Post-lockdown, it’s clear that Britain’s love affair with the pub is far from over. Pubs are now increasingly reverting to their role as traditional inns — offering food, drink, a comfortable bed for the night and all-round warmth and hospitality. As such, they remain one of the best ways to discover the UK and its multiple moving parts — its produce, people, landscapes and history.
Author Martin Dunford, shares a selection of his favourite pubs with rooms in the British Isles from his new book Cool Pubs & Inns.
Best British pubs with rooms
Bang in the centre of Charlbury, Charlie and Willow Crossley’s Bull Inn is both stylish and comfortable and has all the bells and whistles a good gastropub should have: delicious, locally sourced food, decent ales and a thoroughly welcoming atmosphere, together with a very comfortable set of boutique rooms. There’s also loads to see and do nearby: Wychwood Forest offers a wonderful 8-mile-long circular walk, and the Glyme Valley Way passes nearby; Winston Churchill’s birthplace Blenheim Palace is a short drive away, while shopaholics will be keen to visit the popular outlet shops at Bicester Village.
Newly reopened a couple of years ago, the Crown & Anchor near Marlborough welcomes dogs, walkers and cyclists, serves local ales and excellent food, and boasts a set of cosy rooms upstairs to collapse into at the end of the evening. Its 8 bedrooms are individually furnished and equipped with Hypnos mattresses and newly refurbished bathrooms, while the pub has flagstone floors scattered with antique carpets, a curved wooden bar, a fireplace with a wood-burner and the sort of informal mismatched furniture that urges you to take the weight off your feet, order a pint and pick up a newspaper.
Anyone seeking a country pub in a beautiful Somerset village need look no further than the Swan at Wedmore — a handsome former coaching inn with 7 chic en-suite rooms decorated in elegant greys with splashes of bright colours and French vintage style furnishings. The rooms also entice with delicious biscuits, cafetiéres and handmade toiletries. Downstairs, locals and visitors happily rub shoulders together in the spacious bar, while the food is superb: local, seasonal and mostly homemade, with a selection of roasts on Sunday.
If you had to picture your ideal pub, it might well look like Long Melford’s Black Lion, which occupies a picture-postcard location overlooking the village green, next to a medieval church. There can’t be too many better places to wake up if you’re craving a weekend in the country, and The Black Lion not only serves good food but also offers a comfy set of rooms upstairs to flop into after dinner. Long Melford itself is a unique village in a special part of Suffolk, with attractions ranging from a long main street sprinkled with antique shops to the National Trust property of Melford Hall right across the street, as well as the more family-orientated Kentwell Hall around the corner.
Rescued from permanent closure by former regulars Marcus Seaman and Amelia Nicholson in 2015, The Brisley Bell is a delightful village pub in the heart of Norfolk. Marcus and Amelia were so bereft when their local closed that they bought it and made it into their perfect pub. And what a tremendous job they did, offering excellent, moderately priced food alongside half a dozen guest bedrooms in the flint barns next door. It’s as welcoming and comfortable a country inn as you’ll find.
Enjoying a splendid location on the Staffordshire-Derbyshire borders, this village boozer appeals to both walkers keen to experience the nearby Peak District and families sampling the delights of Alton Towers, which is just a 10-minute drive away. Yet another property fairly recently rescued from dereliction, it’s nowadays rightly renowned for the excellence of its food and the comfort of its rooms, which occupy a purpose-built outbuilding next door and come with spacious walk-in showers, fluffy robes and fragrant toiletries.
Less than a mile from Liddle Water, whose meandering course marks the England-Scotland border, Cumbria’s Pentonbridge Inn is no ordinary pub, not just because of its 9 elegant bedrooms, but also for the quality of its food, which draws diners from far and wide. Served in a chic and airy bar and dining room, locally sourced meat and fish feature on an impressive menu with imaginative suggested wine pairings; try for example shorthorn beef tartare with a rich Argentinian red followed by pan-fried cod loin with a Canadian Pinot noir; or you could try Whitehaven lobster with a fresh Aussie Viognier, followed by Cartmel Valley red deer with a robust red from Tuscany. The cocktails are equally exciting — pickled martinis or milk punch vodka, anyone?
‘The simple things in life done well’ is the motto of this rather special inn, and we reckon it’s spot-on. Situated in the hills between the Black Mountains and the edge of the Brecon Beacons, the ‘FFG’ Is above all a proper pub, with well-kept local ales, a roaring fire in winter and where dogs and children are most definitely welcome. But it is also a prime destination for excellent food, serving a menu sourced mainly from the Welsh Borders, and has 7 very comfortable guest rooms, all with big beds, homemade biscuits, fresh flowers and posh toiletries but no TVs, giving you the chance to embrace the good old days and enjoy one of the books from their heaving shelves.
Dating back to the 16th century, this one-time haunt of cattle drovers was taken over by Nicky and Mark Williamson a couple of years ago and they have devoted bundles of attention to bringing it up to date. The result? A fabulous gastropub with terrific food and rooms that you won’t want to leave, with a snug lounge, a more formal slate-floored dining room with an inglenook fireplace and at the back a wide, grassy beer garden. The rooms are quirky and individual, with beams and four-posters, fireplaces, beautifully exposed stonework and gorgeous countryside views.
Situated in the delightful seaside village of Elie in Fife, one of the best things about The Ship is that it’s almost literally on the beach, with a selection of rooms that enjoy sweeping views over the bay. Some have roll-top baths, others spacious walk-in showers, while they all feature handmade toiletries, Nespresso machines, Egyptian cotton bed linen, flatscreen TVs and wifi. The inn itself is a family-friendly place and serves an excellent menu focused around local meat and fish, including East Neuk lobsters and truly mighty fish and chips — all setting you up nicely for a spot of whale-watching, bracing coastal strolls and beach cricket!
Cool Pubs & Inns is published by Punk Publishing (£18.99). Image credit: Punk Publishing.