With the summer on the horizon, all of us are counting the ways in which we can escape to the country, bask in the sun and sip on a fruity ale. While London has an array of wonderful pubs, sometimes escaping the crowd and finishing a life-affirming walk at a hearty country pub is the only solution.
We’ve put together a list of the best places to visit in the green and pleasant home counties, from Michelin-starred eateries to wholesome boozers, all within a two-and-a-half-hour drive from central London.
1. The Hinds Head
Heston Blumenthal makes great things: snail porridge, bacon ice cream and… a lip-smackingly tasty menu at the 15th century pub The Hinds Head. While some favour the three-starred restaurant The Fat Duck right next door, you can enjoy a more relaxed ambiance at this sister venue. Expect traditional British dishes delivered to the very highest standard – with a firm favourite being the scotch egg.
Where: High Street, Bray, SL6 2AB
2. The Hand and Flowers
When he’s not shedding the stones, writing stocking-filler cook books or launching his new restaurant at London’s Corinthia Hotel, Tom Kerridge can be found in leafy Marlow running one of the best pub restaurants in the country (with two Michelin stars no less). Shunning London, Kerridge launched The Hand and Flowers back in 2005 and the 17th century pub hasn’t looked back since. Rather than heading straight back in the evening, why not take a room for the night? The Hand and Flowers has a number of cottages for guests.
Where: 126 West Street, Marlow, SL7 2BP
3. The Cricketers Arms
Bloomsbury artists Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Quentin Bell painted murals in the church of Berwick. But that’s not the only reason to visit this cute little village. It’s also home to The Cricketers Arms set in two 17th-century brick and flint houses. Pick a bench in a sunny spot in the garden and take in views of the South Downs. Make sure to order some locally brewed Harvey’s ale and tuck into some classic British pub fare.
Where: Berwick, Polegate, BN26 6SP
4. Flitch of Bacon
There’s nothing like fresh, local produce to make a meal memorable. Which is exactly why chef Paul Croasdale sources ingredients from the area with foraged foods and local meats, as well as sustainable seafood. Paul was the former head chef of Alyn Williams at the Westbury, so knows a thing or two about good food. Tuck into some fancy dishes and relax in the pub garden if the weather’s good. Don’t feel like the drive home? Stay in one of the three bedrooms here, each named after a rare breed of pig.
Where: The Street, Little Dunmow, Dunmow, CM6 3HT
5. Galvin Green Man
You may know chefs Chris and Jeff Galvin from their multiple restaurant launches across London, including the Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows. Born in Romford and brought up in Brentwood, the brothers opened a pub in their own neighbourhood. Set in the Essex countryside, the Galvin Green Man is an award winning, Bib Gourmand British pub, in a building that dates back to the 14th century. Expect pub classics and more modern dishes. You can book ahead for the restaurant but the pub is walk-ins only.
Where: Howe Street, Great Waltham, Chelmsford, CM3 1BG
6. The Fox and Hounds
The New Forest is a hot-spot for a good old country pub (think pie and ale propped up on a wooden bench). So, if you did end up in Lyndhurst and stumble across the oldy-worldy high-street make sure to take a rest at The Fox and Hounds. A name that screams ‘trust English country pub’? It’s a busy little spot, and the centre-piece of the Lyndhurst high-street. It’s rustic as can be, and serves fantastic casks and ales.
Where: 22 High Street, Lyndhurst, SO43 7BG
7. The Hare and Hounds
Sway is a quiet little place. The biggest attraction seems to be the Sway Tower, also known locally as Peterson’s Folly. Influenced by his trips to India, the eccentric Judge Peterson built the tower entirely out of concrete in the late 19th century. And if it’s this rich history you’re after, The Hare and Hounds will provide plenty. This 200-year-old coaching inn has a whole lot of character. The pub has also played host to many a beer and music festival – quite a lively village for a little’un.
Where: Durnstown, Sway, Lymington, SO41 6AL
8. Sheene Mill
Sheene Mill is based in a beautiful 16th Century Mill House set on the River Mel. First and foremost this is a popular wedding venue, however, they do have lots of eating options on the side too. Gaze out over the old mill pond and Cambridgeshire countryside and indulge in afternoon tea, one of their famous Sunday roasts, or a set dinner with friends. Just remember to pre-book as these mealtimes are only available on certain dates.
Where: 37-39 Station Road, Melbourn, Royston SG8 6DX
9. The Fordwich Arms
Chef-patron Daniel Smith uses local Kentish ingredients, which are sourced direct from nearby farms and producers. You can choose from a plethora of food menus including à la carte, tasting menus and two vegetarian tasting menus. There’s everything from rock oysters and raw Orkney scallop to venison with chestnut, celeriac and spiced fig.
Where: King St, Fordwich, Canterbury, CT2 0DB
10. The Rose in June
Margate – the place of hipsters, Down From Londoners, and genuine artistes. Follow the bohemian crowd and pick a pew on one of the benches outside The Rose in June. Kick back with a local craft beer and a quality burger. Nothing feeds the soul quite like a seaside pint. Take it from us.
Where: 49 Trinity Square, Margate, Kent, CT9 1HT
11. The Smack Inn
If you do like to be beside the seaside, then get on down to Whitstable too. The Smack Inn pub is located a stone’s throw from the harbour and named after an old fishing boat. The family-friendly venue is made up of two fishermen’s cottages built in the 1800s. During the winter months, there’s a roaring log fire, while in summer there’s a superb beach garden to enjoy. Food ranges from small plates for nibbles to jacket potatoes and pub classics. In the summer, there’s also a host of grilled goodies on offer from The Barbecue Shack, the pub’s much-loved outdoor kitchen.
Where: Middle Wall, Whitstable, Kent, CT5 1BJ
12. Sir Charles Napier
Noted as Raymond Blanc’s favourite Sunday lunch spot, the Sir Charles Napier pub always impresses. Overlooking the Chilterns, the pub is all wooden beams, open fires and comfy chairs. In the summer, there’s a large garden full of sculptures and tables to relax in. You can pop in for a quick pint or indulge in their menu, which includes Cornish lobster tail and slow cooked belly of Tamworth pork.
Where: Spriggs Alley, Chinnor, OX39 4BX
13. The White Horse
This 16th century pub is nestled in the Surrey Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty. After you’ve spent some time navigating nearby footpaths, cycle routes and bridleways, indulge in The White Horse’s great range of beers and fresh British seasonal food. Should the sun make an appearance there’s a beer garden for bathing in its generous rays.
Where: Hascombe, Godalming, GU8 4JA
14. The Horse Guard’s Inn
This is one of our favourite pubs outside of London. A two-minute drive from Petworth in the South Downs National Park, the 350-year-old pub has a warm and welcoming atmosphere–you can even roast chestnuts on the open log fires in the winter. The menu is seasonal and everything is either sourced from local suppliers of foraged from the garden. In the garden you’ll also find The King & I – an incredible little lifestyle cabin selling lots of lovely interiors bits, upholstery and antique trinkets.
Where: Upperton Road, Tillington, West Sussex, GU28 9AF