Curious About Staying in a British Pub?

When we travel we often stay in a variety of different  accommodations, from the simple to the luxurious, to make our budget work. But increasingly when I'm in the UK I enjoy staying at rural pubs because they represent a wonderful confluence between value, local character and style. 
The reference bible in this matter is the annually published Good Pub Guide and its sister publications  the Good Food Guide and the Good Hotel Guide. Between these three you can't go wrong. They've done all the legwork to find great places for you. If you follow their advice you can expect decent grub, attractive rooms and a friendly welcome. 
A classic pub interior above at The Lamb in Chinley, Derbyshire with Toby mugs above the bar. These kinds of pubs are increasingly been modernized but it's fun to stay at traditional pubs too. You also find simple dining rooms like the one below, which have an updated but familiar feel. 
In contrast, the Greenman at Fown Hope has a much more stylish modern interior, while still managing to maintain the "pub" feel.
For many of the gastro-pubs today the food and accommodation side of their business is the heart of the enterprise, and in many ways more important than their bar trade. The economics of country pubs has changed, while they can stay open for longer hours, the social tolerance for drunk driving has changed meaning fewer drinkers propping up the bar. As you can see in the photo above  this is  now a restaurant, there aren't even any stool at the bar which is what you'd traditionally expect to see in a country pub. 
However, despite this emphasis on food and local produce, the pubs listed in the Good Pub Guide are guaranteed to have an emphasis on local ales too. For any hipsters thinking they've reinvented the world with their emphasis on craft beer, you should know this isn't anything new in the UK!
When I worked behind the bar at our local village pub as a teenager in Kent the 1980s, the publican drove down to the coast to buy all his seafood directly from the fishermen and had a  "real ale" brewed specially for his establishment. Indeed, Jim and the Dering Arms are still in the Good Pub Guide after all these years. That's testimony to a bloke who knows what he's doing!
I love pubs because they're a real opportunity to meet locals while spending your money at  smaller, often family-run establishments. I'm not generally a fan of bed and breakfasts as I find them oddly coercive. I don't want to make convivial chit-chat with strangers over breakfast, but a pub is somewhere between the intimacy of a B&B and the anonymity of a hotel.
Things to bear in mind when booking a pub stay:

1) Room Location
You may not want  a room directly over the main bar or restaurant as it can be very noisy on the weekend. You shouldn't be surprised to get a room in an adjacent building, a converted stable block or carriage house. These are old buildings, many of the coaching inns go back for two, three or four centuries and are often built right by the road. They were added to in a  haphazard manner so wonky floors, winding corridors or rooms you have to go outside to find may be part of the charm. If you prefer a standardized hotel experience and perfect quiet, a pub stay may not be for you.
Its worth noting that wherever you stay in the UK if you require a queen bed you should  enquire directly, as you'll often find doubles which are on the smaller side.
Be careful, because of the haphazard nature of these buildings sometimes you run into the unwelcome reality that your "private bathroom" is outside your room! Yes, really. To make sure you won't have to put on your dressing gown and bump into a stranger on the way to brush your teeth, check that the bathroom is described as "en-suite", not just "private". I'm not saying this is a common problem, but it does happen, so it's worth looking out for.
3) Dinner
Many of the very best pubs are popular with others so make sure you make your dinner reservations when you book the room. The fact that you are staying with them doesn't guarantee you a reservation. There's nothing more disheartening than staying in a lovely pub, looking forward to dinner in the dining room and hearing, "Sorry we are fully booked, maybe we can squeeze you in over at the bar", pointing at a tiny table where you'll be balancing on low stools. 
As you can see we ate very well at The Greenman in Fown Hope, details below.
4) Service
The way to think of good pub accommodation is "restaurant with rooms". Lower your expectations for service, particularly if you are an American.  People are friendly and will be helpful on routes, local attractions and a bit of chat, but if you were hoping for help taking your heavy suitcase upstairs you should probably go elsewhere. If you really need help ask, don't wait or expect someone to offer it.
While a lot of pubs may have lovely rooms you should remember these are not hotels and the public spaces are generally limited to the bar and dining rooms downstairs so there may not be a great deal of room to "hang out". You'll get tea and coffee in the room and a fully cooked breakfast at most places - think bacon, eggs and more food than one person should responsibly eat. See below, I could have ordered more but restrained myself!
These are great locations for people who will be out touring or walking during the day. This modern upstairs sitting room at the Greenman was an exception to the rule.
This isn't a comprehensive survey but I wanted to give you a sense for what to expect in a pub stay. Over the years we've stayed at lots of pubs and I've  I've picked out three below. We paid between $100-$125 USD in high season for each of these, including a substantial breakfast for two. You can certainly pay less in simpler places, during the week  or in the low season. All three are in the Good Pub Guide. 
Incidentally, we tend to pick the location and then find the pub, rather than the pub being the destination in and of itself the way you might find with a luxury hotel. So each of these was picked because we we going to see something in that part of the world, either a cathedral, a house or a walk we fancied!
The King John in the wonderfully named Tollard Royale on the Wiltshire/Dorset border is a rather "down from London for the weekend" kind of pub. Described as a "British Country Inn" it's a bit self-consciously upmarket, offering shooting and golf packages. But if you can ignore all that rubbish  it is well situated, surrounded by lovely countryside around Cranbourne Chase. 
It's also  very close to Guy Richie's property, where Madonna famously tried  and failed to have a public footpath relocated. 
Spacious bedroom at the King John Inn above and the exterior below.
Good walking, good food, lovely rooms and a pretty corner of the world make this a nice country weekend destination.
The Greenman  in Fown Hope, Hereford, above. This picturesque pub  just north of the Cotswolds is a lovely place and we thought it was a bargain too. Indeed the rooms were more luxurious that I  would expected at this price point.
Beautiful and characterfully decorated bedrooms, good food and an attractive pub garden made this somewhere I have no hesitation in recommending. One of the nicest pubs we've stayed in, stylish but unpretentious.
I particularly liked the small modern tub (below) and the fact that they had robes in the room. These touches seemed very much more hotel than pub but were very welcome at this price point.
Fown Hope was a great place from which to explore the cathedrals at Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester.
The Lion Inn in the small town of Winchcombe isn't located in the  prettiest  Cotswold villages but that means it isn't overrun with tourists either and we liked Winchcombe nonetheless. The Good Pub Guide's "New Pub of the Year in 2017, The Lion has been nicely updated with a fresh minimalist feel. There's a  bar, a stylish dining room and an outside terrace which is lovely in the summer, as you can see below. 
I appreciated the comfortable seating areas downstairs and the good food in the restaurant. Additionally, it's next door to a local stalwart 5 Restaurant so it's good for a foodie getaway.
The Cotswolds location means there's lots of lovely  country walking nearby and a friendly staff make this somewhere we would return to. 
Our comfortable room at The Lion at Winchcombe...

If you haven't considered a pub stay in the UK I hope this will encourage you, even if like me you have no interest in beer!  Pubs are far more than bars, they are family, and often dog, friendly and I wouldn't hesitate to go into a rural pub to get something to eat or to stay on my own. In rural villages pubs are important social institutions and often have histories as hostelries going back hundreds of years. 
If you're touring Britain the Good Pub Guide , the Good Food Guide and the Good Hotel Guide are invaluable but my two other must haves are a membership in the National Trust and a copy of Simon Jenkins' England's Thousand Best Houses a wonderful references for my kind of road trip!
Happy Travels, let me know if you have any pubs to recommend below!