6 of the best walks and pubs
There’s something about a walk and pub combo in winter that makes you feel both virtuous (without the need for Lycra) and cossetted (that’s the pub bit obv). And in Gloucestershire, we’re utterly spoilt for choice. This list but scratches the surface of great rambling and public house pairings; I’ve tried to cover a few geographical bases here and no doubt you’ve got your own favorites, which the muddy hound (here he is on the scent of a good pub) and I would be more than happy to check out, so do get in touch.
Butchers Arms, Sheepscombe
This gorgeous little village nestling in the valleys outside Painswick (once part of a Royal Deer Park for Henry VIII, don’t you know?) is the kind of place that makes you feel, “Yes! I love living in the country!” It’s picture perfect with rolling hills to trample over (but nothing too strenuous), cute cottages and grand houses to peep into and imagine yourself living there, one of the most beautiful cricket pitches in the country (note for summer) and a cosy, friendly pub. The Butchers Arms has been around since around 1670 and gets its name from the olden days practice of hanging the carcasses of deer killed on the hunt in what is now the bar. No sign of that these days though *phew*, just a good, old-fashioned pub (once a Laurie Lee favourite) serving fresh, homemade food. Children are actively welcomed – there’s a children’s menu or they can choose half portions from the main menu. As for the walk, there’s a nice circular ramble that takes you through the village (small detour for the cricket pitch if you fancy it) and into the hills, passing through back gardens and past the odd alpaca and looping back to the pub in less than an hour. All extremely child, dog and adult friendly.
Butchers Arms, Sheepscombe, Stroud GL6 7RH. Tel: 01452 812113. butchers-arms.co.uk
Boat Inn, Ashleworth Quays
This wet dog and muddy boot (stilettos too!) friendly pub is an absolute gem. It’s a bit tricky to find, but you’ll know you’re nearly there when you pass a massive tithe barn (one of the largest in the country, worth a gander). The Boat Inn is on the west bank of the Severn which is where your walk is; there’s a riverside path that hugs the bank all the way to Haw Bridge, about three miles away, and then, if you really like walking, you can turn away from the river and make a loop back through tracks, fields and lanes. It’s a long one, seven miles, or you can just amble along the riverside until you’ve had enough and then turn back and head to the pub (hurrah!). A tiny establishment that feels like walking into someone’s front parlour, the main bar area (there are two other, less atmospheric rooms) is made up of two adjoining spaces which encourage sociability as there are only two big tables to sit around. We shared ours with a group of cyclists and a woman who turned out to be a font of local knowledge, while at the other table, some real ale aficionados discussed the subtle notes of Blitzen and Shagweaver. We didn’t eat, but the cyclists told us the burgers are legendary and prices looked reasonable.
Boat Inn, Ashleworth Quay, nr Hartpury GL19 4HZ. Tel: 01452 700272. boatinn.wordpress.com
The Lamb Inn, Eastcombe
Perched at the top of one of Stroud’s Golden Valleys, Eastcombe is a pretty village that snakes its way from the top of a hill, where The Lamb Inn sits majestically, down into Toadsmoor Valley, where a fairy-tale wood, babbling brook, mini waterfalls and huge, reed-strewn pond await for a magical walk that takes from an hour to an hour and a half depending on your route. Home to deer, pheasant, perch, kingfisher and other furry, feathery and fishy creatures, it’s a great place to get lost in a Brothers Grimm-style reverie, and there’s plenty to keep kids and dogs entertained, too. The lanes leading down from the pub and back up are STEEP, which is fun on the descent, but gets the heart really pumping on the way back (that’s your weekly cardio session sorted) and, hey, you’re within spitting distance of the pub by then where you can line up the pints to slake that thirst. The atmosphere in The Lamb is relaxed with a good mix of regulars and visitors so you don’t feel awkward when you walk in if you’re the latter. It’s divided into two spaces – a bar and a restaurant, where you can dine off an extensive and reasonably priced menu of British classics, bistro favourites and grills that go beyond pub grub, and feast your eyes on the glorious view of the valley, which, come warmer weather, can be enjoyed from the perfect vantage point of the pub’s garden.
The Lamb Inn, Dr Crouch’s Road, Eastcombe, Stroud GL6 7DN. Tel: 01452 770261. thelambinneastcombe.co.uk
The Tunnel House Inn, Coates
Here you can either take a stroll into the Bathurst Estate woods or walk to the source of the Thames! I made like a Victorian Royal Geographical Society explorer (not the Nile, I know, but still a major river, hey) and opted for the latter, which takes you from an impressively grand tunnel (after which the pub is named) along a leafy towpath of a disused canal (quite deep at the start – the muddy hound jumped in after a duck and it was quite a rescue operation to get him out – so hang onto your toddlers). After about half an hour you reach a field and, over a stile and into the next field, there it is! The source of the Thames! Don’t expect water though (unless it’s been raining a lot and the fields are flooded), it’s all happening underground. From little acorns and all that. Then, selfies duly taken by the stone that marks the spot, it’s back to the pub retracing your steps. The Tunnel House, a good-looking, 18th-century pub, has a laid-back, youthful vibe thanks to the students from the nearby Royal Agricultural College who flock here. (No bad thing in my view – makes me feel vicariously young again!) There’s a roaring fire with sofas to slump into, cosy corners where you can nosh on British and American classics (from Sunday roast to BBQ ribs), a kid-friendly restaurant area and a large garden complete with wooden climbing frame that really comes into its own in summer. Pretty perfect I’d say.
The Tunnel House Inn, Tarlton Road, Coates, Cirencester GL7 6PW. Tel: 01285 770280. tunnelhouse.com
The Old Crown Inn, Uley
OK people, set your phone camera to panorama mode, you’re in for a view fest. Up above the village of Uley (and a mere ten minutes’ walk or so from the cosy Old Crown Inn) is Uley Bury, a prehistoric Iron Age hill fort sitting high up on a natural promontory of the Cotswold escarpment. It’s a bit of a climb, but you’ll be totally distracted from your heaving chest by the glorious Severn Vale spread out around you. Once we got to the top of the first hill, my mudlets decided it would be a laugh to roll down it, so after a quarter of an hour we could have just walked back to the pub, all mudlet energy duly expended. However, it is worth carrying on through an ancient forest and up to the double ramparts of the fort. From there the views are take your breath away and if you time it for sunset, you’ll get a real treat. You can do a circular five-mile ramble or stick to a quick two miler if you retrace your steps once you’ve walked the ramparts and head back to the pub. Here you can soak in some 17th-century history. The Old Crown was a former coaching inn, serving the then thriving weaving community, which accounts for the rather grand houses in the village. The pub, though, is friendly and unpretentious and serves solid pub grub at very reasonable prices. Real ale, pie and steamed pudding lovers prepare for a feast.
The Old Crown Inn, 17 The Green, Uley, Dursely GL11 5SN. Tel: 01453 860502. theoldcrownuley.co.uk
The Ostrich Inn, Newland
If you like your pubs traditional and your walks steeped in history, The Ostrich Inn in Newland on the edge of the Forest of Dean will be your pint of real ale (and there are up to eight on tap here). The village is prosperous looking with some handsome residences and a cute row of almshouses, but the focal point is undoubtedly the church, known as the Cathedral of the Forest. The walk, along the Burial Path, links Coleford to Newland and is the route the people of Coleford, who were without a cemetery until the mid-19th century, would take to carry their dead to be buried in All Saints’ ground. It’s an hour and a half round trip and takes in some stunning countryside through woods and fields, though I wouldn’t attempt it on a wet day, as sections of the path, rough at the best of times, would quickly become a quagmire. (Don’t know how the pallbearers managed.) The Ostrich is everything you want in a pub – cosy interiors that haven’t been ‘styled’, great beer (there’s a rolling menu of ales on offer) and top-notch, gastro-level food served without any pretensions (though you do pay for it).
The Ostrich Inn, Newland, Forest of Dean GL16 8NP. Tel: 01594 833260. theostrichinn.com