Award Winning County Dining Pubs with rooms for a Winter Getaway

If Christmas planning is stressing you out, put it to one side and book your next escape at one of our award winning County Dining Pubs. Black Horse, Bedfordshire This enticing 17th-c pub mixes the old with the new, with its modern, welcoming decor and contemporary, imaginative cuisine and first class choice of drinks. The…

If Christmas planning is stressing you out, put it to one side and book your next escape at one of our award winning County Dining Pubs.

Black Horse, Bedfordshire

This enticing 17th-c pub mixes the old with the new, with its modern, welcoming decor and contemporary, imaginative cuisine and first class choice of drinks. The relaxing bar has inglenook fireplaces and beams in low ceilings, with such ales such as Adnams Southwold, Sharps Doom Bar and Woodfordes Wherry on handpump, 27 wines by the glass from a well described list, a dozen malt whiskies, Weston’s cider and good coffee from the long green-slate bar counter. French windows open from the restaurant on to terraces. The chalet-style bedrooms (just across a courtyard in a separate building) are comfortable and well equipped; continental breakfasts are included and taken in your room.

Royal Oak, Berkshire

This handsome red-brick inn is only ten minutes from Newbury Racecourse, so it can get busy on race days. It’s also a popular place to stay, with ten smart bedrooms in the main house or a separate cottage, overlooking the garden or the village square. But the main reason customers visit is for the excellent food from head chef Nick MacGregor. New this year is the lovely Orangery dining room, with a central skylight above a maple tree and an open kitchen. Well kept ales from the local area include the likes of Ramsbury Gold, Ringwood Razorback and a changing guest on handpump, and around 20 wines by the glass.

Old Coastguard, Cornwall

This well run inn on the edge of an old fishing village is a charming (and very popular) place to stay, with 14 comfortable bedrooms offering views towards St Michael’s Mount and the Lizard. The bar rooms have boldly coloured walls hung with paintings of sailing boats and local scenes. St Austell Tribute and a couple of guests such as Padstow Windjammer on handpump, 25 wines by the glass or carafe, a big choice of gins, vodkas and whiskies, a farm cider and a good choice of soft drinks. Breakfasts are highly regarded.

Lion & Pheasant, Shropshire

This charming and attractive town-centre inn is a splendid place to stay, with 22 serene, comfortable and well equipped bedrooms and two self-catering apartments. Some rooms offer glimpses of the River Severn below the nearby English Bridge, and breakfasts are good. The atmosphere is gently civilised but friendly. There are three real ales on handpump ‘ perhaps Hobsons Twisted Spire, Salopian Oracle and Wye Valley Butty Bach or HPA, plus 14 wines by the glass and farm cider; new this year is a little wine bar and wine shop. Off quite a warren of corridors, the restaurant is in the older back part of the building with beams and timbering. There’s also the lovely Crystal Room with its silver-edged mirrors and transparent chairs, perfect for a party or reception.

Burts Hotel, Melrose

This delightful, family-run hotel has a welcoming bar as well as an elegant restaurant. The 20 bedrooms, though quite small, are immaculate and comfortably decorated and make a lovely base for exploring; they also have a new self-catering cottage. Neat public areas are maintained with attention to detail. The red-carpeted bar has tidy pub tables, windsor armchairs, Scottish prints on pale green walls and a long dark wood counter with three handpumps serving Born in the Borders Game Bird and changing ales (maybe Lowland Dryfe and Timothy Taylors Landlord), 12 wines by the glass from a good list, a farm cider, 25 gins and around 60 malt whiskies. Situated at the heart of an attractive border town, just a few steps from the ruins of Melrose Abbey and close to Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott’s ancestral home, there’s plenty to do nearby.

Shibden Mill, Yorkshire

If the rustic charm of this restored 17th-c mill combined with contemporary luxuries weren’t enough to win you over, the large choice of ales, wines and spirits and exemplary food surely will. The rambling bar has plenty of character and is full of nooks and crannies. You’ll find a beer named for them (from Moorhouses), Little Valley Withens Pale Ale and a couple of changing guests on handpump, 29 wines by the glass from a wide list, 22 malt whiskies and 20 gins. There’s also an upstairs restaurant; background music. To make the most of the lovely surrounding countryside, our readers regularly stay in the 11 stylish, well equipped bedrooms; breakfasts are good and hearty. Shibden Hall, star of the recent TV series Gentleman Jack about Anne Lister, is nearby.

Inn At Whitewell, Lancashire

This elegant and sprawling manor house cuts an imposing silhouette against the surrounding landscape,  it’s situated high on the banks of the River Hodder, with spectacular views across the water to the Forest of Bowland. Visitors often choose to stay in one of its 23 lovely bedrooms or separate holiday cottage, the Piggeries: charming and individually furnished with beautifully restored bathrooms. Breakfasts are excellent. Drinks include a marvellous wine list of around 230 wines with 26 by the glass (there’s also an excellent on-site wine shop), 24 whiskies, eight gins, a fine selection of soft drinks, and Black Sheep, Moorhouses Blonde Witch, Timothy Taylors Landlord and Tirril Ullswater Blonde on handpump. The riverside bar and adjacent terrace make the most of the scenic views, and they own several miles of trout, salmon and sea trout fishing on the river (picnic hampers on request). Limited disabled access.

Queen’s Arms, Somerset

Everyone mixes easily in this honey-coloured stone inn surrounded by glorious countryside. They keep four regularly changing ales from breweries such as Bath, Cheddar, Exmoor and Otter on handpump, 22 wines (including champagne) by the glass from a carefully chosen list, more than 50 malt whiskies, 21 gins, unusual bottled beers from Belgium, Germany and the USA, cocktails and four local ciders and apple juices. The south-facing back terrace has teak tables and chairs under parasols, outdoor heaters for chillier weather and colourful flower tubs. There eight comfortable bedrooms with lovely country views and two self-catering cottages; breakfasts are particularly good. Cadbury Castle hill fort is not far away and there are fine walks nearby.

Plough, Derbyshire

Great food, as well as a warm welcome and a good choice of well kept ales and other drinks await you at this immaculately kept 16th-c inn in the heart of the Peak District National Park, with great climbing and walking nearby. Abbeydale Moonshine, Bradfield Yorkshire Farmer and Eagle Bombardier on handpump, 25 wines by the glass from a good list and around a dozen malt whiskies; quiet background music. The seats on the terrace have wonderful valley views and the nine-acre grounds are on the banks of the River Derwent, the pretty garden slopes down to the water. There are seven well equipped bedrooms in a barn conversion and two shepherd’s huts.

Pointer, Buckinghamshire

Unusually, this handsome place is a pub-cum-restaurant-cum-butchery business and all the meat comes from their own livestock herds and neighbouring farms. The stylish bar has low beams, elegant armchairs and sofas with brocaded cushions, open fires or woodburners in brick fireplaces and animal-hide stools by the counter. House ales come from XT Brewery, and there’s a solid list of artisan spirits and liqueurs, and a thoughtfully curated wine list, all served by friendly, attentive staff. Opposite this handsome inn is a red brick cottage which houses their eight restful, pretty bedrooms. Tolkien is said to have based the village of Bree in The Lord of the Rings on this pretty village.