The UK’s 12 best trail running pubs

Just completed the monster of all runs in a beautiful part of the countryside? You might be in serious need of refreshment..

a pub in the countryside

by Paul Larkins |
Updated on

There’s an unwritten rule in trail running. It refers to the symbiotic link between the trails and a good, hearty pub. You might not find it in any training guide or rule book around, but that doesn't negate its importance. After all, we all know the first rule of Fight Club...

You’ve done the research and bought yourself some all-singing, all-dancing, amazingly grippy trail shoes. Your kit's as breathable as it comes; warm base layers, water-resistant run jackets, and allows you to move comfortably at pace.

You’ve done the training. You’ve mapped the course – indeed you’ve run the route and taken in some amazing scenery and conquered some incredible hills. And now that unwritten rule comes into play.

You may not be aware, but it is in fact a requirement of your epic run that you celebrate with a pint in the most picturesque pub, in the most amazing trail running-friendly spot imaginable. Well, allow us to point you in the right direction. The Trail Running team have grouped together on this one to share our favourite running pubs of all time.

1. The Victoria Inn, Snowdonia

There aren’t many places that conjure a ferny atmosphere better than the valley of the Afon Artro, which makes the short journey from Snowdonia’s Rhinog range to the sea. On its way its waters are augmented by the equally enchanting Afon Cwmnantcol, and together they chuckle past the beer garden of the Victoria Inn in the small village of Llanbedr.

It is a positively paradisal backdrop thanks to the broadleaved woods that lie all around or on the rocky, remote-feeling hills that lie beyond. A few gated lanes make it a pain to drive but a wonderful place to wander, discovering grand views of the Rhinogs, out to sea or away to distant Snowdon and the Lleyn Peninsula.

2. The Cluanie Inn, Highlands

Cluanie Inn

This Glen Shiel inn is an institution among Munro baggers – runners keen to reach all 282 Scottish summits over 3000 feet – because it’s a brilliant basecamp for ticking off a lot of peaks on the route.

From the door of The Cluanie Inn you can reach the South Glen Shiel Ridge and bag seven Munros in one (very long!) day. Across the glen you can tick off another nine, hitting three a day on the Five Sisters of Kintail, the Brothers Ridge, and a loop over Sgùrr nan Conbhairean, Càrn Ghluasaid and Sàil Chaorainn.

3. Cat & Fiddle, Macclesfield

the cat and fiddle in macclesfield
©Visit Cheshire

The Cat and Fiddle Inn is the second-highest public house in England and is the perfect spot for a morning’s trail running through the ferns, and over rolling hills. We know because we’ve done it! Your route choice is limitless but if you fancy an easy seven-miler try the clearly marked Shining Tor Goyt Valley circular seven.

The first half of the route up to Shining Tor and Cats Tor covers wild, open moorland, with huge views of Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and into Wales. The second half to Foxlow Edge and Errwood Hall takes in beautiful woodland, riverside trails, and historic ruins.

4. The Black Lion, Peak District

The outstanding Peak District has miles of quiet country mild moors and leafy lanes for you to discover. And when you’re there, make sure you cross Butterton Moor – a stretch of open country said to be patrolled by a headless horseman.

It'll lead you to the Black Lion Inn, a charming old stone pub truly grounded in its surroundings. It’s run by welcoming husband-and-wife team Matt and Hannah.

5. The Royal Oak, Shropshire Hills

Royal Oak Cardington

The Royal Oak is one of the oldest pubs in the country – certainly the oldest in Shropshire – and a rambling, hobbity place where good cheer and good beer have been served since the 1400s.

What better way to spend a day than amid the lofty heights of the Shropshire Hills followed by the woodsmokey nooks of a pub that has felt the tread of centuries of travellers’ boots?

6. The Star, Northumberland

Star Inn Harbottle

After a day running deep into the billowy Cheviot Hills, check into the recently refurbished Star Inn to relax in one of their snug armchairs. For an easy pre-pint run, there’s a four-miler up to the Drake Stone and Harbottle Lake.

7. The Green Dragon, Yorkshire Dales

Behind the Green Dragon pub is a magnificent, wooded gorge which narrows to a rock wall, down which Hardraw Force plunges a full 100ft into a pool below.

A visit here is the crowning glory of pretty much any run in the western end of Wensleydale, especially the routes from Hawes. The Pennine Way runs past it, too – one of the finest stretches, in fact – the epic climb over Great Shunner Fell to (or from) Muker in parallel Swaledale.

8. The Bell, Monmouthshire

The Bell sits on the bank of the River Monnow at Skenfrith, a few miles east of the Brecon Beacons National Park boundary and happily a bit off the beaten track.

The surrounding Monmouthshire countryside is glorious: impossibly green fields wrap over contours just steep enough to work up a thirst, while a short jog around the ruins of Skenfrith Castle will whisk you back 900 years.

9. The Cross Keys, Howgills

This place is confusing. It’s in Cumbria, but part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s a pub, but it doesn’t sell booze. The Cross Keys is a temperance inn, serving sarsaparilla, or dandelion and burdock, instead of ale (although you are allowed to bring your own).

Now owned by the National Trust, it’s bright and white outside, and cosily gloomy within, with dark beams, shelves of curios, and an open fire if the weather turns.

And it has outdoors pedigree. Guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright used to tuck into ham and eggs (still a favourite on the menu) in the sunroom at the back and he included a sketch of it in Walks on the Howgill Fells.

Views from the garden lift rapidly into the cushiony contours of those hills, streaked by the whitewater of Cautley Spout (pictured), England’s tallest above ground waterfall.

10. The Half Moon, South Downs

Half Moon Inn

Climb up on to the South Downs, which nudge close to The Half Moon, and you’ll spot the distinctive stripes of vineyards tucked into the foot of the baize-turfed hills. Views stretch long over the Weald to the north, and south towards the Channel, while summer wildflowers daub the nearer ground, drawing the flutter of rare butterflies.

11. The Hunter’s Inn, Exmoor

Hunters Inn

It’s very hard to think of a place where the pub and the landscape are so perfectly interlocked as here at Heddon’s Mouth Cleave, where Exmoor meets the must-run route of the South West Coast Path.

The Hunter’s Inn is the only building in all of this tree-fringed, steep-sided valley. Slightly further away are the Valley of Rocks, Lynmouth or the immense cliffs of Great and Little Hangman.

12. The Kirkstile Inn, Lake District

the kirkstile inn
©The Kirkstile Inn

If you don’t believe the Lake District has quiet bits, come to the Kirkstile. Nestled in the north-western corner of the national park, there’s so much to love here.

The area boasts two gorgeous lakes – Loweswater to the north-west and Crummock Water to the south; fascinating and less-explored fells like Fellbarrow, Mellbreak and Grasmoor; and proud heritage: writer, photographer and climbing pioneer Walter Poucher loved it here.

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