Pubs with stories to tell
From ancient ale houses to literary drinking dens, Britain has hundreds of historic pubs to explore. We've picked just 10 of the most interesting and architecturally important.
Built in 1858, the Phil, as it’s affectionately known, is special from its gilded iron gates to the luxurious marble urinals in the gents’ toilets. Standing appropriately between Liverpool’s two towering cathedrals this temple to Victorian pub design also has mosaic floors and stained glass. John Lennon famously complained that the chief price of fame was ‘not being able to go for a drink in the Phil’.
Drink in the Oxford atmosphere at this 17th-century pub once a favourite of J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis and later, Inspector Morse creator, Colin Dexter. Today you’ll find the Eagle and Child a simple pub with decent ales. Other historic pubs in Oxford include the The Bear and the Lamb and Flag.
Of all the fascinating, historical and visit-worthy pubs in London we could list we’ve plumped for the 17th-century Olde Cheshire Cheese. Its cosy warren of dark rooms reeks of history and Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were all regulars. The pub is famously referred to in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. These days its snug rooms offer a perfect place for a restorative ale after a hard day’s sightseeing.
Favoured pitstop for crusading knights en route to the Holy Land, the Olde Trip to Jerusalem has stood beneath Nottingham Castle since 1189. It’s connected to the caves at the foot of the castle and still has an atmospheric cavern-like feel. The pub’s cellars used to be part of the castle gaol and an old cockfighting pit.
The Crown Posada city centre pub is high on Victorian charm and Geordie spirit. Enjoy a Newcastle Brown Ale and admire the magnificent pre-Raphaelite stained-glass windows, gilt mirrors and coffered ceiling. An old gramophone in a wooden cabinet and a stack of LPs provide mellow background music when the pub is quiet.
The Haunch of Venison has been around since the 14th century. Its two bars have several unique features including England’s last surviving complete pewter bar top and the ‘horsebox’ - a small bar reputedly used by Churchill and Eisenhower during the planning of the D-Day landings. The House of Lords bar proudly displays a severed, mummified hand said to be that of a cheating cards player.
Though busy with tourists and students The Eagle is worth a stop for its varied and romantic history. It’s where James Watson and Francis Crick drank during their ground-breaking research into DNA and the RAF bar has a ceiling with World War II graffiti daubed in lipstick, smoke and candle wax.
The Britons Protection is stuffed with Victorian decorative detail and is famous for its bewildering selection of whiskies. Open fires, solid wooden furniture and etched glass all lend a pleasing, old-fashioned feel. Wall tiles depict the infamous Peterloo Massacre of 1819 when government troops killed 15 people who were among a crowd demonstrating for parliamentary reform. The incident took place not far from the pub.
Built in 1863, the Café Royal is a Victorian gem that joins ornate plasterwork, stained glass and marble to dazzling effect. The highlight here, though, is the unique set of Doulton ceramic murals depicting historical innovators like Watt, Faraday and Caxton. The food is excellent with Scottish classics including Cullen Skin and Arbroath Smokies.
The Winner of the Good Pub Guide’s Unspoilt Pub of the Year Award, The White Lion has a fantastic Tudor interior with low beams, a thatched roof and latticed windows. Barthomley itself is a charming village and from the pub garden you can take in views of the early 15th-century church of St Bertoline.
If you'd like to find out more about the UK's fantastic pubs check out the Good Pub Guide website.