On a sunny summer day, we Brits know exactly what to do: at the first sign of sun peeking through the cloud cover, to the pub garden we go. But not all pub gardens are created equal. In lieu of the concrete-floored, cramped and smoke-filled versions that populate cities, motor out of the urban centre to find green, spacious, picture-perfect places for sprawling.
For their art installations, their history, their gourmet cooking and their incomparable views, these five great country pubs were made for summertime lounging. Ostensibly, you can plan a trip to any for a lunchtime break, but fair warning: you may just be tempted to stay until the sun sets.
The Griffin Inn, East Sussex
History that stretches back to the 16th century. A restaurant with an exemplary reputation. Garden views that unfold over the South Downs. Yes, The Griffin Inn may just be the Platonic ideal of great country pubs. Still just half an hour from Brighton by car, the East Sussex venue has a terrace for dining and verdant, picnic table-strewn lawns ideal for a languorous afternoon. If the combination proves too charming to flee, you can also spend the night in one of The Griffin’s pretty rooms, most of which come equipped with a four-poster bed.
The Griffin Inn, Fletching, East Sussex TN22 3SS, Tel: 01825 722890, http://www.thegriffininn.co.uk/
The Olde Bell, Berkshire
There are pubs to stop off in on the way to somewhere else, and then there are pubs that are destinations in their own right. File The Olde Bell in Berkshire under the latter category. Everything that a classic pub does, The Olde Bell does bigger: comprising several buildings, 50 bedrooms, and a sprawling six acres of lush gardens, it’s one venue you could very well get lost in. But this isn’t just for the glamorous: with its classic fare, which works with the best of the British larder, and a history that goes back, incredibly, to the 12th century, The Olde Bell has plenty of charm to back up its scale.
The Olde Bell, High Street, Hurley, Berkshire SL6 5LX, Tel: 01628 825881, http://www.theoldebell.co.uk/
The Parrot Inn, Surrey
Though it’s just a quick jaunt outside of Dorking and an hour from London, the bucolic Parrot Inn feels like it’s miles away from anywhere. In a good way: the cooking here is well worthy of a ‘gastro’ label, particularly considering much of it is sourced from the owners’ nearby farm. Of course, it’s best supped on out of doors. Luckily, there are multiple garden areas to choose from, with lawns stretching into the adjacent village green.
The Parrot Inn, Forest Green, Surrey RH5 5RZ, Tel: 01306 621339, http://www.theparrot.co.uk/
The Trout Inn at Tadpole Bridge, Oxfordshire
What’d you fancy: riverside views or relaxing on the grass? You won’t have to choose if you venture to The Trout Inn at Tadpole Bridge, a picture-perfect Cotswold haunt that looks onto the Thames, not far from the river’s source. As for the food, the pub’s menu takes inspiration from its locale, offering locally hunted game birds, seafood from the coast, and pork from a nearby farm, and uses it to craft gourmet mains like roast suckling pig with sweet potato parmentier and guinea fowl cooked three ways. Tempted? Luckily, it’s as easy as jumping in a Zipcar and hitting the road.
The Trout Inn at Tadpole Bridge, Buckland Marsh, Faringdon, Oxfordshire SN7 8RF, Tel: 01367 870382, http://www.trout-inn.co.uk/
The Sir Charles Napier, Oxfordshire
Those looking for the ideal place to while away a sunny afternoon could hardly do better than The Sir Charles Napier. Found in Chinnor, Oxfordshire – just half an hour’s drive from the centre of Oxford – the pub boasts a Michelin-starred kitchen, a gorgeous, blossom-strewn garden, and even an outdoor sculpture exhibition. It’s hard to overstate just how lovely the space is: picture flower-covered trellises, winding stone paths, and green lawns that stretch on seemingly forever.
The Sir Charles Napier, Sprigg’s Alley, Chinnor, Oxon OX39 4BX, Tel: 01494 483011, http://www.sircharlesnapier.co.uk/
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