showcasing the best of the south west
Top 10 Winter Pubs

Top 10 Winter Pubs

The Bull Inn, Hardway, Somerset

This was always a favoured pub for those in the know who headed here for the beautifully cooked, gargantuan Sunday roasts and a quiet pint beside the fire. They loved it for the swirling carpet, dark wood and general vibe, old man's pub but in a good way. Well, the Bull has just reopened with neighbouring gallery Hauser & Wirth as its owners, and the good news is it’s the same, but better. Roaring fires, water bowls for dogs, huge Sunday roasts, Butcombe on tap and if you're lucky perhaps some live music, country gospel style from Somerset's band of brothers, The Johnsons. The spectacular walking at Alfred's Tower is close by - walk, pint, roast. The perfect Sunday, don't you think?

The Compasses, Chicksgrove, Wiltshire

The definitive old school pub, dark and beamy, flagstone floors and frothing pints of ale. Recently it was bought by Ben Maschler son of food critic Fay which means top knotch food but a commitment to its olde worlde credentials. There’s a lot to love here – a spectacular wine list with a good selection by the glass, classics like beef randang curry or battered fish with mushy peas, seguing into beef brisket and ox cheek suet pie or seabass, mussel and clam bouillabaisse for the more adventurous. With a piano, candlelight and the all important open fire, there’s nowhere better for a winter’s night. Butcombe ale is always on tap and the barman whips up a mean bloody mary. This could have the shape of Sundays too.

The Three Horseshoes, Batcombe, Somerset

This 400 year old pub has everything you need to hunker down and sit out winter - with low beamed ceilings, an open fire one side and a log burner the other, it couldn’t be cosier if it tried. Immaculately chosen local ales – Bath Ales Gem, Butcombe Bitter and seriously local food including award winning cheddar from nearby Westcombe which features in almost everything. All the trad comfort dishes are here but beautifully executed whether it’s fish pie or rib eye with roast vine tomatoes and messy salad. Batcombe is a ridiculously pretty village with a 15th century church and a healthy smattering of ex London Sloanes – but don’t let that put you off. This one’s a gem.

The Roseland Inn, Philleigh, Cornwall

Many a winter’s afternoon have we found ourselves in this pub after a bracing trip across the River Fal on the King Harry chain ferry (guaranteed crowd pleaser for kids and adults). It has everything you need – a blazing open fire, beams, flagstone floor, great local ale and dogs everywhere. It’s standard pub fare but the crab sandwiches are exemplary and there’s a great cheese board. You’re in the prettiest bit of South Cornwall here, the Roseland Peninsula – gorgeous Pendower Beach is close by - and this is the perfect pit stop.

The Sheppey Inn, Lower Godney, Somerset

As pubs go The Sheppey has a bit of edge – live music (not the Wurzels kind), graphic art on the walls, taxidermy, quirky objets. But it’s in the heart of the Somerset Levels, home of legendary bird spotting and of course there’s a roaring fire or we wouldn’t be recommending it. It’s a craft ale, inventive cooking kind of place – standards are high – but there’s always a dog or two roaming around and otters have been spotted in the River Sheppey which flows alongside. Nowhere better to tank up before a spot of starling murmuration on the Levels.

The Tinner’s Arms, Zennor, Cornwall

Literally a step back in time this pub, which was built in 1271 and resides in Zennor, a tiny granite village edged by wild moors and the raging Atlantic coastline. Poldark would have drunk here for sure. If you were an American tourist on the hunt for such things you’d probably faint. So dogs, settles, fires, flagstones – of course. Tiny little dark rooms.  Steaming bowls of mussels. And a huge selection of whiskies – the punters love a dram.  St Senara’s church is famous for its mermaid so  you’ll need to drop in -  it’s around 1400 years old (though rebuilt in the 12th century) and has a bench-end carving of the Mermaid of Zennor. You’re right on the coastal path here and Zennor Head has arguably the best view in Cornwall. We’re sold.

The George Inn, Chideock, Dorset

For a start it’s thatched and has a resident white German Shepherd called Ramsay (dog treats behind the bar and mutts welcome).  The food is about as perfect for a cold autumn day as you’ll find – homemade chorizo scotch eggs on the bar with chipotle mayonnaise, four kinds of burgers (a great veggie one) and three kinds of ploughman’s all of them gargantuan and impeccably sourced – Dorset Blue Vinney, Hawkridge cheddar, local Balson’s honey roast ham. Stick to the classics but do them better than anyone else, that’s the mantra. Throw in a heart-busting walk to the top of the nearby Golden Cap and you’ve scored the ultimate Autumn day, we’d say.

The Beckford Arms, Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire

Writing this here in the sitting room of the Beckford, the whole room already ablaze with candlelight, fire lit and an off the scale Virgin Mary in front of me I realise we couldn’t not include The Beckford despite accusations of favouritism. It’s just that this pub delivers so well on the cosy winter front. Fire in the sitting room, fire in the bar, Westcombe Cheddar pots or homemade sausage rolls to nibble on, dog treats stashed in a huge glass jar. Yes there’s a menu here to rival the very best restaurants in the SW and gorgeous bedrooms if you’re in search of a  mini break, but what we’re thinking about is a chilly stroll around the Fonthill lake followed by a pint of Butcombe Blonde by the fire and perhaps, because we’re on a blow out, rump steak with bone marrow butter, watercress and shallot salad and chips.

The Pig’s Nose Inn, East Prawle, Devon

We admit it, the name drew us in, but we loved what we found. A picture book coastal village with an old smuggler’s inn at its heart serving Pieminster pies with mash and gravy and ales from Otter and South Hams breweries. Music seems to be a thing and yes The Wurzels have played but that’s only fitting in a pub of this kind.

The Square and Compass, Worth Matravers, Dorset

Don’t come here looking for your crab linguine and your glass of Sancerre (just us?) This is a spit and sawdust number which inspires religiosity from its many devotees who rock up for a pasty (that’s it, just pasties and pies) and a pint after walking/fossil hunting on the Jurassic coast. It’s not like any pub you’ll have been in before – there’s a tiny fossil museum here, for example. But it does welcome dogs and walkers to warm up by the fire and sample some (very local, very strong) cider. There’s no bar, drinks are served via a couple of Fawlty Towers hatches and they only take cash or cheques. Grab a pint and a game pasty and settle in by the fire. They don’t make pubs like this any more.

The Poltimore Arms, South Molton, North Devon

Finding this 13th century pub on a windswept winter’s day (are there any other kind in North Devon) is a certain kind of nirvana. It’s so remote there’s no electricity and the whole place runs off a generator. There are open fires throughout the pub, dining is by candlelight, classic ales, failsafe food. It's a quirky, old school kind of place, a refuge which begs for a lock in.

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