Pub Rescue: the Britain's Best Updated Pubs with Rooms

Barely a day goes by without a bad new pub story, namely that no one goes to the pub anymore and at least one pub closes it doors every day. Indeed pub closures were recently reported to be up by 51% in 2024, so unfortunately the carnage continues. However, there are a few chinks of light in the darkness, because now and then someone, somewhere, can't bear to see their local pub disappear and does what they can to save it..  The result? A new breed of country inns, fit for the 21st century, with up-to-date contemporary guest rooms, excellent seasonal food based on local ingredients and a feeling that there really is nothing like the British pub!

The Alma Inn, Essex

I must confess that this is one of my favourite pubs in the country, not just for its location, footsteps from the quayside in the heart of old Harwich, but for its total lack of pretension with regard to its quirky rooms and its brilliant food offering – local seafood, fish and chips, succulent steaks. It has 10 rooms upstairs and next door, where owner Nick has just opened a new restaurant. 

The Bell in Ticehurst, East Sussex

Situated in the picturesque village of Ticehurst, amid the beautiful countryside of the Kent-Sussex borders, this pub was rescued by a local visionary who imbued it with a mischievous and contemporary sense of humour, with pillars made of piles of books and tubas in place of urinals, not to mention the eccentrically decorated guest rooms and purpose-built lodges out the back. But above all it remains at heart a proper pub – with a cosy bar, excellent food and good local ales.

The Black Horse, West Sussex

A recent success story, this old smugglers' haunt was recently rescued by the local hotel group Historic Sussex Hotels after having been empty for several years, and what a brilliant job they have done – opening up 7 lovely guest rooms for overnight stays and serving a menu that's bang up-to-date and delicious.  It's very comfy in its own right, but the new ownership means those craving more amenities can pop across to the spa at their Bailiffscourt Hotel, just 2 minutes’ walk away.

The Brackenrigg Inn, Cumbria

Situated high above Ullswater in the Lake District, this old coaching inn was in need of a touch of TLC, and this has been duly delivered by the local hotel, Another Place, The Lake, who have given it a thorough yet sensitive makeover. It has 7 dog-friendly bedrooms with wonderful views, and serves food that goes above and beyond standard pub fare, with an emphasis on local producers and their own kitchen garden. Guests can also enjoy the lakeside restaurants, spa and pool and other activities at the hotel itself, just down the hill.

The Brisley Bell, Norfolk

This is a classic tale of two village people deciding to save their pub – which had been derelict for a couple of years – and turning it into something much more than the sum of its parts. It's  a proper village local, and it serves really good food and drink, but they have also added a handful of rooms in the old flint barns next door, making it into one of the best places to stay for miles around. Come for dinner and stay the night.

Bull, Oxfordshire

Not too many pubs have been done up like this old Burford coaching inn. It boasts no less than 3 restaurants, one of which is Japanese; its walls are decorated with the contemporary art of its owners; and the basement contains a poker table donated by Idris Elba! It also has a set of elegant yet simple guest rooms that are fresh out of a Vermeer painting, yet somehow retains the character and soul of a Cotswolds inn.

The Bull's Head Inn, Herefordshire

A well-restored old drover’s inn, with flagstone floors, a roaring fireplace and a produce-led menu that sources ingredients straight from the farm, you could do worse than spend a few days in this beautifully located Herefordshire pub, situated right on the Wales-England border. The food is terrific, and it's a unique place to stay too, with a set of purpose-built cabins that make cosy hideaways for two close to the rolling hills of Herefordshire and the Brecon Beacons across the border.

The Cartford Inn, Lancashire

A contemporary inn situated in a perfect position on a meander of the river Wyre in deepest rural Lancashire, this old pub had a rather dubious reputation as a place of amorous liaisons and shady dealings, but over a decade ago it as taken over by Anglo-French couple Julie and Patrick Beame, and has grown into a foodie inn like no other. It has a great restaurant, some distinctive and very comfortable guest rooms, and even its own deli and art gallery!

The Cross Keys Inn, Scottish Borders

This landmark pub in the heart of the Scottish Borders was recently brought back to life recently by Rory and Vicki Steel, son and daughter-in-law of the former MP for the area, Lord Steel.  The Steels have long been huge advocates for this part of Scotland, so it's maybe natural that they should take over this old inn,  which now has several updated dog-friendly guest rooms and a downstairs bar that's as cosy and rustic as can be.

The Crown Inn, West Sussex

Originally a 16th-century coaching inn, this cosy country pub was taken years ago by Penny and James Middleton Burn, who have managed to update it without losing any of its innate pubby charm. It has a lovely beamed bar with stone floors and a deserved reputation for high quality food, plus there are 4 beautifully appointed rooms upstairs for you to toddle off to after dinner, as well as a couple of self-catering cottages right next to the pub. And it's dog friendly!

The Crown & Anchor, Wiltshire

This lovely village pub reopened about 5 years ago after doing time as a curry house, and now is everything a village pub should be, with a welcoming bar, a delicious, locally sourced menu, an outside terrace for long summer evenings and and 8 individually furnished en-suite bedrooms. It’s a dog-friendly too – and very handy for country walks in the nearby North Wessex Downs AONB.

The Duncombe Arms, Staffordshire

A decade ago this pub was a sad sight, derelict enough to persuade a local couple of get the place back on its feet. No one could have predicted what a great job they would do, and the Duncombe Ams is now not only a dining pub of some renown but also has some very comfortable guest rooms in a separate building next door. It's well placed for exploring the Peak District, and also just a few minutes’ drive from Alton Towers, making it a great spot for families, walkers and foodies alike.

The Fox at Willian, Hertfordshire

Part of the excellent Anglia Country Inns group,  this revamped pub does everything a country inn should do: it has a set of very inviting guest rooms, recently decorated in contemporary style; it serves moderately priced, high quality food and it's not a bad place to pop into for a drink either. They also saved the village shop, making this a pub that's right at the heart of its community. But it's also very handy for exhausted folk from London who don't want to travel far recharge their batteries at the weekend.

The Fuzzy Duck, Oxfordshire

The Fuzzy Duck was rescued back in 2013, when toiletries entrepreneur Tania Fossey took over her local pub in the appealing Warwickshire village of Armscote near Stratford-upon-Avon and transformed it into an elegant venue for food and rooms. There's a local,  seasonal menu and 4 very desirable bedrooms  upstairs, all named after ducks, with big beds, fine linen - and a host of Tania's own Baylis & Harding toiletries of course.

The Gin Trap Inn, Norfolk

Just a mile away from some of the most popular parts of the North Norfolk Coast, this is another ancient inn that has been revitalised by a stalwart of contemporary hospitality, in this case David Lamyman, who ran a group of bars Down Under before relocating to Norfolk and gussying up this place as a comfortable inn with top-end dining. It gained 3 AA rosettes recently, and the food is a delightful choice between beautifully crafted pub grub and some very refined dishes indeed. It also has a dozen cosy bedrooms for overnight stays, and a couple of 2-bedroom cottages for self-catering.

The Guinness Arms, Suffolk

Part of the Guinness-owned Elveden Estate, this place was renovated a couple of years ago and has been quite a success, with a big, easy-going dining room with a crowd-pleasing menu and  some very comfortable guest rooms in various outbuildings. It's a handy place to stay for the walks and cycle paths  of nearby Thetford Forest, and each room is cleverly styled after a member of the Guinness family. Alec’s room is naturally full of actorish memorabilia, while Lulu’s room was created by the fashion designer herself and has a hand-painted mural and a gorgeous four-poster bed.

The Leicester Arms, Kent

Situated among the green hills and leafy valleys of Kent's High Weald, you can't do much better than the Leicester Arms, an iconic old inn that's been recently transformed into a very comfortable country pub with rooms and excellent food. It's right opposite the country house of Penshurst Place and within a few minutes of Hever Castle, Chartwell and more idyllic country walks than you can shake your walking canes at. Add in the pub's very comfortable individually styled en-suite rooms, and you have a winning formula for a stress-free weekend in the country.

The Loddon Swan, Norfolk

It's neither a boutique inn nor a gastropub, but The Swan makes a pretty good stab at both, delivering a combination of good food and comfortable rooms in a beautiful part of the Norfolk Broads National Park. The interior is stripped-down and bright but has lots of pubby character and tail-wagging dogs. Situated in the pleasant riverside village of Loddon, it's well placed for boating, walking and cycling and also attracts a crowd from further afield for its excellent food.

The New Inn, Herefordshire

When the new owners bought The New Inn 5 years ago, it was in need of some TLC, but they gave this 16th-century coaching inn a new lease of life, with a winning combination of chic rooms and fabulous food. Set in scenic Herefordshire countryside just outside Ross-on-Wye, it has  3 tastefully decorated guest  rooms and its three AA Rosette restaurant serves first-rate food with a strong emphasis on local produce and seasonality.

The Old Crown, Oxfordshire

Nestled on the edge of the Cotswolds, this revamped coaching inn sits in the middle of the slightly off-the-map small town of Faringdon and as such is a relatively affordable place to stay in what is often not a very affordable region, It has a focus on food, with a AA 2 rosette restaurant, plus a set of comfortable guest rooms that have recently been updated. Dating back to 1550, the property provides a little slice of history and is the ideal base for those wanting to explore this scenic corner of Oxfordshire.

The Red Lion, Hampshire

A stylish yet historic pub with a buzzy vibe, the Red Lion, bang on Odiham's attractive High Street, as brought up to date by local operator New Dawn Pubs and now has impressive accommodation and a menu to match. Dating back to the 17th century, it serves cracking locally-sourced food and drinks to both overnight guests and locals, and also has 7 beautiful boutique double (or twin) bedrooms to entice you for an overnight stay.

Sculthorpe Mill, Norfolk

Despite the fact that it was voted Sunday Times' ‘Best Hotel in East Anglia’ in 2021 and serves tremendous food, the two sisters who bought this place a few years ago insist on it being called a pub, and who are we to argue?  Whatever it is, it's in an idyllic location, tucked away by a trickle of the river Wensum, yet is only a short drive from the market town of Fakenham and a quarter of an hour from Wells-next-the-Sea and Holkham Beach, where you can pick up the scenic coast path.They have a garden that's perfect for summertime eating and imbibing plus 7 vibrant en-suite bedrooms.

The Standard Inn, East Sussex

Re-opened a decade ago, this Rye pub with rooms offers good cheer and a welcome the moment you walk through the door. Basically a a successful revamp of what was a rather tired but popular old pub, they’ve retained the affection of the local drinkers while heaving the place into the 21st century.

The Three Blackbirds, Cambridgeshire

Situated in a pretty village just outside Newmarket, it's third time lucky for this cosy Suffolk pub, which was refurbished before suffering a devastating fire in 2019. It has since come back even better and stronger, reopening a few years ago to a local community that were glad to have their village pub back. Not only that, they have added 9 guest rooms in an adjacent barn, and they serve excellent food, making it one of the best places to stay in an area generally short on good accommodation.

The White Hart Inn, Essex

Of all the pubs in this piece, this one was probably empty the longest – the best part of a decade in fact, until local entrepreneur Piers Baker did it up with the help of the brewery. Now celebrating its second anniversary, it's unrecognisable from the inn that was here before, but it's extremely respectful of the footsteps it is following in, with an emphasis on good food and service and welcoming, comfortable rooms whose names echo the pub's long and illustrious past. Its weatherboard cladding imparts a certain New England charm, while inside the spacious restaurant is the epitome of coastal cool.

What Customers say about Cool Places

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