THE BAY HOTEL
With the sea lapping at the cobbled slipway fifteen feet below and the fishing boats twinkling out in the darkness beyond you’ll find few better places to be on a sharp night than by the fire in The Bay Hotel‘s small upper bar. A slight smokiness fills the air and on an average night you’ll almost have the bar to yourself after 10. Which means you’ll also get the fire all to yourself.
The Bay Hotel – Adam Bruderer
THE MERMAID INN
One of the most historic inns in Britain, The Mermaid has hosted Tudor monarchs, infamous smuggling gangs and visiting Hollywood royalty in its many years of existence. Most impressive of all is the beam across the massive fireplace, which is believed to have come from a ship destroyed during the sinking of the Armada. The fire grill is so large it carries logs the size of boulders, so you can assure the chills will be kept at bay.
Mermaid Inn lounge by Tony Hisgett
THE HOLLY BUSH
The appropriately wintery Holly Bush is just up a small road two minutes from Hampstead tube station, but once you’ve walked inside and been hit by the fantastic atmosphere you’ll think you’re in the middle of the countryside. It’s unique in that it’s very unlike most of modern London, with a community feel and genuinely local locals. A regular reports ‘The Holly Bush was run by a Scouser for years who was famous for his late night lock-ins, when the guitars would come out and a few well known locals would have sing-alongs ’til the small hours.” Get there early, it’s very, very popular.
Holly Bush sign by Matt Brown
THE STAR INN
‘No games machines, no music, no pool table and no cordon bleu food menu..’ On the surface, The Star sounds like it could be the most boring pub in Britain, but it’s actually a dazzling breath of fresh air that kicks the behind of many modern ‘gastro’ and ‘fusion’ establishments around the country. The beauty is all in the basics and hark back to the fundamentals of what pubs are really all about – great beer, good chat and friendly people. One regular described this to us as ‘The perfect winter pub; 16th century, big open fireplace, small cosy oak-panelled rooms, and they serve Bellringer Real Ale by the jug. There’s no loud music, no TV and one extremely friendly black cat which sits by the fire.‘ Heaven.
This smashing vintage pub is at the heart of the Kent town’s recent and rather well-publicised rejuvenation, serving up an excellent array of ales and all the classic fare (namely, pies and puddings) one could ask for. Margate based novelist and patron, David Whitehouse, tells us “It only sells drinks you’ve never heard of out of barrels that look like they’ve been there forever. Has a huge fire and musicians who turn up with full bands, despite the pub being the size of a living room. It’s great.” Be assured that The Lifeboat will rescue you from the sea of run-of-the-mill chain restaurants located nearby.
The Lifeboat by JJ Hall
THE BRICKLAYER’S ARMS
Impressive fireplace? Tick. Fire licking away from the logs? Tick. Wrought iron fire guard? Tick. Matching horse brasses? Tick. Huge bellows to keep the fire roaring? Tick. Brass coal bucket? Tick. First pint of the night? Tick. If you can find it, this peaceful inn in East Riding truly does check all the boxes.
THE DROVERS INN
More than three centuries of Scottish hospitality have gone into creating this stalwart stone lodge, rumoured to be a favourite of Rob Roy, on the sloping shores of Loch Lomond; and it shows. For every one of its years, it seems The Drovers has added something to its ever growing list of charming quirks – from ghost stories to grizzlies. Our eyewitness gives this account, “It doesn’t look like it’s been decorated since 1705 when it was built. On walking in you’re greeted by a stuffed bear, a taxidermied shark and a two-headed lamb. Turn left into the bar to be greeted by an equally formidable fireplace blazing away.”
The Drover’s Inn fireplace c/o The Drover’s Inn
THE TAN HILL INN
When you rightfully claim to be Britain’s highest pub (at 528m above sea level) you’ve got to make sure you have everything the passerby or avid pub spotter needs. Thankfully, The Tan Hill Inn delivers in terms of anything you could ever desire, including food, lodgings, ale, its own snow mobile and, of course, a roaring fire at its heart. Naturally, such a location is a magnet to the great and the good as they pass by. Top Gear‘s own Richard Hammond dropped in whilst filming the last Clarkson episode that was never broadcast and The Arctic Monkeys and British Sea Power have also made their way here on certain occasions. Rest assured you’ll always be in good company – famous or otherwise, when you drop in.
Tan Hill Inn bar c/o The Tan Hill Inn
THE KING’S HEAD
This family run, traditional stone tavern has been voted one of the top ten pubs in Britain by The Sunday Times, which should go some way as to convincing you to give it, at least, the once over. Standing guard before a humpback bridge in the rolling Dales, The King’s Head seems to defy expectations, with its award-winning food, boutique hotel level bedrooms and fantastically grand-looking fireplace. Currently under construction is an outdoor area for furrier, four-legged visitors. This addition to our list strongly suggests that Yorkshire may just be the finest area in the country for top notch pubs with open fires.
The King’s Head c/o The King’s Head
THE JUNCTION INN
A no-nonsense pub in a town that’s full of them, but by far a stand out. Otley is one of those places that regularly declares that it has more pubs per square foot than anywhere else in the UK, so you’ll know any recommendation by name comes high in the rankings, especially when visitors call The Junction ‘one of the best real ale pubs in Yorkshire.‘ They don’t serve food, they don’t have a TV blaring out soap operas or footie matches, but you can prop yourself up by the bar and enjoy the simple pleasures of a cold stone floor and a hot wood fire.
Pumps at The Junction c/o The Junction Inn
GEORGE & DRAGON
The crackling hearth dominates the bar in this sizeable black and white timbered 13th Century pub, bathing the building in flickering light and imbuing it with a rich smoky atmosphere. G&D is renowned (even outside its own county) for its superior restaurant quality food, and the chefs source all their ingredients from local suppliers and farms where possible. A cracking centre-piece to the chocolate box like village that surrounds it.
G&D in winter c/o George & Dragon
Featured image – Ben W