Our Top 10 Pubs for food and drink that won’t cost the earth

The run up to the Christmas season can weigh heavy on the purse but a hearty meal in a great pub doesn’t have to. Rather than produce cheap, standard fare, these pubs are to be congratulated on serving interesting and varied dishes at keen prices. Drake Manor, Devon This charming little pub is deservedly popular,…

The run up to the Christmas season can weigh heavy on the purse but a hearty meal in a great pub doesn’t have to. Rather than produce cheap, standard fare, these pubs are to be congratulated on serving interesting and varied dishes at keen prices.

Drake Manor, Devon

This charming little pub is deservedly popular, with many visitors returning on a regular basis. Run by a friendly, long-serving landlady, it provides comfortable bedrooms and enjoyable, very fair value food. There’s Dartmoor Jail Ale, Sharps Doom Bar and a guest from Exeter on handpump, ten wines by the glass, a dozen malt whiskies, 15 gins and three farm ciders; darts and board games. Buckland Abbey (National Trust) is close by.

Digby Tap, Dorset

A perfect combination of old-style boozer, free-styling freehouse and thoroughly modern community (and boules/cricket) centre. You’ll find customers from all walks of life enjoying the well kept beers and gratifyingly cheap food. The atmosphere is lively, chatty and warmly welcoming. The splendid choice of beers on handpump, all inexpensive, includes Cerne Abbas Ale, Otter Bitter, Red Rock IPA and Teignworthy Neap Tide. Also, several wines by the glass and a choice of malt whiskies. Lovely Sherborne Abbey is just a stroll away, but there are many beauty spots where you can walk off your steak sandwich and pint of Otter (and still have change from a tenner).

Red Lion, Hertfordshire

Perhaps one of the secrets to this pub’s success is the fact that in 1982 it became the first pub in the country to be owned by the local community and they’ve never looked back. It’s a busy and cheerful place. Timothy Taylors Landlord and Tring Side Pocket for a Toad with guests such as Butcombe Original, Oakham JHB and Wolf in Sheeps Clothing on handpump, five farm ciders, seven wines by the glass (including an English house wine), a perry and winter mulled wine.

Church Inn, Lancashire

This informal and friendly community local always attracts a cheerful crowd of happy customers, despite its remote setting. Home to the Saddleworth Brewery (situated at the side of the pub), the wonderful own-brewed ales on handpump and incredible value food are the main attractions, alongside extensive views across the moors. As well as their own beers, they have guests such as Copper Dragon, Donkeystone and Timothy Taylors. Some of their own seasonal ales are named after the licensee’s children, only appearing around their birthdays; two home-brewed lagers on tap too.

Butcher & Beast, Lincolnshire

The lovely hanging baskets and tubs make quite a show at the front of this Batemans pub in summer. The terrific range of drinks chosen by the hands-on, hard-working licensees includes half a dozen real ales on handpump including Batemans XB, XXXB and seasonal ales, two farm ciders, eight wines by the glass, 30 gins and 20 malt whiskies. The simply decorated bar has a thriving atmosphere, comfortable wall banquettes, pubby furnishings and stools along the counter, while the snug has red-cushioned wall settles and high-backed wooden dining chairs. A beamed and extended dining room is neatly set with an attractive mix of wooden or painted chairs around chunky tables on floorboards, and there’s a woodburning stove.

Dipton Mill Inn, Northumbria

In the grounds of this appealingly unchanged country pub is the Hexhamshire Brewery, both are owned by the same family. The brewery’s output, including Blackhall English Stout, Devils Elbow, Shire Bitter, Wall Walker and Whapweasel, makes its way to six of the pub’s handpumps, supplemented by two draught ciders (Weston’s Old Rosie and a guest), 20 malt whiskies and a dozen wines by the glass. Hexham Racecourse is not far away and there are also woodland walks nearby.

Rose & Crown, Oxford

This pub has had only 12 licensees since it opened in 1863 and the current ones have been here for 37 years now. It’s no surprise they’ve not been in a hurry to leave, having given this straightforward-looking pub a great deal of atmosphere and individuality. A good mix of customers of all ages enjoy four well kept ales on handpump ‘ Adnams Southwold, Hook Norton Old Hooky, Shotover Scholar and a guest ale, usually sourced locally as well as an alcohol-free draught IPA, an extensive range of international bottled beers, around 35 malt whiskies and 20 wines by the glass (including champagne and sparkling wine).

Queen Victoria, Somerset

With bare stone walls, planked ceilings, flagstoned or slate floors and dark wood furniture, the various rooms and alcoves here are both cosy and full of character. There’s both an open fire in a big grate as well as a woodburning stove in a back bar, while the smarter dining room is half panelled and half painted. Furniture is traditional: cushioned wall settles, farmhouse and other solid chairs around all manner of wooden tables, a nice old pew beside a screen settle making a snug alcove, and high chairs next to the bar counter where they serve Butcombe Bitter and Rare Breed and a changing guest on handpump, six farm ciders, seven malt whiskies, nine gins and nine wines by the glass.

Blue Boar, Wiltshire

Picnic-sets outside the front of this traditional pub make the most of its charming location opposite the village green, and the summer window boxes are lovely. Inside, the heavily beamed bar has a relaxed, chatty atmosphere helped along by cheerful staff and plenty of regulars. Wadworths IPA, 6X and a guest beer such as Bath Gem on handpump, eight wines by the glass, 17 malt whiskies and a farm cider. The back restaurant is beamed and cottagey with standing timbers, dark wooden chairs and tables on floorboards and rugs, and plates on a dresser.

Crown & Trumpet, Worcestershire

This cheerful and welcoming golden-stone pub is just behind the green. The beamed and timbered bar has a bustling, easy-going atmosphere, antique high-backed dark settles, large solid tables and a blazing log fire. You’ll find North Cotswold Green Man IPA and Shagweaver, Stroud Tom Long and Timothy Taylors Landlord on handpump alongside ten wines by the glass, ten malt whiskies, 20 gins and farm ciders. Broadway is a handsome town with many visitors, including walkers on the long-distance Cotswold Way.