It’s the time of year for blustery walks, laid-back lunches by a roaring fire and long weekends away in cosy inns. The i-escape team has just revisited these UK gems to check they’re still up to our exacting standards, and we can wholeheartedly recommend a lazy winter pub break at any of them.
“I’ve wanted to stay at this pub with rooms forever. And it was worth the wait. It’s way more than a pub with rooms. It’s a gorgeous old-fashioned pub, with incredible Michelin-starred food, and none of the stuffiness of traditional fine dining. Staff are relaxed and chatty, whilst being totally on their game, and our evening meal was an absolute treat from start to finish. A warm crab tart with shaved fennel melted in my mouth. The pumpkin soup with pomegranate seeds and smoked Chantilly was just incredible. A Cornish brill was perfectly teamed with leek fondue and Scottish girolles (fish and mushrooms; who knew?) and their ‘fluffernutter’ with banana ice cream was beautiful. The rooms themselves are tucked away in an annexe down the lane, each with an idyllic riverside terrace and watery views. The thoughtful attention to detail was endless (homemade biscuits, Pictionary for rainy days) and we loved the pure peace of the place. A true escape.”
Top tip: There’s Prosecco on the breakfast buffet! What a way to start your day.
“This historic pub with rooms has everything I love. Our room up in the eaves was bright and comfy and had pretty views out over the estuary. The food is excellent; many ingredients are locally sourced and there’s an emphasis on seafood, although I loved the Suffolk duck breast with spring greens and marmalade sauce. We enjoyed a lovely wintry walk through idyllic Constable country with our Boston Terrier Arthur, who was made more than welcome (small, well-behaved dogs are allowed, but make sure you request this when you make your booking). And best of all, they have great-value rates which include dinner on Sunday and Monday nights – an excellent excuse to put off the working week a little longer.”
Top tip: Make time to visit The Mistley Kitchen, a brilliant shop selling all the beautiful foodie gadgets and cookware you could ever want.
Assistant editor Melissa on The Miller of Mansfield, Berkshire
Just as the autumn leaves fell into a thick golden carpet, I hopped into the car and hot-footed it to the Cotswolds, keen to dose up on fresh countryside air and cosy pub vibes. After a quick jaunt up the M4, I found myself relaxing at The Miller of Mansfield’s bar. The fire was crackling in the corner, I had a delicious glass of wine in hand and dinner was soon to be taken in the convivial restaurant. Heaven. Our meal was outstanding, a riot of tasting dishes with stand-outs including the spiced monkfish tail, the rare fillet steak and the house white chocolate macaroons. Next morning, we walked off the evening’s excesses along the Thames path – glorious on such a clear day. What this place really offers is contentment; prices are reasonable, the team are charming and, at just an hour’s train journey from London, it couldn’t be easier to make an impromptu escape.
Top tip: On Christmas Eve, the residents of Goring-on-Thames village take to the streets for a torch-lit procession and carol singing. What better way to ring in the festive celebrations?
“If, like me, your ideal winter getaway means a country walk (they have wellies to borrow), a long hot soak in a big tub (ours was an in-room roll-top) and a hearty dinner in front of an open fire, then look no further than The Talbot in pretty Mells. The country-house style rooms are refreshingly well priced (from £100 per night), meaning a stay in the countryside won’t break the bank. The staff are genuinely friendly and the menus – featuring only local produce – change daily. Choose from the main restaurant or The Grill House, which is open on weekends; if you prefer simple, more traditional food, there are always “pub” choices by the bar. You’re guaranteed to return home with a full belly and your batteries recharged.”
“The Felin Fach Griffin is an old country pub which offers the warmest of welcomes. We arrived after a bracing walk on a chilly day and were overjoyed to find a cosy bar complete with timber beams, leather sofas and a roaring fire. We thawed out with an excellent local beer and chatted to manager Julie, who’s an expert on local walks. We absolutely loved our room – the bed dressed in beautiful Egyptian cotton – and happily retired there after a truly sumptuous dinner downstairs.”
Top tip: Get up early one morning for the 15-minute uphill walk from the pub to watch the sun rise over the Brecon Beacons – unmissable. We rewarded ourselves afterwards with a breakfast of Welsh rarebit by the fire.
“This is where you want to be this winter: sat by the fire in this gem of a pub in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village. Start with a local ale, then wander through to gorgeous Farrow & Ball’d dining rooms, where twinkling lights and good central heating await. It’s the food you’ve come for, and it’s stunning: carpaccio of tuna with an avocado, lime and ginger dressing; rich, smoky ox cheek in chianti with a celeriac mash; truffled wedges and buttered red cabbage; mozzarella with wood-roasted peppers; and a superb Baked Alaska to round things off (ask them to hold the strawberry sauce). You’ll contentedly roll to your room, where you’ll find dreamy beds clad in duck-down duvets and gorgeous furnishings (vintage travel trunks in the pub rooms; decorative tiling atop underfloor heating in the garden rooms). Best of all? The price. How they do such beautiful rooms and food for such great rates is beyond me.”
Top tip: Just across the way, there’s a pretty church worth wandering up to. Nearby Lechlade is a stunning small town with independent boutiques selling perfect Christmas presents…