Top 12 cosy pubs for chilly days
Snow’s coming, you say? Are you kidding me?! We’ve had a brilliant run of mild weather, but winter’s definitely getting ready to hit where it hurts.
Nothing for it, then, but to dig out the ski socks, slip a sneaky hipflask into your pocket, and choose one of these supercosy pubs (with great food of course) to take refuge in. My Top 12 cosy pubs is selected partly on area, to make sure that those of you who live up near Banbury and Buckingham are catered for as much as those in Wallingford and Gerrard’s Cross, and it’s a starter list really because I could have gone on and on! See how these ones fit for size and 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 review it pronto for you.
The Falkland Arms, Great Tew
Possibly the cosiest, prettiest pub I’ve been to in recent years, it feels like it’s been lifted straight out of a Richard Curtis movie with its thatched roof, warm Cotswold stone and low beams. The pub has recently changed hands but when I visited earlier this year the food was excellent with lots of traditional pub options to keep it real. The location in Great Tew (throwing distance from Soho Farmhouse) is ideal for walkers and rubber neckers!
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 inmistakeable feel of a well-loved local – all log fires, oak beams and rustic furniture.
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 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 – well, we’re not imprisoned in Bucks & Oxon! – 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’s had The Royal Oak voted winner of Buckinghamshire Dining Pub of the Year in The Good Pub Guide for five years running (2011 – 2015). It’s a 5 minute drive outside of Marlow. Read my review
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. Read my review