‘An open fire, the dog snoozing at our feet’: readers’ favourite UK pubs for food

Pork belly at the Packhorse, Peak District

Last November, a group of us took a trip to the Peak District for my dad’s 60th. We booked the Packhorse Inn in Little Longstone for the celebratory dinner, just off the famous Monsal Trail. The pub sources all its produce locally and changes its menu monthly. When we arrived, we were welcomed with roaring fires and delights on the menu such as pork belly with black pudding and mustard mash, game pie, and a top tier sticky toffee pudding. It was worth it, although we ended up having to navigate a muddy walk home afterwards through cow fields in complete darkness.

Guinness and seafood, County Antrim

O’Connor’s Bar, Ballycastle
Photograph: Kayte Deioma/Alamy

O’Connors Bar in Ballycastle is a traditional low-ceilinged Irish bar, with a welcoming open fire and superb food and drink. The menu is wide-ranging, using local produce, with especially great fish and seafood in season and the freshest of daily specials. The Guinness, too, is just perfect. Local tipplers, family groups, visitors and international tourists fill the bar and snugs. Food, drink, service and atmosphere combine to make this a favourite pub of mine to eat in.


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A game of pool and a cheeky cocktail, Perth and Kinross

Muirs Inn
Photograph: Stephen Finn/Alamy

The Muirs Inn, Kinross, between Edinburgh and Perth, close to Loch Leven, was the setting for an evening of two halves. First off a warm, welcoming conservatory extension dining room with lots of light hosted us for exquisite courses including chunky, flaky cod on a Mediterranean tomato and capers stew, and beer-battered North Sea haddock, with shortbread to finish. The second half featured a game of pool and a cheeky cocktail next door in the traditional part of the pub. Wonderful landlord, sharp service and keen prices.

Polish sausage and free pudding, Wolverhampton

It’s almost impossible to choose a favourite pub, but the Stile Inn on Harrow Street stands out in a crowd. Local Banks’s beer on tap and a unique menu of authentic Polish food: homemade pierogi, polish sausage, goulash, barbecued pork steak … you don’t get this everywhere. If there’s more than four of you, you get a free pudding, and portions are huge – takeaway boxes are standard. It might be on a Wolverhampton backstreet but they’ll make you welcome: they regularly run charity nights and serve a special lunch on Christmas Day so nobody has to spend it alone.
Sarah Collings

Black Lion Inn Steph Woodhouse
Photograph: Steph Woodhouse

The Black Lion Inn in the Staffordshire Peak District serves a completely delicious and eclectic menu in in the beautiful, “doubly thankful” village of Butterton. Hannah and Matt’s locally-sourced menu is a delight and the Sunday lunch (£16) is hugely memorable (I’ll be thinking of the celeriac puree for a long while!), as is the incredibly delicious beetroot and tofu burger (£13.50). Think relaxing, roomy tables, flagged floors, whitewashed walls and cosy log burners which make the old inn hard to leave, but fortunately there are rooms above to rest a while too.
Steph Woodhouse

A flood of flavour, Bosham, West Sussex

The Anchor Bleu
Photograph: Peter Noyce GBR/Alamy

After a bracing walk along the shoreline of Chichester harbour, fill up with hearty food at the Anchor Bleu in Bosham, overlooking the ebb and flow of the tide. Defrost in the cosy downstairs room with its open fire or the airy upstairs space for great views of the harbour’s birdlife. Enjoy comforting pub food, Sunday lunches and local fresh fish. After your meal, explore the pretty village of Bosham with its Holy Trinity church, pictured in the Bayeux Tapestry, but park wisely, or you’ll find your car swamped by the tide, which floods the harbour front road twice daily.
Cathy Robinson

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Perfect for dark nights, Llanarmon, Wrexham

The Hand at Llanarmon
Photograph: Handout

The Hand at Llanarmon in the Ceiriog Valley has all the attributes of a great pub to eat at especially as the dark nights roll in. It has wonderful old beams, a roaring fire and mismatched solid wood furniture, and it feels like you are a million miles away from anywhere as the wind howls outside. Specials change regularly and include delicious roasted and marinated rump of Welsh lamb served with red wine dates, grilled bass with samphire and leek and blue cheese risotto.

Feast by the ferry, Isle of Wight

the wheatsheaf inn
Photograph: Steve Hawkins/Alamy

The Wheatsheaf has a design style that is proudly quirky, featuring lights made from antique diving helmets and a wooden parrot over the bar (mind your head!), amid much else. The regularly changing menu features Isle of Wight produce cooked by chefs who really know what they’re doing. Among the mains are pan-fried, slow-cooked Isle of Wight beef shin and a great sweet potato, chickpea and spinach curry. Evening mains are nearly all under £20, or go at lunchtime and get a huge homemade fish finger roll for a tenner. The pub is handily right by the ferry terminal connecting the island to Lymington, Hampshire.

Moor please, south Devon

Warren House Inn, Postbridge, Dartmoor
Warren House Inn, Postbridge. Photograph: geogphotos/Alamy

Hiking Dartmoor in frosted mists of New Year’s Day, my companions and I with muddied boots and cold noses tumbled into the Warren House Inn. While our Warrener’s pies (soft, supple and delicious rabbit – £16.50) cooked, we defrosted by the fire – purported to have been burning since 1845. Moorland farms supply much of their produce; their Dartmoor beef is rich and silky, ales are from the pump. Later, once more upon the vacant moor now wreathed in twilight’s fog, we fought the temptation to head back through the Warren’s door to the cherishing warmth and welcome within.

Winning tip: Snoozing dogs, Lake District

Blacksmiths Arms.
Photograph: John Morrison/Alamy

The 300-year-old Blacksmiths Arms, near Broughton Mills in the southern Lakes, feels like one of the last of a dying breed, a pub that lives up to a collective nostalgic image of what a pub should be: stone floors, rough wood tables, low-beamed ceilings, an open fire blazing, locals chatting at the bar. Nothing extra, no twee decor, just an overwhelming sense of familiarity and cosiness. Delicious home-cooked food with a contemporary – but unpretentious – edge, at affordable prices. Spent an afternoon there – autumn light streaming in, dog snoozing at our feet – incredibly grateful that such a place still exists. Evening mains are good value: aubergine tagine with salad and new potatoes for £12.95, for example.

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