East End Arms – Lymington, Hampshire
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 – it has featured in Rick Stein’s television series, Food Heroes, and been nominated a top UK pub-with-rooms – in a charming dining room, enlivened by monochrome photographs of musicians and celebrities, turn left. For a comfy night, head upstairs to one of the five cute and comfortable bedrooms with their king-sized beds dressed in crisp white sheets, Nespresso machines, Mulberry fabrics and walls decorated with John’s paintings. Breakfast is spot on.