Britain's 10 Best Pubs (Slideshow)
June 20, 2014
10. The Royal Oak — Borough, London
Voted one of the U.K.'s top 10 pubs by the Daily Telegraph, the Royal Oak is a true Victorian-era gem built just a stone's throw away from Chaucer's Tabard Inn. To honor its legacy, the pub also recreates the local drinking traditions recorded in the Canterbury Tales, but in a more contemporary setting. Today it's an authentic city beer house with plenty of local ales on tap.
9. The Thatchers Arms — Mount Bures, Essex
An authentic rural country pub that boasts its own stunning views of the Stour Valley in Suffolk, Essex, The Thatcher's Arms serves award-winning local ales as well great food sourced locally too. It's the perfect place to get a taste of the old country while enjoying the best lager and food the English countryside has to offer.
8. The Old Green Tree — Bath, Avon
Back in the day the busy city folk of London used to retire to Bath on weekends to "take the waters" and relax amid the quiet countryside — and The Old Green Tree upholds that tradition by being seriously old school… no music, pinball machines, or children are allowed in this little drinking hole. This is a place you come to enjoy a dazzling variety of lagers, ales, and bottled beers from breweries all located within an 80-mile radius while engaging in some friendly conversation with the locals in the wood-panelled interior.
7. The Philharmonic Dining Rooms — Liverpool, Merseyside
Affectionately referred to by locals as "The Phil," this pub is listed on the national inventory of historic pub interiors and was built around 1898. The outside is braggishly designed to look like a Scottish castle (likely a more modern addition) but it's the inside that really makes it special. Around the front bar counter you'll find a full mosaic and wood panel top, and the place is peppered with heavy mahogany partitions inscribed with letters, like "H" (often used to designate a special spot used by magistrates and the like). The next floor down includes a private bar with tiled walls, deep etched windows, and a stained and leaded screen that encircles the whole bar. The fact that their beer and ale selections are pretty good, too, is just a bonus, really.
6. The Eagle and Child — Oxford
Located in Saint Giles, Oxford, The Eagle and Child has been an endowment of the University College since the seventeenth century. While the outside may look plain enough, the inside has played host to a cavalcade of famous Oxford alumni, politicians, and writers including J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis (rumor was they used meet at the back of the pub in the "Rabbit Room" for a private writers club around 1933).
5. The George Inn — Southwark, London
Also known as The George, this pub is the only surviving galleried coaching inn in Britain. Originally it was called Saint George and the Dragon, after the famous medieval legend, and was rebuilt in 1677 after being almost razed to the ground by a horrific fire. Charles Dickens was a regular of The George and even referred to it in Little Dorrit. It's also a stone's throw away from Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and historians believe it's likely the bard himself may have grabbed a pint or two there back in the day.
4. Café Royal — Edinburgh, Scotland
Though often described as one of Scotland's most beautiful bars, Café Royal is also quite hard to find. Located right opposite the Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street, the inside boasts a dazzling ceiling and wood panelled bar. Built in 1817 across the street, then moved to its current location in 1863 as a showroom for gas and bathroom fittings, the bar was eventually sold to Woolworths who wanted to turn it into a department store. Public outcry saved it though, so today you can enjoy a selection of well-kept real ales, and whiskeys at the island bar.
3. The Jolly Butchers — Stoke Newington, London
The Jolly Butchers boasts one of the finest ale and cider offerings in London (which is no mean feat) and a great Sunday roast to boot. They also feature ciders and beers from smaller local breweries around London and the southeast whenever possible as well as unique and boutique brews that you may not have even heard of before. At any one times the bar has at least 23 beers on tap and there're plenty more barrels behind the bar if you fancy a wider selection. Located in an imposing garnet-red colored building, it's shabby chic and inviting and favored as one of the best pubs in north London.
2. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem — Nottingham
Ranked among the oldest drinking houses in Britain, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem had a sign outside saying it was established in 1189 AD. Legend has it that knights who answered the call of Richard I to head off on the crusades would stop here for a final pint before heading to Jerusalem (which is why locals often call the pub The Trip). Located at the foot of Castle Rock, it is actually carved out of sandstone rock against which the building is set. There is also a network of caves beneath the main building that were used as a brewery for the drinking hole above. For the lore alone this pub is a must-see on any trip to Britain, even for those who don't drink.
1. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese — Fleet Street, London
One of the oldest pubs in Britain this drinking hole has been in this spot on Fleet Street since 1538 and was rebuilt after it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The interior still retains some of the original nineteenth century wood panelling. Originally built as a Carmelite monastery in the thirteenth century, in its heyday the pub was frequented by the likes of Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Charles Dickens was also a frequent patron and even referred to it in The Tale of Two Cities. The Rhymer's Club also often met here (including founder W.B. Yeats). With such an illustrious history it's heartening, too, that today you can still get a good selection of wines, spirits, and ales there as well as some decent food cooked on premises… enjoy it all with the genuine old world feel.