16 of the best beer gardens in Essex

Essex's best beer gardens

Essex's best beer gardens - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

There’s nothing quite like a pint or prosecco in a beer garden on a sunny day. Essex Life picks out 14 of the best in the county

Words by Victoria Purcell & Fred Humphries

1. The Anchor, Hullbridge
Watch boats float serenely down the River Crouch as you and the family enjoy a few drinks while perched on one of the many picnic tables dotted throughout the garden. As well as its thorough main menu, The Anchor also has a dedicated garden menu for when you decide to eat outside which features simple yet delicious pub classics like burgers and scampi. On an especially hot evening a mojito or passiontini from the cocktail menu will be particularly refreshing.

2. The Victory at Mersea
Mersea Island is undoubtedly one of the county's most attractive locations and this beer garden benefits from the coastal vistas the area provides in abundance. Just over the road from the garden you'll be able to see some of the vessels that head out onto the waters surrounding Mersea to catch the fish that star on the Victory's menu. 

3. Ye Olde Albion, Rowhedge
Frequently described as a traditional pub, you can expect to find an authentic atmosphere, a wide range of real ales and bar snacks including a free cheese board on Sundays. After getting your pint head out the front door and cross the road to find tables with views up and down the winding River Colne.

4. Fleur de Lys, Widdington
Set between Saffron Walden and Stansted Mountfitchet, Widdington is a small village with the Fleur de Lys, the Prior's Hall Barn and St Mary the Virgin Church as its main points of interest. Grab a locally sourced ale from the bar - the often have beer from the Bishop Stortford Brewery - and find a spot around the side of this distinctively coloured pub for lovely village views.

5. Channels Bar & Brasserie, Little Waltham
Admire the grounds surrounding the Channels Estate and enjoy a bottle of prosecco or a few beers as the sun sets on another glorious summer day out in the Essex countryside. Based just off Essex Regiment Way, Channels can easily be found following an afternoon exploring the historical highlights in nearby Chelmsford.

6. Cross Keys, White Notley
Take a short drive out of Witham to this village next to the River Brain where you'll find a lovely old pub with a small, sun-trap walled garden out the back. The Cross Keys is also dog-friendly and with a number of good countryside walks nearby, makes it the perfect spot to take the pooch after a long summer day out. Keep an eye out on their Facebook page for the many events taking place including quizzes and live music.

7. The Fighting Cocks, Wendens Ambo
After a family day out visiting iconic Audley End, find a table in the large garden of this friendly pub where the little ones can safely roam free. All dishes on the menu - 85% of which are gluten free - are made with ingredients from local sources and can be enjoyed out in the garden. As well as all that, nearly every review we've seen has praised the staff and the warm welcome they provide - what more could you need? Please note that this pub is currently closed awaiting building work. 

8. The Bellhouse, Leigh-on-Sea
Set inland from the Hadleigh Ray, The Bellhouse is family-friendly pub whose outdoor areas overlook a small brook running through this part of town. Despite the garden's proximity to the road it still manages to maintain its seclusion which is ideal if you want to enjoy your beer with a little peace and quiet. The garden also has a separate play area for the kids where they can burn some of their limitless energy.

9. The Bull, Brentwood
As the name would suggest, The Secret Garden off the back of the property is one of The Bull's features of interest that may well go under the radar for many. A recent refurb has breathed new life into this outdoor area and, along with the swings, slide and playhouse, it's now an all-round great place for a summertime drink or a light bite. 

10. The Compasses, Littley Green
Best known for their enormous selection of Essex huffers - they have around 20 different fillings for these oversized rolls - The Compasses epitomises countryside living in both its food and its traditional pub atmosphere. On a lovely summer evening you can enjoy that huffer out in their garden along with plenty of others who will no doubt be accompanying their traditional meal with a local ale from the extensive selection.

11. The Wooden Fender, Ardleigh 
This pub on the Colchester Road gets its name from how local farmers used pieces of wood to surround a nearby pond and therefore fend off their cows and prevent them from falling in when they went for a quick drink. Although you may not see cows refreshing themselves in the area these days, you will find a large, family-friendly garden with a play area around the back of this pea-coloured public house.

12. The White Hart Inn, Margaretting Tye
While the standard beer garden at this pub near the Hylands Estate is certainly good, it won't compare to the al fresco experience you'd get in one of their unusual dining pods. Each of the attractively designed pods - which are now heated meaning you can stay out even when the sun goes in - hold up to five people and will certainly be one of the most memorable eating experiences you'll find in the county. 

13. Donkey & Buskins, Layer de la Haye
With flowers blooming all around - even running up the front of the property - the Donkey & Buskins could almost be a well-manicured garden in its own right. It's not often you see a pub taken care of to this extent and that attention to detail carries on into their menu which wouldn't look out of place at a top class restaurant. If you want to keep your stay going for as long as possible then book one of their quaintly-appointed rooms for the night.

14. The Hoop, Stock
The Hoop has been serving thirsty Essex locals for over 450 years now and the pub has ensured its ongoing success by always retaining its connections to the past. The pub comes alive during the May bank holiday when they host the Hoop Beer Festival in the pub and out in the garden. The festival has attracted drinkers from as far away as Norway and Australia with its range of 180 different drinks just waiting to be supped over this four-day bonanza.

15. The Marlborough, Dedham
The Marlborough in Dedham will be open once again from 12 April to offer its usual high quality, home-cooked food and local beer on an al fresco basis. Make up for lost time with the chance to enjoy everything you have missed, including delicious homemade burgers, locally sourced fish and chips and other pub classics. All will be available, along with that long-awaited pint from the pub’s extensive beer selection. There is outdoor seating for more than 150 people but booking, as usual, is highly advisable. 

16. The Pheasant at Gestingthorpe, Halstead
The Pheasant at Gestingthorpe, set in rural countryside just outside Halstead, has a large beer garden for families to enjoy. Dotted with picnic tables and umbrellas, there is also lots of space for picnic rugs and freedom for children to run free in a safe, enclosed environment. The Pheasant also has a new covered outdoor dining space to provide cover from rain or shine, as well as heaters and blankets to keep the chill at bay. Dine on the likes of homemade burgers, pizza, fish and chips, charcuterie boards and Cajun chicken salad.



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