As weekend activities go, there's nothing more perfect to blow away the cobwebs of the week than a long walk through beautiful countryside, followed by a pint and some hearty pub grub.
Those boots of yours are definitely made for walking – even a few easy miles – so step up and get on the trail of some of the UK’s most beautiful scenery. Added bonus: you can up your daily steps and try to meet that ten thousand.
We’ve picked 10 great places to stretch your legs, with the promise of a lazy afternoon in a cosy pub afterwards. Time to get rambling.
Lead image: iStock
The Killingworth Castle, Wootton, Oxfordshire
Take your pick of 2,000 acres of landscaped parkland and formal gardens at Blenheim Palace for a weekend walk on the well-heeled side.
This is a high-class hike fashioned by 18th century landscape architect Capability Brown around one of the UK’s finest stately homes. Once you’ve sauntered through the scenery, it’s just a few minutes more down the road to The Killingworth Castle.
This 17th-century inn serves up beers from its own Yubberton Brewing Company - plus “pub grub” from a kitchen that’s already scooped up a Michelin Bib Gourmand award. Tuck into the sea bream with mash, samphire, fennel and tomato and you’ll never be content with a ploughman’s again.
The Ship Inn, Low Newton, Northumberland
Look down the sweeping crescent beach of Low-Newton-by-the-Sea and you can see Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance, painted in like a watercolour detail on the headland in a canvas of huge Northumberland skies.
It’s one of the county’s most iconic views – the castle built by a 14th century Earl of Lancaster and now a ruin, but no less impressive as you make your way along the wet sand toward it. Half an hour of fresh salt-tang sea air and brisk walking gets you to the end of the beach; another half an hour takes you up to the castle itself.
Walk back and you’ve truly earned a pint of Dolly Day Dream ale, microbrewed at Low Newton’s only pub, the tiny Ship Inn.
The Wasdale Head Inn, Near Gosforth, Cumbria
Top of the list is its incredible location, surrounded by lofty fells that draw serious hikers to its doors after a day on the flanks of Great Gable and Scafell Pike.
The Wasdale can provide packed lunches for fell walks and offer advice on routes before you head out. Once back from tackling the terrain, you can chill out in cosy lounges warmed by well-stoked fires or have a drink in the bar and compare steps with fellow walkers. Although let’s face it, here nobody’s interested unless you’ve broken your FitBit with the sheer effort.
The Gunton Arms, Thorpe Market, Norfolk
No horse brasses and yesteryear twee for The Gunton Arms – arguably Norfolk’s hippest pub. Owned by art dealer Ivor Braka and set in a 1000-acre deer park, it’s part gallery, part work of art itself – a cosmopolitan confection of warm wood and port wine colours. Plus the odd Tracey Emin here and cheeky Damien Hirst there.
You’ll need to book well ahead to stay in one of its eight rooms or bag a table in its restaurant, the Elk Room, overseen by head chef Stuart Tattersall. But you can drop in to the cosy low-lit bar for a pint any time. Preferably after some strident mileage on the public footpath parallel to the deer park – or from the beautiful beach at Cromer, five miles away.
The Polecat Inn, Prestwood, Buckinghamshire
The Polecat Inn in Prestwood is one of the best places to lay your hat/map/rucksack in the rolling Chiltern Hills just outside London. Here, you’re slap in the middle of a panorama of chalk hills, ancient beech woods and peaceful valleys just begging to be explored on foot – something that’s egged on by two National trails that cross the area; The Ridgeway and The Thames Path.
From The Polecat, head to Great Missenden, once home of Roald Dahl, a mile away to join a 4.5-mile circular walk that rises up the Misbourne valley to 630ft and incredible views. From there it’s a straight roll back down to the pub for a restorative G&T from the specialist gin menu, best drunk in The Polecat’s large flower-filled beer garden.
The Ship Inn, Mevagissey, Cornwall
Time has thankfully stood still at The Ship Inn in the fishing town of Mevagissey - a solid, straightforward Cornish pub, full of wood and stone, crackling fires, daily fresh fish on the menu and ships’ wheels on the walls. It’s a reassuring antidote to deconstructed apple crumbles, ironic blackboard notices and hipster beards.
Back up the hearty, authentic vibe with some bracing Cornish air and a stride out along the undulating South West Coast Path that runs past the town. Or take things at a more genteel pace with a stroll through the beautiful and haunting Lost Gardens of Heligan instead, around a mile away.
The Castle Inn, Lydford, Devon
Lightweights can take a gentle pre-pint stroll through Lydford Gorge, which runs one-and-a half-miles from the Devil's Cauldron whirlpool to the White Lady Waterfall. Hardcore hikers, however, take on epic treks across the rugged moor to Sourton Tors stone circle or High Willhays, Dartmoor’s highest point.
Everyone ends up back at The Castle Inn though, hunkering down under exposed beams beside open fires – or out in the pretty beer garden - to get their energy back with homemade beef pie and real ales.
The Stackpole Inn, Stackpole, Pembrokeshire
The two-mile walk to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path from The Stackpole Inn (and back) might be enough if you’re a fairweather walker. But step on and you’ll be rewarded, not only with burning thighs and rosy cheeks, but some of Wales’ most spectacular scenery. Start at the pine-scented dunes of Barafundle Bay – and you’ve got 186 miles of coastal path to go (keen walkers do it in two weeks).
It’s a tough choice though – back at the Stackpole you’ll get true local pub charm, complete with wood burners and real ales, plus locally sourced grub from blue cheese pots with crusty bread to Welsh beef roasts.
Tiger Inn, East Dean, East Sussex
English summers were made for the village green in front of the Tiger Inn in East Dean – a manicured emerald baize for Pimms and pint drinkers that’s barely changed in 50 years. The pub itself is equally – quintessentially – English, with its low beams, hearty pub grub, open fires and own brewery. Best to get your walk in before you start on the bar’s most popular tipple, Legless Rambler, though.
East Dean is also the starting point for great circular walks along the South Downs, including a classic rolling route to Birling Gap, part of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs - the pub even has the route outlined on handy beermats.
The Stein Inn, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Take the high road in the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands – a place where the scenery looks like it’s been ripped up by angry giants and the weather can change hourly from glowering to glowing. It’s epic landscape that shrugs at humans – there for millennia before us and there long after.
While you are here though, walk the Waternish peninsula in the north-west, ending up at the quayside Stein Inn in the village of Stein - with views of the Western Isles across the water. Put fire in your belly with 125 malt whiskies – including the local Talisker. Roll out at closing time into some of the UK’s darkest skies here and you’ll have the splendor of a split sugar trail of stars above you.