Provincial pubs: a guide to the UK's best
If you’re looking for a self-catering holiday in the UK, you’ll no doubt be looking to book somewhere that has all of the local facilities that you need. Good local food shops are crucial, and families will want to stay in a location that has plenty to keep the children occupied. For many, a great local pub is essential, providing you with a taste of local life, good drinks, great food and a welcoming atmosphere.
Great food can be found at pubs all over the UK, but if you want to try a Michelin starred menu, a pub can be a great place to do so without breaking the bank. If you’re visiting Kent, a trip to The Sportsman is a must. The Michelin-starred pub has a true focus on local ingredients, with Whitstable oysters, lamb from across the road and home churned butter all on the menu. At the time of writing, you could enjoy a main course for around £20 or a tasting menu for £65 – and without the pretentiousness of many Michelin-starred restaurants.
Alternatively, head to Somerset’s Chew Valley to The Pony & Trap in Chew Magna: a multiple award-winning country pub owned by brother and sister team Josh and Holly Eggleton. The Pony & Trap has held its Michelin star since 2011, offering everything from pub classics such as ham, egg and chips at lunch times to special six course seasonal menus for £50 a head. The views of the rolling countryside from the back garden are fantastic too.
Real ale lovers should head to the Swan With Two Necks in Pendleton, Lancashire, which was given the title of National Pub Of The Year by the Campaign for Real Ale in February 2014. The tiny pub offers draught beers such as Copper Dragon’s Golden Pippin, in addition to a range of guest ales from microbreweries that include Salamander, Dark Star and Phoenix. The Swan With Two Necks also sells local cider that is produced from apple trees owned by the pub itself.
If you want to visit the best cider pub in the UK (according to CAMRA), you’ll have to head to a railway station in Norfolk. The Railway Arms in Downham Market, Norfolk, describes itself as a “micro-pub and café”, and is located on the platform at Downham Market Station. Stocking cider from local producer Pickled Pig among others, The Railway Arms is also known for its good selection of real ales.
For a remote pub experience, try The Carpenters Arms in Walterstone, Herefordshire, under the Black Mountains’ eastern ridge. Popular with walkers and cyclists, The Carpenters Arms offers good home cooked food and a warming environment thanks to landlady Vera, who has run the pub for 35 years since taking it over from her mother.
Those wanting a truly remote pub visit (as certified by the Guinness Book of Records) should head to The Old Forge in Inverie on Scotland’s north west coast, which has the claim to fame of being the most remote pub in mainland Britain. Accessible only via a 7 mile sea crossing or an 18 mile hike (there are no roads to the pub), those who make it over there will be rewarded with a great atmosphere, honest local food, great local beers and quality live music. There is no mobile phone signal in the pub and The Old Forge switch off their WiFi at 6pm, making it a truly sociable place.
If you’re looking for something a little more quirky, then consider a trip to the Crooked House just outside Himley, near Dudley, Staffordshire. Built in 1765, it used to be a farmhouse – and its quirkiness comes from the fact that the whole building is leaning to one side. One side of the building is four feet lower than the other thanks to subsidence caused by the mining industry back in the 1800s, but structurally, it is perfectly safe. While the floors are level, the walls lean, leading to optical illusions such as glasses sliding across tables, and marbles rolling uphill.
Card players should also head to the Pack o’ Cards in Combe Martin, a seaside town in Devon. Not only was it built to look like a deck of cards, but the plot of land on which it was situated is 52 feet by 52 feet, it has four floors (one to represent each suit), 13 fireplaces and 13 doors on each floor. The reason for this? The building of the pub was funded by winnings from a card game!
From great food and drink to award-winning beers and ciders, from truly remote pub trips to some very quirky venues, the range of rural pubs in the UK is huge, offering something for everyone.