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Overview

Owned and run by the Vereker family for some eighty years, this 600-year-old coaching inn is legendary in these parts, known for its excellent food, splendid accommodation and convivial atmosphere.

An unprepossessing facade gives way to a historic beamed interior, full of exposed timbers and panelling, cushioned oak settles, flagstones, rug-strewn wooden floors and lots of foundry memorabilia to go with the pub name. There's an outside seating area in the rear courtyard, covered with two giant umbrellas and festooned with colourful pots and hanging baskets.

That it works well on all levels is a tribute to Christine, John and Joanne Vereker, especially as they manage to keep in sight the Bell's origins as a pub, offering real ales in an informal chatty drinkers bar warmed by a real fire. Food is delicious and daily menus successfully combine pub classics with more innovative modern British dishes, while Ostlers, a bistro set in the grounds of High House up to road, delivers excellent breakfasts to guests.

Rooms from

26 doubles/twins: £80


Good to know

  • All major credit cards accepted
  • Disabled access
  • Alfresco & private dining
  • Weddings
  • Parking available
  • Dog stay: £15

Family favourite
Children are welcome throughout the pub and overnight in the Bonson suite above the pub, the Hideaway Suite at High House or The Stable.

Dog-friendly
In the pub, dogs are allowed in the bar area but not in the restaurant, and they are welcome overnight in a few rooms - High Brow, Du Barry, Stable & High Tea.

Water and waves
Take a stroll along the Thames Estuary Path with its dramatic views and invigorating breezes.

Rooms

Stylish bedrooms are divided between the historic inn, High House, a beautifully refurbished Georgian property, a few steps down the road, and the converted Stable behind the inn.

All are thoughtfully equipped and beautifully furnished, none more so than the four atmospheric suites at the inn, which are named after famous mistresses, where exposed beams and timbers complement antique beds, comfortable sofas and smart bathrooms. The Stable is large room split over two floors with a downstairs living area and curved bathroom, and a spiral staircase leading to galleried bedroom.

At High House (with its own restaurant (Ostlers) where breakfast is served) there are some grand contemporary suites boasting feature bathrooms with walk-in showers and double-ended baths, and lovely views over the garden towards the River Thames. Smaller rooms are equally fresh and modern and make the most of the character of the Georgian building.

Restaurant & bar

Daily changing menu lists well executed modern pub food with the kitchen sourcing seasonal produce from local suppliers and herbs and vegetables from the High House's kitchen garden.

Dishes are imaginative with an emphasis on big and bold flavours. Begin with pan-fried scallops, sweetcorn puree, crispy pancetta and spiced sweetcorn fritter, followed by grilled whole sole with caper brown butter, or 28-day aged ribeye steak, horseradish cream and a parsley and parmesan salad. Finish with glazed lemon tart and raspberry ripple ice cream, or the Neal's Yard cheeseboard is worth pursuing if you want to continue exploring the very good wine list. Traditional bar meals include Prior Hall's sausages and mash, and confit beef cottage pie; excellent Sunday roasts too.

Expect an impressive range of drinks at the bar, with an excellent 120-strong wine list with 20 by the glass and a number of great value 'take home' prices. Real-ale drinkers can enjoy locally brewed choices, and cocktail lovers can stroll up to buzzy Ostler's Bar for an Espresso Martini or two.

Private dining

Three meeting rooms of varying sizes (seating 6-60 people) are perfect for business and social events and can be set up for board meetings, family gatherings and larger private parties.

Things to do

Situated on the north bank of the Thames and originally constructed by Henry VIII to protect London against attack from France, Tilbury Fort is now managed by English Heritage and includes the only surviving early-18th-century gunpowder magazines in Britain.

For history buffs, head to Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker - a simple bungalow built by the Air Ministry in 1952 which guards the entrance to the biggest and deepest cold war bunker open to view in south east England - 80ft below the Essex countryside. The bunker was originally designed for up to 600 military and civilian personnel, possibly even the Prime Minister, who would organize the survival of the population in the aftermath of a nuclear war. View communication rooms, a fully operational BBC studio, government rooms, canteen and dormitories.

Essex is very proud of their Blue Flag beaches along seven miles of stunning shoreline, where you can enjoy the simple pleasures of building sand castles or bird watching. But if you want to go up a gear or two, the BSKA approved Essex Kitesurf School run courses - everything from one-to-one tuition for beginners to those of you who are higher flyers.

Getting here

Directions

Nearest train station: Laindon
Taxi from station: 8min
Drive: Brentwood 19min; Southend on Sea 34min; London 1hr

Address

High Road, Horndon-on-the-Hill, Stanford-le-Hope Essex SS17 8LD

Prices & availability