Winter walks with pubs
Blow away the cobwebs – and any lingering hangover – with a bracing walk or wintery stroll in Dorset & Somerset, with pubs en route or nearby
The Exford Circular, Exmoor
Walk: This walk of 4.8 miles follows the river Exe downstream from Exford, climbs up past cultivated fields and rewards you at the top with panoramic views over Exmoor before heading back down through a hidden valley.
Pub: The Virginia creeper covered Exmoor White Horse Inn in Exford (read our review), a 16th century inn with a huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ vibe, crackling fires, lounge, formal dining room and riverside seating.
Walk: Even though the four-mile circular walk is steep at the beginning, it’s worth the effort as England’s largest gorge, with its peaks, crags, circling Peregrine falcons and little white goats seemingly super-glued onto the sheer sides, is flipping impressive.
Pub: The Bath Arms in Cheddar serves up 2 AA rosette winning grub.
The Porlock Hills
Walk: This circular walk, part of the South West Coast Path, is just under five mile long and heads into the woods high above Porlock, past Ash Farm where Samuel Coleridge may have written Kubla Khan, the tiny Culborne Church, the ruins of Lord Byron’s daughter’s gothic mansion with underground tunnels – and spectacular views through the trees.
Pub: Start and finish at the quaint The Bottom Ship Inn, with local ales and simple, well-cooked pub food in the hamlet of Porlock Weir overlooking the Bristol Channel.
Aller Moor, near Wedmore
Walk: A moderate 4.5 mile walk winter walk for bird watchers and dreamers, which starts and finishes in the historic village of Wedmore, will take you onto the other worldly Aller Moor wetlands with its old rhynes (water courses) and wintering birds and waterfowl.
Pub: Fill your boots at gastropub The Swan, in Wedmore.
Black Nore Lighthouse, Portishead
Walk: A circular 2-mile walk along the Portishead to Clevedon coast path to Black Nore Lighthouse – an unusual metal lighthouse built in 1894 to guide vessels on their way in and out of Bristol Harbour – and back.
Pub: Go for pub classics and panoramic views over the Severn Estuary at the The Windmill Inn in Portishead.
Two Tunnels, Midford
Walk: You could do this on foot but it’s a hefty 13 miler, so might be best by bike? The circular route takes in parts of the Kennet & Avon Cycle Route (including the spectacular Tucking Mill Viaduct) and the Colliers Way, linking central Bath, Midford, Monkton Combe and beyond via the Devonshire and Combe Down Tunnels.
Pub: Stop off at the Hope & Anchor, so called as barges on the now defunct Somerset canal used to pull up alongside.
Chard to Wambrook, in the Blackdown Hills
Walk: A beautiful five miles through the stunning, ever undulating scenery of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Pub: The super warm and welcoming Cotley Inn is the perfect place to stop off for a very good field-to-fork lunch or just a drink and a snack.
Hinton Blewett & Litton, the Mendips
Walk: Two short walks (3.5 and 2 miles) or a combo of the two around Hinton Blewitt, Littton, the rolling countryside and reservoirs in north east Mendips Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Pub: A prior winner of Best Destination Pub in the Muddy Stilettos Awards, The Litton (in Litton), has modern British menus, eclectic interiors – plaid banquettes, reindeer hides, suit of armour – and all-year-round outdoor spaces with blankets and fire pits.
Compton Martin & Yeo Valley
Walk: Follow the path of the river Yeo from its source in the centre of the village of Compton Martin, across the valley and over to Blagdon Lake in six-miles.
Pub: Trad village pub Ring ‘o’ Bells in Compton Martin.
Will’s Neck, in the Quantocks
Walk: Another high spot (literally): this one-hour walk takes you to Will’s Neck (but not Will), the highest point in the Quantock Hills. On a good day you can see over to Exmoor and Dunkery Beacon and across Somerset. Wild ponies too.
Pub: Start and finish at The Rising Sun in West Bagborough (where the food’s said to be very good).
Golden Cap, near Seatown
Walk: This circular 4.5 miler starts in Seatown and goes up through woods on Langdon Hill to Golden Cap, the highest point on the South coast, with spectacular coastal views. Don’t blink or you might miss the hamlet of Stanton St Gabriel.
Pub: The Best Pub in the Dorset & Somerset Muddy Stilettos Awards 2021, The Anchor Inn, is down on the pebbly beach in Seatown.
The Melbury Park Estate, Evershot
Walk: An easy four or so miles, with everything you’d expect of a Dorset country estate: a pretty village with thatched cottages, a mansion, rolling grounds, ancient oat trees and loads of cute deer.
Pub: Roaring fires, great food and drink at former 16th century coaching inn The Acorn, which appeared as ‘The Sow & Acorn’ in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
Corfe Common, Corfe Castle
Walk: Discover evidence of the area’s (much) earlier inhabitants on this moderate two-and-a-half hour walk around Corfe Common.
Pub: Enjoy good food and drink at The Greyhound Inn with the iconic castle as a backdrop.
St Aldhelm’s Head, Isle of Purbeck
Walk: This easy walk of just under three miles, mostly across the high plateau of land above St Aldhelm’s Head on the Isle of Purbeck, comes with a 13th century chapel chapel, coastguard lookout and fab views of coastal cliffs.
Pub: Award-winning beers and ciders including home-pressed traditional cider, pasties, pies, live music and sea views at this true Dorset original, The Square & Compass, in nearby Worth Matravers.
Canford Heath, near Poole
Walk: 850 acres of heathland to wander around with views across to Corfe Castle and the Purbecks. A Site of Special Scientific Interest, it’s a special protected conservation area with masses of wildlife.
Pub: Head to the The Canford in Dorset-chic Canford Cliffs for a G&T (it’s known for its gin), beer and seasonal pub classic nosh.
The White Horse & Sutton Poyntz, near Osmington
Walk: Take in the famous white horse cut into the limestone hillside (George III on horseback, since you’re asking), as well as the sea on this four-mile walk which begins and ends in Osmington.
Pub: HQ of French smuggler Pierre Latour and one of the main landing places for smuggled goods in the 17th century, The Smuggler’s Inn, on the cliff top, just outside the village.
Melbury Beacon, near Melbury Abbas
Walk: Enjoy spectacular 360 degree views over the Blackmore Vale, Vale of Wardour and Shaftesbury on this walk of just over two miles over Melbury Down, which was bought in memory of Thomas Hardy, to protect the landscape in which his novels are set.
Pub: The Michelin-listed The Fontmell in nearby Fontmell Magna has managed to successfully combine a fine dining ethos with a friendly, open- fires-and-cosy-corners village pub atmos.
The Shaftesbury Loop
Walk: Starting in the hilltop town with views northwest towards Glastonbury Tor and south to Melbury Hill, the three-mile walk takes you down the famous (super steep) Gold Hill and through country lanes and fields to the chalk downlands and back.
Pub: It’s got to be The Grosvenor Arms, the gorgeous Georgian coaching inn in the heart of Shaftesbury, a stone’s throw from the iconic Gold Hill, for the wood-fired pizzas, pub classics and more.