Warm welcome: Beating Scotland’s winter chill at the Clachaig Inn, Glencoe and there are smart guestrooms upstairs from £100 a double. www.bullsheadinn.co.uk.
The Lord Nelson, Southwold, Suffolk: There are lots of good pubs in Southwold, but the Nellie is the best, and nearest to the sea; walk down East Street and, if you get wet, you’ve gone past it. It’s the warmth of the welcome you notice here as much as the heat from the blazing fire. There’s good, simple, home-cooked pub grub, a flagstoned main bar and, of course, sublime Adnams beer: have a pint of the winter brew, the thick, porter-like TallyHo. The perfect stop-off after a North Sea-blasted walk down the prom. www.thelordnelsonsouthwold.co.uk.
The Talbot, Knightwick, Worcestershire: It wasn’t too cosy last summer when the flooded River Teme came sloshing over the bar but after refurbishment by local craftsmen, the Talbot is back to its traditional best. Its own brewery makes the This, That and Tother beers, and the rich, winter-only Hearth Warmer, to be enjoyed by the log fire. Food’s a feature here, too: salads from the garden, bread and black pudding made in the kitchen, the rest painstakingly sourced from local producers (there’s a good farmers market here on the second Sunday of each month). www.the-talbot.co.uk.
The Red Lion, Preston, Hertfordshire: Lost down country lanes near the commuter towns of St Albans and Hitchin, this is a delightful village pub, and it should be, as it’s owned by the villagers. Whitbread was going to turn it into a steakhouse, so the locals clubbed together and bought the place to preserve its
Local hero: The Red Lion, owned by residents of Preston, is at the heart of village life character. Now it’s the centre of village life; the Georgian building, right on the green, also serves as the pavilion for the local cricket team. It offers a grand fire and plenty of warming ales: the landlord specialises in sourcing beers from small craft breweries. There are Youngs beers, too: the Winter Warmer does exactly what it says on the pump. www.prestonvillageherts.com.
Square and Compass, Worth Matravers, Dorset: This old quarrymen’s pub outside Swanage doesn’t have a bar: just walk in, go up to the hatch and ask for a pint of Ringwood Best, and they’ll tap it straight from the barrel. It’s a wonderful old building, made from local Purbeck stone, and a great example of what happens when you leave a place alone to mature. It has been run by the Newman family for the past 100 years, and they don’t seem to have changed anything in all that time, apart from adding a small dinosaur museum (complete with fossilised poo). Well, it keeps the kids happy while you have another pint by the fire. www.thegoodpubguide.co.uk.
The Blue Anchor, Helston, Cornwall: Appropriately, this 15th-century miners’ pub looks as though it has been hewn from the rock, then had a thatched roof plonked on top. It is popular with locals and tourists, though you’ll find more of the former in summer. Outside and in, all is thoroughly traditional: flagstone floors, roaring fires, a skittle alley but, above that, the reason to come is the delicious and strong Spingo Ales, which they brew themselves. The winter beer, Extra
Traditional best: The Talbot, Knightwick Special, is a thick, dark barnstormer at nearly 8 per cent ABV: when it’s introduced each year, the whole town slows down for a week or two. www.spingoales.com.
The Old Gate Inn, Brassington, Derbyshire: And the winner is . . . Simply the perfect winter pub: you won’t find a cosier place in Britain. It’s nearly 400 years old, and you can feel the history; Bonnie Prince Charlie’s soldiers were billeted here on their march to London, and some of the oak beams came from ships of the Spanish Armada. It pulls off the rare trick of being a genuine local, packed with villagers, but thoroughly warm and welcoming to visitors, too. With a fire blazing in the range, this is the perfect place to be on a cold day. www.derbyshireuk.net/derbyshire-food. The Sunday Times