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With super-stylish interiors, The Packhorse Inn may look pristine, but it’s still a pub at heart – albeit a very smart gastropub. The culinary talent in the kitchen delivers innovative menus that focus on local ingredients – the Suffolk lamb has to be tried. The eight chic rooms – named after local hills and rivers – have transformed the place into a cool country inn within easy reach of the tech powerhouse that’s the ancient university town of Cambridge.
Inn-side scoop: The Primrose room has a truly luxurious bathroom.
Rooms from £100 per night, bed and breakfast
Set in an idyllic village deep in Constable country, this cosy 15th-century coaching inn oozes character and charm, with beamed ceilings, black timbers and open fireplaces. It prides itself on serving local beers and ales (try the Crouch Vale Brewery’s Brewers Gold) and its smart, rural-chic bedrooms – some of which have four-poster beds – are contemporary and elegant.
Inn-side scoop: Order a bottle of Gavi di Tassarolo and kick off a memorable meal with a plate of homemade antipasti from the Italian-inspired menu.
Rooms from £145 per night, bed and breakfast
Rescued from closure and revamped in 2013, The Milk House has a relaxed vibe, crowd-pleasing menus that champion local producers, and an outdoor terrace with its own wood-fired pizza oven. The four spacious bedrooms upstairs take their design cue from the venue, with a milky colour palette and names such as ‘Dairy’ and ‘Buttery’. Book ‘Byre’ for its freestanding bathtub with views of the village and surrounding orchards.
Inn-side scoop: Stroll through bluebell woods to the celebrated Sissinghurst Castle Garden.
Rooms from £80 per night, bed and breakfast
Tucked away in the quaint and historic village of Fletching on the South Downs (pictured), there are plenty of nods to the Griffin’s 16th-century origins in its décor, with wooden beams, real log fires and nary a straight line in sight. The emphasis here is on local produce, so make sure you order a Sussex ale at the bar or tuck into Sussex beef fillet at dinner. The 13 bedrooms are rustic, with a soft colour palette, freestanding Victorian bathtubs and handmade soaps – the perfect retreat after a blustery hike on the Downs.
Inn-side scoop: Great for walking and stunning Wealden views. Seek out ‘Poohsticks Bridge’ (think Winnie-the-Pooh) in nearby Ashdown Forest.
Rooms from £85 per night, bed and breakfast
This lovingly restored and atmospheric old inn, close to Petworth, comprises a warren of cosy little rooms with real fireplaces. The big draw is the honest pub classics, using local ingredients, produced by the kitchen, though the six home-away-from-home bedrooms in the converted former stable yard are a very close second.
Inn-side scoop: Petworth is the antiques centre of the South.
Rooms from £140 per night, bed and breakfast
Set at the foothills of the South Downs, this wisteria-clad coaching inn has a quirky, rustic-chic feel, and is the perfect base from which to explore the nearby Goodwood Estate. Its 15 bedrooms are tucked away behind the inn, complete with steamer trunks, sheepskin rugs and copper baths.
Inn-side scoop: Both of the ‘Stag’ rooms have private patios and hot tubs.
Rooms from £110 per night, bed and breakfast
Recently transformed with passion and panache into a civilised country inn, the 16th-century Greyhound backs on to the River Test in Stockbridge, England’s fly-fishing capital. Traditional charm meets contemporary chic within the cosy bedrooms, but it’s the food that really sets tongues wagging – The Greyhound was awarded Michelin’s Pub of the Year in 2014.
Inn-side scoop: You can fish the inn’s private half-mile beat, a rare treat on the Test.
Rooms from £110 per night, bed and breakfast