It’s that time of year again. Leaves are turning. Rosé is out, Red is in. So long flip flops, hello wellies. But as we look to make our hasty retreat indoors, it’s actually the perfect opportunity to get out there, embrace the countryside and explore. However, no crisp country walk is complete without a cosy pub at the end of it to hunker down next to the fire with a some really good food and some restorative wine.
That said, it’s not always practical for Londoners to take long day trips to far flung corners of the UK. But the good news is, you don’t have to travel far to get your fix of the countryside – there are plenty of independently run, cosy pubs within two hours of London. Here’s the low-down on four of our favourites…
The Dundas Arms, Kintbury (an hour on the train from Paddington)
This Berkshire canal-side pub prides itself in being first and foremost a true country pub – with up to five local real ales on tap at any one time, and regulars consistently propping up the bar. Managing to marry the atmosphere of a local country boozer with delicious, locally sourced menus is no mean feat. But The Dundas manages it: from fish caught fresh each morning from the Kennet river, local game dry-aged on the premises to seasonal fruit and veg you couldn’t look for a better meal after you’ve been walking canal-side in the fresh winter air.
If you’re keen to give fly fishing a go, Berkshire has some of the very finest chalkstream trout fly fishing in southern England and The Dundas Arms can provide access to excellent private beats on the River Kennet and River Lambourn – including guides, private instructors and tackle.
The White Horse, Chichester (an hour and a half on the train from Victoria)
A stone’s throw from the famous Goodwood Estate, The White Horse is a truly great countryside hub for those wanting to enjoy the best of Sussex. It’s AA Rosette menu is rooted in the South Downs so you’ll be able to enjoy locally sourced grub after working up an appetite. Potentially the best part is, if you don’t want to leave, you don’t have to as the pub’s gorgeous selection of rooms (two of which are equipped with outdoor hot tubs) mean that you can turn it into the ultimate country weekend.
If public transport, or taking to the highways aren’t your thing, then you can land your helicopter at The White Horse to really arrive in style.
Crab & Boar, Chieveley (52 minutes on the train from Paddington)
Make like the Grantham’s and pay a visit to The Crab and Boar. Nestled in the Berkshire countryside, and just down the road from Highclere Castle you won’t get a much better English countryside treat than at the recently sympathetically refurbished Crab & Boar. Staying true to its pub roots in style and atmosphere, the pub also has 2 AA Rosettes to its name, the menu is select, reflecting the surroundings and supporting local businesses and a delight. The best pick-me-up after a good long walk.
If field sports are your bag, there are 31 shoots and chalk-streams in the surrounding area meaning that with the help of the team at Crab & Boar you can fully embrace the countryside way of life.
The Woolpack, Totford (1 hour and a quarter on the train from Waterloo)
If you’re really looking for rural idyll, The Woolpack Inn is the place for you: Totford is the smallest hamlet in England, which is nestled in the picturesque Candover Valley in Hampshire – the renowned destination for countryside pursuits. You definitely won’t want to be short of things to do in the surrounding areas, whether it’s walking, cycling or Field Sports, you’ll be well catered for! A regularly changing menu will not fail to disappoint, whether you want something more informal in the bar, or in the main dining room.
If you’ve got kids in your group, The Woolpack is super family friendly, with a weekly Kids Club on a Sunday where children can join in an activity before they eat.