Nowhere in the world has pub culture taken off quite as much as in England We love a good tavern as much as any other country, and our long tradition of public house and country inns date back millennia. Some pubs are gorgeous examples of the love and appreciation we place of this classic institution, and many share a very specific atmosphere of cosy affability and an instantly recognisable selection of sensations - the golden, warm colours of glasses of beers, the merry hubbub of accented voices, the alluring, homely smell of deep-fried pub grub. There's always a cheerful collection of pub-goers from all walks of life: the smartly-dressed pint-after-workers, the sports fan glued to the football, the rosy-nosed elders, the drowsy medium-sized hounds and overseeing it all, the worldly, imperious pub landlord standing like a royal guard behind a mahogany bar.
But there are some pubs that stand out for any number of reasons, be they haunted, of significant historical importance, or just excellent examples of boozers which are worth a visit for their beer selection and their interior decorations alone. So this blog is dedicated to those taverns which have left their special mark on England!
The Golden Fleece, York
We're going to start in our own home town of York with the most haunted pub in the city, the Golden Fleece! This characterful and traditional drinking house dates all the way back through the centuries to 1503, and it occupies a spot off Pavement Street, nestled in that way that only York houses are, between two other similarly styled buildings. Stepping through the dark doorway into the pub beyond is a step back through time, and its no wonder that this excellent institution has the spooky legacy that it has, considering the number of people who've tipped back a cloudy ale behind its stained windows. Lady Alice Peckett, the deceased wife of a previous pub owner is the most discussed of the ghostly patrons who stalk the corridors here, with pubgoers claiming she moves furniture and patrols the staircases in her 18th century garb. Other reports include Roman legionnaires deep in the basement as well as a pistol-wearing 16th century redcoat.
The Old Boat Ferry Inn, Holywell
Stepping out of the Golden Fleece, slightly merrier and feeling the cold a little bit less, we make our way down to pretty Holywell in Cambridgeshire where the Old Boat Ferry Inn awaits us. What makes this pub as special as it is, is that it claims to be the oldest in the UK, dating back as far as the 6th century. A classic and equally charming country tavern, the Old Boat Ferry is a superb example of a traditional boozer and it's easy to imagine the roster of miscreants, travellers and roamers who stop by on their way through the country, hitching their horses and carriages outside before heading in for a well-earned pint of ale.
The Betjeman Arms, London
Definitely feeling the effects now, we bundled ourselves onto a train and make the Arcadian journey through the great British countryside down to the heaving capital, London. As our carriage pulls along the platform, we trundle of and into the embrace of one of the world's most iconic stations, London St Pancras. Here, we stop off at the Betjeman Arms for a welcome drink and perhaps a snack or two. This remarkable tavern is decorated in a refreshing 1920s style, with period paintings on the walls, offering up a nice change to the older and more quaint pubs we've visited so far. The Grand Terrace is a nice attraction too, under the arched roof of the station and looking down on the rushing tide of commuters and train-goers. The Betjeman Arms is an excellent place to hunker down and relax among the thriving activity of St Pancras.
For our final pint, we lurch and stumble our way back up north to Bury St Edmunds where we squeeze our way into the smallest pub in Britain, known rather affectionately as the Nutshell. With measurements of 15ft by 7ft, this bar offers up a smooth selection of various drinks to those lucky enough to jostle their way to the front. On the outside, the Nutshell sits on the corner of a building and bares a respectable, traditional façade. Inside is a different story however, where the interior is filled with various interesting items such as a mummified cat.
This adorable little pub is full of fantastic touches of character, which, when combined with its record-breaking size gives the impression of stepping through the Narnia cupboard and into an entirely new world.
So with our pub-crawl come to its natural end, we head home, steadily placing one foot after the other in a desperate attempt to get the world to stop spinning. If you have any other pubs that should have made the list, sound off in the comments below!