What could be better than a day of winter hiking in the hills or a riverside walk followed by food and drink in a cosy country pub?
Settle down with a beer by the fire, tell tales of adventures had and those to come, and fill hungry bellies with hearty food.
From Cumbrian classics in the heart of the Lake District and Scotland’s famous Highland inns, to Welsh watering holes amid hills and mountains, here’s our round-up of the UK’s best rural pubs for winter walkers.
Best winter pubs for walkers in England
The Old Dungeon Ghyll, Langdale, Cumbria
The fun atmosphere of this pub is sure to warm you up after a chilly day in Ambleside. The Hikers Bar has long been the haunt of exhausted fell walkers and climbers – in the 1880s, it was known as the Middlefell Inn and the landlord was a well known guide for tourists, and later the pub became a popular haunt for Everest climbers such as Sir John Hunt. Now, it serves good beer, a range of scotch whisky’s, and wholesome, healthy food, and also holds live music nights.
The Hare Arms, Stow Bardolph, Norfolk
This recently refurbished pub in the centre of West Norfolk not far from King’s Lynn offers a fresh menu with a selection of cask ales. The original pub building was built during the Napoleonic wars, and it was transformed into an inn when Captain Thomas Hare offered it to three soldiers. After becoming an inn, the Hare Arms became the heart of local celebrations for wartime victories, coronations and jubilees. Today, you can call in after a day on the coast for a hearty meal.
Queen’s Arms pub and Hotel, Hawkshead, Cumbria
The Queen’s Arms pub has been offering refuge for winter walkers since the 17th century. Hawkeshead itself was once home to William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, and is closed to traffic, making it the perfect quiet place to explore after a long day of walking. The hotel and pub, with guest rooms, food and an open fire, is the perfect base for exploring the southern Lakes.
The Dolphin, Robin Hoods Bay, North Yorkshire
Ye Dolphin is appropriately only 50 yards from the sea, and a real smugglers’ pub with low ceilings, cosy open fires, real ales and a fish-dominated menu. If you visit on a Friday night you’re bound hear some sea shanties, as the Robin Hood’s Bay Folk Club meets here.
Wasdale Head Inn, Wasdale, Cumbria
Buried in the far reaches of one of the most remote valleys in Britain stands the warm and welcoming Wasdale Head Inn. Found nestled at the very end of the valley whose name it bears, this stunning little Lakeland outpost is well worth the pilgrimage.
The walks in the area encompass everything that a Lakeland explorer could hope to find but should be treated with the utmost respect in the icy months. A relatively straightforward but still glorious excursion can be had by climbing north-east to the waters of Styhead Tarn.
Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge, North Yorkshire
Located on the highest point of the North York Moors National Park, this rural inn is a fitting refuge for a winter pint. The 16th-century Lion Inn stands at an elevation of 1,325 feet and looks over Rosedale and Farndale, and ancient fireplaces burn all day. The pub offers hearty, traditional pub grub and has 13 rooms if you decide to stay.
The Tors Inn, Belstone, Dartmoor
One of few remaining old fashioned village pubs, The Tors is central to the best walking to be found on Dartmoor. A CAMRA pub, it serves many locally brewed ales and a mighty whisky selection, and is surrounded by some of the most dramatic open moorland in Britain.
The Old Nags Head, Edale, Derbyshire
Built in 1577, the Old Nags Head sits at the start of the challenging Pennine Way, and there is plenty of great walking to be found in and around the area. The fires burn throughout winter, and to accompany the generously sized meals their rich and malty ‘1557’ ale is a winner.
The Royal Oak, Cardington, Church Stretton, Shropshire
The Twice Brewed Inn, Northumberland
The Twice Brewed Inn is long, thin and welcoming. The menu features spicy burgers hewn from vast Northumbrian sausages, and the ales are drawn from the area’s countless microbreweries. As John Scott, of the Hadrian’s Wall Trust, once said, “the pubs around here know their audience – they lay on big fires, big meals and big beers”. That sums up the Twice Brewed perfectly.
Square and Compass, Dorset
When the festivals are over and only the hardiest hikers tread the frozen turf of the South West Coast Path, there’s nowhere more inviting to hunker down than the Square and Compass. Set on a hill in Worth Matravers, with views of the English Channel, this is a great way to while away a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Smugglers Inn, Osmington Mills, Dorset
This tradition pub overlooking the Isle of Portland in Dorset was originally built in the 13th century. It’s roaring winter fires make it an irresistible lure for wind-blown walkers.
Best winter pubs for walkers in Wales
Cwellyn Arms, Gwynedd
For those exploring Snowdonia, this traditional Welsh pub sits at the foot of the areas great mountain. Amid such famed walking country, the Cwellyn Arms strives to provide just what tired ramblers need; great beers, simple, hearty food and log fires by which to warm cold and weary feet.
The Bear, Crickhowell, Powys
This former coaching inn – with its oak beams, wooden floors and open fires – offers the same warmth to locals and visitors that is has done for over 500 years. The iconic Bear Hotel sits in the centre of the charming town of Crickhowell, surrounded by dramatic hills and peaceful woodlands in the midst of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Red Lion, Llanbedr, Monmouthshire
A huge welcome and very cosy stone-built pub deep in a Black Mountains valley – the perfect target after a cold blow on the tops of some of the Brecon Beacons’ least-known ridges. Open fire, real ale, and home-cooked food. Make sure you leave muddy boots outside The Red Lion.
Best winter pubs for walkers in Scotland
Kings House Hotel, Highland
The cosy Kings House Hotel sits at the gateway to mighty Glencoe beside the West Highland Way. It caters almost exclusively for hikers, bikers and outdoor enthusiasts, offering an opportunity to share tale beside a crackling log fire.
The Old Forge, Inverie, Highland
The Old Forge pub is seriously remote, and those wanting to drink it beer and eat its food will have to endure either an 18-mile mountain hike or a seven-mile sea crossing to do so. But once settle upon its wooden stools, surrounded by locals and travellers alike, visitors rejoice in these journeys and plans for new ones are born.
The Drover’s Inn, Inverarnan, Stirlingshire
Perched among trees, hills and mountains at the northern end of Loch Lomond is The Drover’s Inn. The surrounding national park is a playground for hikers, bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts – after a day of adventuring, head to this classic walkers’ inn for food, drink and a place to lay your head for the night.
Traquair Arms Hotel, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders
Traditional, cosy and over 200 years old, the Traquair Arms Hotel in Innerleithen has all the charm and history that a walker could ask for. Spend a day wandering the borderlands then head to the hotel for an evening of wholesome dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. 16 beautiful en suite rooms, as well as self-catering cottages, means you don’t have to travel far for a well-earned night’s sleep.