The onset of autumn brings with it twin joys: cosy afternoons in atmospheric pubs, and brilliant walking weather. Combine the two at these ace drinking holes, where epic hiking scenery is just on the doorstep…
The Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall
The pub: Crackling fires, sturdy wooden tables and a prime perch above swirling blue on the Atlantic coast – the Gurnard’s Head is the picture of classic Cornish pub cosiness. But most punters come not for the fabulous atmosphere but rather the excellent fish-forward food plated up by chef Max Wilson. Lunches of whole plaice with capers, brown shrimp and samphire butter will power you along the craggy nearby coast, while eight comfy bedrooms (from £155) – one with a log-burner – provide opportunity for snoozing on your return. gurnardshead.co.uk
The walk: The South West Coast Path is right on your doorstep, in all its undulating, cliff-hugging glory. Zigzag north from an old ruined mine north towards broad Zennor beach, with one spectacular vantage point after another punctuating your walk. Or head for the south to take in the rocky stacks of Travean Cliff.
The Lifeboat Inn, Norfolk
The pub: Set in the chic North Norfolk enclave of Thornham, the Lifeboat Inn takes its Sunday roasts seriously, serving up not only old spot pork loin with garlic-thyme roasties but also mushroom and ale pie, beer-battered fish and chips and sourdough pizzas. Tuck into whatever you fancy in its white-washed stone interior before dropping bags in one of the sixteen modern bedrooms (from £175) – then pulling on your walking shoes for an afternoon stroll. lifeboatinnthornham.com
The walk: Flat, sandy and fringed with swaying grasses home to migrating sea birds, the North Norfolk coast has a moody, austere kind of beauty. From the Lifeboat you can follow wooden boardwalks raised above marshland to sleepy, wind-freshened beaches free from crowds. To the east is RSPB Titchwell Marsh, to the west Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve, so take your pick.
The Howard Arms, Warwickshire
The pub: In the Cotswolds, pub-going is practically a competitive sport, with a serious glut of time-warp, honey-hued numbers vying for your attention. The 17th-century Howard Arms ticks all the boxes with its stone-floored bar area, complete with a roaring fire where pooches can snuggle up beside owners after a long stroll over the hills. The food’s great too – think Tamworth pork with turnips, braised onions, cavolo nero and girolles – while eight bedrooms (from £155) feature the likes of worn ceiling beams and snuggly wool blankets. howardarms.com
The walk: Head southeast from the pub across green sheep-dotted fields to get the full expanse of the Cotswolds AONB beauty. The perfect destination is National Trust property Hidcote, a landscaped Arts and Crafts-style garden which takes around an hour to reach from the pub’s front door.
Butt & Oyster, Suffolk
The pub: On the banks of the River Orwell in sleepy Pin Mill, the Butt & Oyster has true local spirit, serving up Suffolk real ales and food from nearby suppliers (menus include the likes of oozy Baron Bigod brie, for example). It has true historic pedigree having been mentioned in two of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books, and fabulous views too thanks to the prime waterside location. debeninns.co.uk
The walk: On a three-mile loop from the pub, the glassy figure of the River Orwell is your initial guide, before you plunge into sprawling fields and open woodland. It takes a little more than an hour to skirt past the sailing club to Woolverstone Marina and onwards to the Stour and Orwell Walk, taking in St Michael church and looping back towards Pin Mill. That’s just enough time to work up a thirst for another round at the pub.
The Bridge Inn, Edinburgh
The pub: You might not think the award-winning Bridge Inn at Ratho is just seven miles west of Edinburgh city centre – the setting overlooking the Union Canal, with twinkling fairy lights in the beer garden and lines of leafy trees, feels more rural. Come for the dishes with a distinct Scottish flavour (Cullen skink, haggis bon bons, Shetland scallops) and for pours of their own Bridge Inn craft beer. Book into one of the four bedrooms overlooking the canal (from £130), and come nightfall you’re only a stumble away from slumber. bridgeinn.com
The walk: There’s nothing more satisfying than walking here from west of Edinburgh’s city centre at Fountainbridge, where the canal begins. Feel the city fall away as you stride along the waterside towards well-earned pints (or perhaps a whisky dram). You can’t really get lost; simply follow the towpath and enjoy the journey.
The Coastguard, Kent
The pub: Set under cliffs on the Kent coast for more than 300 years, this pub bills itself as Britain’s closest drinking hole to France – and its location boasts views of endless blue Channel rolling towards our Gallic neighbour. On sunny days visitors clutter the open terrace to feast on fish from Deal or meat from Canterbury, but the nautical-themed interior provides reason to linger over a pint of Whitstable Bay Blonde even when clouds roll in. thecoastguard.co.uk
The walk: It’s only an hour’s walk along the coastal path to one of the nation’s most spectacular sights: the White Cliffs of Dover. As you make your way along austere wind-beaten route with low grasses and thrashing waves below, you’ll take in a National Trust lighthouse and WWII tunnels. If you’ve the energy, just a little past the cliffs Dover Castle is waiting to be explored, too.
The Swan Inn, Somerset
The pub: Dating to the 17th century and Grade-II listed, the Swan mixes its original pub features – bare stone walls, beamed ceilings – with nine sleek bedrooms and a location that allows for a wide exploration of beautiful Somerset. From Rowberrow you can easily strike out to the craggy limestone Mendip Hills AONB – then return to the coddling pub environs to unwind over British charcuterie boards, Severn & Wye salmon burgers and Barnsley lamb chop with mint sauce. butcombe.com
The walk: With the Mendip Hills as backdrop, you’re truly spoiled for choice. Choose from a selection of circular walks from the pub, through woodland and stream on Rowberrow Warren; to an Iron Age settlement and Bristol Channel views at Dolebury Warren; or across high heathland at Black Down. Pub staff can point you in the right direction.
The White Hart Inn, Essex
The pub: Even if you’re not that into walking, this revamped pub on the island of Mersea would be worth a stop. The clapboard frontage belies the gussied up interior: polished parquet, luscious fabrics, metallic accents that lend a contemporary feel. The food is a fresh take on pub fare with loads of local sourcing; think bone marrow custard tart or duck with ratatouille. Rooms (from £150) are dressed in colour pops of sapphire, emerald and lime. whitehartessex.co.uk
The walk: It takes a solid half-day to walk around the entirety of Mersea on the coastal path, traversing from resort south coast to the wilder Strood and Pyefleet channels – the perfect morning challenge that can land you at the White Hart in time for a late lunch. But you can also strike out on shorter routes from Monkey Beach, near the pub, leading you along the coast before plunging into the pancake-flat interior.
Ferry Boat Inn, Devon
The pub: There aren’t many pink-painted pubs out there, but the brilliant exterior hue isn’t the only reason the Ferry Boat (called FBI for short) turns heads. Its seaside vantage point, looking out from Dittisham on the shores of the River Dart, is pretty sublime. Grab one of the outdoor tables among the locals and yachties, then order up a pre-walk feast of pizza and chicken wings. fbidittisham.co.uk
The walk: Ready for a proper hike? The thigh-burning expedition from Dartmouth to Dittisham and back will certainly get your appetite going, as you navigate steep ascents and descents through farmland and forest. Expect plenty of postcard-worthy scenery to keep you company, with views to the winding River Dart and verdant landscapes.
The Mortal Man Inn, Cumbria
The pub: New owners recently took over this pub dating to 1689, with 11 bedrooms (from £130) and a spectacular position overlooking the Lakeland Fells. There’s still plenty of timeless grandeur, however, including beam-lined bar with tartan accents and a beer garden with sunset views. Order a Ploughman’s and cider, then kick back and enjoy the panorama. themortalman.co.uk
The walk: The Lake District was basically made for walkers, so from the moment you spill from the front door options are bountiful. Spend a few hours hiking from home base to photogenic Ambleside or Windermere over a smaller fell or get the heart rate up on the three-and-a-half hour trek to Lakeshore and back. You’ll have certainly earned that pint waiting for you on the return.