1 RAM INN
Firle, East Sussex
Some of the rural bohemian sorts who populate this corner of East Sussex are none too pleased that the Ram Inn, previously a ramshackle, kooky watering hole, has tidied up both its act and its orchard.
This is now a pub garden for all ages, belonging to an establishment that caters to our modern desires — for good food, interesting drinking and cheery service. In a beautiful, fiercely preserved village at the foot of the Downs, the sprawling Ram is hugged on two sides by plum and apple trees, with two dozen wooden tables in the shade and a kids’ garden set aside, complete with pirate ship.
You can sit and sample the top-end pub menu or the guest beers, and if the midsummer crowds are too much, don’t despair: the pub backs onto a wonderful escape valve — one of the prettiest village cricket pitches in England. Tel: 01273 858222, theram-inn.com
2 THE ROYAL OAK
Wineham, West Sussex
If it’s sunny and it’s a Sunday and you’re hungry and you’re fussy about your beer, there is no better place for you than Wineham’s only tavern (a hop south of the A272). There are others in this feature that would claim to be the quintessential English pub, but they would be beaten firmly by this 13th-century classic.
It’s a black- and white-timbered building set in tree-shaded lawns, with fields out back and the off chance of a horse tethered out front. Then there’s the food. The £7.50 ploughmans, served on wooden boards, are chunky, crusty and generous. The £10.25 Sussex roast beef is properly rare. The greengage crumble is the nail in the coffin of your plans for a brisk afternoon stroll. Perfect. Tel: 01444 881252
3 SQUARE & COMPASS
Worth Matravers, Dorset
This is a magical slice of the sort of British eccentricity that you suspected only existed in Ealing Studios comedies. The pub is really two 18th-century cottages that have morphed into one winningly informal alehouse. There is no proper bar counter: you order prize-winning real ales, perries and home-pressed ciders from a serving hatch in the wall.
The snugs are crammed full of quirky collectables and stone carvings litter the two gardens outside, where there are numerous stone tables for tucking into a leisurely lunch while you gaze at the magnificent Jurassic Coast below. There’s also a fossil museum on site, with some excellent examples, as well as Roman remains. Tel: 01929 439229, squareandcompasspub.co.uk
4 SHAVE CROSS INN
Once an overnight stop for monks en route to the shrine at Whitchurch Canonicorum, this 700-year-old pub is now a fabulous place that could fit as easily into the gastropub chart as the family-friendly top 10. Kids adore the gardens, with their goldfish pond, wishing well and play area, while adults love everything else, not least the beers and ciders, which have helped the Inn scoop two Camra Pub of the Year awards, and the award-winning menu. Tel: 02308 868358, theshavecrossinn.co.uk; doubles from £160, B&B
5 ANCHOR INN
The appeal of the grassy garden here is the view, down to one of the prettiest little coves in the southwest. Beer is a working fishing village that has made no tacky concessions to tourism, and the pebble beach, sheltered by tall cliffs, is scattered with boats like bath toys, hauled up following the day’s catch. Outside at the Anchor, a nicely raucous mood develops at sunset, as bathers, still in their cossies and T-shirts, flip-flop up the slipway for a pint of Abbot Ale in the breeze, below a faint moon. Tel: 01297 20386, anchorinn-beer.com; doubles from £85, B&B
6 RASHLEIGH INN
We’re pushing the definition of garden here, but who can blame us? The Rashleigh Inn is a gorgeous pub on a tiny, sandy beach in an out-of-the-way Cornish cove — and for 90% of families, that’s all the information they need. But there are always the nit-pickers who want to know about the beer, the food and the views before committing. The answers are as follows: a) superb; b) sublime; c) stunning. Any further questions? Tel: 01726 813991, rashleighinnpolkerris.co.uk
7 STACKPOLE INN
You may not be thirsty, but the minute you clap eyes on the garden at the Stackpole Inn, you just have to stop and sup.
A cascade of lawn spills down to the lane, blazing with summer blooms, heady with honeysuckle, while the cottagey village pub beckons behind. Indoors, the inn looks surprisingly slick, set up more for diners than drinkers, with fish specials fresh from the coast: lobster in garlic butter, sea bass in coriander and lime. After you’ve wet your whistle, you can dip your toes with a post-lunch paddle at nearby Barafundle Bay. Tel: 01646 672324, stackpoleinn.co.uk; doubles £80, B&B
8 RIVERSIDE INN
The clue is in the name with this gorgeous little pub, deep in the leafy Herefordshire countryside on the dreamy River Lugg. Sit quietly in the terraced riverside garden, and you’ll see dragon-, damsel- and butterflies, leaping trout, kingfishers and even an otter. Local Herefordshire ciders on offer include artisanal brews from Much Marcle and Wigmore, and there’s well-kept Wye Valley Ale from Stoke Lacy. Tel: 01568 708440, theriversideinn.org
9 RAGGED COT
It might be unashamedly boutique, but the Ragged Cot manages to retain an unfussy friendliness and remains a favourite with old-timers and their dogs as much as with the newly local. Food is seasonal pub grub, with menus scribbled on blackboards and served either at scrubbed-down tables from Tom Brown’s schooldays or in the gardens: the original raggedy front or the bodega’ed rear, with its lavender borders and twinkling evening lights. Grab a rug and spread out on the grass, enjoying the views over 600 acres of National Trust land. Tel: 01453 884643, theraggedcot.co.uk; doubles from £65, B&B
10 POT KILN
Frilsham, West Berkshire
It’s just 15 minutes from the M4 (via junction 12 or 13), but it’s in a fold of the remotest, brambliest countryside: you’ll end up ringing the landlord for directions, but you won’t regret it.
This 18th-century redbrick kiln, now a pub with grub, has a peaceful garden of weathered A-frame benches where you can switch off over a cold Brick Kiln ale. With cattle cavorting in the field across the lane, and bursts of birdsong, it’s somehow Hardyesque — although Hardy presumably never got his chops around a beef and roe-deer burger with melted cheddar on focaccia. Tel: 01635 201366, potkiln.org