To enjoy a pint or your beverage of choice at an authentic traditional British pub is a right of passage for anyone visiting the UK. And when you move here, you quickly find your local (or plural). While living just outside the Derbyshire village of Duffield, we were spoiled for choice. Which I suppose shouldn’t be a surprise; a 2016 census found that Derbyshire has more pubs and bars per head than anywhere else in the UK outside of Westminster in London.
Deep in the heart of one of the most beautiful counties in England, Duffield lives up to the hype with pubs that reflect the area’s affluence. This isn’t so much in price — Derbyshire pubs are shockingly affordable — but in subtly trendy food offerings, the sheer number of establishments in a small area, and service. The pubs we frequented have their service on lock.
In my humble opinion, the best type of UK tavern is a free house, owned independently of the breweries that supply its beer offerings. For context, if a brewery like Marston’s or Greene King owns a pub, they will generally only pour from their own lineup. The free house is a bit of a unicorn in England, but Duffield boasts not one but nine (that I know of). Regardless of ownership, a great local pub is a gem. These are my Derbyshire favourites.
My Favourite Derbyshire Pubs in Duffield
Before I forget, if you’ve got your pup with you, the majority of pubs in the UK are dog-friendly. Never assume though, be sure to call ahead. For the pubs I do know the features of, I’ve marked them as follows:
- D – Dog-friendly
- F – Free house
- PB – Patio and/or beer garden
The Holly Bush Inn (Makeney) D F
The Holly Bush Inn is my favourite pub, ever. It was absolutely worth each 30-minute walk to and from our then home. A quintessential free house with its characterful 17th-century architecture, solid tap list and overall ambience, it’s everything you want a pub to be. Cosy snugs, open fireplaces and various building add-ons accommodate locals, uni students, walkers and cyclists alike, making this a popular watering hole.
While they don’t serve a full menu throughout the week, the weekend lunch menu is delicious (as was the holiday season fare). Be sure to make a booking for lunch this place fills up quickly. I recommend making a 2 pm reservation so that you don’t have to move after your two-hour time. The Holly Bush is also great value for money — you can easily get two lunches, 3-4 drinks and dessert for well under £50. #GetThrifty
The White Hart (Duffield) D, F, PB
Right in the heart of Duffield village, the White Hart is a subtly upscale, yet quirky and cosy free house with a generous patio and great customer service. Each area of the pub is decorated differently, but in the same vein, and it’s a great spot for date night, brunch or a quick pint. The fare is always been top-notch and I also went for a lovely Christmas outing with some friends last year.
A big stand out on the menu is the wood-fired pizza, which, to quote the Brit, “is the best pizza I’ve had in a while.” (I concur. Good pizza is hard to find outside of a city. I’m sad we won’t get to enjoy said pizza in the back patio/beer garden this year.)
The Bridge Inn (Duffield) D, PB
The Bridge Inn (a Marston’s pub) is an eight-minute walk from our then cottage, which was quite convenient. It’s where we had our first meal out in Duffield and the service and menu are spot on. As with many pubs, this pub is named quite literally and starts with ‘the’. (You only get one guess for what the pub is near.) Views of the River Derwent from both inside and the patio beer garden make for an enjoyable way to pass an afternoon with a nice beverage. They make an excellent gin and tonic and have seasonal #GetThrifty deals.
The Elephant & Peacock (Milford) F, PB
Between Duffield and the town of Belper you’ll pass through the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village of Milford. Don’t blink as you want to enjoy the South Asian-style fare paired with your favourite tipple at the Elephant & Peacock. This vibrant pub has an upscale vibe that made me think the owner must be a former city person like me. The lovely ‘ye olde inn’ setting (where you can also take a room upstairs to make a night or weekend of it) balances that out and locals clearly love it as there were a few group bookings for some celebrations when we went.
Town Street Tap (Duffield) D, F
While labelled a ‘micropub’, I’ve included Town Street Tap on this list because I have a soft spot for craft beer establishments. Owned by Tollgate Brewery, they pour a proper pint, offer tasting flights (bats) and, bless them, they have local cider and dark beer offerings on tap all year round. (A nice treat for someone like me who doesn’t appreciate a lager or most spring/summer beer varietals.) They also have a wood-burning stove, which is lovely to sit near on a crisp autumn day.
Craft beer enthusiasts visiting the Duffield area can also wet their whistle at Shiny Brewery in Little Eaton. On tap you’ll find sours, IPAs and (if it’s your bag) gluten-free brews — also available in cans. Shiny is also on tap at several local pubs.
A little bit of the city in the countryside
This city girl was pleasantly surprised on her first walk into Duffield. Why? Because there’s a really fab wine bar; which I genuinely did not expect to find in rural England. Located on the village high street, Bradman’s offers an extensive wine list and it’s a great place for a date night. If we lived in the village proper, we probably would have been there almost every weekend. The week before we moved from Derbyshire, we went back to spend a sunny spring afternoon on their sidewalk patio and ended up chatting with a fellow Canadian over some lovely Rosé. It’s a really good spot.
Other pubs to explore
As I mentioned earlier, there is a surprising amount of pubs in this part of Derbyshire. In ten months of living there, we didn’t get to all of them (shame on us, I know). Here are the ones we didn’t get to:
- The New Inn (Little Eaton) F
- The Queen’s Head (Little Eaton) F, PB
- The King’s Head (Duffield) PB
- The Patternmaker’s Arms (Duffield) F
- The King William (Milford) F
And that’s a wrap! If you pass through Duffield on your way to the Peak District, tag me when you visit one of these Derbyshire pubs! I promise you won’t be disappointed.
“A good local pub has much in common with a church, except that a pub is warmer, and there’s more conversation.”William Blake