London has loads of amazing bars and pubs. More than you can drink at in a life time (we assume), so leaving the city to visit a pub almost sounds like madness. Yet, hard as it is to accept, there is life outside London and some of it is absolutely stunning. As 'Escape London', a book by Yolanda Zappaterra illustrates, a short train ride could land you in lush greenery, perched at a pub bench where pints cost a fraction of those in the capital and everyone smiles at you. Here's a selection of ten of the finest to start you off.
Ten country pubs within reach of London
The Anchor, Wisley, Surrey
This riverside pub makes a lovely walk from RHS Wisley, just one and a half miles away. Once there, supping a pint at one of the canalside tables in the huge garden (or fireside in the fetching interior) is a treat – as is the traditional pub food.
Lock Lane, Wisley, Woking GU23 6QW, 01932 342507, www.anchorpyrford.co.uk
Get there: Trains run from Waterloo and Clapham Junction to West Byfleet in about half hour. From there it’s a half-hour walk to the pub, part of it along the river Wey.
Black Rabbit, Arundel, W Sussex
A riverside location with masses of waterside seating, English ales and traditional pub food make this a great spot for lunch or restorative mid-ramble pint. If you want to work up an appetite, the pub website details a lovely three-mile circular walk to the small hamlet of South Stoke, with some great views of Arundel castle. Failing that, the half-hour walk to the pub from Arundel station through a nature reserve is a beauty too.
Mill Rd, BN18 9PA, 01903 882828, www.theblackrabbitarundel.co.uk
Get there: Trains run from Victoria to Arundel, taking about 90 minutes.
The Coach and Horses, Rickmansworth, Herts
London’s 270 tube stations mean we’re lucky enough to have heaps of country pubs that are easily accessible just with an Oyster card, especially once you get to the far western reaches of the Metropolitan line. From a front façade filled with a riot of colourful hanging baskets, to a large paved garden and covered patio, the Coach and Horses fits the bill perfectly, and once inside, a snug, roaring fire and lots of wooden beams complete the look. For other great pubs near tube stations, check out Sam Cullen’s fantastic blog, Innside Track.
22 High Street, Rickmansworth WD3 1ER, 01923 772 433, www.thecoachandhorses.info
Get there: A Metropolitan line tube from central London takes about an hour, or trains from Marylebone take 40 minutes.
The Filly Inn, Setley, nr Brockenhurst, Hants
The large areas of outdoor seating and lovely garden terrace are the main reasons to choose this sixteenth-century whitewashed country pub over worthy New Forest competitors like the Rose & Crown and Foresters Arms, but so too is its setting opposite Setley Plain, a popular eathland walking area. Modern British food, well-kept beers and a traditional wood-beamed cosy interior filled with nooks and crannies complete the appeal.
Lymington Rd, Setley, SO42 7UF, 01590 623449, www.thefillyinn.co.uk
Get there: Direct trains from Waterloo to Brockenhurst take around 90 minutes. From there, it’s a half-hour walk to the pub.
The Orange Tree, Sawbridgeworth, Herts/Essex
This bright, airy gastropub may be on the modern side, but that’s no bad thing when it’s done with as much care as it is here. Good food is very much at the heart of the enterprise, but it’s married nicely with community matters – local regular Saira Hamilton is regularly brought in for pop-up events by landlord Tom Perry, who spotted her when she became a ‘MasterChef’ semi-finalist, and the pub was renamed from the Three Horseshoes to mark the connection between a local nursery and Florida’s orange industry.
166 West Road, Sawbridgeworth, CM21 0BP, 01279 722485, www.theorangetreepub.com
Get there: Trains from Liverpool St take about 45 minutes to Sawbridgeworth station, which is just over a mile away from the pub.
Poacher and Partridge, Tudeley, Kent
Two miles away from Tonbridge, this bright and spacious pub is surrounded by lots of outdoor seating. An eclectic menu ensures something for all tastes and pockets, staff are helpful and friendly, and printed local walks are a nice touch.
Hartlake Rd, Tudeley, Tonbridge TN11 0PH, 01732 358934, www.elitepubs.com
Get there: Trains run from London Bridge to Tonbridge in about 45 minutes, and bus 205 runs outside the pub – or you could hire a bike in Tonbridge and cycle.
Ram Inn, Firle, E Sussex
A lovely village setting, the anarchic pleasures of Lewes and the country home of the Bloomsbury set all make the array of flint and brick buildings of the seventeenth-century Ram Inn perfect for culture kids looking for a base from which to explore the rich pickings nearby. Being in the heart of the South Downs national park and close to the coast means it has lots to offer walkers too, with rooms available for overnight stays if the train back into town feels like too much of an effort after a long ramble.
The Street, Firle, nr. Lewes, BN8 6NS, 01273 858222, www.raminn.co.uk
Get there: Trains from Clapham Junction take about an hour to reach Glynde, which is half an hour’s walk from the pub.
The Royal Standard of England, Forty Green, Beaconsfield, Bucks
This 900-year-old pub is the oldest freehouse in England, and as winsome as you’d imagine, its atmospheric space dominated by ancient gnarled oak beams overhead, worn flagstones below and a roaring fire and cosy benches in between. A pretty walled garden completes its aesthetic appeal, and a great selection of ales and ciders and super-friendly staff make it a total winner.
Forty Green, Beaconsfield HP9 1XS, 01494 673382, www.rsoe.co.uk
Get there: Trains run from Marylebone to Beaconsfield station, taking around 25 minutes. From there, it’s a half-hour walk to the pub.
The Thatchers Arms, Warley, Essex
While not actually thatched, the Thatchers Arms is as quaint as you’d want a country pub to be. Outside, the sixteenth-century building has lots of benches, and inside the traditional decor and real fire makes it a great place to enjoy the pub’s own brew or big hearty roasts. Warley Place Essex Wildlife Trust Reserve is next door, if you want to work up an appetite with a walk.
Warely Road, Warley, Brentwood CM13 3HU, 01277 233535, www.thethatchersarms.com
Get there: Trains run from Liverpool St to Brentwood station in 35 minutes, and from there it’s a half-hour walk to the pub.
Welsh Harp, Waltham Abbey, Essex
Not strictly a country pub, but the fifteenth-century Welsh Harp does back onto the ancient Abbey gardens, is Waltham Abbey’s only medieval inn, and the tables outside its lopsided timber-framed front make a fine spot for a pint in the sun. It serves a good range of food from noon until 4pm, with dishes like homemade steak and ale pie and mash costing less than £7.
Market Square, Waltham Abbey EN9 1DL, 01992 711113, www.mcmullens.co.uk
Get there: Trains from Liverpool St take about 30 minutes to reach Waltham Cross, which is half an hour’s walk away from Waltham Abbey.
Or stay in the city for a drink
In Crystal Palace, one of London's many mini-villages south of the river, most of the drinking and dining action happens in the commercial hub known as The Triangle - a trio of roads lined with bistros, gastropubs and local specialists in cuisines from Indian and Thai to North African and European. If they want a drink, most people who live here head to the pub. Cocktail Embassy is a bar that's trying to change that mind-set, but whether it will win over residents with its dated look and awkward collection of mostly Prohibition-era/style cocktails – heavy on booze and light on mixers – remains to be seen. The menu is a combination of out-there concoctions such as vodka with raspberries and beetroot, through to made-over holiday tipples, although decent classics can also be knocked up on demand. The cocktails we tried were good. A Sun Leaf (spiced rum, vanilla, orange marmalade, mint, lime juice and orange bitters) was simply presented and nicely balanced, despite losing its sweet-sour power towards the end. A Mai Tai, served in a heavy, straight-sided glass goblet with a slice of house-dried fruit and a layer of 'rum float', bore no resemblance to most of its more conventional cousins. However, Cocktail Embassy’s décor is stuck in the early Noughties, and its ambience is far from cosy: shiny black chandeliers with electric flickering candles, leather seating all facing the L-shaped bar, loud flock wallpaper, and lighting that was way too bright. It’s not a place that invites
Venue says: “Happy hour every day 5-8pm and Sunday all day. Exclusive cocktails and DJ over the weekend. Open until 3am... what else do you need?”