The 9 Best Pubs in Essex

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It’s no secret that pubs play an essential cultural role in preserving historic folk traditions. Furthermore, the institutions provide a place where friendships flourish. Whether you go for good food, pub grabs, or real ales, you will rarely regret it. And if you are in Essex, you will be spoilt for country pub choices.

The choices range from British boozers with a traditional pub atmosphere to contemporary gastro pubs from which you can choose. Unfortunately, this wide range presents a problem in selecting the best one. Here are the nine best pubs in Essex, which we have tried and approve of not only the quality of their ales but also good food.

The 9 Best Pubs in Essex, the United Kingdom

1. The Windmill, Chatham Green, Little Waltham

The Windmill is in the charming hamlet of Chatham Green, where you can enjoy drinking real ale and other assortments of drinks. It also serves great British food twisted with seasonal and foraged elements. You can take them alongside the unique cocktail of drinks and wine. Note that the establishment is open to altering its menu if you are a vegan, a pescetarian, or intolerant to any food on the menu.

This boozer’s beautiful rural Essex surrounding makes it ideal for all occasions. It also has a garden where you can relax and drink under the stars at night. The Windmill also offers rooms with panoramic views. The rooms are cleaned daily, which makes them spotless and suitable for guests.

The Windmill’s special points include floor and ceiling made of oak beams, friendly staff, accommodation, and availability of children’s facilities. In addition, Windmill is pet friendly. And to top it all off, it offers traditional Sunday roasts, which it serves from 12 pm to 4 pm.

Address: Little Waltham, Chelmsford CM3 3LE, UK


  • Blissful location
  • Friendly staff
  • Good food
  • Variety of drinks


  • Closed on some days

2. The Compasses Inn, Littley Green

This pub is among the go-to places for good beer. Situated in Littley Green, this pub serves food and drinks daily throughout the week. It prides itself in the quality of its real ale, owing to its membership to the sixth generation of the Ridley brewing family. Its menu consists of a bitter session, two golden ales, a dark ale, and one guest ale. In addition, this independent public house serves proper food made of ingredients that it sources from local suppliers.

Besides the drinks, it has rooms you can stay in if you are a visitor. It also offers breakfast every weekend from 8:30 to 11 to everyone that visits at that time. The choices for breakfast include Old Bob Breakfast, eggs on toast, vegetarian, and Emily Ridley breakfast. There are others, too, like cheese omelette or pancakes, which you can take with tea and coffee or choose fruit juice.

The Compasses Inn’s special points include friendly staff and dog-friendly features. Additionally, proximity to Leez Priory and Flitch Way Country Park, a 15-minute drive away, is a big plus.

Address: Littley Green, Chelmsford CM3 1BU, UK


  • Great selection of drinks
  • Lovely setting
  • Comfortable
  • Clean rooms


  • Poor Wifi signal
pub gallery

3. The Chequers, Matching Green

Found in Matching Green, the Chequers offers destination dining in the heart of rural Essex. This pub offers a wide variety of drinks that aren’t limited to bottled beers, gins, vodka, cocktails, and mocktails. It also serves soft drinks and hot beverages.

This pub, which doubles up as a restaurant, is a near-perfect place for lunch, dinner, and cocktails. This gastro pub has an extensive menu with fish dishes, among other exotic ones. It also offers al fresco dining in its large terrace garden when the weather is conducive. Chequers’ welcoming ambiance makes it ideal for group dining and other occasions.

Its special points include being among one of the largest surviving village greens at 4.9 hectares. It’s also stylish and conveniently located on the border of Essex and Hertfordshire.

Address: Matching Green, Matching, Essex CM17 0PZ, United Kingdom


  • Adequate sitting space
  • Great service
  • Friendly atmosphere
  • Clean


  •  Outdated menu

4. The Sun Inn, Dedham, Constable Country

The Sun Inn is another notable boozer located in the historic village of Dedham, Constable country, and is ideal for all occasions. This public house has a century-long service to the villagers as a watering hole and resting post for travellers. Sun Inn also serves exceptional dishes from its extensive menu.

Despite its contemporary menu, this public house has tried to remain a proper British boozer. It has a wooden floor at the front, which emphasises drinking and socialising. The floor is creaky and accompanied by oak booms and open fires, giving the interior décor an old look.

Fret not if you are visiting Essex and are in Sun Inn because cosy rooms are available. This gastropub offers rooms with an unmatched mix of value and luxury. The rooms are family-friendly and are cleaned to keep them hygienic.

The main reasons why you should give this pub a shot include friendly staff, being accommodative, ambiance, and scenery. Around it is the Dedham and River Stour, where you can go for picnics or boat rides.

Address: High St, Dedham, Colchester CO7 6DF, UK


  • Pet friendly
  • Friendly patron
  • Exceptional dishes
  • Welcoming interior decor


  • Leaking roof

5. The Rayleigh Arms

Lastly is the Rayleigh Arms, a gastropub that has been operating as a family business and offers a contemporary British gastro experience. It serves a wide range of drinks and food that are all about brilliant ingredients and focus on the flavours’ shine.

This gastro pub has an intimate space where you can hold your private meeting or host a family occasion. It also has a large terrace and beer garden where you can relax as you enjoy the countryside experience. In addition, it offers overnight stays where you will get a warm and tasty breakfast.

Besides the drinks and food, the public house is near the historic Terling village, Essex Way, and Chelmsford Racecourse. Furthermore, you can visit the Freeport Designer Shopping village if you stay in this amazing contemporary pub.

Address: The Rayleigh Arms, 1 Owl’s Hill, Chelmsford CM3 2PW, UK


  • Awesome Sunday roast
  • Open fire
  • Nice beers
  • Traditional charm


  • Poor quality scampi

6. Galvin Green Man

Hosting your friends or family at Galvin Green Man will leave you with a memorable experience. This public house is set in the beautiful countryside and boasts an extensive garden with breathtaking views. Besides wines, this award-winning boozer serves local real ales, champagne, and sparkling drinks with different flavours.

It also has various dishes on the menu that befit different occasions. Its extensive menu and tasty meals should be enough to try this spot. Considering that it allows underage, it has a children’s menu to cater to them. There is an option for private dining if it’s a special occasion.

 It would be best if you also visited this local pub: fast staff, a friendly atmosphere, and an amazing garden. In addition, it’s dog friendly, and you can come with your child and pet for a great time in this pub.

Address: Main Rd, Howe Street, Great Waltham, Chelmsford CM3 1BG, UK


  • Extensive menu
  • Disable access
  • Tasty meals
  • Reputable


  • Inexperienced staff

7. The Bell Inn, Horndon-on-the-Hill

Located in Horndon-on-the-Hill, the Bell Inn is another exceptional public house that offers numerous ales and wines. The two bars in this establishment are ever busy, owing to its warm and friendly ambiance. This 15th Century Coaching Inn has won industry awards and has been featured in reputable publications like the Good Pub Guide and Sunday Times Food List.

It would be best to try this site and experience the 26 individually styled bedrooms in modern design with period twists. The Bell also offers space for different occasions and meets government guidelines. You can get tasty meals from the public house’s extensive menu, which is subject to daily change depending on the season and availability of produce.

Suppose you are looking for a reason to visit the Bell. In that case, its accommodative nature, friendly staff, and safety precautions should be some of them. In addition, the Georgian-era annexes six miles from Tilbury Fort and near this pub should be another reason to try it as you visit this historic place.

Address: Horndon on the Hill, High Rd, Horndon on the Hill, Stanford-le-Hope SS17 8LD, UK


  • The right choice of drinks
  • Enhanced cleaning
  • Child friendly
  • Cosy rooms


  • Not pet friendly

8. The Crown, Little Walden

If you want a home for real ales from rack cask stillage around a boozer, then the Crown is your to-go-to place. This public house is located in Little Walden and serves Carlsberg lager, Guinness, Wild Wave Cider, and Dry Hop. It also stocks a traditional range of spirits for those who prefer them and a range of wines for wine lovers.

The rooms in this public house are cosy and ideal for a night’s rest if you are a visitor to this hamlet. This charming country pub’s rooms come with full ensuite facilities. It also has a patio where you can have an open-air meal if the weather is appropriate.

Visiting the Crown should be on your bucket list owing to its drinks, amenities, ambiance atmosphere, and surrounding. It is situated near Linton Zoo, historic Cambridge, and Saffron Walden.

Address: Little Walden, Saffron Walden CB10 1XA, UK


  • Real ales
  • Extensive home-cooked menu
  • Open-air dining
  • Accommodating


  • Tiny portions
saffron walden

9. The Prettygate Pub, The Commons, Colchester

Lastly is the Prettygate Pub, a renowned watering hole in north Essex where you can take friends and family. This boozer offers a great selection of local ales and drinks like wine. With its friendly staff and ambiance atmosphere, this local pub is worth trying when you are in Essex.

It has a traditional pub game which you can enjoy while there. Additionally, there is a pub TV where you can watch sports events. The Prettygate pub has an outside seating area, making it comfortable even when full.

This public house also offers tasty meals such as the Sunday roast, which you can enjoy with your family. Its great atmosphere makes it ideal for special occasions. Furthermore, it allows pets like dogs, making it suitable for pet owners.

Address: The Cmns, Colchester CO3 4NW, UK


  • Friendly service
  • Great atmosphere
  • Wide variety of drinks
  • Comfortable seating


  • Terrific live music

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Pub to Visit in Essex

Choosing a public house to visit can be daunting as much as it determines your experience. Here are the factors you should consider when choosing a pub in Essex.

  • Food Quality

Firstly, you should consider food quality other than beer when choosing a boozer. This factor is essential because you might want to eat at the premises. You should check if the public house serves great food. It would be best if the food is organic and hypoallergenic for safety purposes.

  • Atmosphere

The pub should also have a friendly atmosphere that makes drinking or eating fun. The pub should be cosy and welcoming, with proper lighting, comfortable seats, and fabulous music. Always confirm through reviews if the pub plays uncomfortable loud music, as it can ruin your experience.

  • Cleanliness

It would be best to consider the pubs’ cleanliness and washrooms. Considering this factor goes a long way in ensuring you are safe from contaminants as you drink or eat in the pub.

  • A Garden

The availability of a garden is also an essential factor to consider. It will help if the bar of choice has a garden where you can enjoy your beer. This feature will significantly enhance your safety, especially in the wake of contagious respiratory infections.

  • Proximity

It’s also essential to consider location and choose a local pub for convenience and safety reasons. Unless you are a traveller, visiting your public house, where your friends and neighbours frequent, would be best.

  • Sitting Space

Comfort is crucial for you to enjoy your drinks at the bar or pub and sitting space enables it. You should confirm if there is enough sitting space, especially during happy hours. Lack of enough sitting space can be disappointing since you will have to wait or look for another boozer.

  • Staff Attention

Lastly, the staff of a pub should be attentive for you to enjoy your stay there. For instance, they should promptly clear the table or serve your orders if it’s a gastro pub. You can check the pub’s reviews on various platforms to find out about this.


Which tips can you use to survive an Essex pub experience?

You should wait for your turn in an Essex pub and have your money ready when ordering your drink. In addition, you shouldn’t mix too many types of alcohol and know how you will go home as you drink. If in a group, have a designated driver; if not, book a room at the pub. And out of respect, don’t expect free drinks. Instead, you are expected to buy a round. Note that the attendant won’t serve you if you are too drunk. Lastly, always close your tab before leaving the pub.

At what time do people go to pubs in Essex?

Pubs in Essex open around 11 am, and the locals visit during mid-day for lunch or in the afternoon and evening for drinks. However, they can go earlier if there is a special occasion like sporting events which they watch on the pub TV. There is no official closing time, but most boozers shut their doors at 11 pm. 

How can you differentiate a bar from a pub?

A bar specialises in alcohol and cocktails. The food in such premises is essentially appetisers. Children aren’t allowed in bars. A pub has a full menu comprising beers, cider, and some wines. Some also offer food; hence they allow minors provided an adult accompanies them.


It’s safe to say that Essex has many pubs and gastro pubs where you can get real ales and food. However, the large number poses a challenge in choosing a good one since some offer poor services and the atmosphere isn’t conducive. To that end, we have compiled a list of the nine best pubs with an extensive menu of exceptional dishes and drinks. The list comprises old-themed county pubs and lavish contemporary ones that double up as restaurants with extensive menus.

We have also included the factors to consider when choosing a good pub in Essex. Furthermore, we have answered some of the frequently asked questions about Essex pubs, which will help you when you visit. It would be best to use the information in this article when looking for a public house in Essex where you can relax, eat, drink, and enjoy.

About The Author

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James is a writer who is a self-confessed kitchenware and coffee nerd and a strong advocate of Sundays, good butter, and warm sourdough.