What are you doing this weekend? For most of you, it’ll be the usual – thinking about an exhibition, a wander round a market or a pub lunch at your local, before realising it’s already 7pm and deciding to order a pizza. It sounds very relaxing. You probably should do that. Of course, if you’re feeling more adventurous, there’s always the option to leave the city. Britain’s countryside is ready to be walked and its rural pubs are begging to be visited. These five pub hikes (it’s the more civilised and countrified way of saying “crawl”) feature hearty meals, micro-brews and appetite-building walks. The fresh air will do you good. The local bitters will do you better.
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Take the train from London Bridge to Edenbridge. You then have a 4-mile walk east to reach Chested farm, before turning south and walking the mile to Chiddingstone. This is where you’ll have your first drink of the day at The Castle Inn. It has Larkins on tap, a real ale only available within 30 miles of the brewery. If you can tear yourself away, it’s then on to The Rock, a mile and a half away in Chiddingstone Hoath. Another mile and a half away is The Spotted Dog, a gastropub and your lunch venue. After that, you’ll be winding your way back to Edenbridge – two-and-a-half miles to Hill Hoath, then two more along the Eden Valley Walk, past Hever Castle (the childhood home of Anne Boleyn) to the King Henry VIII at Hever. From there, it’s just three miles back into Edenbridge. But you’ll be in no rush to get back.
Arrive in Oxford, then leave immediately. Follow the River Cherwell for six miles until you reach Islip – your first pub, The Swan, is located here. Next you’ll walk to Bletchingdon to The Blacks Head Inn, before heading further north to the Oxford Arms at Kirtlington. Both would suit as lunch stops, although if you’re in a dilemma, opt for the Oxford Arms. Then you’re turning to head southeast towards Weston-on-the-Green – your final destination. There you can choose between The Ben Johnson and Chequers or, to make things simple, stop in at both. From there, it’s a stroll back to Islip where you can catch your train home.
Taplow to Marlow
Catch a train from Paddington to Taplow. Once there, head west until you across the Thames, then head south through Bray. Heston Blumenthal owns both The Fat Duck and The Hinds Head there, but you’re heading to The Waterside Inn on the river. Next, head west towards White Waltham, veering south when you get to the airfield to reach The Beehive Inn. And that’s lunch. Eat heartily, you’ve got a hike ahead of you. It’s five miles north to Bisham Abbey, but there you can stop at The Bull Inn. Finally, stroll into Marlow and towards The Hand & Flowers. It’s Michelin-starred (two of them, in fact) so consider eating there, too. And maybe even staying in one of its recently refurbished cottages.