Muddy eats: The Skimmington Castle, Reigate

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I’ve meant to tell you about this pub for several months (oops), so I’m excited to finally get around to it. Like many of the best pubs I come across, The Skimmington Castle is a little off the beaten track – in this case a mile or two outside Reigate and up a hill and round a few corners overlooking Reigate Common, so not a place you’re going to stumble over.

It’s known locally as just The Skim, and it’s bit of an institution here, known for it’s laid-back vibe and Sunday roasts to die for! Oh. And dogs are welcomed, not just with open arms, but also a basketful of doggie treats and dishes of water.

The first thing to tell you really is how ‘pubby’ this place is. It’s a traditional pub, dating back to the 17th century, offering good food (wait until you see the homemade puds) and real ales (that’s Mr Muddy happy).

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The interior is rustic and homely, giving it a relaxed local vibe that I really liked. Certainly it has all the prerequisite fires and wooden rustic tables you’d expect from a British pub that’s used to seeing its fair share of bitter winters, but it’s also perfectly set up for summer, with a seating outside on the front patio and side deck area, and plenty of room to roam for little people.

It’s the kind of place you’d feel very comfortable taking your kids to for an early dinner, or nibbling on some bar snacks with a glass of wine, with the dog curled up at your feet. There are nooks and crannies galore, including a lovely little snug, down a tiny set of stairs, which would be great for families, so small kiddies can be noisy without annoying the other diners.

It’s hillside position overlooking Reigate Common mean it’s brilliant for dog walkers, with plenty of walks. You could try this one which takes you past the windmill on Reigate Heath. It’s a gentle walk that’ll take about two hours. Or just amble across Reigate Common. Oh, and there’s also somewhere to tie your horse, so if you hack across Reigate Common you could stop off for lunch or a snack along the way. You can’t say that about too many pubs.

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We went for a Sunday lunch with family. There was some minor confusion over the table we’d booked, but the staff were super helpful and sorted the problem quickly. It’s a family-run pub and this shows through in the service and the food.

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The food is traditional pub food. On a Sunday it’s all about the roast, but the main menu includes all those pub favourites like fish pie, pork belly, fish and chips, lamb shank, and braised beef in Guinness. It was the roast dinner all the way for us… and just look at those potatoes. Certainly nothing to complain about here. Between us we had the lamb and the veggie roast – and it was all great home-cooked nosh. I’ll certainly be going back.

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THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: relaxed foodies, family meals out, parents with young kids, casual drinkers looking for a chilled out pint in the garden, anyone with a dog who wants to explore the local area then finish with a drink or meal.

Not for: The casual, local vibe might not suit those looking for a more starchy fine dining experience.

££: Reasonable. Starters range from £5.45 for homemade soup to £6.95 for the Thai spiced crab pot; mains start at £12.95 the fish and chips with lamb shank at £15.95. A Sunday roast is from £12.95 for half roast chicken to £14.95 for the roast rump of lamb. There’s also a Sunday snack menu and a gluten free menu, as well as a pretty tasty looking homemade deserts menu.

The Skimmington Castle, Bonnys Rd, Reigate RH2 8RL. Tel: 01737 234 100. skimmingtoncastle.co.uk

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Surrey