Grab a pew and warm up by the fireside, drink in hand, at these atmospheric pubs.

As spirits turn towards the festive, there are few situations that would not be vastly improved by the presence of a roaring fire. Of them all, the pub edges out the competition as the cosiest fireside situation of them all. What’s not to adore about a cosy nook, a glass containing a warming tipple, good company or a book, and a spot by the hearth or wood burner? The only word of warning about the true exemplars of such winter sanctums must be the very real potential of developing an inability to emerge from them and back out into the cold once. This crop of excellent pubs with fireplaces are the ones that we are the most reluctant to leave at last orders.

Sign Of The Angel


Lacock, Wiltshire


This superbly named 15th-century pub with rooms sits in the picture-perfect village of Lacock, which is held to immaculate period standards by the National Trust. It has two AA rosettes, a menu which features pub classics as well as more ambitious fare, and has every original feature you could ever wish for in a legendarily atmospheric pub. But our favourite thing about it has to be its large open fires, which cry out to cosied up to while nursing a glass of good red. Book a pew here.


The Ram Inn


Firle, Sussex


A trip to the Ram Inn is always a good idea. Beautiful all year round, it comes into its own in the winter when its two fireplaces are permanently roaring and the dark, cossetting colours pull you in for hours at a time – if you can get a table, that is. In the exceptionally pretty village of Firle, those who chose to come by public transport have a half an hour walk from the station at Glynde. Yet the atmospherically wintry rural roads, with Firle Beacon in the distance, make the walk worth doing – as well as building an appetite. Many of the kitchen’s ingredients come from the neighbouring Firle Estate (which is open at various points in the year). And if you fancy walking off your lunch, there’s always the Beacon to tackle, for those who like a good uphill climb. Book a pew here.


Gunton Arms


North Norfolk


The Gunton Arms has been a legend among the good folk of north Norfolk since it opened in 2011, as well as among in-the-know circles from further afield. With interiors by the great Robert Kime, ingredient-led food by ex-Mark Hix chefs Stuart and Simone Tattersall (venison comes from the Gunton Estate and the famous Cromer crab and local seafood is made much of), and artworks by Tracey Emin, among others, it’s easy to understand the appeal. The enormous fireplace in the Elk Room is hard to beat; do try and bag a table close to it to bask it in its warmth and atmosphere. Book a pew here.


The Suffield Arms


North Norfolk


Ivor Braka is the brains behind The Gunton Arms, and earlier this year, he delighted its many devotees by opening a second pub, also in Gunton. The Suffield Arms features a saloon bar, which is all red, brooding and inviting, an airier tapas bar in which to sample the excellent food, and a main bar, where you can get snug with a good pint of local ale right by the fireplace. Just like its sister pub, it is also awash with a wonderfully eclectic collection of original artworks. The perfect new addition to this corner of the world. Book a pew here.


The Perch


Oxford


The Perch is one of those pubs in the happy position of being both glorious in the summer – when its large, river-facing garden is a joy – and in the winter, when it feels like there’s no more heavenly place to sit in all the world than by the fire in its bar. It has the feel of a classic country pub, whilst only being a short stroll across Port Meadow (where wild horses roam) from the city. The food, too, happens to be sublime – especially when eaten next to the fire. Book a pew here.


The Bull Inn, Charlbury


Oxfordshire


It’s hard to believe that Charlie and Willow Crossley only breathed their magic into The Bull Inn in 2015; it feels as though it has been there forever. Their dream of creating a home-from-home in this postcard-worthy Cotswolds village has been meticulously realised, from the food to the interiors and, of course, in Willow’s beautiful floral arrangements. We especially love the main bar, which is made for lounging with a glass of wine and the papers. The stuff of comatose post-prandial dreams. Book a pew here.


The Jerusalem Tavern


Clerkenwell, London


This higgeldy-piggedly Clerkenwell boozer looks like it has been in-situ since Dickens’ day. In truth, it has only operated as a pub since the 1990s, under the auspices of the Suffolk-based St Peter’s Brewery. We love everything about it, and not least its fireside. Just the sort of place where one should gather in the snow to huddle with a drink in hand while delivering a rousing rendition of ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.’ Book a pew here.



The Green Man


Winchester, Hampshire


The legendarily famous pub in Winchester is The Wykeham Arms, filled as it is with old school desks and wood burners aplenty. There is no denying that it is a good one. But we also have a soft spot for the lesser known but no less lovely or atmospheric The Green Man. An ode to Victorian decorative drama, it’s a place to hole up and fortify yourself against the cold. Book a pew here.


The Gurnard’s Head


Zennor, Cornwall


The Gurnard’s Head, on Cornwall’s Atlantic coast, is beautifully situated by the sea. Where better, then, to head after a bracing coastal walk than to its fireside, where you can refuel courtesy of its excellent daily-changing menu? Don’t want to leave? No problem. There are a handful of lovely rooms upstairs that guests can repair to. Book a pew here.


The Felin Fach Griffin


Brecon, Wales


‘The simple things in life done well.’ That is the shared motto of The Gurnard’s Head’s Welsh sister pub with rooms, The Felin Fach Griffin. It is an apt maxim for both places; for what could be simpler or better than excellent ingredients cooked well and served up by the fire? Book a pew here.


The York Tap


York


York abounds with exemplary watering holes, one of our favourites of which must be the wonderfully named House of Trembling Madness. And yet one of the most welcome propositions of all is the York Tap, which greets visitors as they disembark the train, beckoning them in for something fortifying after a long journey. Specialists in craft beer, we’re here as much for the lovingly restored Edwardian interior, complete with tiled fireplace and coal fire. Cosy central. Book a pew here.


The Holly Bush


Hampstead, London


This cosy warren of a pub in Hampstead is the place for a post Heath dram. In fact, it was made for winter. Come. Stare someone out until you get a fireside spot. Don’t leave until closing time. Book a pew here.



By Nancy Alsop
November 2021

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