Britain’s best pubs for food lovers
Pubs are a great British institution – but many are facing challenging times. We say: all the more reason to pay a new spot a visit or return to an old favourite, whether it’s for a long lunch, post-work pint or Saturday morning coffee.
Keep scrolling to discover the delicious. team’s favourite UK pubs, from West Lothian to Gloucestershire. These are the types of places with local drinks behind the bar, charming beer gardens or cosy fireplaces and, most importantly, sink-back-in-your-chair-good food, whether it be classic and comforting or on the cheffier side. Bonus: most include a recommended walk nearby, too. Because what’s better than a Sunday afternoon pint, roast and pud after a countryside ramble?
Thatched roof, beams, open fire… The full works.
The booze: Fine stuff from local breweries Loddon and Rebellion, plus intriguing wines by the glass.
The food: Enjoyable pub classics in the restaurant, good pizzas and Longhorn burgers in the barn.
The walk: Stroll in the adjoining woods of the Phillimore Estate.
The rooms: You can stay, but there are only three rooms – so book ahead.
Great views, plenty of trad beams and an open fire in winter.
The booze: Proper ales from local breweries Stroud and Uley, plus Old World wines by the glass.
The food: A fantastic modern menu. Snacky highlights include a half pint of prawns and friggitelli peppers with whipped cod roe. Mains include confit duck, red-legged partridge or whole plaice, plus classic burgers and steaks.
The walk: Slad Valley’s majestic beauty is on show from the bar; earn your pint by walking the circular Laurie Lee Wildlife Way – the Cider with Rosie author lived in the village and frequented the pub.
It’s full of character, with a busy live music schedule, a sea view from the sprawling front garden and its own museum housing owner Charlie Newman and his late father Raymond’s collection of fossils and archaeological finds.
The booze: Cider made by Charlie in the back garden and beer from Swanage brewery Hattie Brown’s.
The food: Locally made pies and pasties keep things strictly traditional.
The walk: Join the South West Coast Path and explore scenic spots Winspit Quarry, Seacombe Cliff or Dancing Ledge along the Jurassic Coast.
Chocolate-box village setting, antique furniture, stone floors and artwork that reflects the surrounding countryside.
The booze: At the small bar, choose from local cask ales and more than 250 wines.
The food: It’s the main reason to visit: hearty, seasonal and born of Lancashire. The smoked salmon with nori crumpet and fall-apart aged beef with triple-cooked chips were highlights.
The walk: Here in the heart of the Ribble Valley, there are plenty of routes. Head to Pendle Hill or Parlick Pike for a climb, or stroll from the pub into nearby Whalley for its riverside and abbey views.
The rooms: Four striking (but pricey) rooms, each with a super-king bed and Nespresso machine. Breakfast is a five-course feast worth setting your alarm for.
Outside, this building on the outskirts of Edinburgh is 17th century, but inside things are vibrant and contemporary: tartan, colourful prints and copious indoor plants.
The booze: The cocktail menu has fun, unusual and well-priced options – try the popcorn espresso martini. Plenty of Scottish draught and craft beers and local gins. There’s a beer garden too.
The food: Pub classics and modern Scottish cooking, plus wood-fired pizzas. A pastry-topped beef pie in a mini cast iron pan, haggis ‘gateau’ and chicken Balmoral are pure comfort food.
The walk: Stroll through the pretty town and visit Linlithgow Palace, or drive east for coastal walks from South Queensferry.
Inside this village pub near Cirencester things are gloriously un-mucked-about-with, but in summer it’s all about the beer garden. The River Churn runs across the bottom and there are ducks running around their coop.
The booze: On the hand pumps are beers from the likes of the North Cotswolds and Stroud breweries. A G&T with the excellent Cotswolds Distillery gin is essential.
The food: Small plates such as deep-fried chunks of mac-and-Cotswolds-cheese, and ling fritters. There’s a ‘chip menu’ too (summer truffle and nacho cheese are as shovel-in-able as they sound).
The walk: Stroll up the steep road through the pretty village of North Cerney and take a circular route back to the pub.
Despite its Michelin star, this 16th-century inn still feels like a pub – dark beams, hop-festooned bar. It also has a spacious garden.
The booze: There are always local Kentish brews such as Chapel Down’s IPA and Kentish Pip cider.
The food: Stellar (literally) – bar snacks of fried chicken with tandoori mayo beat pork scratchings. Mains include Ibérico pork chop, hispi cabbage and smoked maple bacon.
The walk: Explore nearby Charlton Park or walk to Simpsons Wine Estate in Barham.
The rooms: You can’t stay, but The Pig at Bridge Place is a stroll away.
Airy in summer (high beamed ceilings and sea views) and cosy in winter (roaring fires, bare bricks), with a rustic vibe.
The booze: There’s local beer Woodforde’s Wherry and Aspall’s cider on tap, a short but interesting wine list, plus sherry-pairings for oysters.
The food: Umami-rich snacks such as anchovies with gremolata and halloumi chips. Other highlights include smoked salmon from Cley Smokehouse and muhamarra (roasted red pepper & walnut dip) with sumac yogurt and flatbread. Puds are of the sticky toffee ilk.
The walk: Head beyond the salt marshes to the coastal path for big-sky views and birdlife galore – walk as far as you want to, then loop back. Or explore nearby Cley Marshes Nature reserve.
There’s no pretension here: the staff are a delight and chef-publican Billy Stock is reassuringly smiley-beardy and dotty about his craft. He’s also committed to The Rose being a heart-of-the-community drinking pub as well as a beacon for food. There’s a garden for sunny days and a woodburner for when the nights draw in.
The booze: The bar line-up shows commitment to local producers: Ramsgate Brewery’s Gadds No5, Dune Buggy from Margate’s Northdown Brewery and gin from Chapeldown and Greensand Ridge top the billing.
The food: Highlights of the sharing-plates menu were merguez sausages with peperonata, and a crab and fennel gratin. The chips are a must-try – layered and baked, then deep-fried to crisp-outside, squidgy-inside perfection. There are spit-roasted chickens to share (or take away) too. Puds? The pistachio doughnut ice cream sandwich was sublime. A pub to make a (regular) beeline for.
If you’re planning an autumnal ramble around Box Hill’s celebrated circuit, the ‘King Bill on the Hill’ is an essential stop for lunch or a pint en route (though if you’re not a walker, it’s not a place for easy access). If it’s clement, take in the views over the Mole Valley from the leafy beer garden. If it’s not, there’s a crackling log fire waiting inside. It’s like a pub of old, right down to the patterned carpet.
The booze: A friendly, family-run freehouse, the pub is at liberty to serve local beers from the likes of the excellent Surrey Hills and Tillingbourne breweries. A good selection of wines by the glass too.
The food: The Surrey farms that supply the meat, fruit and veg are listed on a chalkboard. The egg and chips with homemade treacle-glazed ham takes some beating, but they also do a mean fish and chips.
This handsome village retreat has classic pub appeal (flagstone floors, dogs welcome) with added polish (dried flower wreaths, voguish blue walls). There’s a summer terrace and, for winter, a woodburner with chess tables alongside.
The booze: There’s something for everyone with brews from Somerset’s The Wild Beer Co, punchy Lawrences Cider pressed down the road, plus a seasonal cocktail menu (the sloegroni is a great winter sipper) and homemade ginger beer.
The food: As well as a tempting burger, there are more ambitious dishes such as hake with sobrasada butter and white bean purée. Puds are similarly smart (lemon verbena & peach semifreddo), snacks satisfying and suppliers mainly local.
The walk: A hand-drawn map details six routes. Climb the village’s lofty ridge for breathtaking views towards Glastonbury Tor, best at sunset. Historical Sherborne and trendy Bruton are both nearby.
The rooms: Eight country-chic bedrooms and a cottage, from £135 B&B.
If ever there were a spot to make a beeline for on a mizzly January day, the Bell is it. Our visit was an impromptu one on a Friday with old friends who live nearby. There was a chill in the air, and walking into such a golden-glow setting, fires crackling in inglenook fireplaces, was a fine antidote to the howling gale outside. The views out front are of beautiful Norfolk countryside – so open and stark in the winter; so big and wide in summer. Dogs sniff your boots and wag their tail as you pass, and big leather sofas and chairs beckon you to sink down and forget about everything else for a couple of hours.
The booze: A good selection of cocktails, mocktails, real ales and local guest beers (Adnams, Boudicca and Barsham Oaks bitter were on tap when we visited). The wine list is arranged by ‘Good’ ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ – nice – with an interesting mix of predominantly European wines, plus a smattering from the rest of the world, English sparklers and stills. Prices are reasonable.
The food: Head chef Hervé Stouvenel’s meat-centric menu offers classic dishes along the lines of rib-eye steak (£33), calf’s liver with mash (£19) and roast partridge with sprouts, bacon and onions (£20). Plus the obligatory hand-cut chips. Fish and veggie dishes get a brief hello. Puddings are of the crowdpleaser apple-crumble-sticky-toffee-pudding-banana-split variety. This is full-on fare, but they’re just as happy for you to pop in for a fill-a-gap snack of toast, wild mushrooms and melted stilton. Yes please.
The walk: There’s a common just beyond the front door to work up an appetite – or walk off your excesses.
The rooms: Six good-looking rooms (not tested by us), with room rates from £145.
Just steps from the sand dunes, The Boathouse swerves seaside cliché for beachside chic – in large part thanks to its first-floor deck, with view across the estuary where the rivers Torridge and Taw meet. Prime for sunsets, there are blankets for enjoying the curious beauty of a grey day by the coast, too. Downstairs, the main bar is separated from the classy-comfy restaurant, hung with distressed oars and nautical prints.
The booze: Young’s beers and the usual suspects on tap; wine list helpfully organised by character; port by the glass. Cocktails are polished (with thoughtful 0% options), including a bloody mary garnished with a giant prawn. Atlantic Spirit’s No. 7 foraged sea buckthorn and pineapple weed gin offers a taste of North Devon.
The food: Sunday roasts star Exmoor beef and Devon pork belly (from £19) and there’s a choice of market fish (trout, skate wing and sea bass on our visit). The seafood platter (£37.50, serves two) isn’t run of the mill. Beyond the usual crevettes it features sharp anchovies, brown bread to dredge through silky Devon crab mayo and smear with seaweed butter or smoked mackerel pâté, plus intriguing pickled mussels infused with spices. Other individual touches: tartare AND curry sauce with the fish and chips (£18.50) and artisan malt vinegar on every table. Another standout dish is crab tagliatelle (£19), just the right side of rich, with chopped prawns and bacon. From the list of home-style but poshed-up puds, go for the treacle tart.
The walk: The beach just over the road looks across to fishing village Appledore (there’s a ferry from April to October). For a circular walk of contrasts, follow the South West Coast Path along the River Taw, turning back towards Instow as it meets the greenery-flanked Tarka Trail.
A classic country boozer, it was rescued from near-dereliction by heroic new owners. There are low ceilings to duck, exposed joists, pale-painted wood panelling and bare brick, plus a big open fire and summer terrace. It’s quite foodie, but there are tables for drinkers too.
The booze: Spanking fresh beers from the nearby Andwell brewery; Kicking Goat craft cider from Somerset; imaginatively chosen wines, with house red and white at £24. Try an ‘orange mule’ cocktail for £12.
The food: Silky jerusalem artichoke velouté with a fudgily slow-cooked egg and pickled walnuts, and venison cottage pie with blackened cabbage wedge were enjoyably on trend. Sunday roasts (£20) do the right things: roasties crunch and the crackling crackles. Good puds include salted caramel tart and seasonal sorbets.
The walk: There are good ones on the heath right opposite.
The Silver Cup, Harpenden, Hertfordshire
At the foot of Harpenden Common, this ‘contemporary public house’ was revamped by new local owners in 2020. It’s now split into an upmarket restaurant and laid-back bar (plus four guest rooms upstairs).
The booze: Classic cocktails, a vast gin selection and balanced wine list: it’s worth trying their expert recommendations.
The food: Dishes are clever, but there’s nothing pretentious about the food or service. Treat yourself to the seven-course set menu (£70) and enjoy snacks like duck egg gribiche and mains such as Cornish plaice with brill, artichoke, confit lemon and caviar. On a budget? The Sunday roast is £36 for two courses – or just share some tempting bar snacks.
The walk: The common is steps away – and Harpenden is bursting with bakeries and things to do. Visit neighbouring St Albans for the food market and Roman ruins.
The Red Lion Inn, Culross, Fife
If walls could speak, this inn dating from 1570 would have lots to say. Community-owned after a campaign to prevent it falling into property developers’ hands, its profits are invested in local projects. The low ceilings feature painted murals of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson’s book Kidnapped.
The booze: Culross is a filming location and Sam Heughan of cult TV show Outlander helped spread the word about the pub’s appeal, revealing he’d dropped in for a drink. There’s a small array of whiskies including Old Pulteney and Bunnahabhain. Also worth sipping are local Brew Shed ales, made just along the coast.
The food: Traditional pub grub and daily specials. Highlights include homemade broth, steak and haggis pie slow cooked in real ale gravy, plus Nelson’s of Culross ice cream for dessert.
The walk: Step back in time strolling around Culross or along the nearby Fife Coastal Path.
The Bull Freehouse, Troston, Suffolk
Friends Ben and Sam took the reins in 2020, giving this village hub a makeover and launching microbrewery Rascality. Kick back in the well groomed garden.
The booze: Rascality currently brews a trad bitter and two pale hoppy ales, with Bull Liquor a favourite. There’s a good wine list as well.
The food: All very local. Breads are baked in house and Sunday roasts are a highlight. Expect posh puds and snacks (smoked cheddar and Marmite choux bun, £6) and creative mains (chicken supreme with coconut dal, £21) plus
a sandwich of the day.
The walk: Explore Troston Wood or take a walk around the village (download a guide at discoversuffolk.org.uk). St Mary’s church and its medieval wall paintings are steps away. Or stroll around Ampton Hall Estate.
The Crown, Pilton, Somerset
The Clash on the music system, walls alive with local art and vintage curios, a barman in a faded Joy Division T-shirt: this country pub has indie quirk. In the fun garden (with a mock front room), a smoker cooks jerk chicken on special weekends, plus goodies for menus. There are folk, comedy and quiz nights.
The booze: Naturally, Somerset cider: Harry’s, Stones from nearby Shepton Mallet and North Street by Bristol Beer Factory, alongside the brand’s lager, amber and US pale ale.
The food: Pub classics (roast pork with porcine attitude, £16) and dishes looking further afield (beef kofta with tzatziki, £17). Bar snacks: sausage rolls and mushroom arancini. A delicate rhubarb and orange posset was heavenly.
Around and about: The area has so much to appeal, from Glastonbury Tor (15 minutes by car) and the Mendip Hills to The Giant Shepton Flea Market.
The Nag’s Head, Haughton, Cheshire
The couple behind buzzy Manchester food courts Alty Market and Mackie Mayor rescued The Nag’s Head, transforming it into a haven for food lovers. In summer, sit in the kitchen garden, which grows wild with fruit trees, herbs and flowers. Indoors, cosy nooks beckon, with huge open fires ready to roar come autumn.
The food: The phrases ‘farm to table’, ‘locally grown’ and ‘seasonal’ are the soul of the considered menu. Animals are bought whole from two regenerative farms just three miles away and veg is grown in nearby Nantwich. The silky wild garlic risotto with garden peas was sublime.
The booze: A colourful array of ales and lagers, with plenty of local brews on tap. The wine list is generous and the ‘som’ knows his grapes.
The walk: The views from the Sandstone Trail are well worth the hike.
The Crown at Pantygelli, Monmouthshire
This whitewashed local favourite is near Abergavenny, whose famous food festival is 16-17 Sep this year. Farmers prop up the flagstone-floored bar and regulars tuck in at mis-matched tables. New owners Amy and Nick have zhuzhed up the menu.
The booze: Choose from 11 brews on tap, including a Welsh guest beer and Apple County Cider, made up the road. Penderyn Distillery spirits round out the local line-up, and the wine list brims with affordable Old and New World finds.
The food: The head chef is Italian, so alongside pub classics (the steak and ale pie, £14, is great), expect seasonal risottos and Med-style starters such as braised baby octopus, tomatoes and capers on homemade friselle bread (£9).
The walk: Sugar Loaf Mountain is on the doorstep, with trails leading to the craggy conical summit.
The Bull Inn, Totnes, Devon
An organic establishment with a sustainability ethos. ‘No-Bull Rules’ govern how they cook, trade and work. Overnight in one of the nine beautiful bedrooms or self-catering apartment.
The booze: The beer on draught and the short and interesting wine list are all organic. Try seasonal cocktails such as winter-spiced negroni from £11. Bag-in-box wines help reduce waste (around £15 for a 500ml carafe) – as do creations such as homemade coffee grounds liqueur. Non-drinkers have homemade options.
The food: The lunch and dinner menus change daily, presented on a blackboard, with veg-centric dishes. Korean-style crispy parsnips with whipped tahini and kimchi were a standout, as was the Basque-style cheesecake.
The walk: Dartington Hall estate is a beautiful 90-minute walk away.
Want to treat yourself at home? Check out our list of the best meal kits available nationwide, from fresh pasta deliveries to multi-course menus from the likes of Simon Rogan and Rick Stein’s restaurants.
Subscribe to our magazine
Food lovers, treat yourself this Christmas... Enjoy 12 months of magazines for £29.99 – just £2.50 an issue.Subscribe
Unleash your inner chef
Looking for inspiration? Receive the latest recipes with our newsletter