A few of Britain’s Notable Pubs

Friday, 19th February 2010 by

Britain is renowned for historic pubs serving fine ales and mouthwatering food. While the reality may be that dozens of pubs are closing every week, or being taken over by large corporate chains, there are still plenty of inns that retain their character and popularity.

Let’s begin by looking at several of the claimants to the title of Oldest Pub in Britain. The Guinness Book of Records officially recognises Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans.

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks Ye Olde Fighting Cocks

Originally named the Round House, the current name was taken from the barbaric sport which used to take place in the bar. While the octagonal building dates to the 11th century, it was moved to its current location in 1599. This fact leads to disputes about the legitimacy of its claim to be the oldest pub.

It’s unsure exactly when Ye Olde Man & Scythe in Bolton was built, but it was mentioned in historic documents from 1251.

Ye Olde Man & Scythe

However, it too has been rebuilt over time, with only the cellar remaining from the original building.

Continuing a somewhat predictable naming theme, Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem in Nottingham claims to have been built in 1189, though no official documentation proves that, and the current building is about 300 years old.

Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem

With no clear winner, I’ll claim the Trip as my personal favourite of the three, having had my share of pints in its tiny rooms and caves carved out of Castle Rock.

The Sheep Heid in Edinburgh claims to be Scotland’s oldest pub, dating the site to 1360.

Sheep Heid

While they probably no longer sell the food for which the pub is named, it is a listed building with a famous skittle alley about 140 years old.

The Skirrid Mountain Inn claims to be Wales’ oldest pub, with an interesting history serving as a courthouse, with condemned prisoners being hung from a beam in the bar.

Skirrid Mountain Inn

Moving on to other superlatives, Britain’s highest pub is also somewhat disputed. The Tan Hill Inn at 528m above sea level is generally considered the highest.

Tan Hill Inn

Anything at this altitude in the Pennines sees its share of weather; in fact after this past new year’s, revellers spent 3 days trapped in the pub because of snow. I can think of worse places to be stuck, and by all accounts a jolly time was had by all.

The Cat & Fiddle in Derbyshire is contesting the title however, with measurements placing it anywhere from 515m to 540m.

Cat & Fiddle

Meanwhile, Street View takes us to the top of the Glenshane Pass (305m) and Northern Ireland’s highest pub, the Ponderosa.

Ponderosa

A number of pubs boast somewhat gruesome histories or legends, including Bristol’s Hatchet Inn, where the front door is rumoured to be covered in human skin (underneath the paint).

Hatchet Inn

Meanwhile, the Bucket of Blood in Phillack takes it’s attractive name from an incident many years ago when the landlord, fetching water from the well, pulled up a pail full of human blood.

Bucket of Blood

The victim is purported to be the local tax collector, with his ghost believed to haunt the pub to this day. A hearty red ale is served to take advantage of this story.

To Scotland, and the more heart-warming story of Edinburgh’s Grayfriars Bobby’s Bar, named for a dog which, in the 19th century, spent 14 years watching over the grave of his owner.

Bobby's Bar

A small statue of Bobby is visible outside the pub, which is near the graveyard where Bobby kept his faithful watch.

Also in Edinburgh, the Canny Mans is notable both for the vast collection of random objects which adorn the ceilings and walls, and the strictly-enforced list of ‘rules’ outside the pub, giving it a reputation as somewhat unwelcoming.

Canny Mans

Finally, Glasgow’s Horse Shoe claims the longest bar in the world, though that is disputed by a number of other establishments.

Horse Shoe

With an estimated 50,000+ pubs in Britain, this is just a tiny selection. Where do you raise a glass?

Thanks to Alex and James for the Scottish locations, and kevinoakgrove for the Ponderosa.