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.
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.
A range of local ales, ciders and lagers on tap has to be the bare minimum requirement.
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.
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
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
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.
Joe Pontin, features editor
The Goose and Cuckoo in Llanover, Monmouthshire
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
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
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
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
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
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
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Main image: Location
The Hare Arms Public House - Stow Bardolph King's Lynn Norfolk/Credit: Alamy
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