Things to see and do | Food & drink | Top 10 best beer gardens

Top 10 best beer gardens

Summer drinking at its best

What better way to celebrate the start of summer than with a golden draft or two in a sun-drenched beer garden? We select a bevy of Britain's best.

The Ship, Noss Mayo

Scrumptiously set in one of the prettiest villages in Devon, The Ship Inn, Noss Mayo garden sits surveying the town quay. The view takes in bobbing boats, hungrily circling seagulls and a gentle estuary bordered by forested hilltops. If you arrive by boat you can tie up outside. The food is excellent and the beers are well kept.

The Pandora Inn, Restronguet Creek

The medieval Pandora Inn dates back to the 13th century and perches in a prime spot overlooking romantic Restronguet Creek. Drinkers and diners can sit on the patio outside or further over the water on a floating pontoon. Tuck into fresh crab, watch boaters footle about on the creek and marinate yourself in real ale and historic charm.

Three Horseshoes, Elsted

This 16th-century treasure lying at the foot of the South Downs has a garden ripe with roses and other perfumed blooms. The views from Three Horseshoes stretch for miles over emerald fields and gentle hills and there are great local walks. On sunny days it's best to arrive early to grab a good spot.

The Bell, Aldworth

The Bell is everything you could hope for in an English village pub. The interior is creaky and quirky and excellently kept ales are joined by guest brews. But it's the quiet, old-fashioned cottagey garden, evoking a gentler England, that's the draw here. It's by the village cricket ground, and behind the pub there's a paddock with farm animals. In summer, you might be treated to the occasional Morris dancer.

The Windsor Castle, Kensington

This characterful pub is rightly known for having one of the best beer gardens in London. Enclosed by lofty, ivy-cloaked houses, The Windsor Castle feels protected and removed from London's chaotic rattle and a handsome Plane tree gives welcome shade. Inside, tiny interconnecting rooms radiate genuine Victorian charm. The bones of Thomas Paine are said to be buried in the cellar, after his son sold them to the landlord to settle a beer debt.

Applecross Inn, Applecross

This remote, waterside pub is worth seeking out for its cracking views across to the Isle of Skye. To get there you'll also take in some terrific scenery either over the hair-raising Pass of the Cattle (Beallach na Ba) or along the single-track lane winding round the coast from just south of Shieldaig. As you'd hope, the Applecross Inn serves some excellent seafood. Devour oysters or lobster, drink in the view of Skye's jagged Cuillin Hills and wash it all down with a warming whisky.

Tarr Farm, Tarr

Set in its own 40 acres, 16th-century Tarr Farm Inn sits just above Tarr Steps and the River Barle and to say it has a great garden wouldn't really do it justice. From outside the Inn, the whole of Exmoor National Park unfolds beckoning with wooded valleys, open moorland and the much-photographed, prehistoric Tarr Steps.

King's Head, Wadenhoe

Not to be missed this summer, the stone-built King's Head is a 16th-century inn in a wonderful spot with seating in a grassy paddock sloping gently towards the River Nene. Serious ale fans won't be disappointed and fine cask-conditioned beers include their own King's Head Bitter. Grab a seat under the shade of a willow and watch the Nene slide lazily by. If you arrive by boat you can moor up for free.

Inn at Whitewell, Whitewell

The Inn at Whitewell is a former Victorian deer-keeper's lodge that must have one of the most perfect settings in Britain. From the terrace the graceful fells of the Forest of Bowland sweep into the distance with the River Hodder streaking silver on the valley floor below. If you can tear yourself from this veritable postcard, you can fish the river or walk. We'd rather sup an expertly made gin and tonic and drink in the view.

Square and Compass, Worth Maltravers

For sheer English eccentricity, this one's hard to beat. The Square and Compass has its own fossil museum and holds events from pumpkin carving festivals to stone masonry workshops. It was a local quarrymen's pub and still retains an odd assortment of roughly hewn stones, some of which act as seating in the sunny garden. From here a grassy slope descends to the village and down to the sea beyond. A lovely setting to sup a homemade cider.

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