Monday 2 May 2016

Six(ty) of the best

The Barley Mow, Kirk Ireton, Derbyshire
I recently spotted an article from Esquire magazine listing sixty of the best pubs in Britain. Not surprisingly, as with most such lists, there’s a noticeable bias towards the South of England and more upmarket pubs, although it does include plenty of good ones.

So, in response, entirely off the top of my head, and possibly slightly under the affluence of incohol, I thought I would draw up my own list. I think there is only one common entry between both lists.

As caveats I would say that this only lists places I have actually been, so doesn’t pretend to offer a balanced national coverage. Some of them made an impression on me in the previous century, but I haven’t visited them in this. There’s probably at least one on the list that has now closed, and equally a blindingly obvious one I’ve missed off. There will also probably be one that you consider to be utterly crap.

I’ve also omitted some well-known classics such as the Square & Compass at Worth Matravers and the Pandora at Restronguet Creek on the grounds that I haven’t actually been there for twenty-five or more years.

Not surprisingly, Sam Smith’s and Robinson’s are represented more than any other brewers or pub operators. There’s not a single Wetherspoons. I rather wanted to include a Donnington pub in the Cotswolds, but none really stood out from the pack in recent memory.

  1. Admiral Benbow, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
  2. Albion, Conwy, Caernarfonshire
  3. Anchor, High Offley, Staffordshire
  4. Arden Arms, Stockport, Cheshire
  5. Armoury, Stockport, Cheshire
  6. Barley Mow, Kirk Ireton, Derbyshire
  7. Barrels, Hereford
  8. Bennet’s Bar, Edinburgh
  9. Bird in Hand, Mobberley, Cheshire
  10. Black Boy, Winchester, Hampshire
  11. Black Horse, Clapton-in-Gordano, Somerset
  12. Blue Bell, York
  13. Boar’s Head, Stockport, Cheshire
  14. Boat, Penallt, Monmouthshire
  15. Boot, Chester
  16. Cock, Broom, Bedfordshire
  17. Colpitts Hotel, Durham
  18. Cresselly Arms, Cresswell Quay, Pembrokeshire
  19. Cricketers, Berwick, Sussex
  20. Cross Keys, Chester
  21. Crown & Anchor, Llanidloes, Montgomeryshire
  22. Crown, Churchill, Somerset
  23. Crown, Stockport, Cheshire
  24. Davenport Arms, Woodford, Cheshire
  25. Digby Tap, Sherborne, Dorset
  26. Dolphin, Derby
  27. Dolphin, Plymouth, Devon
  28. Eclipse, Winchester, Hampshire
  29. Farriers Arms, St Albans, Hertfordshire
  30. Fleece, Bretforton, Worcestershire
  31. Fletcher Moss, Didsbury, Manchester
  32. Grape Vaults, Leominster, Herefordshire
  33. Great Western, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire
  34. Gresley Arms, Alsagers Bank, Staffordshire
  35. Griffin, Heaton Mersey, Lancashire
  36. Half Moon, Durham
  37. Harrington Arms, Gawsworth, Cheshire
  38. Horse & Farrier, Gatley, Cheshire
  39. Horse & Groom, Scarcliffe, Derbyshire
  40. King’s Arms, Heath, Yorkshire
  41. King’s Arms, Seaton Sluice, Northumberland
  42. Loggerheads, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
  43. Nursery, Stockport, Cheshire
  44. Old House, Ightham Common, Kent
  45. Queen’s Head, Stockport, Cheshire
  46. Queens Hotel, Carmarthen
  47. Railway, Marple, Cheshire
  48. Red Lion, Dayhills, Staffordshire
  49. Salutation, Ham, Gloucestershire
  50. Snickleway Inn, York
  51. Star, Bath, Somerset
  52. Swan, Holmes Chapel, Cheshire
  53. Talbot, Tregaron, Cardiganshire
  54. Travellers Rest, Alpraham, Cheshire
  55. Victoria, Cleveleys, Lancashire
  56. Vine, Dunham Woodhouses, Cheshire
  57. White Horse, Clun, Shropshire
  58. White Lion, Barthomley, Cheshire
  59. Ye Olde Vic, Stockport, Cheshire
  60. Yew Tree, Cauldon, Staffordshire


  1. Impossible to pick 60 out of 50,000 and not miss some but The Vine (Bathams), Brierley Hill and the Three Kings, Hanley Castle (Worcs) are worthy contenders. As always the CAMRA historic registry is a good place to start.

  2. Can't argue with any of those. Presume your favourite 60 craft bars to follow ;-)

  3. Never actually been to the Bull & Bladder, although I have over the years done half of the original "Bathams Eight". In the late 70s, the Lamp Tavern in Dudley was astonishingly basic. I remember buying a packet of scratchings that basically consisted of one enormous piece ;-)

    I have been to the Three Kings, although too long ago to qualify.

  4. Oh dear, I definitely need to get out more. There are only seven pubs on your list Mudge, which have seen my custom. There are plenty that I’ve heard of and quite a few which are on my wish list, but I’ve still got a heck of a long way to catch you up.

    A Donnington pub in the Cotswolds? How about the Fox Inn at Broadwell or the Plough Inn at Ford? Both excellent pubs, although it is over 25 years since I last visited them.

    1. Most of the Donnington pubs were "made over" at some time in the 60s or 70s and so don't quite have that olde-worlde character. In fact the Fox was the last one I was in, but by 12.30 pm it was overwhelmed by pensioner dining parties. Lovely situation, though.

      Probably the most characterful that I remember visiting was the golden Ball at Lower Swell.

  5. Only one on the original list I know of is The Ship, Very nice place and all that but sure you'll not be surprised to hear it's more of a restaurant than a pub.

  6. The Bull & Bladder is ace. Personally, I'd want to include The Anchor in Digbeth, Birmingham, and The Fat Cat in Norwich.

  7. I've been in 9 of them....

    To add a few more of my own favourites:

    The Admiral Lord Rodney (free house) and the Red Lion (Sam Smith's), both in Colne.
    The Victoria (free house) in Durham.
    The big pub whose name I can't remember, right next to Lime Street Station in Liverpool (free house).
    The Philharmonic (free house I think) in Liverpool.
    The Tim Bobbin (Sam Smith's) in Burnley.
    The Robin Hood (free house) in Helmshore.
    ... and best of all, but long gone, the Manchester Arms (Robinson's) in Stockport.

  8. That's for this. Will set to the list converting them to Express stores ASAP

  9. I've been to 10 of them, which isn't bad considering I live nowhere near Stockport.

    1. Only 19 of the 60 are in Cheshire, with a further two in Lancashire.

    2. And a further 5 in N. Staffordshire. If we plotted them all on a map, I'm sure we'd all be able to guess where you lived. :-)

  10. I've only been once, a couple of years back, but The Beacon Hotel in Sedgley would easily make it into my own top three of pubs in England.

  11. I have done 20 on the original list and 29 on Pub Curmudgeons list,some quite recently and most of the Greater Manchester ones in the mid to late 90s.
    I think most pubs on both lists seem decent to me.


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