After a year of lockdowns, tiers, quarantining and social distancing, for a lot of people out there you could put a pub bench in a supermarket car park and as long as there was a glass of cold, draught alcohol, they’d drink it and thank you for the privilege.
At Ape we consider ourselves a little more refined. And when it comes to British beer gardens and outdoor drinking spaces, we know a few. Rather than provide an exhaustive list, we’ve gone for our favourites – the places we’ve always enjoyed popping into when we can. Whether you’re having a pint, a G&T or a soda-lime, if you’re in the area be sure to check them out.
Key West, Bournemouth
It’s all about the backdrop at Key West. It’s the best panoramic view in town (without getting wet) and on a hot, sunny day the mix of refreshing sea air, a few drinks and a spot of pub grub make for a relaxing combination.
With a solid selection of draught beers on offer as well as cocktail deals and a no-frills but substantial food offering, it’s the exact opposite of being stuck in a flat for 12 months staring at four walls and that’s why we absolutely adore it.
Pier Approach, Bournemouth, BH2 5AA
Cold Town House, Edinburgh
Beer and views, that’s what you’re at Cold Town House for. It can be touristy, it can sometimes feel like sardines in a tin, and it can be hip. But sitting in a world-beating spot at the foot of Edinburgh Castle as afternoon turns to night is the stuff of dreams and for us there’s few better spots to nurse a pint in the Scottish capital.
The house draught beers are great, there’s excitement in the house craft cans and if you’re into luminous cocktails you’re in for a treat. That view though… sip and swoon.
4 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2JU
The Gurnard’s Head, Zennor, Cornwall
A former coaching inn that dates back to the 1800s is always a welcome introduction for any drinking establishment, and The Gurnard’s Head really is a special place. Sticking out like a bright, yellow, wonderfully homely thumb with the Penwith Moors on one side and the rugged Atlantic coast on the other, it’s very much a side of awe, wonder and inspirational beauty with your pint and crisps.
With an attitude to beer curation akin to a wine sommelier, and an attitude to wine that’s akin to two wine sommeliers having a party, it’s the sort of place you drive past and wish your car would break down.
Zennor, Saint Ives, TR26 3DE
Topsham Brewery & Taproom, Exeter
Exeter locals will speak fondly of Topsham Brewery & Taproom fondly, and rightly so. Sat alongside the city’s canal basin with the taproom almost hidden away in a rustic stone warehouse, the spacious beer garden next door is a great space to sup and watch the world go by.
As is the case with taprooms of Topsham’s calibre, a selection of excellent beverages awaits enthusiastic samplers. Expect seasonal, small-batch beers with something for every taste.
1 Haven Rd, Exeter, EX2 8GR
Rising Sun, Pensford
Listen, people will tell you that it was Union Jack radio that crowned The Rising Sun in Pensford near Bristol the best pub garden in Britain, but it’s been near the top of our list for years. For one, there’s a great big viaduct next to it, which always helps, providing a dreamy background to any lazy Saturday beer and crisps vignette.
It’s also spacious, dog friendly and the staff are always a delight.
Church St, Pensford, Bristol, BS39 4AQ
The Free Trade Inn, Newcastle
As you can probably tell, we like a view with our pint and at the The Free Trade Inn in Newcastle there’s plenty to look at. Perched atop a bend on the River Tyne, with the city’s riverside skyline rolling out into the distance, it’s a great place to spend a sunny day when visiting the city.
The drinks menu is robust with real ales and a rotating and enjoyably surprising selection of craft cans on offer as well as standard-issue tipples. A paradise for those who like to take a picture.
12 St Lawrence Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 1AP
The Eagle & Child, Ramsbottom
At its high-summer peak, the garden at The Eagle & Child is a place of pure unbridled energy. The kitchen garden which supports the pub’s edible endeavours is literally abuzz with activity as bees hop from flower to flower, butterflies flutter along on the breeze and the aroma of herbs and greenery hangs in the air.
Add a flock of friendly drinkers, that sun-trap quality and a great selection on tap and there’s few places that rival it for the picture-perfect beer garden. Child and animal friendly, did we mention there’s also amazing views of the surrounding moors?
3 Whalley Rd, Ramsbottom, Bury, BL0 0DL
The Inn at Whitewell, Lancashire
More of a lunch and dinner spot than a beer garden per se but honestly, there’s fewer picturesque spots to drink a pint. It’s like something from an Enid Blyton novel or a Wordsworth poem. Perched on a bend of the River Hodder, very little for miles around with views of grassy fields and magnificent trees, it’s quintessential rural England at its finest.
The food is phenomenal, backed by an impressive wine menu, and the pints aren’t half bad either. A real gem – get there early before lunch for a seat and bask in what feels like a picture postcard.
Forest of Bowland, Lancashire, Clitheroe, BB7 3AT
The Bell at Skenfrith, Abergavenny
Another idyllic riverside spot with rural charm and a cracking menu. The Bell is as enticing as pub gardens get, with valley surrounds and an ancient stone bridge to gaze upon (paddling in the nearby river is also difficult to resist).
Choose between terrace, garden or orchard and revel in Welsh excellence. Regularly topping industry lists, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome from attentive and friendly staff.
Skenfrith, NP7 8UH
Ben Nevis Inn, Fort William
Does what it says on the tin really. As they put it themselves, “the wee inn at the foot of the Ben”. Sat on that very spot for 200 years, it’s exactly the sort of place you’d want to walk into after a trek down a mountain. For the faint-hearted it’s even better – you can order the local pint and look up at it without even breaking a sweat.
Key to the Ben Nevis Inn is excellent locally-sourced food, a warm welcome and an excellent spot out back to soak up glorious surroundings.
Achintee Rd, Achintee, Fort William, PH33 6TE