Great Days Out: Cosiest Country Pubs

Three of our writers have put forward their case for their favourite country local – think roaring log fires, comfort food, and, of course, a refreshing  pint or two...

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The Square and Compass, Dorset

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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. 

But before you get cosy, it’s worth the 20-minute walk down to Winspit Cove to watch the waves pummelling the ledges. Here you can shelter in the caves of the old quarry and look for ammonites on the ceiling. Then, either head back the same way, or clamber up to the ridge for a blustery walk back to the 18th-century pub. 

There are only two things on the menu at the Square and Compass – homemade vegetable pies or steak pasties, served from a hatch that doubles as the bar. You can wash them down with a mulled cider and sit by the log-burner listening to live folk music. Don’t worry about crumbs – there’s bound to be a shaggy dog or two salivating at your feet. 

For a pub so rustic, timeless and unassuming, it comes as a surprise to discover a room, barely bigger than a pantry, housing the landlord and his father’s sophisticated fossil collection. The finds are mostly local, and represent over 60 years of combing Kimmeridge Clay, Portland and Purbeck stone, chalk greensand and the Wealdon beds. From Dorset’s famous ichthyosaur to reptilian micro-fossils cleaned with a sieve and toothpick, it’s an incredible snapshot of the Jurassic coast, beautifully preserved and free for all who care to visit. 

The Square and Compass is open throughout winter on Mondays to Thursdays from 12 to 3pm and 6 to 11pm. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays it’s open from 12 to 11pm. www.squareandcompasspub.
Ali Wood is an outdoors journalist based in Dorset. 

The Stag Inn, Hastings, East Sussex

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Photo Credit: Oast House Archive 

After a bracing winter walk along Hastings’ historic harbour – a medieval Cinque Port with towering black net huts – seek shelter in The Stag Inn, one of the town’s oldest pubs, tucked safely beneath the East Hill. Stop for a salty seaspray kiss under the mistletoe, hanging from the oak beams above, and take a pew by the fireplace with your pint of real ale. Built in the atmospheric Old Town around 1547, the tavern became a popular hangout for Hastings’ many smugglers – thought to have stored contraband here. These days you’re more likely to meet musicians. For festive, foot-stomping fun, you can’t beat its bluegrass, folk and sea-shanty sessions. 

14 All Saints Street, TN34 3BJ. Tel: 01424 425 734 www.shepherdneame.co.uk/pubs/hastings/stag-inn
Words by Hannah Stuart-Leach

The Stiperstones Inn, shropshire

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Photo Credit: Chris Holifield
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This inn sits sheltered beneath the purple hills whose summits are crowned by the shattered quartzite tors of Devil’s Chair and Shepherd’s, Nipstone and Cranberry Rocks.  Wander up them and you’ll also find an ancient fissured holly pasture, berry-foraged by fieldfares and thrushes. Back at the bottom, evergreens garland the beams of this former farm cottage and fires burn in its grates sending hearth-light to dance over gleaming brass. It’s where on Christmas Eve, the local vicar leads a carol service, and from where on Boxing Day ‘Dash and Dawdle’ participants race to the Devils Chair and back for sausages, chips, and a glass of something warming. 

Stiperstones, Shropshire SY5 0LZ, Tel: 01743 791327 www.stiperstonesinn.co.uk
Words by Julie Brominicks