign mussel, move on to rack of lamb with redcurrant and rosemary jus, finish with treacle tart.
Dinner from £14.95. Sunday lunch from £9.95. Double rooms from £60 per night.
The Royal Oak Inn, Wiltshire
This rejuvenated pub sits in the bottom of the valley on a quiet village lane. Thatched roof and whitewashed walls on the outside, neutral tones, flagstone floor and bespoke oak furniture inside. The bar has an open fireplace, the dining room is big and bright, with wonderful beams and floor to ceiling windows bringing in the light. After a lunch of roasted supreme of chicken with parsley root, pea puree, smoked bacon and sauce royale or beetroot and vodka cured salmon, head off for one of the beautiful Wessex walks straight from the door.
Dinner from £13.95. Sunday lunch from £15.95.
The Horse Guards, Sussex
The Horse Guards pub sits perched on the edge of a tiny country lane in Petworth and has views that sweep towards the South Downs from the hammock’d garden. Inside, there are a series of rambling and intimate rooms furnished with quirky pieces, fresh flowers, painted panelling and four log fires. Sam and Misa love this pub and their passion is reflected in the homemade treats on sale by the door and chalkboards championing producers.
Starters from £6. Mains from £15.50. Double rooms from £85 per night.
For more information on pubs featured go to www.sawdays.co.uk The brand new edition of Sawday’s Special Places: Pubs & Inns of England & Wales is on sale on 1 June 2018 (£15.99 RRP) from all good bookshops.
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