A stone monument in the middle of a village square
Photograph: Rob MartinThe Square in Dobcross

Five great country pubs close to Manchester

Looking for a perfect lunch and a pint in the country? These five fantastic pubs are less than an hour's drive from Manchester city centre

Rob Martin
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While the centre of Manchester is awash with fantastic things to do, a wealth of wonderful bars and pubs and some of the best restaurants in the land, we know that sometimes you just need to breathe in some fresh air outside of the city. It is, afterall, a gateway to loads of different stunning areas of the country, from the Lake District to North Wales and beyond. 

Luckily, if you choose to venture into Manchester's surrounding countryside, you can still indulge in scran that is on par with the top eateries inside the city. There are plenty of gorgeous gastropubs and good old salt of the earth drinking holes that can be reached within an hour or less from Manchester's centre. Whether you're after something fun and fancy or just want a big fat roast dinner to greet you after a woodland walk, here our five of our favourite places for a country pub lunch close to Manchester. 

Our top five country pubs for lunch close to Manchester

Where is it? Dobcross

How far's that from Manchester? About a thirty-five to forty-minute drive.

Why go? Dating back to 1765, The Swan Inn sits in the picturesque village square in the heart of Saddleworth's Dobcross. The beautiful stone-built pub was in danger of closing until being taken over in 2020 by local resident Sharon Musgrove who has quickly turned it into one of the best spots for food and drink in the region. Whilst she's spruced the place up, it remains very much a traditional inn and, cleverly, the revamp has concentrated on getting the food and drink offer absolutely spot on.

Chef Jon Lowe creates meals of a quality that's well worth traveling for, with locally sourced produce and regularly changing menus. It offers the best cheese and onion pie and the tastiest sticky toffee pudding for miles around, (the cream is so fresh you can literally walk to the farm it came from), and there are plenty of delicious vegan options too. 

Upstairs there's a cosy performance space as well, so look out for comedy, music nights and book readings from local authors.

Time Out tip: Don't leave the dogs at home.

Where is it? Clitheroe in the Forest of Bowland

How far's that from Manchester? About an hour's drive.

Why go? A drive through the Forest of Bowland is treat enough but when you're heading for a destination as good as this one, it's even better.

Although the building stems from the 1300s, its status as an inn dates back to the 1700s when it became a resting place for travellers to or from Lancaster. If the quality of the food was as good then as it is now, people probably just gave up their journey and stayed here.

Offering a twist on traditional British cuisine from locally sourced produce, Head Chef Jamie Cadman has put the venue in the top 50 Gastro Pubs in the UK, and it isn't hard to see why.

Time out tip: It's an Inn - stay the night for stunning rural views.


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Where is it? Ramsbottom

How far's that from Manchester? About a thirty-minute drive.

Why go? Apart from the obvious stuff - it's a Gastro Pub of the Year award-winner, no less - what adds to The Eagle and Child's charm is its sense of community. A social enterprise with a mission to make a difference, this pub puts its money where its mouth is, working with local young people to provide training and opportunities in the food industry, here and abroad.

Owner Glenn Duckett and his team even gave away thousands of meals to vulnerable locals during the lockdown.

So you can eat well at the Eagle and Child and satisy your altruistic tendencies at the same time. It tastes good to do good!

Time Out tip: Nip into the Incredible Edible beer garden, an allotment cum learning space for the community.

Where is it: Ramsbottom, as the name suggests

How far's that from Manchester? About a thirty-minute drive

Why go? This beautiful two-hundred-year-old building saw a major refurbishment in 2012, transforming it into one of the finest pub and restaurant venues in the region.The menu is a twist on British food with an emphasis on local, sustainable produce. Local cask ales and a superb wine selection give the place a huge thumbs up even if you aren't eating.

Time Out tip: Its owners are looking to retire so the pub is currently closed and on sale. Could you be the one to keep its pizza-oven burning? 

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Where is it? Dunham Village

How far's that from Manchester? About a thirty-minute drive

Why go? This is the perfect spot for lunch if you're making a visit to the glorious Dunham Massey hall and deer park, but even if you're not it's well worth taking a trip to on its own merits.

Apart from the lovely countryside setting, The Rope and Anchor has a delicious seasonal menu to tempt you there, with a wide selection of small plates if you're in the mood for sharing, or sizable mains if you fancy something all to yourself. There's also a substantial grill menu and a load of salads to choose from.

There's a great selection of wines and beers too and, if you're planning a special do, an outside barn is available for hire.

Time Out tip: Hang around to take advantage of the lovely beer garden at dusk

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