Our favourite pubs in the National Parks

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Christopher Wilson-Elmes

Sawday's Expert

5 min read

Is there anything better than a walk through a pristine landscape that ends with you settling into a comfy pub and browsing a fabulous menu? Our national parks, from the South Downs to the Cairngorms, offer exactly that. To make sure they always do, we seek out great pubs with character, but protecting our precious green spaces takes singular dedication.

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Dartmoor, Exmoor, Lake District, North York Moors, Peak District, South Downs, Pembrokeshire Coast , Cairngorms

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That’s why we’ve made Campaign for National Parks our charity partner. Their tireless work protects the UK’s wildernesses and, by a happy accident, helps ensure that a beautiful countryside ramble to the pub will be an option for years to come. You can head off to learn more about our partnership with them, including the Big Green Give, or stay here for some lovely pubs in and around national parks.  

Exmoor – Exmoor Forest Inn 

The nearest other places to eat and drink are about nine miles away, but it’s fair to say that The Exmoor Forest Inn doesn’t take its very loosely captive audience for granted. Home baking, growing and smoking go alongside meats from the owner’s farm to create a superb menu that pairs well with the hand-pulled ales from the bar. Right from the door you can haul yourself up Dunkery Beacon, Exmoor’s highest point, before you come back for lunch, decide to linger in the garden for a while before dinner, and then completely give in and book one of the lovely rooms upstairs. 

Stay at Exmoor Forest Inn >

Dartmoor – The Castle Inn 

The Castle Inn occupies a great position in two distinct ways. First is its beautiful spot on the western edge of Dartmoor in the village of Lydford. Second is the chef’s determination to sit the menu between the culinary experiments of gastro pubs and classic pub food. What it all adds up to is the sort of place you can stroll into in muddy boots, feel instantly at home and not need a dictionary on hand when you order lunch. You’re only 200 metres from the entrance to the National Trust site of Lydford Gorge, where the spectacular Whitelady Waterfall and ancient woodland walks will help you work up an appetite. 

Stay at The Castle Inn > 

Lake District – George and Dragon

This old coaching inn has been carefully restored by expert craftspeople, honouring the estate’s 800 years of history while giving the place a soft sheen of contemporary style in the use of wood, slate and stone and a muted colour palette. You can head out to Ullswater or one of many local walks, possibly to the famous Rebel oak tree, where the rebel army of Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated and driven out of England, or the Lowther family Estate and Castle and gardens a beautiful but more understatedly historic spot. 

Stay at George and Dragon >

North York Moors – The Durham Ox 

There’s so much to see and do around the Durham Ox that you might not even make it to the North York Moors, but you should definitely try. Castle Howard, Byland Abbey, trendy York, lovely little towns like Easingwold, the spectacular white horse at Sutton Bank… all will vie for your attention, but push on! The moors themselves are awash with heather in spring and a dramatic landscape in winter, with the long path up to Roseberry Topping and the views from the peak absolutely magnificent. The Durham Ox itself is an award-winning pub with lovely rooms, the standout of which is the spa cottage, with a hot tub outside in the garden. 

Stay at The Durham Ox >

Peak District – The Devonshire Arms at Pilsley

Stage 12 of the 190-mile route that runs around the whole of the Peak District National Park passes the front door of this walker’s pub on the estate of the Duke of Devonshire. Although you’re welcome to take on the whole thing if you’re feeling… crazy. For something a bit more achievable, the nearby Monsal Trail makes use of an old railway line to give 8.5 miles of traffic free cycling or rambling. With 1000 acres to grow and farm on, almost everything on the inn’s menu is home sourced and the playground and farmyard are a draw for visiting families.  

Stay at The Devonshire Arms at Pilsley >

South Downs – The Jolly Sportsman

The South Down’s is the UK’s youngest national park, having only received the designation in 2010. For locals, it was simply the certification of something they already knew – that the place they lived was absolutely beautiful. Rows of vines cover sloping hillsides producing some fabulous wine, a steam train puffs between four stations and miles of gentle walking are on offer, with pubs like The Jolly Sportsman waiting at the end. Rooms and the menu are simple but beautifully done, and the garden terrace and outdoor bar are great for a pre-dinner cocktail.   

Stay at The Jolly Sportsman >

Pembrokeshire Coast – Stackpole Inn 

Whisper it when you’re in certain company, but the rumours are that Pembrokeshire is as good for sandy seaside fun as Cornwall. Even before you hit the official national park, there are stunning beaches like Freshwater West, and once you’re in it, so many miles coastal trails and coves to explore that you won’t even think of pasties. The Stackpole Inn is just down the road from the legendary Barafundle Bay and about half an hour from the park boundary, but its position hidden in the countryside, draped in honeysuckle, is unbeatable. Simple pub styling and a menu of hearty classics with the occasional inspired twist, make for a lunch stop or a couple of nights that’ll warm you, body and soul.

Stay at Stackpole Inn >

Cairngorms – The Inn at Loch Tummel 

From this 200-year-old inn, you can weave through the forest and off into the Cairngorms, the UK’s largest national park, just a couple of miles to the north. But if its views you want, you could always head a little west and bag Schiehallion, a nearby Munro which has a stunning panorama from its stony peak. There are distilleries to visit if you need a winter warmer afterwards, or historic houses all around if you’d rather stay at a lower altitude. Failing even that much energy, you can lounge at the inn and get some pretty good views of the loch before you head to your lovely room or the homely bar for dinner. 

Stay at The Inn at Loch Tummel >

View all our pubs with rooms >

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Christopher Wilson-Elmes

Sawday's Expert

Chris is our in-house copywriter, with a flair for turning rough notes and travel tales into enticing articles. Raised in a tiny Wiltshire village, he was desperate to travel and has backpacked all over the world. Closer to home, he finds himself happiest in the most remote and rural places he can find, preferably with a host of animals to speak to, some waves to be smashed about in and the promise of a good pint somewhere in his future.
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