I caught myself singing out loud as I was walking the coast path between Swanage and Corfe Castle on the first sunny day of spring. The walk is about 10 miles, taking in wild cliffs, rock pools, giant fossils, old quarries, stunning bays and finally the lush Dorset countryside, with rewarding views of the mysterious castle ruins at the end. Put up your feet at the Greyhound Inn, which does a good pint and meal. Returning to Swanage by steam train makes for a perfect end of the trip.
In Castle Hedingham, Essex not only can you explore this magnificent Castle, you can walk around the beautiful grounds filled with daffodils and bluebells in spring time. There are lots of events that take place here, from jousting tournaments to wedding fairs. A short walk away brings you to the village pub 'The Bell.' This family pub serves hearty, excellent value meals and stocks local ale and ciders. If the pub isn't your thing there is a lovely tea rooms opposite serving up light lunches and home-made cakes.
The Shipwrights Arms overlooking a beauiful creek in Helford changed hands in 2012, and re-opened in time for the Easter weekend 2013 after a re-fit. It was very long overdue a refurbishment and new energy, because the location has to be one of the most beautiful in Britain, with views down the Helford River, but it had been going downhill for a number of years. I popped in for a quick pint after walking Frenchman's Creek, and enjoyed a very well kept locally brewed beer (Harbour Light) and checked out the menu. There is something to be said for a pub menu which is not complicated as you know the the chef will focus on doing a few things really well - this one looked interesting, and also had a few pub staples (fish and chips for £10, pasties for much less). Definitely worth dropping in for a look and a bite to eat - even the soup and bread should be good - the manager is well known locally for making her own artisan bread which is sold in the region.
Helston Village, Helston TR12 6JX, England
+44 (0)1326 231235
Google map: bit.ly/16mvhgS
Prague has a surfeit of beer gardens set in various parks around the city, where small shacks sell cheap beer and wine to a laid-back crowd. One of the nicest and most romantic is in Letenské sade; with fantastic views over the city and often at least one person strumming a guitar there's no better place to enjoy a summer's afternoon. There is also an acclaimed restaurant housed in an impressive Neo-Renaissance château in the park should you feel like treating yourselves.
Nábřeží Edvarda Beneše, 170 00 Praha 7, Czech Republic
+420 221 714 444
Google map: bit.ly/Z9BkmX
The castle is UNESCO heritage listed and its baroque 140 seat theatre is only one of five in the world. The town (pop.c 10,000) is full of fascinating renaissance and baroque buildings and due to the old brewery being the birth place of composer Smetana, there is a strong musical tradition in the town. The monastery gardens and its highly individual sculptures with subtle background music are a further attraction as is the very good and cheap beer and food. The stylish Hotel Aplaus offers double rooms from 2,600czk. To cool off, a visit to the old fashioned outdoor lido is a must.
Cycle away the winter cobwebs in the Brecon Beacons!
Park in the village of Talybont on Usk, where you can start and finish at the White Hart or Star pubs. One has a bunkhouse and the other a B&B and restaurant open through the winter; both have great beers and good food.
Cross the canal by the footbridge then cycle north on the Taff trail which begins with a long climb alongside the Talybont reservoir. you will see the high peaks ahead of you to the left. You then pass through Talybont on Usk and Taf Fechan forests, before crossing a B-road leading to a fantastic climb up stone tracks to the Cwm Cynwyn pass as the base of Cribyn at an altitude of nearly 2000ft. On a clear day the views are stupendous and you may surprise a few walkers, fell-runners and sheep.
The descent is very technical with huge boulders and terrifying drops coming down the other side before the surface improves to a fast tarmac descent into LLanfrynach, where there's a pub for a well-earned pint, before following the roads back to Talybont.
Talybont on Usk village:
White Hart Inn:
Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon, Powys LD3 7JD
Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon, Powys LD3 7YX
Google map: bit.ly/UILn0F
A New York style beer bar in the heart of Amsterdam.
Just around the corner from Dam square is an American style beer bar with a whopping 30 beers on tap (unheard of in Europe, but common in many speciality bars in the States) and over 100 in bottles, the Temple specialises in US ales (and I don't mean Budweiser or Coors) but also has a good selection of UK, Dutch and Belgian beers.
On my visit (November 2012) they had all three Westvleteren Trappist beers in stock (some of the rarest and reportedly best beers in the world) and I was able to try all for the first time (an ambition of mine for several years), not sure if these are permanently available or if I just got lucky with my visit but many of the American beers are also particularly rare (Three Floyds, Stone etc) and Brewdog beers (from the UK) appear to be popular here.
If you are a beer lover visiting Amsterdam then this is a must, for the true connoisseur maybe even worth a special holiday.
Falon's is a stand out gem in a city overloaded with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to pubs. This tiny bar hunkered in the shadow of St Pat's Cathedral in the centre of the city is the true soul of Dublin. A single room, with too few seats and a plethora of characters is ably served by charismatic bar staff. No music plays to disturb your chat or your drinking and the only television is buried in the corner. If you want a genuine Dublin pub you will not find a better example than this. Rumour has it that it is Shane McGowan's favourite bar too, so you're in good company.
New Row South,Dublin 8,
Google map: bit.ly/SumxRk
Bamberg is a beer drinkers heaven. It is also a UNESCO listed town on the banks of the Main that Bomber Harris failed to visit in WW2. Many German towns were rebuilt after the war, but Bamberg is the real McCoy. Of the nine or so breweries in town, Faessla is the best. Its bar is snug, to say the least, but all the better for it. Don't be afraid to snuggle up to the locals (or tourists) sitting at the benches. They definitely won't bite. The beers are also great and will be brought to your table by efficient bar staff who will mark your beermat every time you have a new drink so you can tot up how many you've had when you pay. The whole place oozes atmosphere and charm. You're not in Bavaria here, but Frankonia, where they are VERY proud of their brewing culture. Get thyself to Bamberg and while there get to Faessla. Should it be busy, the Spezial - opposite - will be a very good substitute!
It's one of (if not the only) smallish family-owned breweries in Cologne.
It's also home (thankfully) to probably the best Kolsch beer in this great city.
Kolsch is a curious hybrid beer style that drinks like a good lager but is technically an ale. But don't let that put you off, this delightful beer served by gravity from wooden barrels is delicate, yet has hidden depths of flavour that make it the perfect session-able beer.
And what's more it comes in cute little 21cl straight glasses called 'Stanges' which are delivered conveniently to your table by the local 'Kobes' (barmen) until you put your beer matt on top of your empty glass (or just say no).
Great fun, great traditional food, great old building, but make sure your go to the main brauhaus building not one of the bars that serve in town.
it's a little walk out from the cathedral, but it's worth it.
A gem of a bar, restaurant and hotel. Owned and run by an American, Jim Anderson, over 240 single malts, 150 Belgian beers and a well kept range of guest beers make this a great "must-visit" place. Jim's wife Anne runs the superb restaurant, making very skilful use of fabulous local produce.
A fantastic pub in Goathland, North Yorkshire Moors.
The tiny one room pub has a large fire, seats and a hole in the wall where you are served by the owner - who runs the post office/sweet shop on the other side of the hole.
Always a fantastic selection of beers and a wide variety of food available, as long as you want pork pie and pickle! It is a lovely place in the middle of some beautiful countryside, friendly, full of character and a great place to visit. Quite unique.
Ocean Beach Hotel in Cottesloe, the "swanky" part of Perth with a super beach. Have a lazy day at the beach then get into OBH for a cold, cold Hahn beer or something similar. Fridges full of chilled glasses ensure this is a cold beer. Ignore the TVs and the sport. Just take a seat at the open bar front and enjoy the sunset over the Indian Ocean. Sydney may have its harbour, but it doesn't get the sunset. Enjoy the multitude of colour across the ocean as the sun dips behind the horizon ... then order another beer.
Britain's largest winter garden is set in a magnificent 300 acre deer park. The gardens are beautiful at any time of the year but on a frosty day the colours of the bare stems of cornus and the brilliant white of the many birch trees stand out amazingly. After exploring you can warm up with hot chocolate and home made cake in the Stables Restaurant. Just across the road is the Dunham Massey brewery where a wide selection of prize winning beers are brewed on the premises.
In the early 2000's you ventured into the Kings Head if you had lost the will to live and wished to exit this vale of tears in the near future! In 2005 it re-opened, run by two ex-offshore surveyors who cared about beer as a product and producing an environment in which to enjoy it! Today this is a friendly, comfortable, 21st century take on the traditional English pub selling mainly Norfolk beers, a well chosen selection of Belgium ales with a few exceptions from elsewhere on the mainland to vary the mix and, with the exception of the odd free-range piggy pork pie, there is no food, music or entertainment. However there is a bar billiards table which sees a considerable amount of use. Definitely worth passing a few pubs for even in Norwich which is truly a fine city for ale.
Side Pocket, Ridgeway, Jack O'Legs, Colley's Santa's Little Helper and Tringle Bells are just some of the beers brewed at Tring Brewery by Ben and his team. A successful business that goes from strength to strength, helped by enthusiastic drinkers up and down the Chilterns. Visit the shop which is open six days a week to chose your Christmas tipple.
A recently rescued old boozer in a spectacularly remote Yorkshire dale, the Queens Arms is the kind of village pub you dream about. Great local beer and the kind of fabulous food which if it came out of a suburban kitchen would require much deeper pockets. Upstairs, four cosy, immaculate bedrooms with beams and crisp white cotton linen and outside any number of stunning walks from the door.
In your rush down the A591 from the M6 to get to Windermere, you are in danger of missing a little Lake District gem! Staveley Mill Yard is where you can enjoy proper beer and great food at the Hawkshead Micro Brewery, fill your rucksack with delicious fresh bread from the More Bakery or lounge on the huge sofas with tea and cakes at Wilf’s Cafe! If that's not enough to get you to dwell a while then check out Lucy’s Cookery School and learn to do it all for yourself. Staveley is a wonderful place to visit and there are also some super walks in the local area to help you work up an appetite or work off your indulgence.
My perfect autumn walk begins at the romantic ruins of Llanthony Priory in the Ewyas Valley 10 ½ miles north of Abergavenny. From here it’s a steep climb up the wooded hill side, which gets the blood pumping, warming you up in the crisp autumn air. As you get higher rising above the tree line, you walk among the rust coloured bracken, sharing the views with mountain sheep and wild ponies. The scale and glorious colours of the Black Mountains dazzle all around. At the very top you finally reach Offa’s Dyke and have a top of the world view of the neat rolling landscape of Herefordshire and it’s cider orchards on the eastern side and the majestic coloured mountains soaring to the west. Walking back down to the valley the blazing colours of the trees and scenery looking down into the valley are seen at their best – without panting for breath! But the icing on the cake is back in the valley at a tiny pub hidden in the vaults of the Priory, where you can warm up, rest your feet and revive with a pint of local ale. Bliss.
Llanthony Priory 10 1/2 miles north of Abergavenny. Nearest hotel is The Abbey Hotel www.llanthonyprioryhotel.co.uk
Llanthony, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, NP77NN
Google map: bit.ly/TQQIjd
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