Picture this: a hot summer’s day, a cold glass of ginger beer and a plate of home-cooked-ham sandwiches, with your horse cropping the grass only yards away. An idyllic scene. There’s no better way to work up an appetite than by riding to lunch, but not every establishment is geared to sheltering a large hairy beast in place of a car. Fortunately, there are still several horse-friendly pubs around the country with the necessary hitching rails, water buckets and patch of grass away from traffic, and you might even get some carrots if you’re lucky.
A favourite with agricultural students and polo players, The Bell at Sapperton, Gloucestershire, has ‘horse parking’, traditional food (with homemade bread) and freshly ground coffee, all set in glorious Cotswold countryside between Cirencester and Tetbury in Gloucestershire. But then, this is a particularly horsey area: the Old Royal Ship, in Luckington, Wiltshire, is a favourite with Beaufort followers seeking a pint on a sunny day and the New Inn at Waterly Bottom, in North Nibley, Gloucestershire, has a shaded tethering bar and an outdoor tap all ready to receive tired steeds.
In the heart of the Gower Peninsula, in Wales, the hitching post at the King Arthur Hotel in Higher Green, Reynoldston, is frequently decorated with lead ropes. There’s a hose for filling buckets or washing off sand from the four-mile-long Rhossili Beach a few miles away—plus a cosy pub with a good selection of grill and sandwich favourites. In Pembrokeshire, the airy heights of the Preseli Mountains can be reached from the Tafarn Sinc in Rosebush, the highest pub in the county, which serves freshly prepared local produce.
As befits a pub set in prime Exmoor hunting country, the Crown Hotel at Exford has a stable yard and hitching posts galore, plus an award-winning restaurant. The surrounding moors are sufficient temptation to tear yourself away from lunch, too, but overnight stays can be arranged if you can’t.
The South East of England
Muddy boots are almost de rigueur at the Stag Inn at Balls Cross, Petworth in West Sussex, where members of the local hunt, equine and human, are frequent visitors — log fires, award-winning ales and traditional British dishes are a strong draw. If you eat too much at the Fighting Cocks at Godshill in the New Forest, Hampshire, where the menu includes New Forest venison, rabbit and pheasant, there’s a mounting block to help you up, as well as a hitching rail and tap.
The Midlands and the North
A shaded area with tying-up rings marked ‘Horses’, plus a mounting block, stand ready at the Curzon Arms, in Woodhouse Eaves, Leicestershire — as does the traditional bar serving real ales, the beer garden and the terrace where you can enjoy some excellent pub classics. Over in Yorkshire, the newly refurbished Malt Shovel in Harden welcomes people arriving on all modes of transport, with a hitching rail and water trough for the equine variety. They have well-made British dishes, great ales and even a history room that gives you the lowdown on the Malt and the surrounding area.
In the east, there’s room for plenty of (well-behaved) horses at the Stag in West Acre, Norfolk, which has great food, real ale on tap and an abundance of bridleways nearby.
Wherever you go, don’t forget a head collar, and make sure you leave no evidence of your horse’s presence behind, to ensure a warm welcome the next time you settle down to enjoy a perfect day out with the horses.
Main image: The King Arthur Hotel by Grafic House, courtesy of the King Arthur Hotel