Best canal and riverside pubs in Britain

There's nothing like a refreshing drink and hearty meal after a waterside walk or a day on the boat – our guide to a selection of the UK's best canal and riverside pubs

19th July 2018
The Mayfly pub, Hampshire

Riverside pubs

Country inns are all the more enjoyable when they're next to water, especially rivers. Here are a few of Britain's best, from Ye Old Ferrie Inn at Symonds Yat in Herefordshire to Hampshire's beautiful Mayfly.

1. The Cutter Inn, Ely, Cambridgeshire
Cutter Inn
The Cutter Inn, Ely, Cambridgeshire

Feast on a rocky-road brownie sundae while watching rowing boats bob and canoeists paddle at The Cutter Inn. The Great River Ouse runs to the east of the town of Ely, and is hugged on both banks by paths. This popular drinking hole is the midway point of the 50-mile Fen Rivers Way.  

2. The Pandora Inn, Mylor Bridge, Cornwall
The Pandora Inn
The Pandora Inn Mylor Bridge, Cornwall

What better way to spend a summer’s day than sat on a decked pontoon, sunshine glittering on the water and Cornish ale in hand? This 13th-century pub in Restronguet gives you all this and more. Arrive by car, boat, bike or on foot, before taking a circular walk along creekside paths, through fields and woodlands.

3. The Trout Inn, Lechlade, Gloucestershire
The Trout Inn
The Trout Inn. Lechlade, Gloucestershire 

Boasting over 700 years of history – including the possession of ancient fishing rights over a two-mile stretch of nearby waters – The Trout in Lechlade has an impressive legacy. Its riverside gardens provide guests with the chance to relax after an amble on the Thames Path, and the camping field, open throughout the summer, is the perfect setting for a night beneath the stars. 

4. The Mayfly, Chilbolton, Hampshire 
Mayfly Inn
The Mayfly Chilbolton, Hampshire 

Perched on the banks of the River Test in the heart of the Hampshire countryside, The Mayfly – with its riverside terrace and quality pub food – is a truly idyllic pub. The Test is famed for its trout fishing, but also provides flat, easy walking. 

5. Skelwith Bridge Hotel, Ambleside, Cumbria
Skelwith Bridge Hotel
Skelwith Bridge Hotel Ambleside, Cumbria

Hungry fell walkers in the Lake District will be glad to find Skelwith Bridge Hotel and its Talbot Bar set close to the banks of the River Breathy near Ambleside. Laze outside in the peaceful pub garden, dining on traditional Lakeland food, Sunday roasts and a pint of Jennings real ale.

6. Ye Old Ferrie Inn, Symonds Yat, Herefordshire
Ye Old Ferry Inn
Ye Old Ferrie Inn Symonds Yat, Herefordshire 

This delightful pub sits right on the water’s edge – extremely handy if you arrive by boat. Stay the night in one of its river-view rooms, try your hand at paddleboarding, and indulge in good honest food and local ales. Enjoy spectacular views down to the River Wye, or explore nearby Symonds Yat Rock, the perfect landscape for walking and mountain biking. 

7. The Anchor Inn and Boating, Sussex
The Anchor Inn
The Anchor Inn, Sussex ©Simon Carey, Geograph

This inn sits on the banks of the River Ouse near the town of Lewes. The pub was built in 1790 and today has two restaurant rooms and two pub rooms.  The Anchor has boats for hire, too – the perfect prelude to an evening of fine ales and freshly prepared food.

8. Riverstation, Bristol

This more contemporary restaurant and bar on the banks of the River Avon is a popular hangout for the urbanites of Bristol. Take a walk around the harbour (two hours) then relax on the terrace or balcony and watch the world go by with a cocktail in hand.

9. The Trout Inn, Oxford
The Trout Inn
The Trout Inn, Oxford ©Graham Horn, Geograph

Enjoy an afternoon by the Thames at Oxford's Trout Inn. It's a waker's favourite – sit out on the terrace in the summer months or warm up by the log fire in winter.

10. The Gatehouse, Monmouth
The Gatehouse, Monmouth
The Gatehouse, Monmouth ©Getty

This inn sits on the edge of the bridge over the River Monnow and is the gateway to the traditional market town of Monmouth. The bridge dates back to 1277 AD, a superb piece of history best relished over a cold drink and seasonal food. 

11. Old Weavers House, Canterbury
Old Weavers House, Canterbury
Old Weavers House, Canterbury ©Getty

Set in the historic city of Canterbury, this early 16th-century pub is within walking distance of the cathedral and overlooks the river. Cosy up in the timbered building and watch people punting past.

12. The Dove, Hammersmith
The Dove, Hammersmith
The Dove, Hammersmith ©Getty

This quaint pub is perfect for a quieter drink outside the bustle of the thriving city of London, watching the boats chug across the Thames. Work up an appetite with a waterside walk or a visit to one of the Capital's many attractions.

Canalside pubs

Whether you're arriving by boat, bike or boot, the sight of a canal-side pub will fill you with joy. Stop off for a quick refreshment, an afternoon meal, or, if you have the time, why not stay the night? 

1. Lock Keeper, Bristol
Bee Keeper Bristol
Bee Keeper, Bristol

Situated on the grassy banks of Bristol’s river Avon, the charming Lock Keeper pub began its life as a private house, whose occupier used water from the river and nearby well to brew. Famous for its steak and Young’s ale pie, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the pubs selection of local cheeses, British lamb and fresh fish.

2. The Bridge Inn, Midlothian
The Bridge Inn
The Bridge Inn ©The Bridge Inn

Enjoy home-grown fruit and vegetables from the walled garden, elegant wines and interesting ales at The Bridge Inn beside the tranquil waters of the Union Canal. Feel like staying longer than just a meal? Why not take a walk along the tow path or stay a night or two in one of the pub's four traditionally designed rooms? 

3. Black Lion, Stoke on Trent

With moorings on its doorstep, the canal is by far the easiest way to reach the Black Lion, a cosy country pub tucked away in the idyllic Churnet Valley. Witness the spectacular tree-clad valley surrounding the canal as it snakes beneath the Churnet railway line, before toppling over the weir’s edge. For the keen walkers out there, The Black Lion is surrounded by rolling hills on the edge of the Peak District National Park.

4. The Three Horseshoes, Hemel Hempstead
The Three Horses
The Three Horses ©The Three Horses

Full of nooks, crannies and beams, this traditional 16th century pub opens out onto the Grand Union Canal, the longest in England. In the warmer months, dine alfresco on the canal side patio near the towpath edge, home to mallards, moorhens and swans, or warm up next to a roaring log fire in winter. Good wholesome food is served all day long.

5. The Canal Turn, Lancashire
Canal Turn
The Canal Turn ©Bill Johnston

Head to the The Canal Turn in the historic market town of Carnforth. This bustling pub set alongside the Lancaster Canal regularly features an array of live local talent and creativity. After dinner, grab your walking boots and admire the dramatic landscape of the town, set between the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks.

6. The Maltsters, Norfolk
Maltsters Inn
Maltsters Inn, Norfolk

Surrounded by nature reserves, pretty villages, windmills and miles of open river, The Maltsters provides a well-earned break from a busy day of adventure. Treat yourself to some quality steak in the pub’s adjoining restaurant or chow down on honey roast ham and a refreshing salad. If you’re still full of energy, take advantage of the many bird-watching opportunities or snap a picture of the scenic waterways.

7. Barge Inn, Wiltshire
Barge Inn
Barge Inn, Wilshire ©Getty

Dating back to the Stone Age and just a short walk from the famous Avebury stone circle, The Barge Inn is steeped in colourful British history. Formerly known as The George, the building has had its fair share of uses, from a slaughterhouse to a cart shed. Sample Wiltshire’s finest brewed pints made from locally drawn water, but don’t forget to leave room for some delicious homemade chocolate brownies.

8. Bluebell Cider House, Stratford upon Avon
Stratford upon Avon
The canal runs through Stratford upon Avon

A popular watering hole for those navigating the waterways, this canalside pub is a must for cider fans everywhere. Choose from a range of delicious blends to sip as you take in the beautiful surroundings of Warwickshire. Relax in the pubs lounge, snug or bar or venture into the garden to watch the sunset over the Avon canal.

9. The Anchor, Staffordshire
The Anchor, Staffordshire
The Anchor, Staffordshire ©Roger Kidd, Geograph

Having been run by the same family for more than 100 years, The Anchor is a truly old-fashioned canal-side pub. In the heart of beautiful Staffordshire countryside this Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) pub has an adjacent campsite, and is so traditional that the landlady still fetches ales from the cellar in a jug!

10. George Inn, Kennet and Avon Canal, Somerset
George Inn
George Inn, Somerset ©Stephen McKay

Originally a monastery, this pretty 12th-century pub sits alongside the canal and opposite the village church, in the green hills of Somerset. Cosy in winter with open fires, and with courtyard seating in summer, it is allegedly haunted by a Frenchman who perished there after losing a duel. Overnight mooring is available.

11. The Eagle Barge, Inverness-shire
The Eagle Barge
The Eagle Barge, Inverness-shire

Once used by the German army in First World War, the Eagle Barge now rests on the glorious Caledonian Canal, reinvented as a floating pub and seafood restaurant. This unique place serves a fine range of Scotch whiskeys and magnificent platters of fresh fish and shellfish in the evenings.

12. The Navigation Inn, Derbyshire
The Navigation Inn
The Navigation Inn, Derbyshire ©Trevor Harris

High in the Peak District this pub overlooks the Bugsworth Basin, a canal port that was crucial to the Limestone mining in the 1700s. Listed as an ancient monument, it is rich in Derbyshire’s industrial history, and sits amid glorious moorland. A CAMRA pub, it also offers delightful bed and breakfast.

Images: Alamy

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