Britain's best country pubs - as chosen by the Countryfile Magazine team

A scenic setting, roaring fire, good selection of local ales and friendly atmosphere are just some of the Countryfile Magazine team's must-haves when it comes to the perfect country pub. Here we share our favourite proper British country pubs - see you at the bar!

30th August 2017
A cosy country pub

So what are the qualities that make a perfect country pub? Editor Fergus Collins gives his top 10...

1. The atmosphere

Like Christmas, a country pub has to be just so – cosy, traditional and without modern accoutrements. As Orwell said, “the architecture and fittings must be uncompromisingly Victorian” and that’s an excellent start. Older is even better. Horse-brasses and agricultural implements of old are important. Sepia prints, along with the occasional stuffed and mounted fish (if near
a lake or river, or caught by a local) also offer talking points. Big oak beams certainly help. There are no fruit machines or TVs in the perfect country pub. Cribbage, backgammon and cards are welcome.

2. Setting

Pub on a village green
A pub on a village green is 'pub nirvana' for editor Fergus/Credit: Getty Images

A view is great, a beer garden essential, a lack of traffic a necessity. A pub on a village green is nirvana. A riverside where you can watch water flow and others struggling with their craft is equally joyous. 

3. Drink

Man drinking a beer
A good stock of local ales is welcomed/Credit: Getty Images

A range of local ales, ciders and lagers on tap has to be the bare minimum requirement. 

4. Food

This has to be made on the premises. Simple, fresh and tasty works best. Be wary of enormous lists – the wider the variety, the more likely meals will be cooked from frozen. A briefer menu probably means you’re in for a treat. In a perfect pub, staff will be relaxed about you ordering food at 2.35pm, even though they finish serving at 2.30pm.

5. Service

I don’t need hearty welcomes or a landlord who can serve me “the usual” in my own pewter mug. Country pubs can be busy, so the bar person needs to be aware of who is next to be served and tell them while serving the previous customer by using eye contact. This removes all stress from the bar. No phrase sends a greater chill down my spine than a barman yelling “Right then, who’s next?” at a sea of angst-ridden faces. 

6. Children welcomed

An important part of my early education was spent drinking Canada Dry in the village pub. What’s wrong with kids playing and laughing in public? 

7. Dogs welcomed

For similar reasons to number 6, plus there’s something especially comforting about watching a well-walked dog having a snooze by the fire. 

8. Muddy footwear is allowed

Muddy boots welcomed sign
Pub sign in Grassington invites hikers with dirty boots, Yorkshire Dales National Park, North Yorkshire, England/Credit: Getty Images

You’ve walked for miles to a remote pub only to be confronted with a terse sign. You should always remove muddy boots but such signs can mean there will be other fussy rules once you’re inside.

9. Friendly locals

A smile and a hello is the most that’s required. The landlady will willingly lend you a map of the local area, pen and paper, trusting that you’ll give them back.

10. A fire

An open log fire marginally beats a wood burner but this is arguable. A fireplace offers focus – even in summer when it’s not burning.

With this in mind, here are Countryfile Magazine's favourite country pubs

Plume of Feathers, Rickford, Somerset

Plume of feathers pub, Rickford, © Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Explore the Mendips from the Plume of Feathers, Rickford, Somerset/© Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Set in a hamlet by a stream at foot of the Mendips, this traditional English pub serves local ciders and beers, and simple, appetizing food. Inside there are flagstone floors, whitewashed walls and open fires; or head for what may be England’s steepest pub garden, overlooking orchards and the North Somerset Levels.

www.theplumeoffeathers.com

Joe Pontin, features editor

The Goose and Cuckoo in Llanover, Monmouthshire

The Goose and Cuckoo pub
The popular walkers pub: The Goose and Cuckoo in Llanover, Monmouthshire/Credit: Alamy

Lovely remote hilltop location on an ancient drovers’ road. Family run, great local beer, super views and warmest of welcomes for walkers, cyclists and the lost. Hearty food is cooked on the premises. gooseandcuckooinn.wales

Fergus Collins, editor

Llanthony Priory, Monmouthshire

Hotel and ruins of Llanthony Priory. Brecon Beacons National Park, Monmouthshire, Wales, United Kingdom, Europe
Hotel and ruins of Llanthony Priory in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Monmouthshire, Wales, United Kingdom/Credit: Getty Images

My favourite pub is in the cellar of Llanthony Priory, it offers a stunning location in a Black Mountains’ valley to sit and have a beer after a walk along Offa’s Dyke.  www.llanthonyprioryhotel.co.uk       

Hilary Clothier, picture editor

Ship Inn, Porlock, Somerset

The Ship Inn at Porlock, Somerset, is situated at the bottom of Porlock Hill. This 13th Century coaching Inn is one of the oldest inns on Exmoor. England UK
The Ship Inn at Porlock, Somerset, is situated at the bottom of Porlock Hill. This 13th Century coaching Inn is one of the oldest inns on Exmoor. England UK/Credit: Getty Images

Ticks all the boxes: thatched roof, cobbled floors, good ales, roaring fire in winter. Coleridge and Southey (who composed a sonnet at the bar) enjoyed a pint here. And it's on the routes of not one but two of England's finest long-distance trails – the South West Coast Path and the Coleridge Way. www.shipinnporlock.co.uk

Paul Bloomfield, walking writer

Moulin Hotel, Highlands

An authentic Scottish highland hotel since 1695. Sited in the village square of Moulin, an ancient Scottish waypoint.
An authentic Scottish highland hotel since 1695. Sited in the village square of Moulin, an ancient Scottish waypoint. ©Copyright Maigheach-gheal and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

After a day hiking in the Cairngorms mountains, there is little more rewarding than stepping into The Moulin Hotel for a pint of ale by the fire – this warm, cosy pub on the outskirts of Pitlochry has been serving beer for three centuries. www.moulinhotel.co.uk/inn/pub.html

Daniel Graham, editorial assistant

Pig’s Nose Inn, Devon

Pig's Nose inn, East Prawle
The area around Prawle has a fascination with 'pigs'. Close by is a rocky protrusion also known as the Pig's Nose, close to the Ham Stone and Gammon Head. © Copyright Gwyn Jones and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The Pig’s Nose Inn in East Prawle. Set on the most southerly point of the magnificent Devon coast, this characterful 16th-century pub is always packed, full of cheerful eccentrics, glinting bars fittings, warm lamps and bonhomie. Something about its atmosphere evokes its pirating past. The classic pub grub is home cooked and hearty, just as it ought to be after a long walk in blustery winds, and the pub also has a live music venue for swashbuckling singalongs. Plus real ales straight from the cask. www.pigsnoseinn.co.uk

Maria Hodson, Production editor

The Rockford Inn, Exmoor

 Rockford Inn, Brendon, Exmoor  © Copyright Rob Farrow and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

  The Rockford Inn, tucked in the Exmoor hills/© Copyright Rob Farrow and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Tucked away in an ancient woodland deep in the Exmoor valley, this 17th century pub is the perfect spot for a hearty lunch and a pint of local ale after a leisurely walk along the East Lyn river. Inside you’ll find a roaring fire, friendly service and a treasure trove of interesting historical artefacts from the local area.  http://www.therockfordinn.co.uk/  

Carys Matthews, Digital editor

 

Where's your favourite country pub? Tell us yours, via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email editor@countryfile.com

Main image: Location

The Hare Arms Public House - Stow Bardolph King's Lynn Norfolk/Credit: Alamy

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