Photograph by T.M.O.Travel/Alamy
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The Lord Nelson in Southwold, Suffolk, England, is a popular coastal pub.

Photograph by T.M.O.Travel/Alamy

Top 10 English Pubs

Enjoy the real experience of England—a cozy pub, a pint of good bitter ale to sip, a convivial atmosphere to enjoy, and in more and more cases a plate of wholesome food to tuck into.

From the National Geographic book Food Journeys of a Lifetime

The Betjeman Arms, St. Pancras, London
Whether you want a last pint before zooming beneath the Channel to France or Belgium, or a first taste of the best of British ale, hasten along to The Betjeman Arms, a comfortable pub in St. Pancras Station, home of Eurostar. Part “gastro” (good food) and part pub (good beer), this is a highly successful modern take on the railroad pubs of old. Planning: Opening hours: 10 a.m.–11 p.m.

The Royal Oak, Borough, London
Situated close to the spot where the Tabard Inn in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales supposedly stood, this pub has its own pilgrims, who come to contemplate the magnificent beers of Sussex brewer, Harveys. Keeping alive the traditions of London pub life, it is a good place for that time-honored pub activity: conversation. Planning: Opening hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m., weekdays; 12 p.m.–11 p.m., Saturdays; 12–6 p.m., Sundays.

The Bricklayer’s Arms, Putney, London
This compact Victorian gem—with wooden floors, old photos on the walls, and a central bar—lies hidden away down a small cul-de-sac not far from the Thames. Run by former actress Becky Newman, it is a showcase for Timothy Taylor’s range of pristine Yorkshire ales. There are also guest ales, occasional beer festivals, and delicious food in the evenings. Planning: Opening hours: 12–11 p.m.; 12–10:30 p.m., Sundays.

The Thatchers Arms, Mount Bures, Essex
Sitting atop a ridge, The Thatchers Arms overlooks the Stour and Colne valleys, beloved of the locally born landscape painter John Constable. This is also excellent walking country, and The Thatchers Arms is an ideal place to relax after a ramble. Order a plate of traditional pub food, such as bangers and mash, and wash it down with a pint of local Brewers Gold. Planning: Opening hours: 12–3 p.m., 6–11 p.m., weekdays (closed Mondays); 12–11 p.m., weekends.

The Anchor, Walberswick, Suffolk
Walberswick is everyone’s idea of an English country village, in which The Anchor presents its own distinctive style. A prime example of 1920s’ “Tudorbethan” architecture, it has a bright two-roomed bar, while a sea-facing terrace offers space for alfresco eating and drinking. Plump down for Adnams’ real ales, a tremendous wine list, and a superb menu featuring locally sourced ingredients. Planning: Opening hours: 11 a.m.–4 p.m., 6–11 p.m., weekdays; 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Saturdays; 12–11 p.m., Sundays.

The Lord Nelson Inn, Southwold, Suffolk
Dedicated students of the local Adnams’ ales make a beeline for this cozy coastal pub when visiting the seaside gem of Southwold. The peerless Bitter and more assertive Broadside are brewed around the corner, and time spent studying them inside or in the small back garden is time well spent. Planning: Opening hours: 10:30 a.m.–11 p.m., weekdays; 12–10:30 p.m., Sundays.

The Cambridge Blue, Cambridge
Located on a street of terraced houses, about a mile from the city center, the two-roomed Cambridge Blue has plain but comfortable decor (stripped wood floorboards), with a light and airy conservatory at the back. More than a dozen real ales add to the delightful atmosphere. Planning: Opening hours: 12–2:30 p.m., 5:30–11 p.m., weekdays; 12–11 p.m., Saturdays; 12–10:30 p.m., Sundays.

Canal House, Nottingham
This lively city pub is housed in a redbrick former wharf building on a stretch of Nottingham’s canal basin. A canal actually passes through its spacious post-industrial interior. Unsurprisingly, this is the only pub in the U.K. where you can see such a thing. Back on dry land, be tempted by real ales from local brewery Castle Rock and hearty helpings of good pub food. Planning: Opening hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m.; 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Sundays.

The Royal Oak, Prestbury, Cheltenham
It is a short gallop to Cheltenham racecourse from The Royal Oak in Prestbury. This 16th-century, honey-color, Cotswold stone pub hums with activity on race days, but at other times there is plenty to tickle the fancy of the non-sporting type. Sample Taylor’s Landlord, along with other local ales. The pub also holds sausage and beer festivals and celebrations of oyster and stout. Planning: Opening hours: 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., 5:30–11 p.m.; 12–10:30 p.m., Sundays.

Old Green Tree, Bath
Bath offers a wonderful selection of pubs but few as comfortable as the Old Green Tree, tucked away on a busy side street in the center of the city. Visit this unspoiled 300-year-old building after a sightseeing or shopping spree. In the trio of wood-paneled rooms off its main bar, you will find a good place to recover from your exertions with a splendid choice of West Country real ales. Planning: Opening hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m.; 12–10:30 p.m., Sundays.