Best country pubs in the UK
Food writer Andy Lynes has picked the best country pubs across the UK, from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands and Northern Ireland, for the ultimate local lunch recommendations
These days, country pubs don’t just mean a cracking traditional Sunday lunch. You’re as likely to indulge in a multi-course tasting menu of the finest local and seasonal produce as you are a plate of roast beef. You might find yourself in a listed building with exposed beams and open fires, or encounter elegant contemporary interior design. But whatever the setting, you can be assured of eating and drinking (and sleeping, if the pub has rooms) extremely well.
Best country pubs in the UK
Applecross, Wester Ross, Scotland
There are stunning views of the Skye mountains across the water from this family-run inn that’s located in a village on the remote and peaceful peninsula of Applecross. Take a seat in the cosy and inviting bar with its exposed stone walls and pine-clad ceiling for ales brewed in Applecross itself. On the menu, the finest local seafood including langoustines, scallops and crab from the west coast of Scotland are served simply with perhaps some hot garlic butter. Mains from £12. Double rooms from £180 per night bed and breakfast.
Find out more at The Applecross Inn.
Wiswell, Clitheroe, Lancashire
High-end gastronomy meets classic English rural pub at acclaimed chef Steven Smith’s upmarket inn set among the stunning scenery of the Ribble Valley. There are flagstone floors, antique rugs and furniture to accompany elegantly presented dishes such as roast rack, kofta and sweetbread of Herdwick lamb with miso aubergine. But this is still a local pub at heart, serving a proper Sunday lunch and cask ales at the bar. Serious foodies will want to book the ‘Mr Smith’s’ chef’s table for an up-close-and-personal view of the kitchen in action. Mains from £38. Double rooms from £240 including breakfast.
Find out more at Freemasons at Wiswell.
This smart hamstone-built pub with rooms in a picturesque Somerset village is run by husband and wife team Alasdair Clifford and Victoria Collins, who have worked in top-rated London restaurants including Chez Bruce. Join the locals in the flagstone-floored bar for drinks mainly sourced from the South West before heading into the elegant and comfortable dining room. Be sure to bring a healthy appetite for substantial portions of modern gastropub food made with local ingredients (as well as fresh fish from Cornwall) that might include roasted Somerset duck with confit leg hash browns. Mains from £21. Double rooms from £140 per night with breakfast.
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Find out more at The Barrington Boar.
near Hartley Wintney, Hampshire
This family-run pub, located in the idyllic Hampshire village is set in a lovingly and elegantly restored 19th century public house and former post office. Inside, there’s low ceilings, open fires, exposed brick and a menu celebrating local seasonal produce. Must-orders include the slow-cooked mutton served on a homemade crumpet with red cabbage, or the red lentil dhal with vadouvan-spiced paneer. Outside, there’s a garden terrace with a dark green timber bar, comfortable sofas and a wisteria-covered pergola dining area with views over the surrounding fields. Mains from £19.
Find out more at The Mutton.
Chefs and owners Guy and Brittany Manning spent years cooking in three Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe and America before taking a very different culinary path and opening this rural, thatched pub with rooms in 2008. Inside, there’s all the flagstone floors, wood burning stoves and mismatched furniture you could wish for, while outside there’s a beautiful, peaceful garden. There’s plenty of skill on show in dishes like the beautifully made crab tart (a signature and a must order if its on the menu) and the complex desserts such as white chocolate bavarois with raspberry-wasabi sorbet. Make sure to bring a healthy appetite for the generously portioned mains that might include herb-roast Wiltshire lamb rump with sauce niçoise. Stay in one of five luxurious contemporary rooms in the purpose-built riverside guest house a few steps away from the pub. Mains from £25. Double room from £215 including breakfast.
Find out more at Red Lion.
This is no ordinary inn. Country pub meets country house-hotel in a 1,000-acre deer park in north Norfolk, with interiors by a top London restaurant designer, topped off with a selection of modern masterpieces by the likes of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach. There’s even more of a sense of occasion with venison from the deer park and local beef cooked over a large open fire in the pub’s Elk Room. You’ll find locally landed mussels and Cromer crab on the menu, too. Complete your visit with an overnight stay in a room that was once frequented by 19th century socialite Lillie Langtry. Mains from £16. Rooms from £120 including breakfast.
Find out more at The Gunton Arms.
Crosthwaite, Lyth Valley, Cumbria
There’s enchanting countryside views of the Lyth Valley from the gravelled terrace of this gastropub with rooms, set in a converted blacksmith’s shop in a quiet Cumbrian village. The simple and elegant interior ticks the rural pub boxes with exposed beams, wood-burning stove and cosy bar. In addition to pub classics like haddock and chips and sausage and mash, there’s a detectable French accent to the menu that incorporates some Lake District produce in dishes such as guinea fowl with pommes Anna potato, black garlic aioli and truffle sauce. Mains from £14.50. Rooms from £130 including breakfast and cream tea on arrival.
Find out more at The Punchbowl.
St Kew, Bodmin, Cornwall
This traditional 15th century village pub, set midway between Wadebridge and Port Issac on Cornwall’s north coast, boasts four cosy and inviting indoor dining areas and what must be the best beer garden in Cornwall. Secluded and shaded by trees, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy ales brewed nearby and food by chef Andrew Tuck, who you may recognise from the 2023 series of Great British Menu. Locally landed day-boat fish and high-quality meats are expertly cooked over a wood fire. Dishes might include charred hispi cabbage with curry sauce, almonds and wild herbs. Mains from £17.
Find out more at St Kew Inn.
Surrounded by unspoiled Somerset countryside, The Three Horseshoes is a beautifully restored 17th century stone-built village pub and dining room with lodging recently opened by Margot Henderson of the much loved Rochelle Canteen in London. Built around local ingredients, the almost austere dishes – duck leg and carrots or brawn and pickles, for example – are reflected in the spare, elegant interior design that features whitewashed walls, a flagstone floor, inglenook fireplace and exposed beams. Outside, the garden couldn’t be more quintessentially English, with borders and beds planted with roses, geraniums, and kitchen herbs. Mains from £18. Rooms from £220 including breakfast.
Find out more at The Three Horsehoes.
Ampney Brook, Cirencester
This stone-built, 16th century rural village inn is set in Cotswolds countryside close to Cirencester. The inviting interior features lots of natural materials with exposed stone walls, beams and floorboards giving the space a rustic yet refined feel. There’s a freewheeling approach to modern gastropub food on a menu that ranges from chicken and ham pie to bang bang cauliflower and hoisin-glazed duck and watermelon salad as well as burgers and steaks cooked on a robata grill in the open kitchen. In good weather, dine outdoors in an alfresco dome and stay overnight in the pub’s neighbouring Wild Thyme & Honey boutique hotel. Mains from £14.95. Rooms from £150 including breakfast.
Find out more The Crown.
Consistently voted among the best gastropubs in Britain, The Unruly Pig is a handsome red-brick rural inn set in Suffolk countryside. The stylishly quirky interior mixes and matches Persian rugs, exposed brick, dark grey wall panelling and caramel leather button-back banquettes. The ‘Britalian’ menu is another work of fusion with dishes such as local Orford lobster tail, claw and crab ravioli with carrot and avruga caviar. On a sunny day, ask for a seat in the large garden with its parasol-shaded, decked seating area. Mains from £19.
Find out more at The Unruly Pig.
Reborn after a devastating fire in 2021, Michelin-starred chef Andrew Pern can now happily celebrate more than a quarter of a century at this converted 14th century thatcher’s inn. Located on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors, the iconic pub boasts a cosy bar with roaring fire, an elegant dining room and stunning gardens. The signature grilled black pudding with pan-fried foie gras and scrumpy reduction is still present and correct as part of the tasting menu and as a starter on the eclectic a la carte menu that might also include Skrei cod with Whitby crab and black truffle sauce. Stay overnight in Cross House Lodge directly opposite the pub. Mains from £30. Rooms from £170 including breakfast.
Find out more at The Star Inn.
You’ll find this Michelin Bib Gourmand-winning gastropub in the picturesque village of Ellastone on the Staffordshire and Derbyshire border, overlooking the surrounding fields. The expected exposed beams, stone floor and roaring fires are contrasted with an eclectic collection of furnishings and decorations to create a warm and inviting space. The seasonal mix of pub classics and creative dishes incorporates local produce and might include lamb from nearby Dunwood Farm with carrot fondant, sautéed sweetbreads and lamb sauce. Stay overnight in Walnut House, adjacent to the pub. Mains from £19. Rooms from £195 including breakfast.
Find out more at The Duncombe Arms.
This 19th century rural village inn has had a stunning makeover courtesy of owners the Bamford family who also own the nearby Daylesford estate and Daylesford Organic shop. The pub manages to be both traditional and modern at once with restored Cotswold stone walls, reclaimed timber and open fires contrasting with a contemporary central oak built bar. There’s plenty of farm produce on the menu as you’d expect, including a wedge salad made with Daylesford blue cheese, crispy bacon and pickled shallots. The large garden is the ideal spot to enjoy one of the range of gourmet pizzas such as ‘nduja, pepperoni, roasted peppers, fior di latte and rosemary honey. Mains from £14. Rooms from £225 including breakfast.
Find out more The Fox.
Anick, Hexham, Northumberland
This converted 18th century drovers inn, set on a village green a few miles from the market town of Hexham, has been run by partners Phil Mason and Karen Errington since 2007. Since then, the atmospheric pub with its low-beamed ceiling, cosy bar and open fire and has won numerous awards, especially for the food. The daily changing chalkboard menu based around what’s available might include mackerel with carrot and radish salad and XO dressing. In good weather, grab a seat in the gardens that offer spectacular countryside views.
Find out more at The Rat Inn.
Felin Fach, Brecon
This Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded rural village pub with eight rooms is part of brothers Charles and Edmund Inkin’s Eatdrinksleep group of inns, that also includes The Gurnard’s Head and The Old Coastguard, both in Cornwall. It occupies an enviable position in a Welsh valley between the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons with views of Hay Bluff beyond the lawns – where you can eat in good weather. Welsh-born chef Gwenann Davies has impeccable pub credentials, having previously worked for Tom Kerridge, and offers a menu of local produce, some from the pub’s kitchen garden, in dishes such as steamed venison pudding with braised red cabbage, roast parsnip and celeriac. The set dinner menu costs £37 for two courses. Rooms from £175 including breakfast.
Find out more at The Felin Fach.
Ticehurst, East Sussex
The eccentric interior of this rural Sussex Tudor village inn features bowler hats as lampshades and displays of antique books piled high. But there’s also a roaring open fire, stone floor and mismatched wooden furniture to make you feel at home. In addition to the menu of pub classics, every Wednesday, head chef Mark Charker (formerly of Ockenden Manor) offers a five-course ‘The Stables’ tasting menu of Sussex produce that might include smoked prawn tartlet with sweetcorn fromage blanc, artichoke, yuzu and foraged herbs. Mains from £17.50. Rooms from £121.50 including breakfast.
Find out more at The Bell.
The Stagg is a traditional dining pub with rooms on the Herefordshire and Powys border; a handsome ivy-clad building set in a topiary garden and surrounded by fields and unspoiled countryside. The pub’s environmentally conscious approach means they keep their sourcing as local as possible and maintain their own growing garden. Dishes that reflect the ethos include 36-hour slow-cooked longhorn Herefordshire beef, served with beef and spring onion bubble and squeak, baby carrot and roasted cauliflower purée. Mains from £17. Rooms from £110 including breakfast.
Find out more at The Stagg Inn.
This 17th century grade II-listed, award-winning pub with rooms is set among verdant Cambridgeshire countryside in the heart of the tiny village of Bartlow. Restored in 2015, the pub now boasts an elegant interior as well as a patio and beautiful garden that looks out over the River Granta. Voted among the best gastropubs in the country, the menu features sophisticated dishes such as stone bass with clam cacio e pepe and confit fennel, as well as a homemade burger, and haddock and chips. Mains from £14.50. Rooms from £100, breakfast not included.
Find out more at The Three Hills.
Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland
This charming country pub and restaurant is set close to the Strangford Lough and has a history going back more than 400 years. Downstairs there’s a cosy bar with stone floor and open fire and a dining room where the menu might include local Mourne lamb rump with new season broccoli, black olive and hazelnuts, as well as daily changing specials created from seasonal produce and local seafood. Upstairs, luxurious grill restaurant Overwood features a tipi-covered cocktail terrace with fire pit and serves a menu that highlights Himalayan salt chamber-aged Irish beef. Mains from £20.
Find out more at Balloo House.