Great Winter Pubs

CLACHAIG INN Glencoe, Argyll This slate-roofed inn stands at the heart of the glen, with some of Scotland’s highest peaks forming the backdrop. You need a warm welcome up here, and you get it (there used to be a sign saying “Nae Campbells”, but that’s a thing of the past). The rough and ready Boots Bar has a huge fire, 160 malt whiskies, a great range of ales from Scottish craft breweries and folk music at weekends. There’s a less rowdy, 1 more laid-back atmosphere in the family-friendly Bidean Lounge. 01855 811252

THE OLD DUNGEON GHYLL Great Langdale, Cumbria A Lake District institution in a stunning setting. The perfect place 9 to defrost after a few hours up on the fells, the Old Dungeon Ghyll is the walkers’ and climbers’ pub par excellence – in the plain but snug Hiker’s Bar, they’re even happy for you to take off those damp socks and dry them in front of the fire. Expect plenty of chat and some impromptu music sessions. The food (Cumberland sausages, baked potatoes) is more solid than inspiring, but it’ll get you up Crinkle Crags and back. 015394 37272
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THE GEORGE INN Hubberholme, North Yorkshire Tucked away in a little village in Wharfedale, this is everything you could wish for in a Yorkshire pub: flagged floors, oak beams, mullioned windows and coals glowing in the grate. It was JB Priestley’s favourite, and his ashes were scattered in the churchyard next door. If you want to make a walking weekend of it – the Dales Way passes the door – there are rooms upstairs (from £70 for a double). 01756 760223

YE OLDE BULLS HEAD INN Beaumaris, Anglesey The pub dates to 1472, though the current building is relatively modern – built in 1617. The roundheads commandeered it in the civil war, and Dr Johnson and Dickens have stayed. They’d still feel at home: there are old settles, cosy window seats with leather cushions, open fires (naturally) and plenty of curiosities – including the 10 village ducking stool and a 17th-century water clock. Children are welcome, the Hancocks HB is well kept and, if you overdo it, there are smart rooms upstairs (doubles from £100). 01248 810329

THE LORD NELSON Southwold, Suffolk There are lots of good pubs in Southwold, but the Nellie is the best, and nearest to the sea – walk down East Street and, if you get wet, you’ve gone past it. It’s the warmth of the welcome you notice here as much as the heat from the blazing fire. There’s good, simple, home-cooked pub grub, a flagstoned main bar and, of course, sublime Adnams beer: have a pint of the winter brew, the thick, porter-like TallyHo. The perfect stop-off after a North Sea-blasted walk down the prom. 01502 722079

THE TALBOT Knightwick, Worcestershire It wasn’t too cosy this summer, when the flooded River Teme came sloshing over the bar, but after refurbishment by local craftsmen, the Talbot is back to its traditional best. Its own brewery makes the This, That and T’Other beers, and the rich, winter-only Hearth Warmer, to be enjoyed by the log fire that roars from morning until night. Food’s a feature, too: salads from the garden, bread and black pudding made in the kitchen, the rest painstakingly sourced from local producers (there’s a good farmers’ market here on the second Sunday of each month). 01886 821235

THE RED LION Preston, Hertfordshire Lost down country lanes near the commuter towns of St Albans and Hitchin, this is a delightful village pub, as it should be – it’s owned by the villagers. Whitbread was going to turn it into a steakhouse, so the locals clubbed together and bought the place to preserve its character. Now it’s the centre of village life – the Georgian building, right on the green, also serves as the pavilion for the local cricket team. It offers a grand fire and plenty of warming ales: the landlord specialises in sourcing beers from small craft breweries. There are Young’s beers, too – the Winter Warmer does exactly what it says on the pump. 01462 459585

SQUARE AND COMPASS Worth Matravers, Dorset This old quarrymen’s pub outside Swanage doesn’t have a bar: just walk in, go up to the hatch and ask for a pint of Ringwood Best, and they’ll tap it straight from the barrel. It’s a wonderful old building, made from the local Purbeck stone, and a great example of what happens when you leave a place alone to mature. It has been run by the Newman family for the past 100 years, and they don’t seem to have changed anything in all that time, apart from adding a small dinosaur museum (complete with fossilised poo). Well, it keeps the kids happy while you have another pint by the fire. 01929 439229

THE BLUE ANCHOR Helston, Cornwall Appropriately, this 15th-century miners’ pub looks as though it has been hewn from the rock, then had a thatched roof plonked on top. It’s popular with locals and tourists, though you’ll find more of the former at this time of year. Outside and in, all is thoroughly traditional – flagstone floors, roaring fires, a skittle alley – but, above that, the reason to come is the delicious and strong Spingo Ales, which they brew themselves. The winter beer, Extra Special, is about to come on, and it’s a thick, dark barnstormer at nearly 8% ABV: when it’s introduced, the whole town slows down for a week or two. 01326 562821

THE OLDE GATE INN Brassington, Derbyshire Simply the perfect winter pub: you won’t find a cosier place in the country. It’s nearly 400 years old, and you can feel the history – Bonnie Prince Charlie’s soldiers were billeted here on their march to London, and some of the oak beams came from ships of the Spanish Armada. It pulls off the rare trick of being a genuine local, packed with villagers, but thoroughly warm and welcoming to visitors, too. With a fire blazing in the range, this is the perfect place to be on a cold day. 01629 540448

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