From a glorious Hebridean hideaway to a classic Cornish coach house, our pick of half a dozen pubs perfectly appointed for a great weekend by the sea
The Hare and Hounds Inn
The Hare and Hounds Inn, Cumbria (image above)
Technically speaking, the Hare and Hounds is a 10-minute drive to the beach but it’s lovely enough to make the list. Recently renovated by long-time London residents Andrew Black and Simon Rayner-Langmead (the latter grew up around the way), it’s been transformed into a bustling community hub and makes a brilliant base for Lake Windermere as well as coastal walks out to Humphrey Head. The food is hale and hearty – at lunch order a mug of soup to go with your roast beef sandwich – and the rooms are smart and contemporary. The fireside spot in the bar is pretty much the perfect place to warm up after a blustery walk.
This recently restored 18th-century coach house sums up the new Margate: the design has a kind of Hackney-on-Sea impishness to it, the food is excellent and the whole thing is shot through with a kind of freewheeling, artsy energy that’s impossible to resist. It’s tucked ever so slightly back from the main beach, but Turner Contemporary is just a hop and a skip away and it makes a great base for the walk along the coast to Broadstairs. The reassuringly short menu is all-thriller: rump steaks with salsa verde, hulking great veggie burgers, and delicate sea bass fillets that come served with samphire. Beers are by the nearby NorthDown brewery. The six rooms have a chirpy over-the-top opulence, from a Biba-themed boudoir to a beach house-inspired snug. Guests get exclusive access to a Reggies honesty bar and a cute little courtyard.
There’s a Presbyterian bent to many of the Scottish islands, which means that pubs are thin on the ground. Still, there are a few doozies like the Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye. The rooms are jauntily decked out in seaside blues and whites and the kitchen turns out serious fine dining with a light touch. Chef Scott Davies kicks things off with “Wee Nibbles” like oyster in seaweed vinegar and local crab, before moving on to heavyweight mains that make good use of the island’s abundant natural larder. The food gives it a run for its money but the real draw here is the pub’s spectacular setting which looks out on to Loch Dunvegan with its incredible wine-dark waters.
This handsome old coaching house has been painted the deep yellow of English mustard so that it pops gloriously against its twin backdrops of the bleakly beautiful Penwith moorland on the one side and the beautiful blue of the Atlantic Ocean on the other. The pub also stands out from the pack for its big-hearted welcome. The Inkin brothers who own and run the place have given it an earthy unpretentious vibe: the rooms are homely, with Roberts radios and pretty Welsh blankets, and the excellent food is as local as possible with fish sourced from the day boats and plenty of choice for vegetarians. They do a dinner, bed and breakfast rate, which is particularly good value in the winter. Lovely St Ives with its Tate art gallery is a 15-minute drive and the local hiking is as good as it gets.
Rye town isn’t actually on the coast but you can walk from this lovely inn on the high street, through the marshes of Rye Harbour nature reserve to Winchelsea beach, or hop in the car to glorious Camber Sands with its lovely rolling dunes. Location-wise, the George is perfect for exploring Rye’s up-and-down cobbled streets and its antique-laden treasures troves. The bedrooms are just the right side of maximalist: big wallpaper, bright furniture, standalone roll-top baths. The food is upper-pub grub – fish and chips and burgers, through to turbot and sharing steaks.
From the Cross Keys in Aldeburgh to the White Horse in Blakeney, Adnams has a run of east coast seaside pubs to rival any in the land. The pick of the bunch is its flagship inn, The Swan, which sits proudly in the heart of Southwold. Rooms are super-comfy candy-coloured confections, and each comes with a tallboy packed with treats including a 20cl bottle of Adnams’ house gin. The kitchen takes pub standards and seriously elevates them – think battered Cornish monkfish with triple-fried chips – and the breakfasts are top-notch, particularly the local Lowestoft kippers. Behind the bar, they stock the full gamut of Adnams’ increasingly impressive oeuvre, from its lovely Southwold Bitter through to martinis made with its house vodka.
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