The loveliest village inns in Essex

Advice

These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey. Our writers visited these hotels pre-pandemic.

Essex is an underrated county in so many ways, but perhaps most of all with regard to the quality and variety of its rural villages and historic pubs. Indeed, Essex’s village inns are among the country’s best and most characterful, and make terrific places to stay. Two rank among the country’s most pioneering gastropubs, another is a Michelin-starred restaurant, while others provide convenient bases for exploring the equally unheralded Essex countryside, including the delights of ‘Constable Country’ close to the Suffolk borders. Here’s our pick of the county’s finest, from beautifully appointed rooms above proper pubs to postcard-pretty views.

The Cricketers

Clavering, England

9
Telegraph expert rating

Formerly the creation of Trevor and Sally Oliver (Jamie’s parents, in case you were wondering), this long-running gastropub with rooms was taken over recently by the regional Chestnut group of pubs, but this hasn’t altered its charm one bit. The food they serve is still top-notch pub cuisine and their 22 rooms – dotted around a trio of buildings next door and across the road – have been beautifully refurbished in a bright and highly contemporary style and furnished with all the little luxuries you need. They even provide a torch to help you find your way to the pub on a dark night.


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From


£
95

per night

Rates provided by
Booking.com

The Bell Inn

Horndon-on-the-Hill, Essex, England

9
Telegraph expert rating

Expect comfy, well-appointed rooms, and great food (seasonal, local, daily changing, confident and reasonably priced) enjoyed in a busy environment at this Horndon-on-the-Hill inn. John Vereker was ahead of the curve when he reinvented the property as a gastropub with rooms in the 1970s, and he’s still here, assisted by the third generation of the Vereker family, who have helped him keep the place thoroughly up-to-date. The style is traditional and pub-like in the main 600-year-old-building, but it’s supplemented with a selection of cool boutique-style rooms in a Georgian annexe up the street. There are also a number of rooms in Hill House, in between the two.


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From


£
80

per night

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The Pheasant

Gestingthorpe, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

In a very rural part of north Essex, this is a country pub at heart, with mismatched furniture, wood-burning stoves, real ales and a loyal following who come for the excellent food and the five stylish and contemporary rooms. Everything is as local and personal as you could want, with married owners Diana and James running service front and back, serving dishes with veg from the kitchen garden; ales including their own ‘Pheasant Bitter’ brewed for them by Norfolk brewer Woodforde’s using hops smoked in their on-site smokehouse; honey from James and Diana’s bees; and delicious fresh eggs from their hens. Rooms are different, but all have views over the rolling countryside.


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From


£
128

per night

Rates provided by
Booking.com

The Sun Inn

Dedham Vale, Dedham, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

This Essex bolthole, which appeared in the Domesday Book, is located in one of southeast England’s most attractive and historic villages, Dedham, in the heart of Constable Country. It remains a proper pub – with creaky floors, oak beams, squishy sofas and a huge open fireplace – but owner Piers Baker has done a good job of adding everyday amenities along with thoughtful extras like bikes to borrow, OS maps and umbrellas, and picnic hampers for those who want to explore the surrounding area. The seven rooms are just as authentic, while Italian food is the focus in the pub-cum-trattoria, plus a choice of hearty meat and fish dishes and a range of good quality steaks.


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From


£
110

per night

The Flitch of Bacon

Little Dunmow, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

Daniel Clifford’s relaxed alternative to the two Michelin-starred fare of the renowned Midsummer House is more restaurant-with-rooms than traditional inn, but in the heart of Dunlow and with three comfy and beautifully decorated rooms, it’s an elevated offering for epicurean travellers exploring this part of Essex. The emphasis is on simple, hearty ingredients and unfussy techniques that don’t stray too far from the restaurant’s initial incarnation as a posh pub. The garden, with its Big Green Egg BBQs and a bar completes the picture.


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From


£
108

per night

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The Mistley Thorn

Mistley, Essex, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

Owner Sherri Singleton is a long way from her roots in California but seems thoroughly at home in the backwaters of Essex, having rescued a grotty pub over a decade ago and turned it into one of the foremost places to eat in the area. To be honest it’s not really a pub anymore and doesn’t try to be; it’s a self-confessed “restaurant with rooms” and has all the contemporary style that implies – a dining room where you want to linger, a cookery school and kitchen shop if the food so inspires you, and some very up-to-date rooms. There are 12 in all, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Four have lovely views over the river.


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From


£
135

per night

Rates provided by
Booking.com

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