As you might expect, it is much more biased towards the traditional and olde-worlde, with five currently on CAMRA’s National Inventory of historic pub interiors and another – the Black Horse – having been excluded due to a bit of knocking-through, but still very old-school in its atmosphere. All of them, though, are still places that function as real, vibrant pubs rather than just museum pieces. As I have said in the past, at heart I have to conclude I’m more fascinated by pubs than beer.
Most of these I’ve been to more than once, although the Red Lion and Star have only seen single visits, but have really stuck in my mind.
There are plenty of cracking traditional pubs in Stockport but, on consideration, the Nursery must be the cream of the crop. Maybe a forthcoming blogpost could cover my ten favourite Stockport pubs. I’d also like to acknowledge the number of excellent, unspoilt Sam Smith’s pubs in Cheshire, none of which quite made it to this list, although a couple would get on the second twenty. There are also some architecturally superb pubs in Edinburgh such as Bennet’s Bar and the Guildford Arms that I don’t really feel I know well enough.
Edit 20/4/13: post amended to add the Great Western in Wolverhampton which was unaccountably omitted from the original listing.
- Barrels, Hereford – a busy, lively multi-roomed pub tied to Wye Valley brewery, with a mixed clientele and a proper pub atmosphere
- Black Horse, Clapton-in-Gordano, Somerset – an ancient pub, allegedly dating back to the 14th century, with stone-flagged floors, old wooden settles, brasses, real fires and gravity-served beer
- Blue Bell, York – a tiny two-roomer just off the city centre, with front vault, rear snug, central servery and side corridor, described as “a symphony in brown”
- Digby Tap, Sherborne, Dorset – a small, cosy, cottage-style pub in a back street near the Abbey, with stone-flagged floors, plain food and local real ales
- Dolphin, Derby – a magnificent 16th century half-timbered pub with a warren of cosy, atmospheric rooms
- Great Western, Wolverhampton – Holden’s tied pub hidden away round the back of the station, offering the full range of their beers, three guests and Batham’s superb Best Bitter. Classic front bar and a variety of areas rambling back to a conservatory and beer garden. Lively, bustling atmosphere, busy throughout the day
- Loggerheads, Shrewsbury (pictured) – a rare survivor of the unassuming town pubs of a bygone era, with four small rooms including a wonderful snug with scrubbed-top tables which was men-only until the 1970s
- Nursery, Stockport – my local pub, a largely untouched building dating from 1939 with a classic three-roomed interior which in recent years has been much more enterprising on the beer front. CAMRA National Pub of the Year 2002
- Red Lion, Dayhills, Staffordshire – a basic, cottage-style country pub, just one stone-flagged room dominated by a massive inglenook fireplace
- Royal Oak, Eccleshall, Staffordshire – an impressive pub with an arcaded facade in the centre of this small town which has recently been brought back to life with a stylish and sympathetic renovation by Joules Brewery
- Star, Bath – a surprisingly shallow pub in a Georgian terrace, with a quirky multi-roomed interior featuring extensive wood panelling and traditional West Country flat Bass on sale