MK’s Cosy Winter Pub Guide – 2022

Posted 5th December 2022

Brrrrrrrr. It’s certainly starting to feel frosty out there! Here is your guide to 10 of the best local pubs that’ll be sure to ‘warm your cockles’ this Winter! Remember:

“Winter is not a season – it’s a celebration.”

The Barge Inn and The Traveller’s Rest

Part of the Vintage Inns group, The Barge at Woolstone was built in the early 19th Century to slake the thirsts of men working on The Grand Union Canal and has been a firm favourite of narrow boaters ever since. Having recently undergone a really impressive and modern refurbishment whilst keeping it’s country feel (and, importantly for the Winter, the roaring open fire) The Barge has been the pub of choice, especially for an evening drink, for my family for many years.

On our recent lunchtime get together where we brought together family members from Milton Keynes, Enfield and even Ukraine, the lunchtime offerings were hearty, warming and well-priced. Our favourites were the ‘Bloody Mary Salmon Fishcakes’ with broccoli, poached egg and hollandaise and the ‘Korean-style BBQ Chicken Skewers’ with yoghurt, basmati rice, a beetroot wrap, and a cucumber, red onion and dill salad.

The Barge: 15 Newport Road, Woolstone, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK15 0AE

If you like The Barge, a little further out is The Traveller’s Rest, located in Edlesborough (since 1851) and tucked away in the scenic Bedfordshire countryside. This country pub is full of rustic character and served up one of the nicest brunches I’ve had recently. The ‘Eggs Royale’ and ‘Full Vegetarian’ went down an absolute treat. The Traveller’s Rest is the perfect location for a chilly Winter walk as it’s near the Dunstable Downs, Whipsnade and Ashridge Estate.

Both The Barge and The Traveller’s Rest are also dog friendly – in fact, even the door states that ‘muddy paws are welcome’ making them both superb locations to cosy up in after a countryside amble with your furry friends!

The Traveller’s Rest: Edlesborough, Tring Road, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 2EE


The Cross Keys, The Plough and The Dolphin

Also located in Woolstone, the Cross Keys is a stunning chocolate-box of a cosy spot to wine and dine in this Winter. Having made the finals in the category of ‘Pub of the Year’ this year at the MKFLA, this award-winning thatched pub is just a short drive from Centre:MK, yet snugly located in the heart of the village. The pub itself boasts a superb dining space and spacious bar area. The food at The Cross Keys is probably some of my favourite from any pub within Milton Keynes, with a special mention going to their mammoth Sunday sharing roasts; these are perfectly suited to the colder Winter days and are loaded up with all of the extra trimmings – roast potatoes, homemade Yorkshire puddings, seasonal vegetables, cauliflower cheese, gravy and even a Christmastime favourite – honey and whole grain mustard pigs in blankets.

There are also plenty of exciting things to do in the area, either before or after luxuriating in the warmth of The Cross Keys or The Barge. With both pubs situated near Ouzel Valley Park, Woolstone is an excellent spot for cycling and walking as well as for taking the time to explore the historic remains of medieval villages and fish ponds.

Cross Keys: 34 Newport Rd, Woolstone, Milton Keynes MK15 0AA

Their sister pub, The Plough at Simpson also serves fabulous fresh food with unforgettable service at just a stone’s throw away from Caldecotte Lake. In fact, both restaurants were awarded the ‘2022 Traveller’s Choice Award’ from Trip advisor this year.

The Plough: Simpson Rd, Simpson, Milton Keynes MK6 3AH

And, if you’re local to Stoke Hammond, keep your eyes peeled for the new opening from the owners – The Dolphin. I’ve been following their journey for a while on social media now and this pub looks sure to be a new favourite.

The Dolphin: Leighton Rd, Stoke Hammond, Milton Keynes MK17 9BB


The Cock Inn

The Cock Inn located in the small village of North Crawley is independently owned by local chefs The Brothers’ Supper. This pub has always been a firm family favourite of mine due to its proximity to my hometown and the incredible Sunday dinners they provide. The Cock Inn is a 16th Century English pub with all the quintessential charm and character of a traditional country pub with a simple yet modern take on food. The pub itself has 3 main spaces – the quietly snug and dog-friendly bar area; the cosy restaurant with plenty of tables and a roaring log fire; and a warm private dining space that can seat up to 20 people.

As previously mentioned, the Sunday roasts at The Cock Inn have never disappointed however, on a recent visit this chilly November to meet some friends, their Tuesday Pie Night may just take the top spot for my favourite foodie offerings here. With a choice of pie, potato, vegetable side and gravy for £12, it’s a wintertime deal that is too good to miss. You can even add a dessert for £4 extra (which I did, of course) and I can honestly say it was some of the best ‘pub grub’ I’ve had. I opted for the daily special – the Venison and Red Wine Pie – with roots, dauphinoise and red wine jus, while my friends went for one of the weekly offerings – Beef and Guinness Pie; both choices were worth a score of ‘10,’ without doubt. Each pie was stuffed full with tender meat, covered with flaky pastry and doused in a rich and flavoursome gravy.

With other events, such as ‘Fresh Fish Friday’ and ‘Senior Savings Wednesday,’ there is something for everyone at this hidden gem.​

The Cock Inn: 16 High Street, North Crawley, Newport Pagnell, MK16 9LH


The Black Horse and The Wavendon Arms

The Black Horse in Great Linford is known for it’s ‘summer friendly’ feel with a hugely spacious courtyard and waterfront outdoor space yet, in my opinion, the Winter is the season this pub really comes to life. With an open fire in the cosy bar area and another in the restaurant, luxurious seating and a plethora of wooden beams, The Black Horse is the prefect destination for a lazy Sunday roast, a midweek lunch or dinnertime treat, or even the perfect place to unwind with a few drinks after a long day.

As the pub is situated so near to Linford Manor Park – a lovely countryside destination full of 18th Century charm with a view of water gardens, alms-houses, a church and a quarry – it makes The Black Horse the perfect destination to warm up in afterwards. This pub is also where I have had my favourite ever espresso martini! So, even if you’re not after pub grub, it’s worth a visit for this alone!

The Black Horse: Wolverton Road, Great Linford, MK, Buckinghamshire, MK14 5AJ

Similarly to The Black Horse and also part of the Premium Country Pubs Brand, The Wavendon Arms is another great spot to unwind in this Winter. Whether you plan on popping in for lunch, dinner or drinks, they offer an extensive menu featuring a whole host of hearty mains, as well as a great selection of real ales, lagers, and wines.

No matter the reason for your visit, expect an exceptionally snug and homely atmosphere full of energy and buzz, from the bar to your table.

The Wavendon Arms: 2 Newport Road, Wavendon, MK, Buckinghamshire, MK17 8LJ


The Red Lion in Stevington

A spot unbeknownst to me until this Autumn, The Red Lion in the tiny village of Stevington (enroute to Bedford) is one of my dining invite highlights from this year. Having recently re-opened after a re-vamp, this small and welcoming spot has stylishly feminine and modern interiors yet still keeps all the very best elements of a traditional British pub.

When I visited they had opened just days before, yet the whole service ran like clockwork – there were absolutely no teething issues, just delicious food which mimicked the surroundings perfectly – traditional with a modern twist. The small plates were divine – the Scottish rope mussels served in a warming, spicy tomato sauce with warm bread and fresh lemon was to die for and the rich chocolate stout cake with a Bailey’s buttercream was one of my favourite desserts to date.

The Red Lion celebrates the changing of the seasons using an unpretentious cooking style and local produce and is one of my most memorable Friday nights from the latter part of this year.

The Red Lion: 1 Park Road, Stevington, MK43 7QD


The Chester Arms

Last but by no means least is The Chester Arms in Chicheley. Opening up in May of 2015 as a family-run business, the small yet dedicated team pride themselves on customer service from start to finish. With meat from the local Olney Butchers, their menu suits carnivores with big appetites – the full rack of BBQ ribs is a gigantic portion and my personal favourite choice – but also those with more specific dietary requirements as The Chester Arms has an extensive and dedicated set of menus for those with vegan, gluten free and dairy free diets.

I believe that The Chester Arms has one of the best value food and drink menus in the area, as well as a superb and attentive set of staff that make you feel right at home from the get-go. It is a ‘proper pub’ in that it is particularly unpretentious and exceptionally relaxed, making it one of my favourite cosy Winter spots to bring in the festive season.

The Chester Arms: Bedford Road, Chicheley, Bucks, MK16 9JE