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

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

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

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