We’re calling last orders on country pub stays that feature surly service, soggy Yorkshire puddings and swirly carpets. Luckily for us, a new generation of landlord has arrived to gently nudge these historic public houses into modernity with artisan-crafted interiors, farm-sourced fare and spoiling spas in sheds. Here we’ve gathered five of our favourite boutique pubs with rooms, each perfect for basking in England’s bucolic beauty (with local ale in hand).
THE BECKFORD ARMS
It’s been a boozer since 1740, so ivy-covered idyll the Beckford Arms has had 242 years to perfect the art of wining, dining and unwinding. And we say they’ve got it nailed – beamed ceilings, bay windows and open fires help to create the cosiest of surroundings downstairs.
But don’t just take our word for it: the surest sign of a cracking country pub is that it’s packed with locals, and, sure enough, the Beckford bustles all weekend long. The food here is famous (we don’t use the word lightly) and on a Sunday lunch time, seemingly the entire county congregates here for a roast. Everything on the menu is seasonal and straight-forward with strictly no gastro gimmicks, and always served with a genuine smile from an unfeasibly healthy-looking local lad or lass.
Upstairs, the eight bedrooms are stylishly furnished with Welsh wool blankets, sisal rugs and just-picked wild flowers in bud vases. You’ll be particularly charmed by breakfast, which comes on a proper tea tray with a silver teapot to boot. And speaking of boots, the pub sits on the 10,000-acre Fonthill Estate, so they’ll come in handy for roaming the rolling parkland, woodland and formal gardens.
DOUBLE RED DUKE
This honey-hued Cotswolds (in spirit, if not by the letter of the geographical law) stone pub takes its name from a folkloric figure, which is apt because a stay here does feel a bit like living in a fairy tale.
Perhaps it’s because some of Britain’s finest artisans had a hand in the Arts and Crafts-inspired interiors – there are Fermoie fabrics, bespoke Little Greene paint on the walls and hand-crafted tiles on the floor.
Maybe it’s the shepherd’s hut in the grounds where you can skip off for spa treatments using 100 Acres aromatherapy products. And possibly it’s because of the wolfish appetite you’ll need to work up to tackle the pub menu – the Double Red Duke‘s chefs are both alumni of meat temples Hawksmoor and PittCue, so expect hearty steaks cooked over an open grill, throwback staples like shrimp cocktail, and comforting bar snacks including cheese toasties and bacon rib croquettes.
It all combines for a pleasingly soporific effect – luckily the snug’s overstuffed sofas, roaring fire and stash of board games were made for lazy afternoons.
THE PHEASANT INN
The Pheasant Inn may share its name with a game bird, but the talk is mostly of thoroughbreds inside this sporty pub in the North Wessex Downs, also known as ‘the Valley of the Racehorse’ because of the sheer number of training grounds in cantering distance.
This means you’re more than likely to rub fetlocks at the bar with Britain’s foremost owners, trainers and perhaps even jockeys, particularly after race days at Newbury. But if talk of gallops and geldings leaves you cold, don’t worry – as well as horses, the surrounding countryside is also peppered with quaint villages, historic market towns and antiques havens (make Hungerford Arcade your first stop).
We’ll have a flutter that you won’t want to venture too far from the locally-sourced menu that’s worth loosening your jodhpurs for, cosy bedrooms complete with duck-down duvets, bath tubs and Bamford bath products, or Bloody Mary bar that gets wheeled out at brunch time.
LORD POULETT ARMS
Firstly, a Lord Poulett Arms tip: it’s not pronounced like the French word for chicken, it’s ‘paulett’. The name comes from the Hon Earl Paulett whose ancestral seat is just down the road from the pub’s sleepy, south Somerset village of Hinton Saint George.
Really, though, who needs a stately home when you’ve got a thatched English inn with pétanque in the garden, craft beers from the nearby Butcombe Brewery and glorious walking paths leading straight from the front door?
The six characterful bedrooms above the inn have comfy super-king-size beds where you can sleep off the coma-inducing effects of cider battered fish and chips, triple chocolate skillet cookies and pints of Poulett cider.
THE BRADLEY HARE
The Bradley Hare reposes in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Duke of Somerset’s estate (though it’s actually just over the border in Dorset).
Although we’d be remiss not to address the outstanding beauty inside – interiors aficionados, beware, you’ll be itching to redecorate after laying eyes on the soft grey wool curtains, 18th-century antiques, heritage wallpapers and covetable cushions that adorn the historic bones of this not-so-average village pub.
The man responsible is James Thurstan Waterworth, a former design director at Soho House, whose inimitable eye has ensured that every bedroom (seven in the main pub and five in the neighbouring coach house) oozes softly-spoken sophistication. Despite all this urbanity, the Bradley Hare’s feet are still firmly planted in the duchy’s soil – there are local Somerset ciders on tap, dogs and little Smiths are very welcome and there’s a stash of wellies for walks around the West Wiltshire Downs.
Continue your crawl around the rest of our boutique pubs with rooms…