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Bell Inn, Aldworth

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user reviews of the Bell Inn, Aldworth

please note - reviews on this site are purely the opinion of site visitors, so don't take them too seriously.

Is it possible to just walk in to a pub and have it immediately shoot into a high position on your mental list of favourites? This one certainly did that for me. A big welcome from the landlord, a great selection of beers (West Berks Maggs Mild and Arkells Kingsdown Ale tried and tested), a nice selection of the type of simple food that goes with a pint from filled rolls to soup and a truly amazing unchanged interior. I've been meaning to come here for years and now I've been, I think I'll be including it regularly on a our voyages down to the SW to break up the journey.
littledrummerboy - 10 Dec 2016 21:18
Still a great pub, but no longer sells Arkells Kingsdown as the brewery have stopped brewing it as a regular cask ale. Unfortunately the replacement beer - Moonlight - is a very poor substitute.
mr.thirsty - 30 Apr 2016 18:23
Excellent! This is what pubs should be about. Simple selection of inexpensive, good sandwiches and ploughman plates. Brilliant West Berks beer.
Disagree with a previous comment about children. The pretty garden made for an exciting labyrinth for 2 toddlers. Didnt venture too far into the pub itself as it was heaving but those sitting inside appeared to be loving the cramped and cosy atmosphere. A proper pub.
Not for London-luvvy, Rayban's on inside, Porsche Cayenne driving, keep-up-with-the-Jones's wallys from West London. The gents toilet is outside and you'd get your Paul Smith loafers dirty.
andy_acacia - 23 Sep 2013 13:43
After a good yomp across the countryside at any time of year, nothing beats a roll and a pint in this wonderful pub. Highly recommended!
jeepers12 - 3 Sep 2013 18:40
What a great pub. Loved the earlier comment that it is not a restaurant or a children's play area - brilliant! So this is a fantastic pub, some might say old-fashioned but I would say traditional with cosy surroundings and a welcoming landlord. The Tyler's Ale (aka Good Old Boy I believe) was perfect last time I visited, it was a sunny evening and the Morris Men were performing outside (a bit, they seemed to spend more time drinking.) If you have the energy to cycle (as I did) or walk up from the Thames you won't be disapointed. If you don't have the energy to make your own way, have someone drive you, it will be worth it.
AJM - 1 Jul 2013 22:15
Further to my previous review, I'm moving to Aldworth this summer, largely because of this pub.
The_Hermit - 10 May 2013 12:36
Shhhhh!
Don't tell everyone!
Still peerless, Black Horse Checkendon closest in feel....
jonno_ - 3 May 2013 19:43
Maybe I would not be quite so fulsome in my praise as The Hermit (Nov 2012) but their description is spot on. Its reputation is wide and you will find it crowded on most nights, but if that forces you into chatting with your neighbours - all to the good. The one negative is also a positive, the width of the serving area is very small, so you'll have to wait your turn, but the interior is so lovely that any modernisation for ergonomic reasons would be a crime
Arctium_lappa - 24 Feb 2013 20:11
Quite simply my favourite pub - ever. And I'm including the 9 that I've either run or worked in that have all been in the Good Beer Guide!
If you like the way pubs were 100 years ago, or possibly 200 years go, The Bell is for you. Electric lighting and top quality cellarmanship are the main improvements made over the centuries. 5 real ales, delivered by handpump, and some real local ciders, are the only non-bottled drinks available. Bottled Guinness is available, and probably some bottled lager too, but I haven't asked.
First and foremost, it's a pub. Not a restaurant, not a kids' play area, not a venue. Plain wooden floors, benches, chairs, tables, and as eclectic a mix of clientele as you could imagine. Dominated by locals and walkers, as you'd imagine given the location, but joined by suits, pensioners and people like me (book, pint and a welcome lunch-break from work).
The food is straightforward, but excellent. Filled rolls and ploughmans/platters. I love the salt beef - a couple of thick slabs in a warm, crusty roll, with chutney and horseradish always brought too.
If you can't cope with sharing your drinking/eating space with strangers, and perhaps a conversation with a local, then stay away - there are plenty of pubs in the area crying out for customers on a weekday lunchtime, but it's often hard to get a seat at The Bell.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the real fire, the outside loo (ladies is inside) and that the landlady's family have run the pub for 250 years, making only very gradual improvements.
The_Hermit - 16 Nov 2012 12:11
Utterly outstanding village pub that provides a superb selection of West Berkshire ales, rolls filled with intriguing fillings (the ox tongue and the pork & wild mushroom pate were both superb), this book has all the nooks and crannies you could want and is utterly unspoilt. So - a drinker's pub in the main, but also a walkers' one - it's a real hike from amywhere (we negotiated the three and a half miles from Goring & Streatley station) and is also ridiculously busy of a Sunday lunchtime (seats are at a premium but this somehow adds to the conviviality, as does the strong canine contingent.
BoehmBawerk - 29 Oct 2012 08:36
Pretty certain there is no lager tap, yarblockos, although they keep a small range of bottled stuff. I almost hesitate to recommend The Bell as it gets so busy & I want to be able to sit down!
FoggyBalla - 30 Jun 2012 10:04
Well worth going miles out of your way to visit - truly an experience, like going back eighty years or so, into the atmosphere of an old English village tavern. The inside is tiny and loaded with character. The beer good, and well-kept - West Berkshire Brewery - not the most interesting beers perhaps, but somehow it seems appropriate for this pub to be serving beer brewed just up the road, so I wouldn't have it any other way - and I don't think we'll be seeing 6X or London Pride here any time soon. Didn't even notice a lager tap though they must have one. Apparently been in the same family for generations and largely unchanged in a very long time indeed - long may it remain so - an absolute gem and without doubt the most special place in Berkshire and probably for at least a fifty-mile radius.
yarblockos - 3 Jun 2012 16:14
Lovely, characterful place. The beer and service were both excellent. I've knocked a point off for the food range cos. it's limited to small rolls, either with a filling or in a ploughmans. My stilton ploughmans was very good but I really needed more bread to fill me up. One of our group asked to forgo the roll in her ploughmans for more cheese and was rewarded with an excellent and very generous plate of cheeses and salad. So if I'd asked for more bread, I might have got it!
Psi - 11 May 2012 10:13
One of Britain's classic pubs but be warned it is at least 9 miles from Reading and you will either have to walk or take a car (the nearest station is at Goring and sadly the summer bus service stopped some time ago). However, please do make the effort as you will be well rewarded in this historic family-run gem where there is no music; no machines; no mobiles allowed - just great beer; conversation and a peaceful setting in which to sit and enjoy your pint. Ducks and geese in the yard; the village well opposite and the church down the road. It can get busy at weekends but it is well worth the effort and it one of my all-time favourite pubs.
mcroyal - 1 Sep 2011 23:03
A nine mile circular walk from Goring and Streatley station had as its prize a lunch time stop at The Bell, so the Ramble Then Lunch team went for it.

The walk was great - a long slow climb up The Ridgeway with views improving with every step with some fantastic vistas at the top. But even better was the pub. No bar, just some odd serving hatches. You choose your beer ( Arkells and West Berkshire Brewery), collect it through the hatch, squeeze past everyone else in this small pub and find some aged seating where you can slowly descend into a haze befitting this amazing place.

Some great stuff on the walls, including some history of nearby but now defunct Hampstead Norreys airfield, which had a lot of crashes !

No hot food of any description here, just rolls and Ploughmans. When I got home and told my wife I'd had salad for lunch she thought I really was drunk.

Well worth a visit.
ramblethenlunch - 11 Jul 2011 17:39
I can walk to the Bell from where I live. It's four miles across country and I'm seventy but a very few things are worth it. The Bell is one of them.
Ridgeway.Rambler - 19 Jan 2011 22:04
Lovely country pub with an excellent range of beers always served in top condition on the 7 or 8 times I've visited this pub over the last 2 years. Don't know why I've not posted a comment before. Probably cos I don't want any more people to know about this little gem.
topsailjon - 9 Jan 2011 11:47
Not much more to add to the other reviews of this, my favourite pub. One great time to visit is at Christmas when the local Mummers perform. This is possibly the most traditional village event I have ever attended & can be fuelled by mulled wine & mince pies.

My sister, brother-in-law & I have always planned to ask if we would be allowed to pitch a tent in the paddock at the back of the pub so we could enjoy an evening here & not have to drive home. I beleive that they have opened a B&B so canvas may not be necessary...

Incidentally the Gents is known by some as "The Planetarium" because of the lack of a roof.
FoggyBalla - 29 Nov 2010 23:02
Had a fabulous pint (in a handle, if you don't mind, barman) on a very chilly November afternoon. Sat in the garden because it was so busy indoors, but had an excellent pint of ale and a cracking warm bun.

I can't wait to go back!
beerPrincess - 23 Nov 2010 21:35
Have just come back from a first visit to this pub, and it is truly astonishing what is so good about so little. No draught lager, no mobile phones allowed, no music, no fruit machines/jukebox/video games, no pool table - just drinks and chat. The food is filled rolls, ploughmans' lunches and soup for the winter. That's it. What else do you need?

Beer is superb Arkells 3B, Arkells Kingsdown and West Berkshire Donnington Castle - at least that is what I had. There are probably more.

Although a Wednesday lunchtime, this pub was busy (although some locals said it was quiet!) friendly, warm and welcoming. Everything the GBG and GPG have said about it is true - this is a very special pub for beer and socialising. Has been run by the same family since about 1750 I was told. Had a good chat with 2 locals who I had just met and we were buying each other drinks within the hour.

There is no carpet because of all the walkers who come in. There is no bar! They have a number of "serving hatches" instead which is like a ticket booth. Some tables are inside the old bread ovens built into the wall. There are old photographs and business cards all over the walls (some of those people must be dead by now, the cards are so old!), wood tables and stools everywhere in an odd shaped pub, so it can be a bit of a squeeze past people sometimes I imagine.

This pub is CAMRA Regional Pub of the Year 2010 for South Central and it is easy to see why. They are therefore in the last 16 for the National title. The Bell has also been in the GPG every year since it started in about 1983 - not many pubs can say that.

It is a little difficult to get to across country, by OMG is it worth it - just make sure someone else is driving...
Lord_Jeffers - 17 Nov 2010 16:28
I came across The Bell about 10 years ago and it is a place I love to revisit. It is my favourite pub and I only wish I didn't live 100 miles away
llanman - 8 Nov 2010 08:25
Fantastic find. Recommended by a friend of mine, I wasn't disappointed
drytraveller - 24 Sep 2010 21:02
A cracking good pub. Cared for and still having the charm of the past. Not a chav or TV in sight, just like pubs should be.
fender100 - 5 May 2010 17:27
Good selection of well kept real ales, proper fire in winter, a fantastic beer garden for the summer and a good selection of fresh rolls, ploughmans and soups available if you're hungry... what's not to like?
They close for a well earned rest for a few hours in the afternoon (3-6pm) and they're shut on Mondays as well.
jimmahh - 3 Mar 2010 10:28
The more other pubs I go into, the more I appreciate the Bell. They only need to get their values wrong once and the last bell will have been rung in a unique and wonderful establishment. I hope I go before that happens.
Ridgeway.Rambler - 16 Dec 2009 09:57
Hadn't visited for at least a decade and a half - still as it always has been... It is unique - and long may it continue.
meurglys_iv - 19 Oct 2009 07:51
This country needs more pubs like this. It is at the true heart of the community being as it is in the centre of the village geographically and also seems to be the focal point of village social life. It ticks lots of stereotypical boxes of what you might ideally want from an English village pub with a great selection of real ales and cider, cheap bar food, plenty of local customers (young and old), dogs sitting on the floor, an open fire and a cricket pitch next door.

I don't want to say anything negative but if you were being pinickity you could point towards the fact that it's incredibly cramped inside, the gents toilet is outside and lacks any mod-cons (I think a light is the most advanced thing there is) and the food i've had hasn't been that great, but most of these things just add to the rustic charm of the place.

I highly recommend a visit, particularly in the evening when the atmosphere really comes alive
willyfog - 16 Aug 2009 10:23
The first and best of 10 pubs we tried in Berkshire yesterday. It's located in the centre of a picturesque village and is everything an old traditional village pub should be. Real ales on offer were West Berkshire Dr Hexters Wedding Ale, Old Tyler, Maggs Mild, Arkells BBB and Kingsdown. There is also real cider available from Uptons and another bottle which I can't remember. The only drawbacks I could see was the lack of seating (it was very cramped) and the fact that the barman tried to short-change me by a fiver. Hopefully this was unitentional. Otherwise the service was excellent. The outdoor gents toilet looked fascinating!
blue_scrumpy - 5 May 2009 20:43
Closest I've come to an 18th Century ale house: cramped, quirky, uncomfortable, but absolutely charming, with good, well-kept local beers and cider. Good bread-and-protein food (but why put banana on a Ploughman's?). Beloved of amiable walkers (it's on a footpath off the Ridgeway).
Ridgeway.Rambler - 30 Apr 2009 12:40
Fantastically good pub. Had a mild on (Berkshire), and beers all seemed to be from local breweries. The ones I tried were in tiptop condition. Staff and regulars friendly. Not much to add to previous accolade posts, except parking can be tricky and it's not easy to reach by anything other than car if you're not a villager. Had darts board, dominoes, cribbage. One of the best pubs I've ever visited.
mafting - 23 Apr 2009 23:22
Unspoilt, friendly, excellent beer. Who could ask for more? Food (mostly rolls) is simple and good quality. IMHO the finest pub in the country.
micksimm - 18 Jan 2009 18:07
One of the best. Good beers. Tasty rolls. Outstanding building. Classic car/bike meeting 4th Saturday of month April/Sept. Any excuse to visit.
beersponge - 6 Sep 2008 19:37
A real gem, ticks lots of boxes from the unspoilt interior (CAMRA heritage pub), through to the ale range (4 local beers plus house ale, served in handled mugs as standard), via the food selection (basic but tasty, try the duck and orange pate hot roll).

There's also a nice garden and an outside gents pissoir with almost no roof.

Service always friendly, even when busy.

One of my top 5 pubs. A must-visit.
Quinno - 3 Aug 2008 11:22
Brilliant pub, great beer, friendly atmosphere, what more is there to say?
HappyHippo - 28 Mar 2008 20:45
Superb, unchanging. Good beer and I can vouch from previous visits the food (mostly generously filled rolls) is good. Undoubtedly one of the top twenty best pubs in the UK.
simontheeditor - 24 Jan 2008 19:29
A bit of a hike away from our Goring starting point, but once I read in GPG that it was 14c, run by same family for 200yrs, and served NO draught lager it just had to be done. Original & authentic, displays an award for ‘most unchanged pub’. Bar is a servery with one window to a narrow L-shaped room the long side of which was filled with drinkers seated in recesses which looked rather like fireplaces, the other ‘hatch’ is to a corridor across which is a slightly larger room with seating, a dartboard, & displaying old pumpclips, many from West Berkshire brewery whose beer featured at the bar on Sat. Leaping Lord & Maggs Mild, Arkells BBB, plus another whose name I forget but which was delicious. Outside gents, large beer garden and fields beyond, one of which will be the cricket pitch when mown in summer. Well worth the detour, and thanks to Murdocks taxi for the timely service from Goring & back.
trainman - 3 Dec 2007 12:41
Why do some pubs make things so complicated?

The Bell has it right. A simple, ancient pub, simple local beers and simple - but superb and satisfying - food.
Biggles - 29 Oct 2007 19:05
Impossible to improve, bar making it less popular!
One of the pubs you simply have to visit before you die.
10/10
jonno_ - 4 Jun 2007 10:52
Tourists come to Britain for places like this. The Bell is a veritable time warp and deserves the plethora of awards seen on its walls; why there’s even an award for “most awards”! The fireplace in the plainer but no less interesting left hand room would put some stately homes to shame – it’s big enough for a hog roast. The beer is dispensed from a central “Cabin” with sliding windows and comes from Arkell’s and local West Berkshire breweries and the quality is faultless. The right hand room holds most interest but why should I describe it, look for yourself! Smoking is permitted for now but you can’t buy cigs here, only cigars. Classiness abounds. Add to all this an idyllic beer garden and heaven awaits.
Alerover - 5 May 2007 15:14
We were there on the same Easter Sunday and, although the queue took some time to get in the door, it became apparent as we got closer to the bar that this was NOT due to lack of efficiency and politeness on the part of the barstaff, more to do with people dawdling in their choices and dithering about after getting served. The staff were supremely polite and helpful, the beer was wonderful and the rolls were superb. The interior is a sight to behold, completely unchanged for decades. This is, without doubt, one of the finest pubs in England.
Gristy - 17 Apr 2007 12:51
Went to the Bell on Easter Sunday having walked from Chilton. The queue for the bar was out of the door and the garden was full, but we managed to snag a table as someone left. Spent two very pleasant hours drinking the excellently kept West Berks brew (sold in four-pint jugs) and eating fresh rolls filled with cheese, crab, ham, salt beef... The only disadvantage was that the pub closed at 3pm, so if you're walking there, don't start too late.
cosmogenist - 17 Apr 2007 12:42
Ask if they still do Two-stroke, a mix of something and something else, which, if I remember, was excellent. I think.
bulky - 5 Dec 2006 17:54
My favourite pub. Consistently well kept ale and simple, tasty rolls will real fillings (good cheddar, real crab and lots more). Beer is normally West Berks. Maggs Mild is always wonderful. Popular with walkers (near Ridgeway)
anonymous - 22 Oct 2006 18:14
I haven't been to the Bell for over 10 years, so feel free to disregard this if you like, but from its consistently good write-ups in various beer-related publications I can only think it remains as characterful and honest a village local as one would hope to find. Well-kept and varied beers, a lovely garden and beautiful setting. It's worth the effort to get out there if you can.
TWG - 9 Oct 2006 17:24
Excellent. A proper country pub-just watch out for the opening hours.....
anonymous - 21 Sep 2006 17:39
I used to live in the area and am now stuck in the middle of London. I cannot imagine a better pub in the world to while away an afternoon. Absolutely the best pub (that I have been to) ever.
Tomi - 20 Jun 2006 14:50
awesome unspoilt country pub - but closing times (traditional) caught me out on sunday - BUM!!

so had to carry on searching...

Nosowner - 18 May 2006 16:37
Been going for 15 years now, the best real pub I have found.
loewenthal - 6 May 2006 13:16
All pubs should be like this. Fantastic atmosphere, good beer, friendly staff, friendly locals and good, basic (& cheap) food. And a herd (?) of ducks quacking away in a field behind the pub.

And it's dog friendly.
Tweak_Head - 6 Mar 2006 11:02
This is a proper country pub in the middle of nowhere. Totally unspoilt.
Yournotfromaroundhere - 12 Jan 2006 13:22
This used to be one of my haunts(sadly i had to move away)...if your in the area, nip in for a quick one...you wont be disappointed
whoosh125 - 5 Apr 2005 19:55
A splendid oasis of peace, solitude, great beer and heritage surroundings. It is a very great pity that I have to drive there and so limit my thirst!
derekbutton - 28 Feb 2005 20:53
Best Country pub in Berkshire, and probably England.
BinBagBob - 13 Feb 2005 10:55
Timeless village pub with excellent cheap beer and food.
cidersam - 31 Jan 2005 15:04
I used to live in the area and always come back for a couple when out of London. Perfect country pub.
anonymous - 10 Apr 2004 15:09
it's proper bo! Awesome lunch time rolls, great beers and friendly staff. Just what you want from a country pub.
captain_cool - 3 Mar 2004 10:31
Exquisite! Very cosy, friendly atmosphere with a fine selection of ales. Ordering your drinks from a little hatchway only adds to the charm. Basic, honestly priced food is most welcome - the Bell has successfully resisted the restaurant-pub route. Very busy in the summer and most weekends, but this says something about the quality of the experience. A real gem and worth a substantial detour - but don't tell everyone, it's our secret!
Benedict Vanheems - ben@trmg.co.uk - 28 Nov 2003 16:12
Was mentioned on Radio five 14/10/03 as the editor of the Good Pub Guide's best pub!
anonymous - 15 Oct 2003 08:59
One of the best rurral unspoilt pubs in the country! Run by generations of the same family since about 1800, this is a warm, friendly welcoming local gem that attracts visitors from far and wide. Not easy to get to by any stretch of the imagination, but you will not be disappointed when you do find it. A superb range of local ales includes Arkell's 3B and some West Berkshire Brewery beers. Exquisite food is available - you must try the crab rolls. Huge sausages in French bread are a favourite too. A real open fire. HEAVEN!
Lee Newton - Lee.A.Newton@jobcentreplus.gov.uk - 10 Jul 2003 20:07

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