The word Pub seems to be synonymous with drinking establishments of the UK and Ireland. Most other countries tend to call them bars, other than perhaps Australia, and if you do find a pub outside GB/Eire it’s most likely been modelled on our country’s examples anyway. The village pub is usually the heart of every rural community and even in the largest towns and cities there is a regular clientele that claims a particular pub to be their “local”. With being such a focal point of the social life of GB/Eire for hundreds of years it’s no surprise that many an event is associated with them and here are 10 famous British pubs.
1. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham
One of the most famous of British pubs and is purportedly the oldest. It is famous for the caves carved into sandstone below Nottingham Castle that are incorporated into the pub building. Even though it claims a drinking establishment on the site since 1189 the current building is about 300 years old. The caves have been proven to be the site of a former brewery dating to when the castle was constructed in 1089 so it’s possible that it is even older than it claims. The name comes from its legacy of being a stopping off point for knights from the North countries making their way to join the Crusades.
2. Spaniards Inn, Hampstead, London
Not the oldest, smallest or largest but certainly one of the most famous British pubs due to being myth saturated with claims to connections with notable luminaries through the centuries. Various stories abound about this establishment having enjoyed the custom of Dick Turpin (highwayman), poets John Keats, Lord Byron, A.E. Houseman and William Blake, the authors Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Evelyn Waugh and Mary Shelley and painters Joshua Reynolds, William Hogarth and John Constable. Today people enjoy the pretty gardens.
3. The Eagle, Cambridge
This pub is notable for its 20th century associations. It’s the pub Alan Turing used to frequent in his university student days before WWII when he was called into service to help break the codes of the German U-Boats’ Enigma machine. It’s also the place where Frances Crick and James Watson announced they had discovered the secret of life – DNA.
4. The Skirrid Mountain Inn, Llanfihangel Crucorney, Wales
Maybe not amongst the most famous British pubs but it is of undoubted importance to the people of Wales with its history that spans 9 centuries. It is claimed that the Welsh folk hero Owain Glyndwr (pronounced Owen Glindower) rallied his supporters here and he led them in the failed revolt against English King Henry IV.
5. The Oxford Bar, Edinburgh
If you know the Inspector Rebus Stories of Ian Rankin, you’ll already know the “Ox” as it is the fictional watering hole of Rebus and the real life favourite pub of the author. A lot of police officers patronize the bar and it has also been visited by Sean Connery and Colin Dexter, the author of the Inspector Morse series of books.
6. Red Lion, Parliament Square, London
This drinking house is unique amongst all and not just famous British pubs. Most public houses right through the British Isles have a bell that is sounded at last orders and closing time. The bell at the Red Lion is also rung to summon serving MPs (Members of Parliament) to the House of Commons when they are required to vote.
7. The Angel, Islington, London
One of the most famous British pubs is no longer a pub. The Angel, Islington is said to have been where Thomas Paine penned The Rights of Man. It was mentioned by Charles Dickens and later became a Lyons Corner House. It is also a property on the London edition of Monopoly but today it is a branch of the Co-operative Bank Plc.
8. Old Queen’s Head, Islington, London
In an upstairs room of the Old Queen’s Head in 1903, future president of the USSR, Lenin, met colleagues and members of the Russian Social Democratic Party including Karl Marx who lived nearby.
9. Jamaica Inn, Bodmin, Cornwall
Among famous British pubs immortalised in the movies, Jamaica Inn is the setting of the Daphne du Maurier novel. It was made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1939. It is also regarded as being one of the most haunted places in Britain, was the meeting place of smugglers and is also the subject of a track on the Tori Amos album, the Beekeeper. Other famous and real movie pubs are the Port O’Leith from Trainspotting and the Pennan Inn from Local Hero, both in Scotland.
10. The Rovers Return, Weatherfield, TV Land
I don’t know if you have ever seen any British soaps but everything happens in the pub. The Rovers Return bar props up all the characters that live in Coronation Street, a series that has been running on British TV since December 1960. Its closest soap rival Eastenders, has The Queen Vic(toria) at the heart of the community and Emmerdale’s rural farming populace spends more time in The Woolpack than they do in the fields tending the crops and sheep. Avid listeners of radio soap The Archers have heard glasses chinking at The Bull since 01/01/1951. It is highly likely that if you asked some living here to name a famous pub they would say the Rovers Return or The Queen Vic before any of the others even enter their heads.
As you can see, famous British pubs are a varied bunch and this is just a very small selection.
I hope you all get to experience a glass of traditional ale by a traditional hearth one day and I can assure you the days of warm beer are long behind us. It’s my round, what are you having?