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A jaunt to the sticks is always an appealing prospect, and The Cotswolds is no exception. Expect to find quaint, history-steeped, honey-coloured hostleries set in gloriously unspoiled scenery, and quite possibly some exceptional food and drink, too. The Cotswolds bar scene is on the up. Maybe it’s because it’s where the money is, with people like Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz and Kate Moss always popping in for a swift half, or because owners are making the most of some of Britain’s best local producers and brewers. This is farming country, after all, and the only place worth buying a drink is the local pub. A few are fantastic, some remain pretty average, but with informed choices this part of the world won’t disappoint.
The Bell at Sapperton, near Cirencester (pictured, right)
Set in pretty gardens, the path to its font door lined with lavender, the bucolic setting of this fine old Cotswolds building gives way to contemporary-rustic style interiors of exposed stone walls, log fires and wood-burning stoves. Although groaning under the weight of numerous awards and accolades for its upmarket, modern British food, ‘Harry’s Bar’ is a fine place to end a walk through nearby Cirencester Park.
Inside this 17th-century village ‘cider house’ steeped in history you’ll find roaring log fires, low beams and a selection of some of the best locally brewed ales, including Ding Dong Christmas Porter from Stroud Brewery. Outside, a large garden offers exceptional views across the Golden Valley. It’s the kind of pub you wish existed in every English village.
This thatch-roofed inn in the estate village of Great Tew couldn’t be prettier. Inside, it’s all rough flagstone floors, inglenook fireplaces, mismatched furniture and the odd muddy dog. Out back a pleasant, lawned garden offers riveting views over the surrounding village and hills beyond. The food isn’t particularly fine, but the ales behind the bar are certainly worth sampling. This is the quintessential country boozer; ungentrified, warm and welcoming.
This award-winning former malthouse reopened in June 2011, following a major refurbishment under new ownership. A seasonal menu is served in informal dining areas adjacent to the bar, or on its large, shaded garden terrace. Head here for marvellous views over the Evenlode Valley and to admire the pub’s terraced vegetable garden, which provides much of the produce used in the kitchen.
Snuggled in one corner of a fantastically pretty Cotswolds village, this is a lovely place to head on a summer’s evening for a drink on the terrace, or on the lawned gardens edged by fruit trees and rambling roses. In winter, the bar or one of the inn’s small, candlelit dining rooms are cosy places to relax after a hearty walk.
Situated on the edge of a handsome, hilltop village, this Grade II-listed Georgian building has had a stylish revamp. It now offers good food, lovely landscaped gardens with wonderful views, and a bustling atmosphere. The wine list is short and well chosen, and there are excellent draught ales and locally brewed Cotswold lagers.
Packed with character, The King’s Head Inn, edging the picture-perfect Cotswold village green in Bledington, is particularly popular with walkers and local families. Relax with one of its seasonally changing cocktails in the old flag-stoned bar or head outside with a pint to admire the views over the green and its winding stream.
This 16th-century Cotswold coaching inn once hosted both Charles I and Oliver Cromwell, who both stayed here. Now a smart country hotel, its snug bar, complete with crooked beams, oak paneling and vast inglenook fireplace is the perfect place to curl up in a leather armchair in front of a blazing fire after exploring Broadway’s charming antique shops, galleries and museums.
Just outside Tetbury on the A433, you’ll find this proper hostelry with a warm, homely cheerfulness to it. Inside, big black beams, crooked ceilings, a proper fire, country-cottage artefacts and scrubbed pine tables add to the lived-in feel. There’s a good selection of beers behind the bar along with a decent wine list and a simple menu of smartly sourced British produce.
The rustic Woolpack at Slad was once poet and novelist Laurie Lee’s local. Continuing to exude a well-weathered charm, its ridge-top location offers tremendous views across the Stroud Valley from its outdoor terrace, while inside, a series of small, uncluttered rooms come with crackling fire and mismatched furniture. It’s a local haunt, so expect to chat with regulars propping up the bar.