Brecon and Monmouthshire canal and The Star at Talybont on Usk; Brecon Beacons
If you’re in the Brecon Beacons, and the weathers bad or you don’t fancy climbing anything, a hike along the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal is just the answer. Built in the late 18th Century - to ferry coal - and running all the way from Brecon to down to the sea at Newport, the canal has a great flat, but elevated, footpath.
It’s ideal for a family hike, especially the section which traverses the high valley side above the river Usk. The perfect place to stop along the canal and warm yourself by the open fire, is The Star Inn at Talybont on Usk. It serves a good selection of ales, wholesome food and welcomes hikers and families (it also has a great garden for summer time drinking).
Great Langdale and The Old Dungeon Ghyll, Lake District
Possible the top hiking pub in the UK, The Old Dungeon Ghyll’s Hikers bar has dried out countless hikers, and their kit too. On a wet day, there’s more Gore-Tex hanging up here than in most outdoor-shops! But whatever the weather, The Old Dungeon Gill is a great place to sit back and sup a few local, and well-kept, ales, and refuel on the hearty food served up.
The hotel here dates back some 300 years and whether you’ve been hiking Crinkle Crags, Bow Fell, or have simply hiked up the valley, the Old Dugeon Ghyll is always a welcome site.
For hiking routes click here.
Studland Beach and the Bankes Arms, Isle of Purbeck, Dorset
On a brisk winters day there is nothing quite like walking along a deserted sandy beach, while shell ducks and gulls swoop out of the sea mist, effortlessly skimming the waves as if they were a solid object, not an ever changing entity.
Joyful though it is, it can be bloody cold too, and so when out of the sea mist you catch a sight of the Bankes Armes you feel a little glow inside, as you know you’ll soon be inside, by an open fire, drinking some of the beer brewed onsite. The Isle of Purbeck Brewery is situated out the back of the Bankes Armes, which has links back to a history of smuggling.
A great beach hike here starts just off the ferry that crosses the entrance to Poole Harbour between Sandbanks and Shell Bay - the start/finish point of the South West Coast Path. Simply follow the beach to the Bankes Arms. You can catch a bus back if you sample too many ales, or continue on up the cliffs to the Old Harry Rocks, a chalk sea stack, before returning for a pint.
Moel Siabod and the Bryn Tyrch Inn, Snowdonia National Park
Moel Siabod is probably the most underrated hike in the Snowdonia National Park, and as such, sees little hiking traffic. It starts with a gentle ascent through fields before offering the choice of picking a range of ascents, from a steepish hike, various scrambles, through to a technical climb.
Once off the mountain the fantastic Bryn Tyrch offers you the chance of fine food and great beer with a breath-taking view of the mountain you've just climbed. The food here is excellent, especially for the vegetarians among us, and it’s a great base for other hikes in the area.
The rooms are very stylish, many with exposed natural stone walls and yet it’s not overpriced with the more basic bunk rooms from £30pp, including an excellent breakfast.
Historical London Knights and the Jerusalem Tavern, Britton Street, Clerkenwell, London
Yes, you can still go for a walk in the heart of London, and the historical interest of a hike from Temple, through Holborn and onto Clerkenwell is a great option. Starting from the Victoria Embankment, head through the calm of Inner Temple, past the church with links to the Templar Knights, before popping out on The Strand, opposite the Royal Courts of Justice. Continue to Lincolns Inn Field, and the amazing John Soane's museum, before heading east to Clerkenwell and the meat market of Smithfields.
Just north of the market is St John’s Gate, from where many of the Knights Hospitaller would have left for the holy land. Before the knights left for Jerusalem they probably had a beer at the Jerusalem Tavern, and you can too. The JT, as it’s known to locals, is one of London’s many secrets and ok, whilst the current building isn’t really from the 12th Century, it’s still a great pub.
Linked to St Peter’s brewery, the JT is one of the few no-nonsense pubs left in London. A real fire burns here, as does the conversation, as there’s no music. The St Peter’s beer along with the food are excellent, but be warned it’s only open weekdays.
Scafell Pike and the Wasdale Head Inn Lake District
England's highest mountain sells itself: everyone always wants to do the biggest, the longest, the highest… so what do we need to say to you about Scafell Pike? Other than if you haven’t climbed it, then the Wasdale Head Inn is another bloody good reason to.
The isolated Wasdale Head Inn, 9 miles from the nearest main road, has fine food, good ale and a hearty welcome. Ritson's Bar, named after the Inn’s first landlord Will Ritson (who wrestled men and hunted/farmed the surrounding fells), is the main bar for hikers to relax and unwind after climbing Scafell Pike. The wooden diner-esqe booths make for an informal atmosphere, whereas the Residents' Bar has a more formal vibe.
The wood panelled restaurant/dining room is an informal affair, specialising in Herdwick lamb & mutton and also serves a fantastic breakfast, with the option of Kippers.
There’s 9 bedrooms in the main building, plus three apartments and six self-catering apartments in a traditional Lakeland Barn; there is also camping available.
Symonds Yat and the Saracen’s Head Inn Herefordshire
There’s a lazy bend in the river Wye, where it meanders below the impressive Symonds Yat Rock.
A high cliff band - where peregrine falcon nest (April-Aug) - is topped out with the Symonds Yat view point, from which you can admire the surrounding Herefordshire countryside.
From the view point, with lots of parking, you can descend down through the woods to Symonds Yat East, where you will find the fantastic Saracens head pub. But you won’t have built up a thirst yet, and it’s far too soon to stop for a pint, so take the hand pulled ferry across the river to Symonds Yat West.
Follow the river to Biblins youth campsite and cross back to the east side, via the suspension foot bridge. Then simply follow the river back, past the rapids, ever popular with canoeists, to the Saracens Head Inn.
The Saracens Head Inn serves a good choice of local Wye valley beers, amongst others, and some great food too. It can get very busy on a summers day, with a bit of a bun fight for a riverside table, but in the winter things quiet down a little.
You will only have hiked 3 miles, which is why we suggest leaving the car at the view point - so you can walk off the beer and food with the short hike back up the steep steps to the view point.
Loch Coruisk and the Sligachan Hotel, Isle of Skye
The Cuillin Mountains, on the Isle of Skye, are famed for their rugged beauty, climbing and world class scrambling. But the Cuillin ridge is no place to be on most winters days, as the weather can change here in an instant, so we recommend (if hiking in winter) a hike through the Sligachan valley to one of the most beautiful spots on the planet, Loch Coruisk.
After a great hike there is no better place to warm up than the Sligachan Hotel and it’s two bars. The hotel has welcomed climbers and hikers for almost 200 years and can now boast a local micro-brewery crafting 4 very good ales. There is a fantastic whisky selection and a good quality of locally sourced food on offer. There are hotel rooms as well as self-catering cottages and a bunkhouse nearby.
Greensands Way and White Rock Inn, Underriver, Kent
The Greensands Way is a long distance hiking trail that starts in Haslemere, Surrey and runs 108 miles to Hamstreet in Kent. The section we recommend is along the south side of the North Downs, in Kent, so on a clear winter’s day, the trail is warmed by the sun all day.
A great circular walk is from the White Rock Inn, in the village of Underriver from where you can climb up to the Greensand way and head east into the National Trust land of Ightham Mote, before dropping back down to the valley floor and hiking through fields back to the White Rock Inn.
The White Rock Inn is a traditional English pub, with oak beams and a couple of real log fires. The very good food, in the small restaurant that can hold 30 people, is accompanied by local and national beers, such as such as Harveys, White Rock bitter and Doombar. (There is a very large garden here too, perfect on a summers day and for families)
Pembrokeshire Coast Path and the Sloop Inn, Porthgain.
6 miles from the city of St Davids, Porthgain village is directly on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. As such, there are a number of fantastic cliff hike options here.
You can hike all the way to, or from, the cathedral city of St Davids, or hike a 3.6 mile loop to the Blue Lagoon before returning on inland footpaths.
A great, and short option, is from Porthgain to Traeth Llyfn (beach) which is a 2 ½ mile loop.
(There is also the possibility of one way hikes from May to September, by using the 7 day a week Strumble Shuttle bus service which runs the whole 186 mile of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail, from St Dogmaels to Amroth.)
Whichever hike you choose, you’ll be able to warm yourself in the Sloop inn afterwards. The food here is mostly standard bar fare, with the local lamb Shank and the Pork belly the stand out dishes. The beer is locally sourced and if the weather is good there is a large village green outside the pub, which will keep the kids happy.
A short walk from the Sloop Inn is the harbour, where the kids can go crabbing, and the disused brick works informing visitors of the areas industrial past.