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 Queen's Head, Maldon

Set on the Blackwater River, this family friendly pub has great views of the town, barges and the river. The kitchen serves up pub classics such as sausages and mash, gammon steak and eggs, and there's a children's menu also.

With the likes of syrup sponge pudding with custard, apple and toffee cobbler, warm chocolate brownie, and Movenpick ice cream, make sure you leave room for dessert.

Address: The Hythe, Maldon, CM9 5HN


2. The Square and Compasses, Fairstead

Nicknamed The Huffer, this traditional country pub is set in picturesque countryside. The building, which dates back to the 1600s, retains many of the original features inside.

The kitchen uses local producers where possible and serves up wild game such as pigeon, partridge rabbit and venison. On the taps, you've got cask ales and there's a good selection of wine too.

Address: Fuller Street, Fairstead, Chelmsford CM3 2BB


3. The Chequers, Harlow

With as lounge on the balcony, a terrace with a retractable roof, and tables outside, The Chequers is a great place for a warm weather drink.

You've got an extensive drinks list covering wines, spirits, cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks, and a kitchen that plates up modern dishes that take their ques from various pockets of the world - Moroccan vegetable and chickpea tagine or the miso glazed salmon fillet for example.

Address: Matching Green, Near Harlow CM17 0PZ


4. The Rose & Crown, Whittle

The Rose & Crown has been a family fun business for over a decade, while the pub itself dates back to 1962. It has annual beer and gin festivals, as well as a strong selection of local and international ales and ciders and more than 40 gins to try. Live music happens on the weekend, showcasing local musicians and bands.

Address: 57 The Green, Writtle, Chelmsford CM1 3DT


5. The Kings Arms, Colchester

A Greene King pub, The Kings Arms is a family friendly, dog friendly, local boozer with a pretty great beer garden. The kitchen prepares 'filthy' dishes, so get stuck into the likes of sweet chilli bao buns, spicy fried halloumi and jerk chicken roti. There's also a pretty good selection of dirty fries to try, sharing dishes such as loaded nachos or chicken and halloumi trays as well as hefty mains like beef lasagne and gammon with egg and chips.

Address: 1-63 Crouch Street Colchester, CO3 3EY


6. The Greyhound Inn, Brentwood

A pub with country inn vibes, The Greyhound dates back to the first and second world wars, and was as haven for German prisoners of war, as the story goes. The drinks list is extensive, with cask ales, gins and other sprits as well as craft beer and wines available. The pub also puts on a brunch spread in addition to Sunday lunch and an a la carte menu that includes stone-baked pizzas, steaks, burgers and classic mains such as fish and chips and chicken schnitzel. Booking ahead is advised and the pub is dog-friendly.

Address: Magpie Lane, Little Warley, Brentwood, CM13 3DZ


7. Inn on the Green, Stanford Le Hope

A pub with a good beer garden and sports on the big screen, Inn on the Green is a good choice if you want to catch some rays and the game. On the menu. you've got snacks and small plates as well as more substantial dishes to share or to enjoy on your own. The pub also has a menu of one of the ultimate comfort foods - toasties - so get stuck into a ham and grilled cheese or a Philly steak toastie.

Address: The Green, Standford Le Hope SS17 0ER


8. The Retreat, Bocking

Braintree blues venue The Retreat is loaded with character and charm, and offers the chance to see artists such as Albert Lee and Connie Lush up close. From Wednesday to Saturday the kitchen serves pub classics, fresh home-made pies, pizzas and burgers and on Sundays you can expect a traditional roast with all the trimmings, as well as a selection of puds (available Wed-Sun) such as strawberry sponge, spotted dick or profiteroles.

Address: 42 Church Street, Bocking, Braintree CM7 5JY


9. The Bricklayers Arms, Stondon Massey

In the same family for more than 60 years, The Bricklayers Arms serves up home-style cooking and good times. The award-winning pub has a large beer garden that catches plenty of sun, and this one's also a great stopping point if you're on a country walk. The pub serves a slap up roast, as well as fish and chips on Friday and Saturday and the a la carte menu offers up salads, picking bits and classic pub grub.

Address: Stondon Massey, Brentwood CM15 0EQ


10. 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 and brunch 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.

Address: Ferry Road, Hullbridge SS5 6ND


11. 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.

Address: 92 Coast Road, Mersea Island, Mersea CO5 8LS


12. 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.

Address: High Street, Rowhedge, Colchester CO5 7ES


13. 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.

Address: High Street, Widdington, Saffron Walden CB11 3SG


14. 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.

Address: Little Waltham, Chelmsford CM3 3PT


15. 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.

Address: 1 The St, White Notley, Witham CM8 1RQ


16. The Fighting Cocks, Wendens Ambo

**Currently closed fore refurbishment**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 per cent 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?

Address: London Road, Wendens Ambo, Saffron Walden CB11 4JN


17. 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.

Address: 321 Rayleigh Road, Leigh-on-Sea SS9 5PX


18. 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.

Address: 13 Brook Street, Brentwood CM14 5LZ


19. 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.

Address: Littley Green, Chelmsford, CM3 1B


20. 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.

Address: Colchester Road, Ardleigh CO7 7PA


21. The White Hart Inn, Margaretting Tye

**Currently closed** 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.

Address: Swan Lane, Margaretting Tye, Ingatestone CM4 9JX


22. 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.

Address: Layer Road, Layer de la Haye CO2 0HU


23. 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.

Address: The Hoop, High Street, Stock CM49BD


24. The Marlborough, Dedham

A 15th century pub with accommodation, The Marlborough in Dedham serves up home-cooked food with produce from local suppliers, and local beer on an al fresco basis. The expansive beer garden seats more than 150 people, and dogs are welcome too. With two open fires in the dining room, there's plenty of cosy seating indoors too, should the evening take a crisp turn.

Address: Mill Lane, Dedham, Colchester CO7 6DH


25. 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.

Address: Church St, Gestingthorpe, Halstead CO9 3AU



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