The Cotswolds, with its pastoral landscapes dotted with sheep and small villages of honey-hued stone homes, is the ultimate emblem of all things British. It’s the former stomping grounds of literary masterminds, a land of imposing castles, immaculate gardens and the home of historic inns and their adjoining pubs that keep the country’s seemingly simple, yet ever so comforting, gastronomy alive, serving up classics like Sunday roasts, fish and chips, sticky toffee pudding and fresh pints of ale.
Much has been written about the virtues of the English pub, particularly in George Orwell’s 1946 essay, The Moon Under Water, in which he writes about a fictional pub and the ten ideal qualities the best pubs possess: Victorian-style architecture, garden terraces, and roaring fires, just to name a few. Below we’ve put together a list of our favourite Cotswolds pubs that tick all the boxes.
In business since 1776, Chequers is a Cotswolds institution. Famous for its Sunday lunches served non-stop from 12 PM to 8 PM, head here to slice through a juicy roast beef that comes with all the fixings: seasonal vegetables, crispy roast potatoes and a Yorkshire pudding. Dinner time proves to be just as mouth-watering with modern twists on old-school favourites like truffle mashed potatoes, duck fat toast and an ox cheek bourguignon.
Here’s a good old no-frills English countryside pub at its best, dripping with fragrant wisteria and sitting pretty above the River Windrush. You can get casual and grab a pint, as former PM David Cameron (he’s a regular) did with then-French president François Hollande, or enjoy some traditional but well-appointed pub fare.
Once an inn for stonemasons who worked on the nearby St. James Church, the Eight Bells has been around since the 14th c. and was rebuilt during the 17th c., maintaining its original stone and timber. Picnic tables line up in a terraced garden that overlooks the Alms Houses and St. James Church, while inside, exposed beams, stone walls and a wood-burning fire keep things cozy.
THE NEW GUARD
There’s a new breed of watering holes that combine the essence of the English pub concerning quality beers, simple cuisine and an intimate atmosphere with a heightened focus on food and modern-day culinary trends. Known as gastropubs, these taverns of the 21st c. are on the rise in the Cotswolds, particularly with young Londoners turning to the countryside for city breaks and long weekend getaways. Head to any of these spots for innovative takes on conventional pub grub and rustic-chic interiors.
The Wild Rabbit makes up part of the Daylesford estate, which is one of the most sustainable organic farms in the United Kingdom. The pub takes care to ensure their impact on their surroundings is minimal. Even most of the building was crafted from recycled and reclaimed materials, resulting in a trendy farmhouse feel that can’t be beaten. The food is just as pretty as the decor, featuring fresh garden salads and charcoal-cooked meat dishes always paired with colourful vegetables hand-picked from the farm.
Even though it’s frequented by A-list celebrities, The Five Alls haven’t let this get to their heads. With a fuss-free vibe and inviting atmosphere, head chef Sebastian Snow keeps the community a priority, sourcing seasonal ingredients from artisan producers in the Cotswolds. Whether you’re in the mood for something light or to tuck into some comfort food, their extensive menu of creative salads and hearty meat dishes offers both.
One of the U.K.’s top pubs, the Ebrington Arms has been a public house since at least 1640. From smooth ales that are brewed by the establishment itself, to its tucked-away location in a quiet village, this relaxed, unpretentious pub serves up hearty fare with international flavours, with a cracking selection of puddings to end your night on a sweet note.
A posh gastropub with a shabby-chic vibe, the Village Pub is part of a complex that includes nearby Barnsley House, one of our favourite hotels in the Cotswolds. With an upscale, yet laid-back feel, look forward to well-executed pub favourites with added flair like a beef burger topped with bacon jam or fishcakes done Thai-style, in a welcoming atmosphere.
You might just want to stay all day at this fantastic Oxfordshire pub with its charming name: the Thames River banks are right on the doorstep, and you can expect some incredible fish dishes, from crayfish to trout or the catch of the day. Warm and inviting, the traditional honey-coloured stone home and cozy interior with exposed stone walls and timber frames will have you feeling at home.
Straight from its on-site farm, the pub (not associated with the other Swan I’ve mentioned above) gathers its same-day produce to arrive minutes later on your plate. The 17th c. building has a merry pub area, a lovely dining room, and two gorgeous Cotswold stone courtyard gardens. Drawing from its Norman heritage, find English & Breton ciders, craft ales and beers, and wines from small producers from England, France & Portugal to boot.
While the typical blond Cotswold stone exterior dates from the 15th c., the inside is bright and modern, with comfortable touches like local wildflowers in vases and a roaring fire in the cooler months. Step in for local, seasonal British classics in the “walking capital” of the Cotswolds. With a snug, bar area and a terraced garden, keep your eye out for friendly dogs to pet, as canine companions are also welcome here!