Six months ago, we were gearing up to announce the second Telegraph Pub of the Year, the Cartford Inn in Lancashire. In association with Sawday’s travel guides, we had put the call out for readers’ recommendations at the beginning of February; we keyed the big scorers and the most interesting personal testimonies into a spreadsheet, cast the runes, arrived at a shortlist and sent a crack squad of thirsty journalists out to visit all the pubs on it.
Then… well, you know what happened. Some pubs pivoted to takeaway, some turned into social enterprises, some simply had to close their doors. The industry is still on a knife-edge, and is likely to remain so for some time. But however they’ve got through the pandemic, right now pubs deserve our support more than ever.
The Telegraph’s top three are listed below, along with the Sawday’s chart-toppers in various categories.
Putting our shortlist under the microscope maybe doesn’t tell us all that much about the wider state of the pub-going nation, especially now; but we did notice a certain shift from last year. Pubs seem to have got better at raising their food game without sacrificing that essential pub vibe (which I’d define in its simplest form as extending to patrons the freedom not to eat). Rural doesn’t have to mean traditional. The community ownership model is still holding its own. It’s a great time to be hungry or thirsty in Lancashire. And, most gratifyingly, even in these slippery times, the pub abides.
Earlier in the year, we partnered with Sawday’s to ask our readers to pick their favourite pub. More than 1,000 pubs were nominated by email, and here is our winner and two runners-up, which were chosen by Telegraph editors and writers because we felt they represent everything that’s great about our public houses.
Here too are the winners of the annual Sawday’s Pub Awards, celebrating the pubs that bring us great food, rooms, community spirit, authenticity and a warm welcome for all.
Go to sawdays.co.uk/pub-awards for more information on the worthy winners.
The Telegraph Pub of the Year 2020
The Cartford Inn, Lancashire
The first thing that grabs your attention as you arrive at the Cartford Inn is the 10ft-high human eye spray-painted on to an outbuilding by a hip graffiti artist, with a silhouetted David Bowie in its pupil.
The message here is clear: this isn’t your typical countryside pub, but a place that wants to shout about its arty eccentricity before you’ve even stepped over the threshold.
The Cartford sits on the edge of Little Eccleston, a village on the Fylde peninsula in west Lancashire, mid-way between Preston and Blackpool. Next to the pub is a kooky toll bridge astride the River Wyre (the pub, which predates the bridge, was named in the days when travellers would cross the Wyre in horse-drawn transport, hence “cart-ford”).
When the current owners took over in 2007, it had been in a sorry state for some time (a landlady from the 1960s was known as “Dirty Annie”). But for the past 13 years Patrick and Julie Beaume (“she’s the Bowie fan,” says Patrick) have turned the place around with a restoration that’s brimming with personality. Inside, it is homely and colourful, rustic upcycled furniture jostling for space with vibrant local art (and more Bowie portraits).
Not only is the Cartford a multi-award-winning dining pub, it’s a thriving local’s local, too – and what lucky locals they are. Head chef Chris Bury cut his teeth at The Fat Duck, so there’s some seriously skilful cookery on show, and a commitment to local ingredients.
The mouthwatering menu blends pub classics with more ambitious Gallic fare, including snails and cod tongues – and, on a very good day, Bury’s signature black pudding doughnuts.
The tableware and light-fittings are Lancashire-made, and naturally the beer is local too; including the citrusy house brew, Giddy Kipper. All of which makes for a memorable, characterful pub with a strong sense of place, but it’s the extra touches that seal the deal.
In addition to 14 colourful rooms in the main building, two stunning wooden eco lodges at the end of the garden (one named Ziggy, of course) offer panoramic views of the meandering Wyre.
There’s an impressive on-site deli, TOTI (Taste of the Inn, reopening later this month), and an art gallery-cum-craft studio. What’s palpable about the Cartford is that this is a pub with a big heart, and which is always looking for innovative new ways to broaden its offering.
Of course, Julie and Patrick have had to be more innovative in 2020 than they ever expected to be, but they rose to the challenge.
Early in lockdown their daughter created an online portal for TOTI, which now ships an expanding range of home-made produce all over the country, while the TOTI at Home service has kept locals fed with a steady supply of lockdown Sunday roasts. As restrictions were lifted, four large greenhouses were erected in the garden (“We got the idea from a place in Amsterdam”), so customers could enjoy safe, socially-distanced meals in quirky surroundings.
Telegraph readers voted for the Cartford in big numbers; many praised the food, but more loved it for being a cosy, unconventional gem – a true one-off. Lancashire’s food scene has been booming recently, but there’s no place round here quite like the Cartford.
Lunch from £8.50. Dinner, three courses, £25-£35.
Cartford Lane, Little Eccleston, Lancashire, PR3 0YP
By Paul Davies, head of weekend lifestyle at The Telegraph
The Potting Shed, Wiltshire
Good enough for a wooing Kate and Will and a hit with The Telegraph’s readers, too. Regulars rave about the food which, when we visited, was a sophisticated cut above the usual pub grub (the cheese souflée is highly recommended).
Like many in this year’s awards, much of the space is devoted to eating, though there is cosy seating around an open fire, and bar area. Owner Alex Payne spent much of lockdown tending to the garden; the allotments now provide much of the vegetables for the kitchen. By May, Saturday night takeaways were a big success.
The pub has now reopened in accordance with social distancing advice, but benefits additionally from the two-acre garden, which has a marquee and plenty of seating. “It’s amazing the local support we’ve had from day one after reopening, we feel really lucky and grateful,” says Payne.
Lunch from £5.50. Dinner from £11.95. Open all day.
The Street, Crudwell, Wiltshire, SN16 9EW
By Olivia Walmsley, deputy head of weekend lifestyle at The Telegraph
The Pheasant at Neenton, Shropshire
Residents of this tiny Shropshire village formed a charitable community and eventually brought The Pheasant, closed since 2006, back to life.
Cask ales abound, but the emphasis here is on food. Chef Mark Harris, who trained under Marco Pierre White, knows his way around classic pub grub but caters to the more adventurous too. When lockdown hit, The Pheasant began a takeaway service for locals, put together “essentials boxes” of difficult-to-find basics, and started a beer club to keep local real ale aficionados supplied.
“The community pub really came into its own,” says John Pickup, chairman of Neenton Community Society, which runs the pub. Now reopened, the Pheasant is making use of its sizeable orchard garden, with giant umbrellas and heated alfresco dining.
Starters from £6.50. Mains from £12. Sunday Lunch from £13.95. Open all day Weds-Sun. Rooms from £90 per night.
Neenton, Bridgnorth, Shropshire WV16 6RJ
By Tomé Morrissy-Swan, writer at Telegraph Food
The Sawday’s pubs of the year 2020
Best Community Pub
Many a good pub is naturally at the heart of its community, but in a time of crisis these have gone above and beyond to welcome, celebrate and sustain the people around them
The Hundred House Hotel, Shropshire
The Phillips family have kept this beautiful pub serving its community for 25 years and when Covid-19 hit they went into overdrive, selling more than 2,000 flowers from their garden to raise money for the NHS, making more than 4,000 dishes for the Food Share Project and supporting businesses and their own team with everything from promotion to food parcels.
They are now open again, with specially designed outdoor menus and a big marquee to allow for socially distanced dining.
The inn, having begun its life in the 14th century, rambles charmingly inside as well as out.
Enter a world of blazing log fires, soft brick walls, oak panelling and quarry-tiled floors. Dried flowers hang from beams, herbs sit in vases, and blackboard menus trumpet Hundred House fish pie, roast rack of Shropshire lamb and double chocolate mousse. You can then wander out with a pint from the Ironbridge Brewery and enjoy a quiet moment in the beautiful garden.
Lunch from £4.95. Dinner & bar meals from £8.95. Sunday lunch, two courses, £16.95.
Bridgnorth Road, Norton, Telford, TF11 9EE
The Ring of Bells, Devon
The folk under the thatch at The Ring of Bells found ways to keep its community not just fed and watered during this strange summer, but entertained too. Most eye-catching were Sombrero Sundays, when guests were required to wear huge hats, ensuring distance was maintained. More understated were virtual pub quizzes with a meal included. A delivery service proved so popular it’s been continued since reopening.
From its community spirit, to its fetching thatch and inventive menus, the Ring of Bells hits the right note every time. Part of a row of cottages tucked away down a narrow lane, the Grade II-listed building has a super-friendly atmosphere, thanks to Binka, David and their team. The food menu is short, but the quality of the cooking puts grander establishments to shame.
Starters from £4.95. Lunch from £10.50. Dinner from £16. Open daily, Tues-Sun. Pre-booking advised.
The Hayes, Cheriton Fitzpaine, Crediton, EX17 4JG
The Allanton Inn, Scottish Borders
Karina, the owner of the homely Allanton Inn, grew up in the wild border country that surrounds it and her tireless work supporting her community had already put her on the shortlist for our Community Award. She kept the inn open throughout lockdown to house key workers and ran a takeaway service that proved immensely popular. Now that they’re open again, she’s back to running everything from Easter egg hunts to music festivals.
The inn is a great base from which to explore patchwork fields, rolling hills and the River Tweed. The style is charming, the locals friendly, the prices lovely, the food a treat.
Lunch from £6.75. Dinner, 3 courses, £25-£35. Sunday lunch from £12.50. Open every day 12-2pm and 6pm onwards. Rooms from £85 per night.
Main Street, Allanton, Berwickshire TD11 3JZ
Best for Rooms
An inn mixes the beautiful informality and conviviality of a pub with its own unique take on the boutique hotel. These are our favourite places to let afternoon pints turn into overnight stays
The Brisley Bell, Norfolk
Owners Marcus and Amelia took over their old local in 2015, reopening it after two years of closure. They restored it to its place in the community and renovated the six bedrooms with incredible flair and style.
Huge walls of exposed brick, bathtubs on corner platforms and walk-in showers with massive murals all combine with colourful fabrics and well-chosen furniture to create spaces where you’ll sleep beautifully and enjoy lingering during the day.
The inn also has two stylish dining rooms, a book-lined snug with an open fire in winter and lots of nooks and crannies to sit in. French chef Hervé’s hearty pub fare attracts plenty of locals, and his menus are fresh, seasonal and packed with flavour. Try the likes of linguine tossed with tiger prawns, broccoli and saffron cream sauce, or pub classics cooked to perfection. Ales are local, like wines and whisky.
Lunch/Dinner from £14.95. Sunday lunch from £15.75. Open daily. Rooms from £105 per night.
The Green, Brisley, Dereham, Norfolk, NR20 5DW
The Swan at Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire
A great Cotswolds gastropub where you can explore the countryside right from the door, sip cocktails, then wander upstairs after a superb dinner to an immaculate room decorated in a colourful take on classic country style.
There are three beers on draft and many fine wines, but at The Swan, the food is the thing. Organic whenever possible, and locally sourced, it is modern, British and delicious.
Starters from £5. Lunch from £8. Mains from £12. Open daily. Rooms from £80 per night.
Shipton Road, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, OX7 6AY
The Roebuck Inn, Cheshire
An ancient country inn with a bright Mediterranean style makes for a unique place to eat and sleep.
Rooms are colourful patchworks of distressed wood, bright cushions, interesting art and the odd ornate chandelier; the menu has a brilliant bit of everything. The Roebuck dates back to 1708, and has been restored with extraordinary love and style. Rustic shutters, shipped from France, sit prettily on the pink-brick masonry.
Sample local craft beers and ciders, or let the wine list tempt you. The “Pub Hub” shop, started during lockdown, still operates today and features local produce, a wine shop, home-cooked meals to go and takeaway fish and chips on Fridays.
Lunch & dinner from £8.95. Sunday lunch £16.00. Open daily. Rooms from £85 per night.
Mill Lane, Mobberley, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 7HX
Best Dog-Friendly Pub
Here are places where your four-legged friend will be as welcome as you. Find dog treats on the bar, charitable donations and a friendly scratch behind the ears
The Jolly Cricketers, Buckinghamshire
The barrel tipped over outside this red-brick country pub is no accident. It’s full of fresh water, with a bowl under the tap ready for thirsty dogs. Inside there are home-made dog biscuits too, with money raised from their sale going to the Search for Dogs Bucks charity. It’s fair to say this place is beyond dog-friendly and will welcome you and your four-legged friends for a pit stop on a Chilterns hike, a long Sunday lunch or a delicious dinner.
Owned by Seer Green residents Chris and Amanda, it’s lovingly looked after: plants climb the brickwork outside, while behind the bar, optics have been replaced by sweet shop jars filled with roasted nuts, olives and lollipops – a picture of individuality matched by an ale selection that shows off the best of local breweries. A takeaway service has been launched; fish and chips on Friday or delicious roasts on Sunday.
Lunch from £6.50. Bar meals from £10.50. Dinner from £14.50. Open daily.
Chalfont Road, Seer Green, HP9 2YG
The Cat, Sussex
Yes, a place called The Cat is great for dogs. There are poop bags if you need them, biscuits on the bar and towels for a quick rub down after a long walk.
The menu is imaginative, the kitchen has won awards, and the drinks list champions Sussex wines. This 16th-century free house with its Victorian extension stands in a small village near Ashdown Forest. You’ll find dogs lounging by the wood-burner, pints of Harveys and a happy buzz. Four immaculate bedrooms await upstairs.
Lunch & dinner from £12. Bar meals from £6. Sunday lunch, 3 courses, £26. Open Weds-Sun. Rooms from £130 per night.
North Lane, West Hoathly, West Sussex, RH19 4PP
Crown & Anchor, Wiltshire
Throw your four-legged friend a treat and tuck into the menu of hearty, wholesome classics. There are great walks from the door here: once you’ve blown the cobwebs away, head back to the pretty inn and settle down in front of the roaring wood-burner; on fine days sip your G&T on the terrace at the back. Stay the night in pretty bedrooms and savour a whisky nightcap. Beds and bowls are on offer for your canine companions.
Starters from £7.50. Mains from £14.50. Sunday lunch: 2 courses £24, 3 courses £29. Closed Monday & Tuesday. Rooms from £100 per night.
Ham, Marlborough, Wiltshire, SN8 3RB
Best for Food
The Sawday’s team look for gastronomy deeply rooted in the soil, favouring great cooking over crisp linen, generosity and warmth over presentation. These are the places that have got it spot on – serving fabulous food, carefully sourced, in a relaxed atmosphere
The Ebrington Arms, Gloucestershire
This gorgeous old stone pub with a weathered wooden bar is leading the charge for sustainable, superb food from within its historic walls.
The sourcing has earned landlords Claire and Jim a rare three-star rating from The Soil Association, meaning they always use 50-70 per cent organic ingredients. The menu they form is a perfect blend of creativity and simplicity, with pub classics and inventive dishes all serving as a showcase for the incredible local produce. Worn stone floors, fresh flowers and a delightful mishmash of tables set the scene for terrific pub food.
A properly unpretentious inn, run by the nicest people. One of the best.
Lunch & dinner £9-£17.50. Open Weds-Sat, reservations only. Rooms from £149 per night
May Lane, Ebrington, Chipping Campden, GL55 6NH
The Bull Inn, Devon
In 1998, owner Geetie Singh-Watson opened the first organic pub in the world. The Bull Inn is her fourth and it’s another absolute triumph of impeccable sourcing and beautiful food, served in colourful surroundings in a restyled corner pub.
This is fresh, modern cooking at its best: everything is made from scratch, there’s an emphasis on veggie dishes, and the bar snacks are divine.
Menus, chalked up on the blackboard, change daily. For a main, try monkfish masala with brown butter roasted salsify and crushed squash. To finish, Bath blue cheese with ale and fruit loaf. The rambling mid-19th century inn has been thoughtfully revived. Inside the feel is welcoming with a good mix of colours, eclectic furniture and local art.
Lunch from £5. Dinner from £12.50. Open daily. Rooms from £100 per night.
102 High Street, Rotherfold Square, Little Totnes, Totnes, TQ9 5SN
The Wheatsheaf, Wiltshire
Ollie, a MasterChef semi-finalist, and Lauren are brimming with energy and ideas for their flavourful pub. They have a farm-to-fork ethos, so the menu is bursting with all things local: artisan charcuterie made by Ollie’s dad on his nearby farm, craft lager, organic wines, home-made liqueurs.
Think “modern peasant food”: perhaps red pepper and tomato stew with kale and sourdough followed by cobnut and white chocolate cheesecake.
The wood-fired pizzas, which can also be ordered to take away, are fast becoming known as the best in the area and for good reason.
Deep in Wiltshire’s horse racing country, The Wheatsheaf – thatched, dating from the 1750s – sits in a peaceful village; the cosy carpeted bar has a traditional feel.
Starters from £3.50. Lunch and dinner from £13. Open Wednesday – Saturday.
Chilton Foliat, Wiltshire, RG17 0TE
Best for Families
There’s a big difference between a pub that allows children and one that really welcomes families. These go beyond a couple of sticky high chairs to provide an experience that delights children, as well as keeping the adults happy too
The two-storey canalside inn serves many of the boaters from the marina and has a jaunty, nautical feel that even extends into the playground. The pirate play area is extremely popular with kids, and if it’s not outdoors weather, then pots of crayons and colouring sheets can be brought out instead. There are sandwiches if you’re just after something to keep you walking along the towpath, or a fine seasonal menu of mains.
You’ll often find boating folk from the marina supping a pint here. Swans and ducks sail by as you tuck into hearty plates of pub classics. There’s always something to catch your eye out on the marina and the staff are friendly and efficient.
Starters from £5.25. Mains from £9.95. Open daily.
Trowbridge Road, Bradford-on-Avon BA15 1UD
The Duck at Yeoford, Devon
Owners Sarah and James wanted somewhere that their kids could run wild while they enjoyed a great meal. Rather than look around, they decided to create it. The huge playground is still temporarily closed, but in due course will help entertain your tribe while you study the menu. There are seasonal classics, puddings are truly tempting, and children have their choice of tasty dishes from their own menu.
There are chunky ciabattas, steak frites, fish of the day. The cheeseboard is an ode to all things local: Green’s Twanger; Vale of Camelot Stilton; Norsworthy goats. The Tarka Line runs through the village with walks from the pub along the trail to Copplestone and Crediton. A gem.
Starters from £5.50. Lunch from £7.50. Mains from £14. Open Weds-Sun (bookings only).
The Village, Yeoford, Crediton EX17 5JD
The Thomas Lord, Hampshire
Gorgeous gardens and great walking nearby make this historic pub, named after the founder of the famous cricket ground a brilliant family stop. The kids’ menu comes with puzzles and games, as well as a suitable choice of food of course.
Remodelling has raised the gastro credentials without losing the community vibe it’s known for. Join locals (and dogs) over a trio of local Upham ales, or settle into leather armchairs around winter fires. Cricketing prints and paraphernalia decorate the walls (old bats, balls, caps, shoes) while the darkly beamed bar’s weathered wooden furniture gives way to a duo of dedicated dining areas with a wide range of sophisticated dishes to enjoy.
Starters £6.50-£10.95. Mains £12-£28. Open daily. Rooms from £74 per night.
High Street, West Meon, Petersfield, Hampshire GU32 1LN
We’re delighted that passionate owners keep bringing community spirit, great food and innovation to pubs. These are our favourites that have recently changed hands or found a new lease of life
A family-run pub, right down to two of the owners’ sons bringing passions for beer and food into the bar and kitchen. The views of Grasmere are spectacular and the whole place caters perfectly for the hikers that flock to it. The relaxed bar welcomes muddy boots and paws with a menu of more than enough substance to keep you walking all day, although the giant communal roasts known as Sunday Sharers might end up anchoring you to your seat.
Tweedies is in the heart of the village with a sprawling garden that soaks up the splendid views. Grab a pint of Hawkshead and head outside into the super grounds.
Starters from £5.50. Mains from £13.95. Sunday lunch sharing board £15.95 per person. Open daily.
Red Bank Rd, Grasmere, Cumbria LA22 9SW
Watership Down Inn, Hampshire
This smartly renovated 19th-century pub at the foot of the North Wessex Downs overlooking the Test Valley is a treat for dog walkers, families and foodies. The clean, crisp inn has a superb and innovative menu, lovely views of the water and beautiful rooms in a stylish new annexe.
Inside, all is cosy with oak and quarry tiled floors, a wood burner and hardwood bar; outside there is seating under cover and a sun terrace for balmy summer days. Menus are seasonal and imaginative; after indulging, walk through the water meadows.
Starters from £6.75. Mains from £15. Open daily. Rooms from £95 per night.
Priory Lane, Whitchurch, Hampshire RG28 7NJ
The Bridge Inn, Derbyshire
The local community and Peak District hikers alike flock to The Bridge for the open, welcoming atmosphere, the bold and hearty menu, and the relaxed pace of a long lunch in the garden or the stylish bar.
It’s breathtakingly beautiful here: you’re tucked into a green valley with a rushing river and surrounded by enormous open skies, crags, heather and big views. Step inside to delightfully quirky touches as ancient flagstones rub shoulders with 1950s-style benches and low hanging lighting shows off a mix of tweeds and leather.
There are draught beers including Black Sheep and Bakewell Best to slake your thirst – complemented by a thoughtful wine list and gin menu.
Small plates from £. Mains from £12 and Sunday Roasts £14.50. Closed Tues.
Calver Bridge, Hope Valley S32 3XA
Best Authentic Pub
We love to see boundaries being pushed, but there’s something special about the classic pub. Here are a few places of timeless perfection, where the only thing that gets changed is the barrels
The Rose & Crown, Durham
It feels as if nothing in the village of Romaldkirk has changed for centuries, so it’s no surprise that the pub, which dates from 1733, has remained a classic. The Robinson family have farmed in the area for generations and took over in 2012. Their subtle renovation took nothing away from the timeless feel of stone fireplaces, dark wood and brass taps. A superb, locally sourced menu and a passion for sustainability have matched the best of modernity with the best of tradition.
Roses ramble above the door in summer, so pick up a pint and search out the sun on the gravelled forecourt. Inside, seek out sofas in the peaceful sitting room and tuck into afternoon tea. Delicious food can be eaten informally in the bar or restaurant, but reservations need to be made in advance at the moment.
Lunch from £8. Dinner, three courses, from £27. Sunday lunch £21. Open daily, bookings only. Rooms from £115 per night.
Romaldkirk, Barnard Castle, Durham DL12 9EB
The Horse Guards Inn, Sussex
This might not be a traditional old tavern, but it has a unique character that it shows off unashamedly.
Views sweep towards the South Downs. Owners Sam and Misa love this pub and their passion is reflected in the home-made treats on sale by the door and chalkboards championing producers (the latest a goat farmer with a dairy). A happy place in a sleepy Sussex village.
Starters from £6. Mains from £11. Open Weds-Sun. Rooms from £85 per night.
Upperton Road, Petworth, West Sussex GU28 9AF
The White Horse, Oxfordshire
A quintessential village green inn that looks out over the grass to the church. There’s a garden for al fresco meals, a crackling fire for rainy days and a warm welcome for locals, walkers, lunchers and dogs alike.
Julie and Hendrik’s pub is the centre of local life, a place of character and passion. Friendly Julie is out front, while Hendrik cooks his “Support Local” menu, serving local produce with flair: think crispy pig’s head, crab scotch egg, and Purston Manor lamb pie.
In summer, dine al fresco and watch the sun set behind the church; there’s a food truck in the garden serving up a selection of relaxed classics like fish and chips and burgers.
Dinner from £13.95. Set menu, two-three courses, £16.95-£18.95. Sunday lunch set menu £20-24. Open Weds-Sun.
The Square, Kings Sutton, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX17 3RF
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