16 cosy pubs for chilly days
Order something stodgy, pour a large glass of red and relax in front of a pub fire - it's time to hunker down.
Hey you Autumn, enough already. The trees are bald, the temperature has dropped, and it’s dark at midday (well, nearly). There’s only one warm thing on the local horizon? The roaring fire of the cosiest, cutest, loveliest pubs in Oxon and Bucks. Luckily I spend half my life zipping around finding and reviewing the very best, so here’s my insider pick of the ones to put at the top of your pint and pie list. I’ve tried to select the best from around the counties, but if you feel that I’ve made a horrific error in omitting your totally awesome local, pop a comment on the bottom and I’ll go and check it out!
The Falkland Arms, Great Tew
One of the cosiest, prettiest pub on the planet, The Falkland Arms in Great Tew feels like it’s been lifted straight out of a Richard Curtis movie with its thatched roof, warm Cotswold stone and low beams.So close to Soho Farmhouse you can almost smell the money, this North Oxfordshire pub nevertheless has a strong local vibe, with pub classics and a dog-friendly ethos firmly on the menu.
The Crown, Woodstock
Bang in the centre of Woodstock, you’ll love the relaxed, scandi-meets-cottage feel of this stylish gastro-inn. There’s a ‘cafe/restaurant’ orangerie area, but also a more chilled-out pubby section with lovely log fires, wide bar and great food. Read my review.
The Queens Head, Little Marlow
This 16th century pub labels itself ‘Marlow’s little secret’ tucked away just outside the town. It’s in a pretty position, in lovely walking country, and has that unmistakeable feel of a well-loved, slightly lived-in local. Pint-and-pub style food and a welcome for your dog.
The Killingworth Castle, Wootton
This pub recently won a Bib Gourmand but it also manages that unusual double of also being a cosy, welcoming local. It’s a small pub, so a lovely warm atmosphere is created quickly. There are well-appointed bedrooms if the afternoon overwhelms you and you need a little lie-down! Read my review
The White Horse, Kings Sutton
A pretty rural pub in North Oxfordshire with a large, welcoming bar area, log fire and a gin collection that will keep you busy all night.
The Turf Tavern, Oxford
I used to come here all the time as a student – a bit rough and ready, it’s a real Oxford institution, a low-beamed, higgledy piggledy pub that was the inspiration for The Lamb and Flag, the fictional pub in Jude the Obscure, a favourite of Morse and where, local legend says Bill Clinton famously didn’t ‘inhale’. But, you know, let’s not bring that one up now with Hillary so close to the finish line. One to visit for a warming ale and pie if you happen to be in central Oxford rather than a gastrofest.
The Plowden Arms
Quirky, welcoming and with excellent food, I really loved this Shiplake pub (just outside Henley) when I reviewed last year. Super-relaxed, with an open fire and plenty of character, these guys are famed for their Sunday lunches. Read my review
The Chequers, Churchill
Really I could choose a dozen lovely pubs in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, but The Chequers in Churchill has an excellent local reputation for its food and atmosphere and it has a really lovely vibe. You’re just outside Chipping Norton here, so plenty to do in the area, and Churchill itself has some lovely walks plus a gorgeous church whose spire is a small replica of the one at Oxford’s Magdalen College.
The Perch, Binsey
One of my favourite pubs in terms of position, this lovely thatched pub sits right on Port Meadow in central Oxford, and is ideal for walkers looking for a warm stop. There’s a massive stone fire with leather Chesterfield sofas for a relaxed drinkie, or you can eat in a small pubby section or a more restauranty area. Read my review
The Chequers, Berrick Salome
I recently reviewed this rural pub in South Oxfordshire and enjoyed its attractive, quirky decor and that whopper inglenook fire in the bar area. The food is excellent too. Read my review.
The Crown, Bray
Just hopping over the border into Berkshire – so sue me! – but I absolutely love this Heston pub. Food is Bib Gourmand as you’d expect, but what I really loved was the buzz. Always busy, this place nails it on atmosphere, helped along immeasurably by the numerous small eating areas, and the feeling of history that pervades the gnarly old oak beams and open fires. Read my review
The Royal Oak, Bovingdon Green
A no-brainer for a cosy pub day, with open fires, settles, bar snacks and the kind of food that is way superior to the norm. It’s a 5 minute drive outside of Marlow.
The Swan Inn, Denham
The landlord makes The Swan Inn – Mark is almost as much an institution as the pub. Denham is a picturepostcard village in South Bucks and this pub hits the sweet spot of excellent food and local clientele. There’s a bar for perching on, settles, fireplaces and a whole load of bonhomie.
A 500 year old pub in one of the prettiest towns in the Cotswolds – what more do you want? Well if you’re being fussy about it, I’ll throw in log fires, window seating and lots of pub favourites amid the AA rosette food.
The Rickety Press, Oxford
In the chi-chi area of Jericho, this place fizzes with cool students and trendy locals, eating great quality pizzas and burgers. Very cool interior too, a fab city centre option.
Jacob’s Inn, Wolvercote
Sitting at the top of Oxford’s Port Meadow, this stylish, buzzing pub is ideal for families, friends or walkers. There’s not much of an outside space (you have the meadow for that), so it’s well suited to this time of year. Like its sister eateries in Bicester, Woodstock and Headington, the food is locally sourced and crowd-pleasing.