Britain’s 30 greatest pub walks
Fresh air, a spectacular view and a pint at the end. Tom Ough rounds up our most rewarding rambles
Iwas speaking to Daniel Neilson about pub walks, because he’s recently written a book about them and is pretty much a pub-walks Regius professor. It was all going well. We’d talked about how he’d got into walking when he was living in Argentina, and how he got into beer when he came back. Then I made the mistake of asking him about the essential constituents of a good pub walk. He dropped the C-bomb. “I think there needs to be a challenge in it,” he said. “It has to be vaguely difficult at some point.” I almost fell off my chair. I’ve always been more about the pub than the walk, and it hadn’t even occurred to me that anyone could be more about the walk than the pub. “How difficult?” I croaked, thinking of the five minutes and three road crossings it took for me to walk to my local. Surely not much worse than that… Alas. “I particularly like mountains, hills that are a bit remote,” he said. He’s walked on Snowdonia, in the Highlands, those kinds of places. He talks about compasses, navigation, keeping a storm blanket in his rucksack. “I think when you turn up, and you’re wet and cold and your legs hurt, there’s nothing more satisfying than sitting down and taking off your wet coat and sitting in front of the fire and reflecting on your day with your mates.” I can think of something more satisfying: doing the same without being wet and cold and having your legs hurt. But then I would, wouldn’t I? In this pub-versus-walk divide, I’m in the pub camp. We fancy ourselves as the bons vivants, the epicures. The ones who would win in a drinking contest. And the others? We think of you as plodders, do-gooders. The ones who’d win in a walking contest, for whatever that’s worth. I acknowledge that you have to get to the pub somehow, but why prolong the wait? By the time Daniel told me that, when it came to pub food, he was “happy with cheese-and-onion crisps”, I knew in my heart that this man and I would never truly understand each other. But I had to try. So I asked Daniel for a pub-walk recommendation. One that wasn’t too far from south London, and one that didn’t involve too much walking, but one that was outdoorsy and at least a couple of miles. “How about walking some of the Thames Path?” he asked. “There’s a very nice pub called the Roebuck you could walk to.” ( We agree on one thing: the pub always comes after the walk.) I thanked him and put the phone down. And so a couple of days later, on an overcast Tuesday afternoon, I’m tramping up to Richmond, where the pub is, from Teddington. It’s about three miles, an hour’s walk. I follow the tree-lined path up the river, occasionally overtaken by kids on bikes who are plainly bunking off school. When I reach Richmond, there’s a big grassy hill I have to scramble up before I reach the pub; at the top, I can see for miles, all the way to the low hills so far away that they’re tinged blue. In the other direction, mercifully much closer, is the Roebuck, a traditional sort of pub with lots of ales and no tellies and a comfortingly musty smell. I have a pint and a square meal; maybe it’s the endorphins talking, but I honestly feel like the walk enhanced my pub experience. Perhaps each side of this great divide can learn from the other. Maybe walking isn’t as horrible as I thought; maybe pub trips are better when they’re earned. Food for thought, I mused, as I tucked into my long-awaited halloumi and chips. Camra’s Wild Pub Walks, by Daniel Neilson, is out on May 22 (£11.99)
LONDON THE ROEBUCK, RICHMOND Richmond Hill, TW10 6RN (020 8948 2329)
Recommended by Daniel Neilson and walked to by Tom Ough, who recommends the veggie lunch (non-vegetarian options available). More glamorous patrons have included Mick Jagger, David Attenborough and Princess Alexandra.
THE BULLS HEAD, BARNES 373 Lonsdale Rd, SW13 9PY (020 8876 5241; thebullsheadbarnes.com)
A splendid, light and airy pub and restaurant also recommended by Daniel, the Bulls Head is a short stroll from the Thames for waterside walks, and also from the London Wetland Centre, a peaceful wildlife oasis in the city.
THE CONSTITUTION, CAMDEN 42 St Pancras Way, NW1 0QT (020 7380 0767; conincamden.com)
A pleasant pub on the Regent’s Canal. Head in one direction to the Limehouse Basin and the Thames, or in the other to salubrious Little Venice and Paddington Basin; and from there along the Grand Union Canal for 137 miles to Birmingham – although that journey might be easier by boat.
SOUTH TIGER INN, EAST SUSSEX South Downs National Park, East Dean, Eastbourne BN20 0DA (01323 423209)
A walk from a pub right out of central casting – 15th-century origins, oak beams, village green, hearty food, log fire – to one of Britain’s most photographed stretches of coastline, the chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters. Take the path south over Went Hill towards Birling Gap or west towards Crowlink and Flagstaff Point. To make the most of the Seven Sisters, walk past Birling Gap beyond Belle Tout Lighthouse and circle back inland past Horseshoe Plantation before heading north again to East Dean.
THE THREE HORSESHOES, WEST SUSSEX Elsted, Midhurst, West Sussex GU29 0JY (01730 825746; 3hs.co.uk)
Pubs don’t get much better than the Three Horseshoes (scrummy home-cooked food, beer from the barrel, flagstone floors, low beams) and walks don’t get much better than Harting Down, a wildlife-crammed Site of Special Scientific Interest. Head south to the base of the Downs. After climbing up through the woods and over Beacon Hill – once an Iron Age fort and later a telegraph station during the Napoleonic Wars – you can enjoy views of the Isle of Wight before linking up with the South Downs Way. Turn south, circling around Harting Down through rolling valleys and taking the route over Pen Hill into the Weald.
THE GEORGE, WEST SUSSEX Main St, Burpham, Arundel BN18 9RR (01903 883131; georgeatburpham.co.uk)
The George is very much a food pub, with plenty of solid grub. Consult the maps on the signpost in the pub car park to select your route, but highlights might include the village church (St Mary’s) with its Norman arches and grotesque carvings (plus writer Mervyn Peake’s grave), rolling Wepham Down, wooded New Down, the mound of an old Anglo-Saxon hill camp, and views across to handsome, battlement-rich Arundel Castle.
THE GREYHOUND, HERTS Stocks Rd, Aldbury, Tring HP23 5RT (01442 851228; greyhoundaldbury.co.uk)
A rural, circular walk of around three miles has only gentle slopes and is mainly on paths and bridleways around the village of Aldbury, with its picture-postcard duck pond plus original wooden stocks. Turn left out of the immaculate, grey-hued Greyhound and walk up Stocks Road, then left up a bridleway looking back at Ashridge Woods and the Bridgewater Monument. Keep Tring Station to your right, and re-enter Aldbury at the other end of the village.
THE COASTGUARD, KENT The Bay, Dover, Kent CT15 6DY (01304 853051)
Starting at the Gateway to the White Cliffs visitor centre, head east on to the coast path with the sea on your right. Stop to admire the South Foreland Lighthouse, famous for being the first lighthouse to be lit by electricity. Soak up some rays in the beer garden of The Coastguard, with views across the Channel. Mobile phones pick up French signal here – at least they do for the time being – so the pub helpfully offers free Wi-Fi.
THE ROYAL OAK, HANTS Fritham, Hampshire SO43 7HJ (023 8081 2606)
The New Forest is filled with beautiful trails, many of which happily end up in a cosy country inn. One of the most popular walks is a pretty loop that starts at the Royal Oak. There is a pleasant mix of open land and woodland, and plenty of chances to spot deer. Fritham Plain, not far from the end, is where Kevin Costner looked over Sherwood Forest in the 1991 Robin Hood film. Back in Fritham, head to the pub to see if you can nab a table in its busy garden.
EAST THE CROWN, NORFOLK Wells-next-the-Sea NR23 1EX (01328 710209)
Starting in the hamlet of Burnham Overy Staithe, where Nelson is said to have learnt to sail, wind your way across the salt marshes to the sea. Here you can take off your shoes and walk through the white sands, which stretch for miles when the sea is out, or take the shady route through the pine woods. In the historic port of Wells-nextthe-Sea, you’ll find The Crown. Order a pint of Norfolk Ale – made by the landlord’s wife – and tuck into hearty pub grub.
THE EAGLE, CAMBRIDGE Benet St, CB2 3QN (01223 505020)
The “Thinking and Drinking” pub, where Watson and Crick discussed DNA, is a good base for a walk. Turn right out of the front door on to Benet Street, then right again on to King’s Parade. Continue past the soaring King’s College Chapel and on down the road, which becomes (after a wiggle) Trinity Street. Detour in to gawp at Trinity’s Great Court (of Chariots of Fire fame), then opposite St John’s turn sharp right on to
Soak up some rays in the Coastguard beer garden, with views across the Channel
Brontë fans flock to the Black Bull, where Branwell spent perhaps too much of his time
Bridge Street. This becomes Sidney Street, and just past Sidney Sussex turn right on to Market Street, which takes you back to King’s Parade.
NORTH THE BLACK BULL, YORKSHIRE 119 Main St, Haworth, W Yorkshire BD22 8DP (01535 642249)
Literary pilgrims walk across the moors to the Brontë waterfall, described by Charlotte Brontë as “fine indeed; a perfect torrent racing over the rocks, white and beautiful”, then up to Top Withens, the ruined farmhouse that is said to have been the inspiration for Wuthering Heights. Once you’ve wandered back to the village there are plenty of pubs to choose from, but Brontë fans tend to flock to the Black Bull on Main Street – where the sisters’ troubled brother, Branwell, spent perhaps too much of his time.
QUEEN’S HEAD, CUMBRIA Main St, Hawkshead, Cumbria LA22 0NS (01539 436271; queensheadhawkshead.co.uk)
At 800ft, Latterbarrow is one of the smaller Lake District peaks, but commands fabulous views. You can leave your car in the nearby village of Hawkshead, then follow a country path to the summit. Back in the village, rest up at the Queen’s Head, a 17th-century pub with live music and an excellent selection of whiskies.
THE GEORGE INN, YORKSHIRE Dubb’s Ln, Hubberholme, Skipton BD23 5JE (thegeorge-inn.co.uk; 01756 760223)
Plenty to recommend The George, situated close to the rushing River Wharfe and handy for those hardy types walking The Dales Way. The George is widely reckoned to be one of the friendliest hostelries in the county, and there is more to it beyond that. If you are simply seeking a quality pit-stop, it is reassuring to note that their beef and beetroot pie won silver at the British Pie Awards only last month. And not only is the hostelry dog-friendly, it has a resident dog of its own – called George.
WASDALE HEAD INN, CUMBRIA Wasdale Head, Gosforth CA20 1EX (019467 26229; wasdale.com)
The Inn ( pictured front page) is at the head of remote and unspoilt Wasdale, surrounded by England’s highest mountains. This is the home of English climbing, so suitably kitted and accomplished types can tackle the peaks; others may prefer a gentler stroll around the valley head, visiting the old pack horse bridge over the beck behind the hotel, or a walk to St Olaf ’s, one of the smallest churches in England.
MIDLANDS CROWN & TRUMPET, WORCS 14 Church St, Broadway WR12 7AE (01386 853202; crownandtrumpet.co.uk)
A good walk from the pretty village aims for Broadway Tower Country Park to the south east and its eponymous tower, a folly boasting views across 13 (some say 16) counties. From the pub, head up Church Street and along the High Street. You are now on the Cotswold Way (CW). Follow the CW Acorn signs up the 700ft climb to the Tower. Loop back along Coneygree Lane, turning right (north) at 11th-century St Eadburgha’s Church and back to the village.
THE FULL MOON, BUCKS Hawridge, Chesham HP5 2UH (01494 862397)
Enjoy exercise and a history lesson on a circular walk through an Area of Outstanding National Beauty. Starting and finishing at the 17th-century pub, pass an Iron Age hill fort, one of the best-preserved prehistoric settlements in the Chilterns. See wildlife, from barn owls to badgers and deer, and a Victorian windmill.
THE PERCH, OXFORD Binsey Lane, Binsey, OX2 0NG (01865 728891)
One of Oxford’s oldest pubs, but a little way from the tourist-thronged centre of town – perhaps why it was a favourite with Inspector Morse, the town’s famously anti-social detective. The Perch is a short walk from the Isis (Oxford’s stretch of the Thames) and Port Meadow, a common stretching from Jericho to Wolvercote, and an ideal place upon which to work up a pre-pint thirst.
FOX INN, GLOS High Street, Lower Oddington, GL56 0UR (01451 870 555)
History hangs heavy in the air on this walk. After the sleepy village of Adlestrop, famous for the Edward Thomas poem, comes Chastleton House, a Jacobean mansion connected to Robert Catesby of Gunpowder Plot infamy, and finally Chastleton Barrow, an Iron Age fort. Make your way over the railway line to the signposted Macmillan Way into Adlestrop. Continue northwards up the hill into Chastleton and its Jacobean mansion. Head past the church and go right before following a path parallel to the road which takes you to Chastleton Barrow. Follow the hill back down the other side into Adlestrop.
WALES THE SLOOP INN, PEMBS Porthgain, Haverfordwest SA62 5BN (01348 831449; sloop.co.uk)
A number of walks offer themselves from The Sloop, the most ambitious a 16-mile thereand-back trek through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park to windblown St David’s Head. This is perhaps saved up for a fairweathered spring day when walkers are equipped with ample supplies. More gentle potters abound in the vicinity of the pub, which is a cheery, informally nautical shack, with a terrace overlooking the picturesque little harbour.
THE SHIP INN, CARDIGANSHIRE Tresaith, Cardigan SA43 2JL (01239 811816)
Renowned as the best place to spot bottlenosed dolphins, the Ship Inn offers a charming viewpoint over Cardigan Bay. Climb up the clifftops for a panoramic view of the sea as well as the peaks of Snowdonia’s mountains. Stroll down to catch a glimpse of the picturesque village of Penbryn before heading back to Tresaith to enjoy some freshly caught fish.
SCOTLAND THE OLD BRIDGE INN, HIGHLANDS 23 Dalfaber Rd, Aviemore PH22 1PU (01479 811137; oldbridgeinn.co.uk)
Given its location in the heart of Cairngorms National Park, walks from the Old Bridge Inn are many and various. A good stroll is around the Craigellachie nature reserve – glorious views of wild Cairngorm as well as a prime spot to look out over the hills of Scotland’s foremost ski resort. You might also spot the roaming reindeer. The pub itself is cosy, with open fires on chilly days. You may wish to embrace or avoid the regular live-music evenings.
CLACHAIG INN, ARGYLL Glencoe PH49 4HX (01855 811252)
The Clachaig has won umpteen awards for its three bars, open all day and evening. This is an atmospheric spot from which to set out, and a comforting place to return to – there are more than 20 bedrooms for the weary walker. This is one of the most magnificent hillwalking venues in the world and there are any number of routes. An easy starter – from the front door of the pub – is an invigorating amble through An Tor woodland to the historic Signal Rock.
THE HAWES INN, EDINBURGH 7 Newhalls Rd, South Queensferry EH30 9TA (0131 331 1990; vintageinn.co.uk)
The pub, dating from 1683, was once the ferry-boat inn. The ferry was founded in the 12th century by Queen Margaret – hence the name “Queensferry” – and was mentioned in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. A grand walk from here to Dalmeny House and back is around five miles: start under the Forth Bridge, bear left away from the main road, and follow the short wooden signposts along the unsurfaced road by the shore.
NORTHERN IRELAND HUGH MCCANN’S, CO DOWN 119-121 Central Promenade BT33 0EU (02843 722487)
Here the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea, and while Hugh McCann’s may be too swish and modern for some, the views from the panoramic windows are stop-you-in-yourtracks stunning. You can sit here and plan every step of your expedition – along the beach or up the mountains. Whether you ever set out… well, why not have another and think it over?
SOUTH WEST THE GEORGE INN, WILTSHIRE 4 West Street, Lacock SN15 2LH (01249 730263)
Costume-drama buffs will love this short walk around Lacock, a quaint village owned by the National Trust which has starred in countless films and television shows, from Pride and Prejudice to Cranford. Head north out of the village – making sure to admire the immaculately preserved medieval tithe barn on the way – and wander along the banks of
the Avon. After passing the stunning Lacock Abbey (used as a location in the Harry Potter films), return to the village for a pint at the ancient and welcoming George Inn.
BLACK VENUS INN, DEVON
Challacombe, Barnstaple EX31 4TT (blackvenusinn.co.uk) This walk takes you to the heart of ancient Exmoor, with standing stones and Iron Age barrows along the way. On a fine day it’s a joy, but The Chains plateau at the northern end of the walk can be ultra-boggy after rain. Head south from the pub along the small lane that leads to Barton Town before taking the bridleway east over South Regis Common. At the Tarka Trail, head south to the Sloley Stone (a lonely 18th-century gravestone) and then north east along the Macmillan Way West, which climbs up to Pinkery Pond and the exposed moorland of The Chains. The return journey heads back south along the Tarka Trail then west along South Regis Common.
EXMOOR WHITE HORSE, DEVON
Minehead TA24 7PY (01643 831 229) This nine-mile walk takes in Dunkery Beacon, the highest point (1,704ft) on Exmoor. On a clear day you can see both the Bristol and English channels, the Brecon Beacons in Wales, and Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor to the west. From the pub head north west, past the recreation park, and take a right along a high-hedged lane that eventually turns into a bridleway leading up on to the moor. Continue north and then west along the Macmillan Way West to Dunkery Beacon itself. On the return, head down past Dunkery Bridge and then directly east along a lane that exits briefly on to the main road, before returning to Exford via Kitnor Heath and Prescott Down.
CADGWITH COVE INN, CORNWALL
Helston TR12 7JX (01326 290513; cadgwithcoveinn.com) Pretty Cadgwith is the ideal base for a coastal walk. The South West Coast Path both north and south is a delight, but the southern route takes you on a swing past the Devil’s Frying Pan, where the roof of a sea cave has collapsed, leaving a sea arch in its place. Continue south as far as Church Cove, looking out for the trademark green Serpentine rock as you walk. The route back loops inland past the Cornish Chough Brewery at Trethvas Farm and past St Ruan’s Holy Well.
VICTORIA INN, CORNWALL
Perranuthnoe, Penzance TR20 9NP (01736 710309; victoriainn-penzance.co.uk) This is a cliff walk to rival the best. It begins with a St Michael’s Mount panoramic before continuing around Cudden Point to Prussia Cove. Around the headland at Praa Sands is one of the longest stretches of white sand on the south Cornish coast, while the tin mine engine house above Rinsey Cove is picture perfect. This route is not circular, but there are frequent buses from Porthleven back to base. The 12th-century Victoria Inn has some of Cornwall’s best pub food.
Dogs are welcome at The Perch, Oxford
Queen’s Head, Hawkshead, Cumbria
Almost there: award-winning pies await visitors to the George Inn, Hubberholme; below, The Full Moon, Hawridge
Cosy: the Fox Inn, Gloucestershire, above; below, set out on a circular walk through Hertfordshire countryside from The Greyhound
The Roebuck, Richmond
The George, Burpham
Star turn: The George Inn is in historic Lacock, the go-to setting for countless bonnet dramas
Cadgwith Cove Inn, Cornwall