Welcome to the New Forest, 145 square miles of ancient heath and woodland, where ponies, donkeys, pigs, cattle and deer still freely roam and where the East End Arms makes the perfect affordable base. The owner is Dire Straits’ bass guitarist John Illsley. When he bought the pub in the mid-1990s, he received a letter from the regulars, saying: ‘Hands off our public bar’. ‘They wouldn’t even let me repair the hole in the ceiling and when we repainted, it had to be exactly the same colour. Fine by me,’ he says. For a plain room with locals at the bar and real ales, turn right. For some of the best food in the New Forest, in a charming dining room, enlivened by monochrome photographs of musicians and celebrities that make a good conversation point, turn left. For a comfy night, head upstairs to one of the five divine bedrooms with their crisply-sheeted, king-size beds, Nespresso machines, Mulberry fabrics and walls decorated with John’s paintings. Breakfast is spot on.
Doubles from £120
+44 (0)1590 626223; eastendarms.co.uk
The Isle of Wight. Only 5 minutes’ drive from the Wight link ferry. Or, donkeys, ponies and cows, all roaming outside the pub and forest surrounding the pub.
At the informal restaurant downstairs with daily changing menus created by our head chef; including local venison, Lymington crab and salad and vegetables grown in nearby Exbury.
CDs and artwork displayed throughout the pub by John Illsley from Dire Straits.
CLAIM TO FAME
Bought in 1990 to preserve it for the local community, the pub is owned by the bass guitarist from Dire Straits.
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