Good Pub Guide


For map click here


Pub of the Year

Tempest Arms, Elslack (Yorkshire)

Friendly inn with three log fires in stylish rooms, several real ales, good food and tables outside; bedrooms


Always deservedly busy, this 18th-c stone inn has a really good mix of customers – all warmly welcomed by the genuinely friendly licensees and their staff. It's stylish but understated with plenty of pubby character, cushioned armchairs, built-in wall seats with comfortable cushions, stools and lots of tables and three log fires – one greets you at the entrance and divides the bar and restaurant. There's quite a bit of exposed stonework, amusing prints on the cream walls and maybe Molly the friendly back labrador. Dark Horse Hetton Pale Ale, Moorhouses Premier Bitter, Theakstons Best, Thwaites Wainwright and Timothy Taylors Landlord on handpump, 16 wines by the glass and 25 malt whiskies. There are tables outside largely screened from the road by a raised bank. The comfortable bedrooms are in a newish purpose-built extension.


New Pub of the Year

Ship, Tresaith (Wales)

Charming pub in splendid setting overlooking broad sandy surfing beach, enjoyable food, nice terrace, seaview bedrooms

Ship - Tresaith

We have not yet heard from anyone using the bedrooms, but would expect this to be a nice place to stay: the views are great, not just the beach but the cliffs on either side, one with a high waterfall - we saw a peregrine falcon swoop past, and some say they've spotted dolphins and seals. Teak tables and chairs under a glass canopy on heated front decking, and unusual picnic-sets on a two-level terrace, make the most of this, and picture windows open the views to the front dining area, too. Behind here is a winter log fire, with some chunky pine tables, tub armchairs and sofas in the carpeted part on the right, and large attractive local photographs.They have Brains Rev James and a guest such as Buckleys Best on handpump, and a good choice of wines by the glass and other drinks; the young staff are friendly, cheerful and efficient. Two back rooms, possibly a quieter escape in summer, are appealing, specially the one on the right with its striking blue and red décor, bright flooring tiles, old-fashioned range stove, and snug alcove with a shelf ofboard games. There are good coast walks from this steep little village.


Dining Pub of the Year

Potting Shed, Crudwell (Wiltshire)

Appealing variation on the traditional country tavern theme, good beers, wines and country cooking

Potting Shed

Since this especially enjoyable pub became a new entry in last year's Guide we've had nothing but warm praise from our readers. It is very much a proper country pub rather than just another pub/restaurant, with cheerful and interested young staff and a fine range of drinks such as Bath Ales Gem Bitter, Butcombe Bitter and Timothy Taylors Landlord on handpump as well as an excellent range of over two dozen wines by the glass, home-made seasonal cocktails using local or home-grown fruit, good coffees and winter mulled wine; also, log fires, one in a big worn stone fireplace, and very mixed plain tables and chairs on pale flagstones in the low-beamed rooms that ramble around the bar; visiting dogs may meet Barney and Rubbles (the owners') and be offered biscuits. There are well worn easy chairs in one corner, and a couple of blacktop daily papers. Four steps take you up into a high-raftered further area, with coir carpeting, and there's one separate smaller room ideal for a lunch or dinner party. The rustic decorations are not overdone, and quite fun: a garden-fork door handle, garden-tool beer pumps, rather witty big black and white photographs. Well chosen piped music and board games. They have summer barbecues on fine Saturdays; there are sturdy teak seats around cask tables as well as picnic-sets out on the side grass among weeping willows.


Beer Pub of the Year

Watermill, Ings (Cumbria)

Busy, cleverly converted pub with fantastic range of real ales including own brew and well liked food; bedrooms


"I wish this was my local' say so many of our readers about this well run, bustling inn. There's a fantastic choice of real ales served by efficient, friendly staff, enjoyable food usefully served all day, and it's a popular place to stay overnight, too (some bedrooms are bigger than others). The building has plenty of character and is cleverly converted from a wood mill and joiner's shop and the bars have a lively atmosphere, a happy mix of chairs, padded benches and solid oak tables, bar counters made from old church wood, open fires and interesting photographs and amusing cartoons by a local artist. The spacious lounge bar, in much the same traditional style as the other rooms, has rocking chairs and a big open fire. As well as their own brewed Watermill A Bit'er Ruff and W'Ruff Night, Collie Wobbles, Dog'th Vadar and Isle of Dogs, they keep up to 11 other beers on handpump: Bitter End Bitter, Blackbeck Blackbelle, Coniston Bluebird, Cumbrian Grasmoor Dark Ale, Foxfield Sands and Some Like It Stout, Hawkshead Bitter, Moorhouses Black Cat, Theakstons Old Peculier and Wensleydale Falconer. They have a beer festival in May. Also, scrumpy cider, a huge choice of foreign bottled beers and 40 malt whiskies. Darts and board games. Seats in the gardens and lots to do nearby. Dogs may get free biscuits and water.


Country Pub of the Year

Royal Oak, Ramsden (Oxfordshire)

Chatty, unpretentious pub with friendly licensees, 26 wines by the glass, good food and a heated back terrace; bedrooms

oyal Oak, Ramsden

One of our readers enjoyed this pub so much that he moved to the village to be closer to it. We've had nothing but warm praise this year for the friendly, long-serving staff, the interesting beers and good food; it's a nice place to stay, too. The atmosphere is unpretentious and easy-going and the basic furnishings are comfortable, with fresh flowers, bookcases with old and new copies of [I]Country Life[I] and, when the weather gets cold, a cheerful log fire; no piped music or games machines. Butts Barbus Barbus, Hook Norton Hooky Bitter, Wye Valley HPA and guests like Warwickshire Rugby Ball Stitcher and Wickwar Cotswold Way on handpump, a fine choice of 26 wines by the glass from a carefully chosen list and three farm ciders. There are tables and chairs out in front and on the heated terrace behind the restaurant (folding back doors give easy access). The bedrooms are in separate cottages.


Town Pub of the Year

Turf Tavern, Oxford (Oxfordshire)

Interesting character pub hidden away behind high walls, with a dozen ales, regular beer festivals, nice food and knowledgeable staff


Buried in its hidden courtyard and secluded from the modern bustle of the city this extremely popular pub is run by helpful, knowledgeable staff and there's always a good mix of customers of all ages. The two dark-beamed and low-ceilinged small bars fill up quickly, though many prefer (whatever the time of year) to sit outside in the three attractive walled-in flagstoned or gravelled courtyards (one has its own bar); in winter, they have coal braziers so you can roast chestnuts or toast marshmallows and there are canopies with lights and heaters. Up to a dozen constantly changing real ales on handpump: Greene King IPA, Abbot, Morlands Old Speckled Hen and Ruddles Best and a couple from the White Horse Brewery including one named for the pub and maybe Beartown Bear Ass, Bushy's Old Bushy Tail, Everards Beacon, Nottingham Rock Ale Bitter, Stonehenge Danish Dynamite, and West Berkshire Good Old Boy. They hold a spring and summer beer festival, keep Weston's Old Rosie cider and offer winter mulled wine.




Landlord of the Year

Red Lion, Kilmington (Wiltshire)

Atmospheric, no-nonsense country inn owned by the National Trust, with good value traditional lunches and an attractive garden

Red Lion

Mr and Mrs Gibbs run this unchanging 15th-c local with professionalism and friendliness - and ‘long may it go on' say several of our readers. The snug, low-ceilinged bar has a good convivial atmosphere, pleasant furnishings such as a curved high-backed settle and red leatherette wall and window seats on the flagstones, photographs of locals pinned up on the black beams, and a couple of big fireplaces (one with a fine old iron fireback) with winter log fires. A newer big-windowed eating area is decorated with brasses, a large leather horse collar and hanging plates. Darts, shove-ha'penny and board games. Butcombe Bitter, Butts Jester and a guest like Keystone Large One on handpump, several wines by the glass and Thatcher's cider; helpful service. There are picnic-sets in the big attractive garden (look out for Kim the labrador). A gate gives on to the lane which leads to White Sheet Hill, where there's riding, hang-gliding and radio-controlled gliders and Stourhead Gardens are only a mileaway. Though dogs are generally welcome, they're not allowed at lunchtime. There's a smokers' shelter in a corner of the car park.


Bargain Pub of the Year

Queens Head, Lichfield (Staffordshire)

Bargain lunchtime hot dishes, cheese platter all day and good range of real ales at friendly place

Queens Head

Cheery with friendly conversation, the single long room in this handsome Victorian red brick building, done up rather like an old-fashioned alehouse, has a mix of comfortable aged furniture on bare boards, big sash windows, some stripped brick, and Lichfield and other pictures on ochre walls above a panelled dado. The atmosphere is comfortably relaxed and grown-up, and staff are kind and helpful; TV for sports events, darts and board games. As well as Bathams, Marstons Pedigree and Timothy Taylors Landlord three guests might be from brewers such as Blythe, Brakspears and Ringwood beers; also 25 malt whiskies; small garden. They may allow children in on request but don't count on it.



Unspoilt Pub of the Year

Harrow, Steep (Hampshire)

Unchanging, simple place with long-serving landladies, beers tapped from the cask, unfussy food and a big free-flowering garden; no children inside


The same family have been running this genuinely unspoilt and unpretentious pub for 81 years now and it is a firm favourite with many of our readers. Everything revolves around village chat and the friendly locals who will probably draw you into light-hearted conversation, and there are adverts for logs next to calendars of local views being sold in support of local charities, news of various quirky competitions and no pandering to modern methods – no credit cards, no waitress service, no restaurant, no music and outside lavatories. The cosy public bar has hops and dried flowers hanging from the beams, built-in wall benches on the tiled floor, stripped pine wallboards, a good log fire in the big inglenook, and wild flowers on the scrubbed deal tables; board games. Dark Star Hophead, Otter Bitter and Palmers Copper are tapped straight from casks behind the counter and they've local wine, and apple and pear juice; staff are polite and friendly, even when under pressure. The big garden is left free-flowering so that goldfinches can collect thistle seeds from the grass but there are some seats on paved areas now. The Petersfield bypass doesn't intrude on this idyll, though you will need to follow the directions above to find the pub. No children inside and dogs must be on leads.

Inn of the Year

Bathurst Arms, North Cerney (Gloucestershire)

Bustling inn with beamed bar, open fires, fine wines, real ales and super food; comfortable bedrooms

Bathurst Arns

"An absolute delight' says one reader after his regular visit to this handsome old inn. Reports this year are especially enthusiastic with warm praise for the attentive and friendly landlord and his young staff. There's a lot of genuine character and the original beamed and panelled bar has a fireplace at each end (one quite huge and housing an open woodburner), a good mix of old tables and nicely faded chairs and old-fashioned window seats. There are country tables in an oak-floored room off the bar, as well as winged high-backed settles forming a few booths around other tables; piped music and TV. The restaurant has leather sofas and another woodburning stove. Hook Norton Hooky Bitter and guests like Battledown Premium and Prescott Hill Climb on handpump, there's a wine room where you can choose your own wines or one of the 30 by the glass and local soft drinks and juices. The pleasant riverside garden has picnic-sets sheltered by trees and shrubs, and plenty of surrounding walks. Cerney House Gardens are worth a visit.


Wine Pub of the Year

Woods, Dulverton (Somerset)

Smartly informal place with exceptional wines and enjoyable food


This is popular place among many readers for a civilised meal, although it's perhaps rather too restauranty for some. The wine list is extraordinarily good: you can order any of the 400 or so that they keep on this list by the glass and the landlord also has an unlisted collection of about 500 well aged new world wines which he will happily chat about. Inside it's comfortably relaxed with a good mix of drinkers and diners and very Exmoor - plenty of good sporting prints on the salmon pink walls, some antlers, other hunting trophies and stuffed birds and a couple of salmon rods. There are bare boards on the left by the bar counter, which has St Austell Dartmoor Best, HSD and Tribute tapped from the cask, a farm cider, many sherries and some unusual spirits; attentive, helpful staff and daily papers to read. Its tables partly separated by stable-style timbering and masonry dividers, the bit on the right is carpeted and has a woodburning stove in the big fireplace set into its end wall, which has varnished plank panelling; there may be unobjectionable piped music. Big windows keep you in touch with what's going on out in the quiet town centre (or you can sit out on the pavement at a couple of metal tables). A small suntrap back courtyard has a few picnic-sets.


Whisky Pub of the Year

Sligachan Hotel, Sligachan (Scotland)

Summer-opening mountain hotel in the Cuillins with walkers' bar and plusher side, food all day, impressive range of whiskies and useful children's play area


The position right in the heart of the Cuillins is a reason to seek out this climbers' haunt, with some of the most testing walks in Britain on its doorstep. The huge modern pine-clad main bar, falling somewhere between an original basic climbers' bar and the plusher more sedate hotel side, is spaciously open to its ceiling rafters and has geometrically laid out dark tables and chairs on neat carpets; pool. The splendid range of 300 malt whiskies makes a most impressive display behind the bar counter at one end, where they also serve their own Cuillin Black Face, Eagle, Glamaig, Pinnacle, Skye and scottish guest beers such as Caledonian Deuchars IPA. It can get quite lively in here some nights, but there is a more sedate lounge bar with leather bucket armchairs on plush carpets and a coal fire; piped highland and islands music. A feature here is the little museum charting the history of the island, and children should be delighted with the big play area which can be watched from the bar. There are tables out in a garden, and as well as self-catering accommodation they've a campsite with caravan hook-ups across the road.


Own Brew Pub of the Year

Grainstore, Oakham (Rutland)

Super own-brewed beers in a converted railway grain warehouse, friendly staff, cheerful customers and pubby food


Depending on the time of day, this interesting place will either be very lively or a bit more relaxed. It's always friendly, however, whatever time it is and as most customers are here to try their own-brewed beers, the staff will happily let you try a sample or two. The beer is brewed above the down-to-earth bar and as they use the traditional tower method, during work hours you'll hear noises of the brewery workings filtering down from the floors above. There are ten beers and they are served traditionally at the left end of the bar counter and through swan necks with sparklers on the right. This was once a three-storey Victorian grain warehouse and the décor is plain and functional with wide well worn bare floorboards, bare ceiling boards above massive joists supported by red metal pillars, a long brick-built bar counter with cast-iron bar stools, tall cask tables and simple elm chairs; games machine, darts, board games, giant Jenga and bottle-walking. In summer they pull back the huge glass doors opening the bar up to a terrace with picnic-sets, often stacked with barrels. You can tour the brewery by arrangement, they do take-aways, and hold a real ale festival with over 80 real ales and lots of live music during the August bank holiday weekend; disabled access.

Sign up to our newsletter