Good Pub Guide National Award Winners 2012

We are delighted to announce the National Award winning pubs for 2012 including the prestigious Pub of the Year.

Over the past few weeks we have been announcing the nominees for this year's award winning pubs. Thank you to all those who left comments on our facebook page. The editors have now made their final decisions and we are delighted to announce who the winners are. Find out the nation's top pub for beer, wine, dining and accommodation. Discover our country's most unspoilt pub, best landlord and most popular new comer. Here are the award winners for 2012.

 


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Pub of the Year (South West Pub of the Year)

Potting Shed, Crudwell (Wiltshire

Appealing variation on the traditional country tavern theme, a fine choice of drinks, interesting food and friendly staff

Rather than just another pub/restaurant this highly enjoyable place is a proper country pub where people and dogs are genuinely welcomed by the cheerful young staff – and they have a fantastic range of drinks and often inventive food as well. Low-beamed rooms ramble around the bar with mixed plain tables and chairs on pale flagstones, log fires (one in a big worn stone fireplace, some well worn easy chairs in one corner, and a couple of blacktop daily papers. Four steps take you up into a high-raftered further area with coir carpeting, and there's one separate smaller room ideal for a lunch or dinner party. The rustic decorations are not overdone and quite fun: a garden-fork door handle, garden-tool beer pumps, rather witty big black and white photographs. Bath Ales Gem Bitter, Butcombe Bitter, Timothy Taylors Landlord and St Austell Tribute on handpump as well as an excellent range of 30 wines and champagne by the glass, home-made seasonal cocktails using local or home-grown fruit, local fruit liqueurs, good coffees and popular winter mulled wine; visiting dogs may meet Barney and Rubbles (the owners') and be offered biscuits. Well chosen piped music and board games. They have summer barbecues on fine Saturdays; there are sturdy teak seats around cask tables as well as picnic-sets out on the side grass among weeping willows.

 

Dining Pub of the Year

Stagg, Titley (Herefordshire)

Terrific food using tip-top ingredients served in extensive dining rooms, real ales and a fine choice of other drinks and two-acre garden; comfortable bedrooms

Obviously, the excellent food remains the main draw here (this is one of Britain’s top dining pubs after all) but it’s still very much a pub rather than a pure restaurant and the staff are genuinely welcoming and courteous. The little bar is comfortably hospitable with a civilised atmosphere, a fine collection of 200 jugs attached to the ceiling, Hobsons Best and Ludlow Gold on handpump, nine house wines by the glass (there’s also a carefully chosen 100-bin list), local potato and apple vodkas, local gins, farm cider, and quite a choice of spirits. The two-acre garden has seats on the terrace and a croquet lawn. The accommodation is in bedrooms above the pub as well as in the additional rooms in a Georgian vicarage four minutes’ walk away; super breakfasts.

 

Landlord of the Year

Jeremy Lee, New Inn, Cerne Abbas (Dorset)

Fine old inn with hard-working hands-on licensees, a friendly atmosphere, three real ales and good choice of wines and interesting food; bedrooms

Since Mr and Mrs Lee took over this charming 16th-c former coaching inn, we’ve had nothing but praise from our readers for the warm welcome and enjoyable food; it’s a nice place to stay as well and the bedrooms are clean and comfortable. The simple bar has straightforward wooden tables and chairs on the patterned carpet, old photographs and prints on pink walls, logs to either side of the stone fireplace and a few high bar chairs by the duck egg blue-painted bar counter where they keep Palmers IPA, Copper and 200 on handpump and a dozen good wines by the glass. The two rooms of the dining room have a happy mix of dark chairs around wooden tables, more old prints and mullioned window seats with a view down the main street of this attractive stone-built village. There are seats on the terrace and picnic-sets under mature fruit trees or parasols in the back garden. You can walk from the village up and around the prehistoric Cerne Abbas Giant chalk carving and on to other nearby villages. They are hoping to add more bedrooms.

 

Own Brew Pub of the Year

Church Inn, Uppermill, (Lancashire)

Lively good value community pub with big range of own brew beers at unbeatable bargain prices, lots of pets, and good food; children very welcome

The burgeoning menagerie of animals at this enjoyably quirky pub, high up on the moors, and with fine views down the valley includes rabbits, chickens, dogs, ducks, geese, alpacas, horses, 14 peacocks in the adjacent field and some cats resident in an adjacent barn. The big unspoilt L-shaped main bar has high beams and some stripped stone, settles and pews and a good individual mix of chairs, and lots of attractive prints and staffordshire and other china on a high delft shelf, jugs, brasses and so forth; TV (only when there’s sport on) and unobtrusive piped music; the conservatory opens on to a terrace. The horse-collar on the wall is worn by the winner of their annual gurning (face-pulling) championship which is held during the lively traditional Rush Cart Festival, which is usually over the August bank holiday. Local bellringers arrive on Wednesdays to practise with a set of handbells that are kept here, while anyone is invited to join the morris dancers who meet here on Thursdays. When the spring water levels aren’t high enough for brewing, they bring in guest beers such as Black Sheep and Hydes Jekylls Gold. At other times you might find up to 11 of their own-brew Saddleworth beers, usually starting at just £1.20 a pint. Some of the seasonal ones (look out for Ruebens, Ayrtons, Robyns and Indya) are named after the licensee’s children, only appearing around their birthdays; dark lager on tap too. Children and dogs are made to feel very welcome.

 

Unspoilt Pub of the Year

Square & Compass, Worth Matravers (Dorset)

Unchanging country tavern with masses of character, in the same family for many years; lovely sea views and fine nearby walks

The Newman family first took on this fine old pub over a hundred years ago and to this day, there’s no bar counter. Palmers Copper and guests such as Bays Gold and Penpont Cornish Arvor and up to 13 ciders are tapped from a row of casks and passed to you in a drinking corridor through two serving hatches; several malt whiskies. A couple of basic unspoilt rooms have simple furniture on the flagstones, a woodburning stove and a loyal crowd of friendly locals; darts and shove-ha’penny. From benches (made from local stone) out in front there’s a fantastic view down over the village rooftops to the sea around St Aldhelm’s Head and there may be free-roaming hens, chickens and other birds clucking around your feet. A little museum (free) exhibits local fossils and artefacts, mostly collected by the current friendly landlord and his father. There are wonderful walks from here to some exciting switchback sections of the coast path above St Aldhelm’s Head and Chapman’s Pool - you will need to park in the public car park 100 yards along the Corfe Castle road (which has a £1 honesty box).

 

Newcomer of the Year

Tobie Norris, Stamford (Lincolnshire)

Great period atmosphere in warren of ancient rooms, splendid drinks choice, nice pub food, pleasant courtyard

Very special, this is one of those pubs which makes you grin with delight at its sheer character the moment you step inside - then goes on to reveal more and more pleasures. It's many centuries old, beautifully restored so as to make the most of its age - worn flagstones, meticulously stripped stonework, huge hearth for one room's woodburning stove, steeply pitched rafters in one of the two upstairs rooms. Furnishings run from pews and heavy leatherette wall settles to comfortable armchairs, with flickering church candles, and abundant books and antique prints. Downstairs, several linked rooms include a handsomely panelled shrine to Nelson and Trafalgar on the left. These open off a spinal corridor, glass-roofed at the far end, to make a snug conservatory which opens to a narrow but sunny two-level courtyard with cast-iron tables, hanging baskets and plant tubs. Add careful attention by friendly staff, a fine changing range of wines, well kept Adnams and (from the owner's microbrewery) Ufford White Hart on handpump, three guest beers including ones from Adnams and Ufford, and Weston's organic farm cider, and you get a most enjoyable relaxed and easy-going atmosphere - particularly enjoyed by the two labradoodles Fraggle and Sprucket. The lavatories are up rather steep stairs.

 

Town Pub of the Year

Old Mitre, Clerkenwell (London)

Hard to find but well worth it - an unspoilt old pub with lovely atmosphere, unusual guest beers and bargain toasted sandwiches

You need to be in the know to find this hidden gem that’s secreted away down a tiny alley. These days, it’s all too rare in London to find proper hands-on licensees who genuinely care for their pub and their customers – but Mr and Mrs Scott do just that and our readers love it. The cosy small rooms have lots of dark panelling as well as antique settles and - particularly in the popular back room, where there are more seats - old local pictures and so forth. It gets good-naturedly packed with the city suited and booted between 12.30 and 2.15, filling up again in the early evening, but in the early afternoons and by around 9pm becomes a good deal more tranquil. An upstairs room, mainly used for functions, may double as an overflow at peak periods. Adnams Broadside, Caledonian Deuchars IPA, Fullers London Pride and Gales Seafarer and guests like BrewDog Trashy Blonde and Titanic White Star on handpump and they hold three beer festivals a year. No music, TV or machines - the only games here are board games. There's some space for outside drinking by the pot plants and jasmine in the narrow yard between the pub and St Ethelreda's church (which is worth a look). Note the pub doesn’t open weekends. The iron gates that guard one entrance to Ely Place are a reminder of the days when the law in this district was administered by the Bishops of Ely. The best approach is from Hatton Garden, walking up the right-hand side away from Chancery Lane; an easily missed sign on a lamp post points the way down a narrow alley. No children.

 

Whisky Pub of the Year

Bow Bar, Edinburgh (Scotland)

Eight splendidly kept beers - and lots of malts - in well run and friendly alehouse

This cheerfully traditional alehouse remains unchanging and full of character. The neatly kept rectangular bar has an impressive carved mahogany gantry, and from the tall 1920s founts on the bar counter, knowledgeable staff dispense eight well kept real ales such as Caledonian Deuchars IPA, Stewarts Edinburgh No 3 Premium Scotch Ale, Timothy Taylors Landlord and guests like Fyne Hurricane Jack, Highland Orkney Best, Hornbeam Black Coral Stout, Tempest Re-wired, and Tryst Raj IPA. Also on offer are some 200 malts, including five ‘malts of the moment’, a good choice of rums, 25 international bottled beers and quite a few gins. The walls are covered with a fine collection of enamel advertising signs and handsome antique brewery mirrors, and there are sturdy leatherette wall seats and café-style bar seats around heavy narrow tables on the wooden floor; free wi-fi access.

 

Value Pub of the Year

Bell Inn, Middleton (Suffolk)

Thatch and low beams, friendly chef/landlord, good beer, good value food - a peaceful spot

Well placed for walks on the coast or at the Minsmere bird reserve, this has a quiet village spot overlooked by the church's grand flint tower. It's a pretty cream-washed building, with picnic-sets under cocktail parasols out in front, and camping available in the broad meadow behind. The traditional bar on the left has a log fire in a big hearth, old local photographs, a low plank-panelling ceiling, bar stools and pew seating, well kept Adnams Bitter, Broadside, Explorer and seasonal ales tapped from the cask, and darts. The landlord's warmth and courtesy make for a really relaxed and contented atmosphere. On the right an informal two-room carpeted lounge/dining area has padded mate's and library chairs around the dark tables below its low black beams, with pews by a big woodburning stove, and cheery modern brewery seaside prints. Dogs are welcomed with treats and a bowl of water.

 

Beer Pub of the Year

Nags Head, Malvern (Worcestershire)

Remarkable range of real ales, delightfully eclectic layout and décor and warmly welcoming atmosphere

Should you feel daunted by the astonishing range of 14 beers at this terrifically enjoyable little pub, the cheery staff will happily help you choose by offering you a taster. House beers are Banks's, Bathams, St Georges Charger, Friar Tuck and Dragons Blood, Sharps Doom Bar, Woods Shropshire Lad and Wychwood Hobgoblin and they've changing guests (last year they got through over 1,000) from far flung brewers such as Battledown, Cottage, Kinver and Three Tuns. They also keep two farm ciders and about two dozen malt whiskies. The superb range of well kept beers, tasty bar food, splendid individuality and easy-going chatty mood attract a good mix of jolly visitors and locals. A series of snug individually decorated rooms, with one or two steps between, gives plenty of options on where to sit. Each is characterfully filled with all sorts of chairs including leather armchairs, pews sometimes arranged as booths, a mix of tables with sturdy ones stained different colours, bare boards here, flagstones there, carpet elsewhere, and plenty of interesting pictures and homely touches such as house plants, shelves of well thumbed books and broadsheet newspapers, and there's a coal fire opposite the central servery; shove-ha'penny, cribbage and dominoes. There are picnic-sets and rustic tables and benches on the front terrace (with heaters and umbrellas) and in the garden.

 

Inn of the Year

Royal Oak, Luxborough (Somerset)

Smashing place in wonderful countryside, interesting bar and restaurant food, local beers and ciders and attentive, friendly staff; warm, comfortable bedrooms

In the heart of Exmoor, this is an exceptionally enjoyable place to stay for a few days and there are memorable nearby walks in the wonderful surrounding countryside; the Coleridge Way is popular. There’s always a really good mix of chatty locals (often with their dogs) and visitors and you can be sure of a genuinely warm welcome from the landlord and his helpful staff. The compact bar, which has the most character and a relaxed, cheerful atmosphere, has lovely ancient flagstones, several rather fine settles (one with a very high back and one still with its book rest), scrubbed kitchen tables, lots of beer mats on beams, a cart horse saddle and a huge brick fireplace with a warm log fire; a simpler back room has an ancient cobbled floor, some quarry tiles and a stone fireplace. One room just off the bar is set for dining, with attractive old pine furniture and horse and hunting prints, and there are two dining rooms as well. One is green painted and a larger end one has stuffed fish in glass cabinets, fish paintings and fishing rods on the dark red walls, leather and brass-tack dining chairs and more formal ones around quite a mix of old tables, with Turkish-style rugs on the black slate floor. Exmoor Ale and Gold and a couple of guests such as Cotleigh Tawny Owl and Old Hooker on handpump, 14 wines by the glass and Thatcher’s and Rich’s farmhouse cider; darts and board games. There are some seats out in the charming back courtyard.

 

Wine Pub of the Year

Woods, Dulverton (Somerset)

Smartly informal place with exceptional wines, real ales, first-rate food and a good mix of customers

Comfortably relaxed and mildly upmarket in a country way, this bustling place always has a good mix of both locals and visitors and a good balance between drinkers and diners. It’s run by a particularly charming landlord and his genuinely helpful and friendly staff who will open any of their 400 wines for just a glass from a quite extraordinarily good list; there’s also an unlisted collection of about 500 well aged, new world wines which Mr Groves will happily chat about. St Austell Dartmoor Best, Otter Head and a changing guest beer tapped from the cask, a farm cider, many sherries and some unusual spirits. As the pub is on the edge of Exmoor, there are plenty of good sporting prints on the salmon pink walls, some antlers, other hunting trophies, stuffed birds and a couple of salmon rods. There are bare boards on the left by the bar counter and daily papers to read, tables partly separated by stable-style timbering and masonry dividers and a bit on the right which is carpeted and has a woodburning stove in the big fireplace; maybe unobjectionable piped music. Big windows keep you in touch with what's going on out in the quiet town centre (or you can sit out on the pavement at a couple of metal tables). A small suntrap back courtyard has a few picnic-sets.

 

Scotland Pub of the Year

Applecross Inn, Applecross (Scotland)

Wonderfully remote pub on famously scenic route on west coast; particularly friendly welcome, real ales and good seafood; bedrooms

The exhilarating west coast drive to get here over the Beallach na Ba pass, the pass of the cattle, is one of the highest in Britain and not to be tried in bad weather. The pub itself is splendidly remote and tables in the nice shoreside garden enjoy magnificent views across to the Cuillin Hills on Skye. The no-nonsense, welcoming bar (extremely busy in high season with a good mix of both locals and visitors) has a woodburning stove, exposed stone walls and upholstered pine furnishings on the stone floor; Isle of Skye Red Cuillin and Young Pretender on handpump and over 50 malt whiskies; pool (winter only), TV, and board games; some disabled facilities. The alternative route here, along the single-track lane winding round the coast from just south of Shieldaig, has equally glorious sea loch and then sea views nearly all the way.

 

North West Pub of the Year

Masons Arms, Cartmel Fell (Cumbria)

Stunning views, beamed bar with plenty of character, good food and real ales plus many foreign bottled beers; self-catered cottages and apartments

Rustic benches and tables on the heated terrace here take in the stunning views down over the Winster Valley to the woods below Whitbarrow Scar; it really is an idyllic spot. The pub itself is a favourite with many of our readers and the main bar has plenty of character, with low black beams in the bowed ceiling and country chairs and plain wooden tables on polished flagstones. A small lounge has oak tables and settles to match its fine Jacobean panelling, there’s a plain little room beyond the serving counter with pictures and a fire in an open range, a family room with an old-parlourish atmosphere and an upstairs dining room; piped music, board games and TV. Cumbrian Dickie Doodle, Hawkshead Bitter and Windermere Pale, Thwaites Wainwright and Winster Valley Old School on handpump, quite a few foreign bottled beers, 13 wines by the glass and a dozen malt whiskies; service if friendly and prompt. The stylish and comfortable self-catering cottages and apartments also have fine views.

 

North East and Yorkshire Pub of the Year

Crown, Roecliffe (Yorkshire)

Smartly updated and attractively placed pub with a civilised bar, excellent enterprising food and fine choice of drinks; lovely bedrooms

Going from strength to strength under the hard-working and friendly Mainey family, this well run place is extremely popular with our readers. Of course, much emphasis is placed on the top class food but they do keep Black Sheep Ale, Ilkley Mary Jane, Theakstons Best and Timothy Taylors Landlord on handpump, 20 wines by the glass and home-made lemonade. The bar has a contemporary colour scheme of dark reds and near-whites with attractive prints carefully grouped and lit; one area has chunky pine tables on flagstones and another part, with a log fire, has dark tables on plaid carpet. For meals, you have a choice between a small candlelit olive-green bistro with nice tables, a longcase clock and one or two paintings and a more formal restaurant; at weekends, it's wise to book ahead. The country-style bedrooms are highly thought of. The pub faces the village green.

 

Wales Pub of the Year

Olde Bulls Head, Beaumaris (Wales)

Interesting historic pub with brasserie food, accommodation and wines

The various areas at this relaxed inn cover quite a range of styles – there’s a simple but cosy bar, a popular brasserie and a smart upstairs restaurant. It was built in 1472 and well known visitors have included Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens, both of whom would find much of it familiar today. The low-beamed bar is nicely rambling, with plenty of interesting reminders of the town's past: a rare 17th-c brass water clock, a bloodthirsty crew of cutlasses and even an oak ducking stool tucked among the snug alcoves. There are lots of copper and china jugs, comfortable low-seated settles, leather-cushioned window seats, and a good log fire. Kindly staff serve Bass, Hancocks and a guest such as Conwy Welsh Pride on handpump. Quite a contrast, the busy brasserie behind is lively and stylishly modern, with a wine list that includes around 20 by the glass; the exceptionally good restaurant list runs to 120 bottles. The entrance to the pretty courtyard is closed a huge simple-hinged door that’s and astonishing 11 feet wide and 13 feet high. Named after characters in Dickens's novels, the bedrooms are very well equipped; some are traditional, and others more contemporary in style, and there are also bedrooms in the Townhouse, an adjacent property with disabled access.

 

East Midlands Pub of the Year

Bear, Alderwastley (Derbyshire)

Unspoilt country inn with low-beamed cottagey rooms, good range of real ales and a peaceful garden; bedrooms

Readers can’t heap enough praise on this terrific all-rounder. Justifiably popular, this happy character-laden tavern has lovely dark low-beamed rooms with warming open fires and a cheerful miscellany of antique furniture including high-backed settles and locally made antique oak chairs with derbyshire motifs. One little room is filled right to its built-in wall seats by a single vast table. Other décor includes staffordshire china ornaments, old paintings and engravings. There's no obvious front door - you get in through the plain back entrance by the car park, and as it can get busy you may need to book. Bass, Derby Bluebear, Hartington IPA, Thornbridge Jaipur and Timothy Taylors Landlord are on handpump alongside a guest or two from brewers such as Thornbridge, and they do several wines by the glass from a decent list, as well as malt whiskies. Well spaced picnic-sets out on the side grass have peaceful country views

 

East of England Pub of the Year

Rose & Crown, Snettisham (Norfolk)

Particularly well run old pub, log fires and interesting furnishings, imaginative food, a fine range of drinks and stylish seating on heated terrace; well equipped bedrooms

The neatly dressed, courteous staff in this well run and pretty cottage offer a genuinely warm welcome to all – children and dogs, too. The smallest of the three bars is a pale grey colour with coir flooring and old prints of King’s Lynn and Sandringham. Each of the other two bars has a separate character: an old-fashioned beamed front bar with black settles on its tiled floor and a big log fire, and a back bar with another large log fire and the landlord’s sporting trophies and old sports equipment (which are being slowly edged out to make way for the pub cricket team photos). There’s also the Garden Room with inviting wicker-based wooden chairs, careful lighting and a quote by Dr Johnson in old-fashioned rolling script on a huge wall board, and a residents’ lounge (liked by non-residents, too) with squashy armchairs and sofas, rugs on the floor, newspapers, magazines, jigsaws and board games. Adnams Bitter and Broadside, Black Sheep Ruddy Ram and Woodfordes Wherry on handpump, nine wines by the glass and cider and perry. In the garden, there are stylish café-style blue chairs and tables under cream parasols on the terrace, outdoor heaters and colourful herbaceous borders; there’s a new wooden galleon-shaped climbing fort. Two of the comfortable bedrooms are downstairs and there are disabled lavatories and wheelchair ramps. The Bank House in King’s Lynn (see our Lucky Dip section) is under the same management..

 

Heart of England Pub of the Year

Bell & Cross, Holy Cross (Worcestershire)

Super food, staff with a can-do attitude, delightful old interior and pretty garden

This charmingly well kept place is clearly run with loving care and attention to detail. Service is friendly and attentive, with everything geared to ensure that you have a most enjoyable visit. Successful as a dining pub yet still extremely welcoming if you’re just popping in for a drink, it’s in an unspoilt early 19th-c layout with five beautifully decorated little rooms and a kitchen opening off a central corridor with a black-and-white tiled floor. Rooms offer a choice of carpet, bare boards, lino or nice old quarry tiles, and there' s a variety of mood in each - from snug and chatty to bright and airy and with an individual décor in each: theatrical engravings on red walls here, nice sporting prints on pale green walls there, and racing and gundog pictures above the black panelled dado in another room. Two of the rooms have small serving bars, with Banks, Enville, Timothy Taylors Landlord and a guest such as St Austell Tribute on handpump, around 50 wines (with about a dozen by the glass), organic soft drinks and a variety of coffees; daily papers, coal fires in most rooms with regulars sometimes playing cards in one of the front two; piped music. A spacious lawn has well maintained picnic sets, and you get pleasant views from the garden terrace.

 

South East and London Pub of the Year

Cat, West Hoathly (Sussex)

Popular 16th-c inn with old-fashioned bar, airy dining rooms, real ales, good food and seats outside; lovely bedrooms

With hands-on licensees, a genuinely warm welcome for all and highly thought of food, it’s not surprising that so many of our readers like to come back again and again to this bustling 16th-c tile-hung inn. There’s a lovely old bar with beams, proper pubby tables and chairs on the old wooden floor, a fine log fire in the inglenook fireplace, Harveys Best and Old and Larkins Traditional Ale on handpump and several wines by the glass; look out for a glass cover over the 75-foot deep well. The dining rooms are light and airy with a nice mix of wooden dining chairs and tables on the pale wood-strip flooring and throughout there are hops, china platters, brass and copper ornaments and a gently upmarket atmosphere. The contemporary-style garden room has glass doors that open on to a terrace with teak furniture. This is a comfortable and enjoyable place to stay (some of the rooms overlook the church) and the breakfasts are very good. The Bluebell Railway is nearby.

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