Winning tip: The Free Trade Inn, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Perched above a bend in the Tyne is this no-nonsense Geordie boozer with great real ales. Its beer garden has the best view of the Tyne bridges, with the Baltic art gallery and the Millennium Bridge in the foreground – if you’re lucky, you will see it open to let boats go upstream. Sunsets there can be amazing, especially around the equinoxes, when the sun seems to sink into the river and the whole of Tyneside turns a warm pink.
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The Plough, Norwich
A proper pub garden is a rare treasure in the centre of Norwich but The Plough on St Benedicts Street is a haven. The cobbled courtyard is filled with the wonderful scents of Mediterranean herbs and flowers. When the sun shines, the garden fills with fans of Grain Brewery’s beers and connoisseurs of the intriguing shelf of tequilas in the back bar. Peer up through the foliage to the gables of 15th-century merchants’ houses and sprawl over a picnic bench on the lawn to catch the last evening rays, before the bats begin their dusk flittings overhead.
The Final Whistle, Nottinghamshire
Sitting in the garden of this pub in Southwell you’d be forgiven for expecting an express train to speed through. The pub is in the former station and its good ales and substantial pork pies and cheese boards can be enjoyed on the “platform” beer garden, which features tracks, signs and station canopy, all bedecked with hanging baskets. Trains may be delayed.
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Botley Hill Farmhouse, Surrey
On the highest point of the North Downs Way, it’s no surprise that the views from this country inn’s beer garden near Biggin Hill are fantastic, made even more so if you’re lucky enough to be there on a summer’s evening, glass in hand, taking in the sunset. The menu is locally sourced, with some ingredients very local – the delicious burgers are made with beef from just over the fence at the Titsey Estate, which is also home to Titsey Brewing Co where the craft ales on tap come from. Popular with walkers and cyclists.
White Hart, Bath
The walled garden at the White Hart in vibrant Widcombe (a leafy neighbourhood behind Bath Spa station) has its own microclimate. Filled with a tropical array of shrubs and flowers, including a rare ginkgo tree and a fruit-producing passion flower canopy, it’s a foodie haven with a local pub ambiance. For the creative bods from Bath Comedy Festival and the thesps from the Natural Theatre Company based next door it’s an alfresco front room all summer long. A Jane Austen-free zone in the heritage madness that is Bath.
Old Coastguard, Cornwall
The verdant palm-filled garden of the Old Coastguard in Mousehole has lush lawns that slope gently down to the sea. Sip Cornish cider and gaze over at St Michael’s Mount as the light changes according to weather and time; the combination of beer, flowers and sea breezes is a heady one. Even on a grey autumn day, the garden has atmosphere: when the clouds clear, tiny St Clement’s Isle magically appears in the distance.
Cairndow Stagecoach Inn, Argyll
An hour north of Glasgow, shimmy past Loch Lomond, then take the High Road (A83) over the Rest and Be Thankful beauty spot to one of the oldest Highland hostelries: the Cairndow Stagecoach Inn, tucked away at the head of Loch Fyne. Enjoy craft brews (Fyne ales) and wonderful food in the lovely gardens leading down to the loch shore. Magnificent views north to the mountains and the tranquil waterside location make this spot a perfect retreat. Catch one of the glorious Loch Fyne sunsets and you’ll never want to leave.
The Prince Leopold Inn, Wiltshire
I haven’t found many pubs where you can sit and sip a cool drink while dipping your legs into a running river. This pub, at Upton Lovell, is off the beaten track on the edge of the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and has a small but perfectly manicured garden backing onto the River Wylye. The fact the view is of nothing but open fields and ancient countryside looking across the far bank of the river brings a real sense of tranquillity. If you can, stay for sunset.
The Castle Hotel, Shropshire
At the top of picturesque small town Bishop’s Castle is this beautiful garden once frequented by luminaries such as Ronnie Lane and friends. With stunning views overlooking south Shropshire and Wales, it’s an ideal place for families or informal meets. There’s also a newly built stage to host outdoor gigs. You can relax on a variety of tables or beanbags. There’s a well-established an attractive pond containing fish and frogs under a honeydew frame. Kids can explore the books and crannies at the top of the garden safely away from any roads.
The Eagle and Child, Greater Manchester
This pub in Ramsbottom has an “edible beer garden” so while you’re sat relaxing with a drink outside, you’ll find yourself surrounded by pots, planters and patches where most of the fruit, vegetables and herbs used in the kitchen is grown. It’s a lovely touch from a pub that seems to strive to give back to its community – namely by training marginalised young people for the food service industry. Such activism doesn’t take away from the food or drink experience – the craft cider is delightful and a forkful of the “Double Bomber” cheese & onion pie would show you just why this place was crowned Great British Pub Awards’ pub of the year in 2017.
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