Stride and scoff
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Hey, there, welcome back!
I hope you had an amazing Christmas and Boxing Day. I am selfishly posting this feature about best walks with pubs attached, as I have been festively foie gras-ed, and desperately need to get some exercise.
The list is by no means comprehensive but it might just give you an idea for a new place to try if the weather allows. Inclusion has been primarily on the beauty of the countryside rather than super-posh food, as I think we’ve probably had enough for a few days!
Fox & Hounds in Christmas Common. Watlington Hill Walk
A glorious position high on the Chiltern hills, and more walking, mountain biking and riding than you can shake a stick at. The Fox & Hounds is higgledy piggledy (which I rather like) but also has a more restauranty newish wing to pack in the lunchers.
A fabulous seventeenth century inn, cosy, quirky, low-ceilinged, tight on space and not for those with double buggies! Famous of course for Dick Turpin (he was soft on the landlord’s daughter Bess), George Harrison’s patronage, and as the venue for Kate Winslet’s first marriage, the food is fab and it also happens to be set in gorgeous Oxfordshire countryside. There’s a charming walk that takes in the Maharajah’s Well, also in the village, a bizarre, beautiful gift from India in the mid-ninteenth century.
A full review coming soon, but this well-regarded inn north west of Bicester has some expansive open countryside circular walks to whet the appetite before lunch. You can print off walking routes via the pub website.
The Chequers in Fingest
There’s a gorgeous rural triangle of villages near to Henley – Fingest, Moulsford and Turville – between which are loads of fabulous walks, from a mild walk in Fingest wood to a 14 mile appetite digger. The Chequers in Fingest or The Bull & Butcher in Turville (the gorgeous village where they filmed The Vicar of Dibley) are both good lunch pubs.
Jacobs Inn, Wolvercote, Oxford – Port Meadow Walk
I did this walk from Wolvercote through Port Meadow in the summer and it was heavenly. No doubt Port Meadow will be on the muddy side at the moment, so this one will be for hardened welly-booters only – buggy pushers and fair-weather walkers might want to think twice. Try The Trout, Jacobs Inn (read my reivew here) or The Perch (see review here) for food.
This pub is in perfect walking territory and also happened to win the Muddy Award 2013 for Best Country Pub so it’s no slouch in the food stakes. They’ll give you an Ordinance Survey at the pub and some advice for good walking routes, but there are loads of gorgeous walks in the area, so you can always google a walk in a nearby village and drive to the Kingham Plough for lunch.
The Bell Inn, Aldworth, Berks
This pub and walk was suggested by Paul Bellchambers, aka the Late Chef, when I interviewed him for My Favourite Places earlier this year. The walking route he suggests from Moulsford takes you through the Well Barn estate through fields and onto parts of the Ridgeway. You cut across a couple more fields and you end up in Aldworth and its lovely pub The Bell Inn. It’s a traditional country pub, voted Most Unspoilt Pub in Britain several years in a row, with lots of beers on cask, and some very good hearty food. The Bell is well used and loved by hikers, bikers and cyclists in the area.
I was here a few weeks ago for a lovely, unpretentious lunch with friends and they told me about a circular walk that takes in the pretty village of Little Marlow and the river, before looping back to the pub. Yes please!
The Greyhound Inn, Aldbury
The Ashridge Estate on the Bucks/Herts borders is a delightful rural romp for walkers and bikers, and after you’ve tramped your way to justifying a full roast, hop back in the car for 10 minutes and relax at the Greyhound Inn. It’s much bigger than it looks and is totally set up for families. Booking essential I’d say.