Sitting back in a sun-filled beer garden, glass of wine or pint of ale in hand, is pretty much a national weekend pursuit. As soon as the sun comes out, we’re raring for refreshments al fresco, even if the temperatures are more Baltic than Riviera. Now, with lockdown restrictions easing up and England’s best beer gardens open for business, it’s time to rediscover old favourites and explore new haunts. England is brimming with pubs with gardens, from riverside inns to seaside terraces. Here are the top 25 beer gardens in England.
The Best Beer Gardens in England
1. The Square & Compass, Worth Matravers (Dorset)
This old-worldly pub boasts some of the most perfect pasties in the West Country — and the views aren’t bad either. Set on a limestone cliff, the front lawn overlooks the Purbecks out to the English Channel. There’s been a pub here since 1793 but the building has been around a lot longer, it was once a pair of cottages.
The Square & Compass is hardly a well-known secret — it’s made it into every edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide but it still doesn’t take itself too seriously. The perfect spot to quench your thirst after a rambling walk, particularly if you’ve been strolling along the South West Coast Path.
2. Pandora Inn, Falmouth (Cornwall)
The most southerly entry on our list is also the oldest, dating all the way back to the 13th century. The pub is set in a pretty thatched cottage, but we like it best in the summer when you can pull up a seat at one of the many tables lining the pontoon. You could walk or drive, but why pass up an opportunity to arrive by boat? Falmouth Water Taxi and St Mawes Mini Cruises both stop directly outside the inn. Not quite the French Riviera but every bit as pretty.
3. The Cary Arms, Babbacombe Bay (Devon)
Set atop a fisherman’s jetty, this stylish pub boasts watery vistas out to Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. It’s more upmarket than most, with a chic hotel next door, but at its heart is still a country pub. Inside, it’s all exposed walls, nautical relics and roaring fires, with a good selection of beers on tap and excellent food. But it’s the outside we’re really interested in. Set on five terraces that drop downhill to a small jetty, there’s no bad seat in the house.
4. The Ship, Wandsworth (Greater London)
This local Young’s pub is one of the most popular garden pubs in London, and for good reason. The huge decked terrace is set right on the river, serving up one of the best sunsets in London. It’s also heated, so there’s no need to evacuate as soon as the sun goes down. There’s a focus on beers from local London breweries here, but you’ll find popular international brands too. The Sunday roast is excellent but you should never, ever pass up the chance to try one of their scotch eggs.
5. The Bellevue Tavern, Ramsgate (Kent)
The Bellevue Tavern has a long and entertaining history, dating back to the early 18th century when smuggling tunnels linked the pub to the cottages across the road. But its trump card is that sprawling terrace and beer garden, heralded as ‘the Balcony of Kent’. With sweeping views over Peggwell Bay and un-obscured sunsets, it’s easy to see how it won that nickname.
Sit back and soak in the sea air, armed with a glass of good wine or a pint of local ale. Look out for the alfresco barbeques at the BBQ shack, held over the weekends throughout the summer too.
6. Lower Lode Inn, Forthampton (Gloucestershire)
This pretty riverside inn has been serving up decent ales to thirsty punters since the 15th Century. The family-run pub offers a strong selection of CAMRA accredited real ales and ciders, as well as traditional pub fayre. Outdoors, the pub garden slopes down to the River Severn. Set between the Malvern and Cotswold Hills, it’s a great sunny spot for lunch or a light bite if you’re exploring some of the UK’s most charming surrounding villages.
7. The Rising Sun, Pensford (Bristol)
What do you get when you combine a spacious riverside pub with views of Pensford Viaduct and the village church? The best beer garden in Bristol, duh. The Rising Sun in Pensford is a mere 15 minutes outside of Bristol city centre, yet its idyllic setting makes it feel worlds away. Inside has traditional stone walls and a cosy fireplace, but it’s the beer garden here that puts it on the map. The location beside the River Chew is unbeatable on a balmy summer evening, pint in hand.
8. The Fleece Inn, Bretforton (Worcestershire)
This black-and-white inn dates back to the time of Chaucer, and it still looks much the same. It was handed over to the National Trust in 1977. While the interiors are undeniably impressive, the garden just beyond is magical, with a thatched crook barn and miniature orchard. There’s a dizzying calendar of events throughout the spring and summer (though check ahead in 2021), from hog roasts to morris dancers to the Vale of Evesham British Asparagus Festival.
9. The Pump House, Liverpool (Merseyside)
For dock-side beers, head to the Pump House. The Grade II listed former pump house is now home to one of Liverpool’s most popular pubs, with craft beers and real ales on tap, craft cocktails and an impressive wine list. There’s plenty of space in the garden, which sprawls around the building so, while booking is advised, there are spots reserved for walk-ins.
10. The Chequers Inn, Ledsham (West Yorkshire)
Halfway between Leeds and Castelford, well away from the main thoroughfares, The Chequers Inn is a well-kept local’s secret. It’s one of the oldest traditional pubs in Yorkshire and still has an olde world English charm, with its low beams, roaring open fires and trinkets. But best of all is the walled beer garden, with barrels filled with colourful flowers and comfy rattan furniture. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy locally brewed ales and tuck into traditional home-cooked comforts like a steak and mushroom pie.
11. The Original Oak, Leeds (West Yorkshire)
The Original Oak is in the heart of Headingley. True, it’s popular with merry students, but you’ll find in-the-know locals propping up the bar too. The beer garden is huge, with barbecues and a large screen showing live sport in the summer. Perhaps not one for the hardened CAMRA members but a good option if you’re looking to laugh loudly in a lively atmosphere.
12. The Stables, Whitby (North Yorkshire)
Most people come for the views and stay for the fish and chips at The Stables, now part of the highly esteemed Inn Collection. Set between the North York Moors and Whitby, the beer garden offers stellar views over the Esk Valley. It’s just as popular with locals as it is with out-of-towners exploring the local countryside and sites. Just two miles from the coast, it’s the perfect stopover after a day at the seaside.
13. The Roebuck Inn, Knutsford (Cheshire)
This Roebuck Inn’s sun-filled terrace is split over two floors, lined with hanging baskets, colourful pots and planted trees. It’s rural bliss. While it may be modest in size, there’s nothing modest about what it has to offer; think steaming bowls of braised beef bourguignon, sticky baked chocolate puddings and craft ales. There’s a distinctly French feel to the place too, so we strongly suggest diving into the aperitif menu as soon as you get the chance.
14. The Old Horse Pub, Leicester (Leicestershire)
Once a 19th century coaching inn, The Old Horse Pub is one of Leicester’s best-kept secrets. When the sun comes out, the beer garden and pretty courtyard pack out with locals in the know looking for good beer and an excellent atmosphere. There’s a covered BBQ area, with regular garden barbecues throughout the summer too.
15. The Mortal Man, Troutbeck (Cumbria)
A 300-year old pub set just outside Windemere in the Lakeland Valley. The large beer garden is tucked among rolling green hills with spectacular views over the fells and dales. It’s been an inn since 1689 and is named after a medieval proverb, which gives you an idea of how old it is. Perfect for lazy afternoons after long walks in the Lakes. If you can’t bear to leave, there are 12 reasonably priced rooms to choose from.
16. The Rat Inn, Hexham (Northumberland)
17. The Tyne Bar, Newcastle (Tyne & Wear)
Famous for its laid-back atmosphere and live music, The Tyne Bar is a local favourite for al fresco drinks and dining. There are two outdoor spaces: a sun-filled courtyard and a heated garden beneath the bridge. There’s an excellent range of draught and bottled beers, with 5 keg and 5 conditioned ales, as well as beers from local breweries like Almasty and Two by Two. Food is decent too, with gourmet hotdogs, cheesy nachos and plenty of options for vegans and veggies.
18. The Lister Arms, Malham (North Yorkshire)
Nestled into the Yorkshire Dales, not far from Malham Cove, is the Lister Arms. It’s a traditional country pub with wooden beams, hearty pub grub and an array of award-winning cask ales. There’s a spacious grassy beer garden with lots of seating out back or an ivy-covered deck at the front. They’re both idyllic spots, particularly when accompanied by a famous deep filled Lister pie. Those with four-legged friends will be pleased to hear the pub is dog-friendly too.
19. The Horseshoes, Long Lane Village (Derbyshire)
Located in a friendly, upmarket village in the Derbyshire countryside, The Horshoes is a gin-lovers paradise. There are over 100 different varieties of gin to choose from, as well as a staggering range of tonic waters. There’s excellent beer and posh nosh too. The garden features a selection of newly-built ‘Garden Rooms’, perfect for al fresco dining that isn’t too fresco. Or, you could opt for the flower-filled terrace, with dining available under the gazebo.
20. The Cartford Inn, Little Eccles (Lancashire)
There are plenty of reasons to visit The Cartford Inn, not least because it’s been voted Pub of the Year 2020. But The 17th century inn has also installed four greenhouses in the garden to increase seating capacity – an enticing option for when the sun is out but the breeze is still very much present. Each pod will have room for four guests. If you’re not able to book a pod, the beer garden is still worth the trip, with sparkling views of the surrounding Fylde countryside.
21. Eagle + Child, Ramsbottom (Greater Manchester)
Glen Duckett, the mastermind behind Ramsbottom’s Eagle + Child, had a different sort of vision for the one-acre of disused land when he acquired the pub back in 2011. The Edible Beer Garden. Today, you can order your tipple of choice outdoors and sit surrounded by pots and planters of veg, fruit and herbs all used to cook up a delicious storm in the kitchen. There’s also th Messy Play’ for kids under 10 too, with willow weaving workshops, basic horticulture training and lots of games.
22. The Final Whistle, Southwell (Nottingham)
Set at the end of the disused railway line, The Final Whistle actually used to be a train station. The pub is packed with character, with a railway theme throughout. Outside, the beer garden is set up like and old platform. It’s brimming with railway memorability, with tracks, signs and station canopy. The ales and pork pies are exceptional too.
23. The Anchor, Walberswick (Suffolk)
This striking 1930s mock-Tudor building has a whopper of a beer garden set over one acre of land. With views of dunes and beach huts, it’s the perfect seaside escape. The menu has been reduced for a more restriction-friendly experience, with wood-fired pizzas served up from Thursday to Sunday. Expect excellent beers and don’t leave without sampling those brewed by Adnams in neighbouring Southwold.
There’s the annual beer and oyster festival too, scheduled to go ahead August 7th and 8th.
A favourite with Roald Dahl, who lived in the area, The Nag’s Head Inn has a lovely little pub garden and wisteria-clad terrace. What’s more, for April 2021 there’ll be a tipi too. Complete with a wood-burning stove, the new addition is designed to make socially distancing easier and more enjoyable. Set in the rolling Chilterns, within walking distance to Great Missenden and not far from Chequers (the Prime Minister’s County Seat), it’s an idyllic spot to enjoy England’s bucolic countryside. The food is award-winning too.
25. The Tempest Inn, Brighton (East Sussex)
Everyone likes to be by the seaside, so where better to nurse a pint than overlooking the Channel? The Tempest Inn has an unusual setup, with indoor caves and a terrace that spills out onto the seafront. You can practically feel the sand between your toes. With live music and bottomless brunches on offer, it attracts a cool crowd but the easygoing atmosphere will charm every generation. Don’t pies and mash though, the dedicated vegan menu offers a more eclectic selection of dishes, like ‘shroom katzu curry’ and ‘cauli wings.’