Lisa Edwards shares her favourite country pubs that offer rest and a well-earned pint at the end of hikes around the UK.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that every good hike must end with a good pub. I walk with hiking groups and we start talking about what drink we’d like and what food we’ll order approximately one hour from the end of a hike. It’s the proper order of things – the reward at the end of the road.
Walking the Seven Sisters from Seaford to Eastbourne (13m/21km) – or the Fourteen Sisters from Eastbourne to Cuckmere and back (16m/26km) – is a classic hike, especially achievable in a day trip from London. It can be busy during summer months where you’re likely to bump into tourists, charity runners and walkers but there is nothing like that white-cliffed rollercoaster of downland, complete with the peekaboo Belle Tout lighthouse, only visible in a certain section, and the blessed relief of the National Trust’s Birling Gap tearoom, approximately halfway along. I’ve hiked the cliffs here in all weathers and in all weathers been truly grateful for the warm bosom of The Dolphin in Eastbourne, tucked into South Street near the station (always handy for getting home afterwards). There is a wide bar where a group of hikers can view the menu and get served with drinks quickly (we’re usually fairly desperate) and the chunky classic fish and chips is a must-have with most of us.
I’ve recently discovered the delights of the Gower Peninsula and walked from the quaint seaside village of Port Eynon to the outrageously beautiful Rhossili Bay, including Worm’s Head, a piece of headland only accessible when the tide’s out (13m/21km). Worm’s Head Hotel has the prime real estate in the area, sitting above gorgeous Rhossili, with its impossibly wide and long sandy beach. The deck outside the main hotel must offer the best pub-garden view in the UK, although this is definitely a bar in a hotel rather than a cosy pub. If, like me, you prefer a longer hike, return the way you came back to Port Eynon and head to The Ship. Whitewashed and with little benches arranged outside, The Ship offers a welcoming local atmosphere (with the added pleasure of people’s dogs in the main bar), a fantastic restaurant and bar food, and a room at the back where local bands play (I saw The Flames from Swansea – the place erupted when they played the Manic Street Preachers).
Heading away from the coast, a recent hike in Oxfordshire starting at Hanborough took us through the Tolkienesque Evenlode valley and the beautiful Blenheim estate, ending in the charming village of Charlbury (13m/21km). More and more hiking groups are venturing into the Cotswolds for day hikes from London and if the quality of the pubs at the end are anything to go by, I can see why. We popped into the White Horse in Stonesfield for a swift half – it must have been the inspiration for Tolkien’s The Prancing Pony in Lord of the Rings.
At the end of the hike, we went for old-school classic country-pub charm, at The Bull Inn on Sheep Street in Charlbury, with its wooden beams and stone walls. The pub garden captures the sundown perfectly and the menu is wide-ranging and catered for every taste including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The Bull Inn, like many of the pubs we end up in, makes the journey back to the city a little more merry and mellow.
Lisa Edwards is a publisher, blogger and hiker living in London. She grew up in North Wales and loves spending as much time as possible in the mountains, ending the day in a great country pub.