Britain is famous around the world for its pubs and the mention of one often conjures up the image of roaring fires, cosy corners and flagstone floors but, while settling in in front of a fire on a cold day is undoubtedly a quintessentially British experience, the summer months give you the chance to experience the other typically British side to the pub – the beer garden!
There are hundreds of places around the country that offer the opportunity to sit outside with a pint enjoying the sunshine, the views or just watching the world go by.
Here are some of our personal favourite spots for an al fresco pint.
Isis Farmhouse, Oxford
Oxford is home to a wide range of excellent pubs and an unusual number of great beer gardens (the Perch, the Fishes and the Trout could all easily feature on this list) but our favourite is the Isis Farmhouse.
A short walk along the river from the centre of town, this pub feels more countryside than city and the huge beer garden right on the banks of the Thames is hard to beat. Sitting with a pint on a summer’s afternoon watching boats potter up and down is a real treat. Inside has a rustic feel but is more casual café-bar and music venue than old-school pub. The weekly Sunday live music and several ‘festival’ style events add to this vibe.
The Square and Compass, Dorset
Set just back from Dorset’s stunning Jurassic Coast, this quirky pub is something of an institution. Specialising in homemade cider and offering only simple pies and pasties as sustenance to reward you for clambering up the hill from the beach (also accessible by car!) the stunning beer garden makes the effort worthwhile.
Solid stone tables and benches scatter the large grassy area in front of the charming slate roofed inn and offer incredible views over Dorset’s rolling hills to the sea.
Stickle Barn, Great Langdale, Cumbria
There are few things better than a pint in the sunshine with views of the hills after working up a thirst hiking in the stunning Lake District.
Stickle Barn offers the perfect spot – the only pub run by the National Trust, Stickle Barn sits in the Great Langdale Valley at the start of one of the areas most popular (and beautiful) walks; up the Langdale Pikes. After making it up and down the steep route, the pub is a very welcome sight and the good selection of food and beers is complemented by a large beer garden with views along the valley and to the surrounding fells. Fire pits keep the cold off on cooler days.
The Ship Inn, Porthleven, Cornwall
The charming harbour town of Porthleven on Cornwall’s south coast seems to get a lot less attention than some of its more well-known neighbours, but has all the traditional Cornish charm and less of the crowds.
The Ship Inn sits right at the edge of the harbour and is exactly the sort of place you can picture smugglers settling in after landing a haul! The cosy interior is full of character but the unusual beer garden adds something extra. As the pub is tucked into the hillside, the garden is a series of terraces on different levels with picnic tables tucked between pretty plants and offering views both over the boats bobbing in the harbour and out to sea.
The Applecross Inn, Applecross, Wester Ross
In the village of Applecross on the remote Applecross peninsula on Scotland’s stunning west coast, it is, not surprisingly, the views that are the real winner here. The beer garden itself is just a simple handful of benches on the street outside the inn and on a patch of grass across the road, but it is hard to imagine a better setting. Close enough to the coast to hear the sea lapping on the shore, the view stretches across the Sound of Raasay to the mountains of the Isle of Skye.
The friendly inn offers a wide range of drinks, an interesting menu with a big focus on local produce, and the excellent Scottish seafood features heavily. If you can’t tear yourself away, there are also 8 bedrooms of varying sizes.
The idea of the perfect beer garden usually conjures up images of open grassy spaces or stunning countryside views, but nowhere in Britain is having a drink outside more popular than the capital and there are lots of great options. The weather only has to be vaguely reasonable and you will find Londoners packing terraces and pouring out onto the pavements with their drinks.
Our favourite place for al fresco drinking is Exmouth Market in Farringdon where several bars line the mostly pedestrian street all with outside tables, providing a lively, sociable atmosphere and an opportunity for some easy bar hopping! Most serve a wide variety of craft beers and other drinks as well as good food. A quick game of table football at long-standing Café Kick is a must!
For something a bit fancy, treat yourself to a glass of champagne in the rooftop garden at Coq D’Argent in the City of London.
If you want help planning a self-drive trip around Britain (that could take in some of these spots!), do not hesitate to get in touch.