Cordelia Aspinall

The country pubs within touching distance of London

The country pubs within touching distance of London
Text settings

You don’t need to venture too far out of the big city to find yourself the perfect rural drinking hole. Craving a blissful afternoon sipping on drinks al fresco and watching the sunset? On a mission to try a smashing Sunday roast lunch with all the trimmings? Or simply keen to spend some time surrounded by nature? Then why not retreat to a country pub, many just a stone's throw from London – accessible by car, train (if you can dodge the strikes) or even bike. Go for lunch, a pint, a birthday dinner, and stay for the chilled vibes away from the city smog.

Here are seven we’ve chosen as our favourites, all within touching distance of London…

The Black Rabbit, West Sussex

Drink by the river with Arundel castle in the distance

Just across from the medieval Arundel Castle and a short boat trip away from the historic centre of Arundel, you'll find The Black Rabbit. The waterside pub, overlooking the pretty River Arun, will make the city feel a million miles away.

Serving quintessentially British food, try dishes from woodland chicken layered in a forest mushroom and tarragon cream sauce to a delicately roasted sea bass on a bed of leek and mushroom risotto. Or opt for pub classics including burgers, fish and chips and steak and tanglefoot pie. Save room for a sweet dessert – lemon posset, chocolate and orange torte or a choice of ice cream scoops – you don’t want to miss these, trust me.

Sit back on the veranda or on the river itself on their pontoon, and unwind, drink in hand (they’re big on English ales and have a wide selection of wines and spirits). Feeling a little chilly? Cosy up by the log fire and stay til late.

The Black Rabbit, Offham, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9PB, 019 0388 2638

The Bottle and Glass Inn, Henley-on-Thames

Tucked within the Phillimore Estate in Binfield Heath, a pretty village in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, stands this award-winning Grade II listed pub. It was reopened in 2017 by David Holliday and Alex Sergeant – formerly of the Michelin-starred pub The Harwood Arms in Fulham – following an extensive refurbishment which brought a lovely modern finish to the traditional thatched roofed inn.

Head inside and take a seat under exposed beams and original brickwork and sample a menu full of local produce. Favourites include the Phillimore Estate game terrine with a tart red onion jam, roasted Berkshire chicken breast with salt pig nduja and a whole host of local cheeses and beers brewed just down the road – it's no wonder the pub gained a Michelin Plate.

They also offer tremendous Sunday roasts (veggie option included) or woodfired pizzas and jam-packed burgers in their converted old barn in the garden adjacent to the main pub. Make a weekend of it and stay in one of the new rooms or pick up some goodies from their farm shop which opened in December 2021.

The Bottle and Glass Inn, Binfield Heath, Henley-on-Thames RG9 4JT, 014 914 12625

The Royal Standard of England, Buckinghamshire

Just a short 30-minute train ride from Marylebone station will take you to the doorstep of this 11th-century Buckinghamshire ale house. Owner Matthew O'Keeffe labels it the first proper country pub outside London: there's a medieval tiled floor and antiques and curiosities from over the centuries fill every nook and cranny. It's not hard to see why it appeared in both Hot Fuzz and The Theory of Everything.

Nab yourself a table in one of the atmospheric candlelit rooms with all sorts of quirks hanging from the ceiling, or delve into the large garden and tuck into a hearty meal of traditional pub grub. Choose from home-cooked British classics including sausage and mash, handmade pies or comforting fish and chips and end with the ultimate puds – from Eton mess and apple pie to sticky toffee pudding. Roasts are available on Sundays with local game sourced from their own famer and children’s sizes are available. Pair with beer from local craft breweries – you must try Marston's Owd Rodger Strong Country Ale – an 'own brew' served for more than 100 years.

The Royal Standard of England, Brindle Lane, Forty Green, Beaconsfield HP9 1XT, 014 94673382

The Ram Inn, East Sussex

Combine a pub lunch with a walk in the South Downs

A popular spot for locals and London day-trippers alike, pull up to The Ram Inn in the heart of Firle village for panoramic views of the rolling hills of the South Downs National Park. With over 100 miles of walking and cycling paths on the doorstep, it's the ideal spot for grabbing a refreshing pint after a hike or trail.

Settle into one of the three rooms in the old brick and flint building or dine al fresco in the flint-walled garden, complete with a play area in the orchard to keep the kids happy. The menu features meat from the nearby Firle Estate, fish from Shoreham and freshly baked bread every day from Flint Owl Bakery in Glynde nearby.

Diners who don't want a large meal can opt for small plates such as salty Padron peppers, crispy bruschetta and oozy halloumi shards, while those after meat are in for a treat: think venison loin and chargrilled pigeon breast They also do a famously good Sunday roast (vegan option included)! Polish off with their Ram Inn stout cake drizzled in a decadent toffee sauce and clotted cream and cosy up by the open fires totally indulged. Or if you can’t stumble home, why not check into one of the six bedrooms above the pub for some shut eye?

The Ram Inn, Firle, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6NS, 012 7385 8222

The Anchor, Surrey

Just over a mile away from the beautiful gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley, The Anchor is great for a sunny afternoon's drinking session on the riverside. Next to Pyrford Lock and with the terrace stretching along the canal, it's certainly offers a pint with a view. Perfect for those who fancy an Aperol, pink rhubarb or elderflower spritz by the water.

Lunch could be a delicious fish finger cobb dressed in tartare sauce with a portion of triple-cooked chips or a Mediterranean vegetable quiche with watercress and shallot salad, while evening diners will be tempted by the 28-day aged sirloin steak or a double cheeseburger. Dogs are welcome and, with West Byfleet around the corner, they’ll welcome the break from the city just as much as you humans.

The Anchor, Pyrford Lock, Wisley, Woking, Surrey GU23 6QW, 019 3234 2507

The Horse Guards Inn, West Sussex

Aptly named The Horse Guards Inn since the 1840s when some of the household calvaries frequented the inn while their horses rested on the grounds of the Petworth Estate, this pub has been around for some 350 years. Positioned in the village of Tillington near Petworth in the South Downs National Park, chill out and look out to views of Rother Valley in a relaxed and friendly setting.

Gather round one of the tables inside for warming afternoons post-country walks or venture into the magical hidden garden and slump into a deck chair. There are board games to play, roasted chestnuts foraged from Petworth Park to heat up on the open fires in winter, and homemade sloe gin and Pimms to sip on come summer.

The menu is small but seasonal so changes frequently, and where possible most produce is sourced within the British Isles and from local independent businesses. And there’s always the option to stay longer to try the breakfasts with a night in one of their three country-chic bedrooms. Waking up to sweet cinnamon French toast is surely the dream.

The Horse Guards Inn, Upperton Road, Tillington, West Sussex GU28 9AF, 017 9834 2332

The Jolly Cricketers, Beaconsfield

Lying in the heart of Seer Green village in need of a revamp, owners Chris and Amanda Lillitou bought this quaint village pub back in 2008 and have created a lovely, relaxed ambience to unwind in, dishing up brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks seven days a week. Hop in the car or catch a direct train on the Chiltern line from Marylebone station (25 minutes) – The Jolly Cricketers is then a quick 10-minute walk from the village station.

The kitchen serves modern British seasonal food. Brunch dishes include the classic millennial favourite avocado and poached eggs on toast, or for something sweeter order the Cricketers' granola with berries and honey. Main meals vary from chargrilled rib eye to a green veggie risotto. Or simply much on bar snacks such as plump gordal olives, Cornish salt and pepper squid and the very British sausage roll with piccalilli. They also offer top-notch roasts on a Sunday and a tempting selection of cocktails.

Check out the website to see their upcoming live music events or book onto their Sunday evening quiz. Bring your furry friends along too and treat them to some homemade dog biscuits, with all proceeds going towards Bucks Mind and Search Dogs Bucks charities.

The Jolly Cricketers, 24 Chalfont Road, Seer Green, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire HP9 2YG, 014 946 76308