Wonderful winter walks with pubs
Five countryside walks, with a cosy pub to fall into afterwards, before (or both). That's the next few weekends sorted then...
Bracing walk followed by a glass of red, a beer and some grub in a pub – sound good to you? Book a table, pull on your wellies and get out into the great outdoors on one of these five walks, each with a pub to fall into afterwards (or before or during), with spectacular views, gothic ruins, archaeological remains and wildlife a plenty. That’s the next few weekends sorted, then…
Pub, walk, pub: the Inn at Freshford and the Cross Guns
You’ll like this: a three-and-a-half mile circular walk from one excellent pub to another excellent pub and back again in the beautiful countryside just south west of Bath. Start out from the Inn at Freshford, a 16th century country pub with a contemporary craft feel on the banks of the river Frome in Somerset. It serves up real ales, classic pub food with a twist and smokes its own fish, meat and veg. Take a stroll along the quiet footpaths and country lanes of the Two Valleys walk to their sister pub the Cross Guns on the towpath of the Kennet & Avon Canal in Avoncliff in Wiltshire. Enjoy some trad pub fare, or a wrap and barista coffee from their new deli. Stay a while. When you’re ready, come back again.
Tiny church and big views : Porlock Hills and The Ship Inn
Just shy of five miles, this circular walk up into the wooded hills high above Porlock is part of the South West Coast Path. It takes in Ash Farm where Samuel Coleridge was said be staying when he wrote Kubla Khan, one of England’s smallest churches Culborne Church and the ruins of Lord Byron’s daughter’s gothic mansion with underground tunnels carved out by Swiss mountaineers. The walk can be steep in places but has spectacular views through the trees. Start and finish at the quaint little pub The Bottom Ship Inn (local ales and very basic but well-cooked pub food – this is no gastro pub), in Porlock Weir, a tiny hamlet with a grey shingle beach and harbour overlooking the Bristol Channel.
Gorge then gorge: Cheddar and The Swan
England’s largest gorge with its peaks, crags, circling Peregrine falcons and little white goats seemingly super-glued onto the sheer sides is an impressive sight. Even though the four-mile circular walk is steep at the beginning, it’s so worth the effort. Humans have lived in this area for millennia – England’s oldest complete skeleton (the 9,000 year old Cheddar Man), was found here in Gough’s Cave. Jump back in the car and whizz three miles down the road to Wedmore to fill your boots with the local meat, game and fish and on a Sunday, the triple roast of beef, chicken and pork, at one of Muddy’s favourite gastro pubs The Swan.
Iron Age hill forts and golden plovers: Whitesheet Hill and The Spread Eagle
This dog-friendly, six-mile walk takes in the Palladian Stourhead House and spectacular views across the Stourhead estate, including King Alfred’s Tower, and goes onwards (and upwards) to the vast Whitesheet Hill, with its Iron Age hill fort, Bronze Age barrows, etc. Birdwatchers will be clever enough to identify golden plovers. Allow about three and a half hours and then warm up back in The Spread Eagle inn (home-cooked food, real ales, real fire, flagstones, horse brasses) close to the entrance to the Stourhead gardens. Best to park at the large car park by the National Trust visitor reception at the top of the hill which is where the walk starts, or you can park in the Whitesheet Hill car park and join the route slightly later on.
Countryside meets the city: The Bath skyline and The Bear
You’ll have the elegant city of Bath at your feet on this six-mile circular walk, which begins and ends on Bathwick Hill (swoon over the swanky houses while you’re there). En route over meadows, woodlands and valleys, you’ll pass the 18th century Prior Park Landscape Garden (spot the follies and the Palladian bridge), Sham Castle (a fake mediaeval ruin), giant ant hills and assorted wildlife. The head over to urban pub The Bear, to the west of Prior Park (you can’t miss it – there’s a life-size polar bear over the entrance) which serves real ale and excellent gastro grub (all the usuals with a few surprises – Korean Fried Chicken with kimchi slaw and fries, or fries with truffles anyone?) or just coffee and cake.