The best pubs do much better than warm pints of lager and packets of dry-roasted peanuts. They’re more likely to have taps with local craft beer and cider, and menus with seasonal, farm-to-table fare. They are chic yet cosy, stylish yet unpretentious, full of local character yet welcoming to road-weary travellers.
And the very best pubs also offer comfy accommodation, so all you have to do after an evening of G&Ts is saunter along to your room to sleep it off. And these are the pubs that make ideal stops on a road trip.
Encompassing Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, England’s beautiful West Country has some of the most idyllic inns around, with plenty of glorious scenery to take in between stops.
Here’s our guide to a pub-by-pub road trip through the south west.car hire Gatwick Airport
Combe Hay, Somerset
You know you’re in for a luxurious stay when you spy The White Company toiletries in the bathroom. Though, to be honest, it doesn’t take long to twig that this Cotswolds pub, close to Bath and its Roman spas, is going to be a lovely place to spend the night. You can tell as you stroll up the lavender-lined path toward the 16th-century farmhouse, which has served as a pub since the 1700s. But we bet it hasn’t always been quite so stylish, with three neutrally decorated rooms, king-size beds layered with cushions and blankets, and rainfall shower heads in sleek bathrooms.
There’s even a ‘glamping’ option, with cosy bell tents, separate bathrooms with tubs, and deck chairs overlooking Combe Hay Valley.
Lovely touches like a hamper with freshly ground coffee, hot chocolate and cookies might make you wish for cold weather so you would have an excuse to hunker down for the night. If it is sunny, you’d do just as well to sip local cider on the pub’s terrace, and maybe order something fresh and zingy from the menu, which features produce from the pub’s kitchen garden.
Doubles from £120 and tents from £100, B&B; wheatsheafcombehay.com
How to get there: Combe Hay is close to historic Bath. The quickest route from Gatwick Airport takes around two and a half hours, travelling via the A303. As you pass Amesbury in Wiltshire, look out for Stonehenge, one of the best-known prehistoric monuments in Europe.
Blandford Forum, Dorset
Home to countryside that inspired the novels of Thomas Hardy, historic villages, and the much-photographed natural limestone arch, Durdle Door, Dorset really has no bad views.
When you’ve finally worn yourself out driving around and stopping at every scenic spot (trust us, they are everywhere), park up at this lovely pub in the picturesque village of Blandford Forum, tucked in the north Dorset countryside.
The eight rooms are above the pub or in the converted stables next door, and each is equally glorious, with sleek details like cushion-piled window seats and all-natural hand-blended Bramley toiletries. There’s also the delightfully named private Mole’s Cottage, which sleeps 16.
You’ll be glad of sleeping on-site once you glimpse the menu; with seasonal dishes like seared venison, Dorset crab tortellini, and sea trout cured with rosemary and gin, it could be more a case of rolling to bed than walking.
Doubles from £140, B&B; museuminn.co.uk
How to get there: From Gatwick Airport, it’s around two and a half hours’ drive to Blandford Forum via the M25 and M3 motorways. If you fancy taking a break from the journey, Hampshire’s county town of Winchester is a must-see, with its famous medieval cathedral and castle
Babbacombe Bay, Devon
It would probably be a little misleading to describe this beachside haven as a ‘pub with rooms’. Really, it’s more of a luxury lifestyle with a pub thrown in.
Perched above the limpid waters of the Jurassic Coast and with direct access to a wide sweep of sand, this grand white inn is the traditional English pub that got a great job, made a lot of money, and moved to its dream home by the seaside.
Everything revolves around the beach, from the spa whose outdoor hot tub has views of endless blue to the seafood-focused menu. Some suites are in cute white-and-blue beach huts and, for the ultimate in laid-back romance, you can have a catered picnic on the sand.
Doubles from £145, B&B; caryarms.co.uk
How to get there: It will take about 4 hours to drive from Gatwick Airport to Babbacombe Bay via the M3 motorway and the A303. Stonehenge is an obvious stopover, but the Stourhead Estate is also a perfect place to stretch your legs. Visit Stourhead House, its 18th century landscape garden with lakeside walks, grottoes and classical temples and King Alfred’s Tower for views over three counties.
Portloe, Truro, Cornwall
This 17th-century inn sits serenely down by the water’s edge while the Cornish coast provides a dramatic backdrop of bluffs and rugged headlands.
Within easy drive of The Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project, this is stylish seaside living at its best, even if you’re only ‘living’ there for one night. With an acclaimed restaurant serving fine wines, regional ales and a Cornish-centred menu with lobster, crab and game, you’ll probably want to stay a little longer.
Luckily, you can. The 23 bedrooms are decorated in a bright and breezy style befitting the coastal location, with tactile fabrics like crisp cotton sheets, woollen throws and linen headboards.
Doubles from £140, B&B; luggerhotel.co.uk
How to get there: From Gatwick Airport, it’s about 6-hours’ drive to Truro. Enjoy exploring the stunning scenery of Cornwall, from the surfer hangout of Newquay, to the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur, Tintagel Castle and on to the most southerly point in mainland Great Britain, Lizard Point.