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Our Guide To England

Cask ale, historic pubs, and craft beer!

The spiritual heartland of 'the pub', England is rightly regarded as one of the cradles of beer brewing and pub going. The social function of the pub throughout centuries has remained intact today. The special charms of an effective pub have captured the imaginations of the full spectrum of society. Economic change and fashionable trends haven't always been kind however, with issues such as the temperance movement and overbearing control of breweries and later pubcos jeopardising good beer and good pubs. In the face of the harsh and unforgiving wave of change, it is remarkable how many pubs have remained true to their values. Everything new is not automatically bad, far from it. The craft brewing scene has revived curiosity in different beer styles and largely improved the pubs that stock them. Pubs are also becoming more inclusive and diverse, from explicitly LGBTQ+ friendly spaces to Desi pubs, a fabulous mix of cultures can be found.
Name Location Our Rating
The Red Lion Alnmouth 7.5
Game Cock Austwick 7.7
The Wheatsheaf Barton-on-Humber 7.5
Pheasant Inn Bassenthwaite 7.9
Birch Hall Inn Beck Hole 9.5
The Victoria Beeston 8.1
Thorn Tree Inn Belper 7.5
The White Horse /Nellie's Beverley 9.1
The Trumpet Bilston 9.5
Post Office Vaults Birmingham 7.9
The Anchor Birmingham 7.8
Bacchus Birmingham 7.7
The Wolf Birmingham 7.6
Bodega Bowness 7.5
The Exchange Bradford 7.9
Corn Dolly Bradford 7.8
Bridge Tavern Bradford 7.7
Record Café Bradford 7.6
The Fighting Cock Bradford 7.6
Boar & Fable Bradford 7.6
Swan Inn Bramham 8.5
Yarbrough Hunt Brigg 7.9
Highbury Vaults Bristol 8.6
Hillgrove Porter Stores Bristol 8.5
Bag of Nails Bristol 8.3
Orchard Inn Bristol 8.1
King William Ale House Bristol 7.7
The Cambridge Blue Cambridge 9.1
The Elm Tree Cambridge 8.5
The Free Press Cambridge 8.1
Eagle Cambridge 7.9
Champion of The Thames Cambridge 7.6
The George Castleton (Peak District) 7.6
Ye Olde Nags Head Castleton (Peak District) 7.6
The Old Post Office Ale House Castleton (near Rochdale) 7.5
The Albion Inn Chester 8.5
The Cross Keys Chester 7.7
Ye Olde Boot Chester 7.6
Ye Olde Cottage Chester 7.5
The Old Windmill Coventry 8.6
Town Wall Tavern Coventry 7.6
Robin Hood Inn Cragg Vale 9.1
The Pipe & Glass Dalton 7.5
Duke of Wellington Danby 7.6
The Alexandra Derby 9.1
Ye Olde Dolphin Inne Derby 8.2
Falstaff Free House Derby 7.7
The Smithfield Derby 7.6
The Brunswick Derby 7.5
West Riding Refreshment Rooms Dewsbury 7.7
The Diggle Hotel Diggle 7.7
The Victoria Inn Durham 9.1
Dun Cow Durham 7.8
Colpitts Durham 7.8
The Old Nags Head Edale 7.6
The Drop Inn Elland 7.5
Drayman's Son Ely 7.6
The Holy Inadequate Etruria 7.7
The Chintz Falmouth 8.7
Beerwolf Books Falmouth 8
Big 6 Inn Halifax 9.2
Three Pigeons Ale House Halifax 8.5
Victorian Craft Beer Café Halifax 8.5
New Street Halifax 7.5
Hales Bar Harrogate 7.9
The Little Ale House Harrogate 7.6
Kings Arms Heath 7.8
Fox & Goose Hebdon Bridge 9.0
Drink! Hebdon Bridge 7.6
The Old Hall Heckmondwike 7.7
The White Lion Heptonstall 7.5
The Barrels Hereford 8.5
Beer In Hand Hereford 7.7
Queens Head Hinckley 7.9
Dead Poets Inn Holbrook 8.2
Boons Horbury 7.5
George Inn Hubberholme 8.6
The Star Inn Huddersfield 8.3
The Grove Huddersfield 8
The Sportsman Huddersfield 7.9
King's Head Huddersfield 7.6
Ye Olde Black Boy Hull 8.8
Lion & Key Hull 8.7
Fretwell's Hull 8.7
Robins & Keller Hull 8.6
Ye Olde White Harte Hull 8.5
Hop & Vine Hull 7.9
80daysbierhaus Hull 7.7
Ye Olde Blue Bell Hull 7.7
Boltmaker's Arms Keighley 7.6
Shoulder of Mutton Kirkby Overblow 7.5
Mother Shipton Inn Knaresborough 7.8
Whitelock's Leeds 8.9
Cardigan Arms Leeds 8.7
Brudenell Social Club Leeds 8.5
Grove Inn Leeds 8.1
The Banker's Cat Leeds 8
Headrow House Leeds 8
Angel Inn Leeds 7.9
Kirkstall Bridge Leeds 7.9
Meanwood Tavern Leeds 7.9
Brownhill & Co Leeds 7.8
Arcadia Leeds 7.8
Duck & Drake Leeds 7.8
Kirkstall Brewery Taproom Leeds 7.8
The Chemic Leeds 7.8
Blind Tyger Leeds 7.7
Wharf Chambers Leeds 7.7
Adelphi Leeds 7.7
Reliance Leeds 7.6
North Bar Leeds 7.6
Dave's Pies & Ale Leeds 7.5
Further North Leeds 7.5
Doghouse Leeds 7.5
Sheaf St Kitchen Leeds 7.5
Garden Gate Leeds 7.5
Wapentake Leeds 7.5
The Fountain Leek 8.3
Wilkes Head Leek 7.8
The Ale Wagon Leicester 7.8
The Blue Boar Leicester 7.8
The Black Horse Leicester 7.8
The Salmon Leicester 7.5
The Strugglers Lincoln 9.0
Sair Inn Linthwaite 9.2
The Red Lion Littleborough 7.7
Peter Kavanagh's Liverpool 8.8
Ship & Mitre Liverpool 8.5
Ye Cracke Liverpool 8.1
Roscoe Head Liverpool 8
Lion Tavern Liverpool 7.8
Philharmonic Dining Rooms Liverpool 7.7
Botanical Garden Liverpool 7.5
Black Bull Liversedge 7.7
The Shoulder of Mutton Lockwood 8.7
The Crown Hotel Lofthouse 7.6
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese London 9
Gordon's Wine Bar London 8.8
The Nag's Head London 8.7
Nightjar London 8.6
The Pineapple London 8.6
The Troubadour London 8.5
The Southampton Arms London 8.5
Ye Olde Mitre London 8.5
Lamb & Flag London 8.5
The Mayflower London 8.5
Cittie of Yorke London 8.3
The Princess Louise London 8.3
The Dog & Bell London 8.1
The Churchill Arms , Kensington London 8.1
Tapping The Admiral London 8.1
King Charles I London 8
The Lamb, Bloomsbury London 8.0
Holy Tavern London 7.9
Red Lion, Crown Passage London 7.8
The Duke London 7.8
Old Coffee House London 7.8
The Bell, Bush Lane London 7.7
Queens Head London 7.7
The Captain Kidd London 7.7
Nell Gwynne Tavern London 7.7
Lord Clyde London 7.7
Old Eagle London 7.7
The Seven Stars London 7.7
The Grapes London 7.7
The Black Lion London 7.6
The Gladstone London 7.6
Howl At The Moon London 7.6
Viktor Wynd London 7.6
Ye Olde Watling London 7.5
Pride of Spitalfields London 7.5
The Coal Hole London 7.5
The Black Friar London 7.5
The Blue Posts, Newman St London 7.5
Star & Garter, Soho London 7.5
The Cockpit London 7.5
The Castle Macclesfield 8.5
The Jolly Sailor Macclesfield 8
Holly Bush Inn Makeney 9.6
The Blue Ball Malton 7.6
Peveril of The Peak Manchester 8.5
Bar Fringe Manchester 8.1
The Briton's Protection Manchester 8
The Castle Manchester 7.9
Marble Arch Manchester 7.9
The New Oxford Manchester 7.7
City Arms Manchester 7.7
The Salisbury Manchester 7.7
Smithfield Market Tavern Manchester 7.6
Sinclairs Oyster Bar Manchester 7.5
Old Wellington Manchester 7.5
Circus Tavern Manchester 7.5
The Crown Middlesmoor 8.1
Left Luggage Room Monkseaton 8
Smuggler's Den Morecambe 7.9
Free Trade Inn Newcastle 8.6
Cumberland Arms Newcastle 8.2
The Carriage Newcastle 7.9
Mean-Eyed Cat Newcastle 7.8
Wobbly Duck Newcastle 7.8
The Bridge Hotel Newcastle 7.7
Crown Posada Newcastle 7.7
Town Mouse Newcastle 7.5
Bridge St Ale House Newcastle Under Lyme 7.8
The Victoria Newcastle Under Lyme 7.7
Low Lights Tavern North Shields 7.7
The Fat Cat Norwich 9.1
Adam & Eve Norwich 8.5
King's Head Norwich 8.1
White Lion Norwich 8.0
The Brewery Tap Norwich 7.8
Malt & Mardle Norwich 7.6
Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem Nottingham 8.6
Stratford Haven Nottingham 7.9
Canalhouse Nottingham 7.7
The Brewer's Pride Ossett 8.3
The Cock Inn Oughtibridge 7.5
The Crown Pateley Bridge 7.6
Black Horse Preston 8.8
The Moorbrook Preston 7.9
Guild Ale House Preston 7.7
The Royal Pudsey 8
Old Bridge Inn Ripponden 7.8
The Baum Rochdale 7.9
The Queens Head Rothbury 7.5
Fanny's Ale House Saltaire 7.6
Stumble Inn Scarborough 7.5
The Beacon Sedgeley 8.9
Fagans Sheffield 9.1
Blake Hotel Sheffield 8.5
Shakespeare's Sheffield 8.5
The Gardener's Rest Sheffield 8.5
The Red Deer Sheffield 8.5
The Wellington Sheffield 8.5
The Fat Cat Sheffield 8.5
Sheaf View Sheffield 8.5
Rutland Arms Sheffield 8.3
White Lion Sheffield 8.2
Brothers Arms Sheffield 8
Sheffield Tap Sheffield 7.7
Beer Engine Sheffield 7.7
Bath Hotel Sheffield 7.7
Cobden View Sheffield 7.6
Harlequin Sheffield 7.6
Hallamshire House Sheffield 7.6
Cremorne Sheffield 7.5
The Fox Shipley 8.2
The Beehive Shipley 7.7
The Boathouse Skipton 7.7
The Cross Keys Siddal 7.7
Grapes Inn Slingsby 7.6
The Steamboat South Shields 8.7
Puzzle Hall Inn Sowerby Bridge 7.7
The Nag's Head Stacey Bank 7.7
Craven Heifer Stainforth 7.6
Wuthering Heights Stanbury 8.2
The Friendly Stanbury 7.6
Fox & Hounds Starbotton 7.8
Stalybridge Buffet Bar Stalybridge 8.1
Bridge Beers Stalybridge 8
Ye Olde Vic Stockport 9.2
Swan With Two Necks Stockport 7.8
Queens Head Stockport 7.5
The Glebe Stoke On Trent 7.8
The Dun Cow Sunderland 8.3
The Ship Isis Sunderland 8.2
Museum Vaults Sunderland 8.1
The Ainsbury Thackley 7.5
The Golden Fleece Thirsk 7.5
The Pub Todmorden 7.7
The Old Ale House Truro 8
Tynemouth Lodge Hotel Tynemouth 7.9
Britannia Inn Upper Gornal 7.9
Luis Bar Wakefield 8.1
Harry's Wakefield 7.9
Fox & Hounds West Witton 7.7
The Green Dragon Whitby 7.7
The Waiting Room Whitby 7.7
Black Horse Inn Whitby 7.6
Jolly Sailors Whitby 7.6
Quirky Den Whitby 7.5
Baba Yaga's Whitley Bay 7.9
The Dog & Rabbit Whitley Bay 7.5
Wigan Central Wigan 8
Swan & Railway Wigan 7.7
The Blue Bell York 8.9
The Swan York 8.5
House of Trembling Madness (Stonegate) York 8.2
The Golden Ball York 8.2
House of Trembling Madness (Lendal) York 8
The Phoenix Inn York 7.9
Maltings York 7.8
The Ackhorne York 7.8
The Wellington York 7.7
Black Swan York 7.7
Rook & Gaskill York 7.6
Pivni York 7.6
York Tap York 7.6
Trafalgar Bay York 7.6
Snickleway York 7.6
Kings Arms York 7.5
Mason's Arms York 7.5

pop. 1,149,000

England's 2nd city, not only an urban centre but the lodestone for a sprawling conurbation of West Midlands towns and suburbia. The city centre has what may feel an underwhelming selection of outstanding venues, and it is nearer to a provincial city than London in that respect. Corporate chains generally rule, with a few distinctive exceptions. However, venture out into the districts and suburbs and you will find a wealth of venues, both traditional and modern to explore. Black Country culture is on the doorstep with a suite of traditional pubs from the likes of Holden's and Batham's, while there are breweries and brewery taps to get stuck into.


pop. 536,986

Part of the Leeds/Bradford conurbation but most definitely its ugly brother. Aside of the beautiful high Victorian centre, you'll find a breathtakingly desolate landscape of boarded up shops, half-demolished shopping centres, derelict buildings industrial decay, liminal space and just to rub it in further, a sense of threat to areas of the city. Bradford was formerly renowned for its volume of pubs, an ale house used to exist on every other street corner. This culture even served as a study, commonly cited by Paul Jennings in his book The Local. Today, you'll find a good range of venues from the backstreet ale house to modern, younger leaning bars. One common theme is good ale, from cask to keg. On match days - which here can mean football or rugby league, the city is at its best.


pop. 407,099

A distinctive city set apart from the normal North/South/Midlands divides that England is lazily filed into. Bristol does things differently, from its regional cider influence to its topography. A city of hills and slopes, varied and intriguing. Londoners seeking more affordable living moved to Bristol en masse, ironically creating the same problem for locals. There is a constant flux and interplay between class and racial tensions which, focusing on the positives, produces a vibrant culture. The pub scene really can match the best cities in the UK for breadth and depth. It perhaps doesn't feature a congregation of high class venues like Hull old town or Kelham Island in Sheffield, but by the same token you are never far away from one.


pop. 145,700

The University colleges and tech hub aspects of Cambridge almost go without saying when considering this city. Learning engulfs the place and adjusts its atmosphere. You will notice the wealthy, middle-class nature of the place when wandering its main thoroughfares. That only tells half the story. Take a closer look as you wander the shopping streets or venture into the residential areas and you'll notice things are not all rosy. Commercially, Cambridge is very much captive to big corporations with its typical array of chain stores crowding out independent retailers. Particularly badly affected are its pubs, with Greene King tied pubs representing an unhealthy percentage. Not all are bad pubs, and some have been spared its one-size-fits-all approach. Alternatives can be found in the suburbs with some fantastic free houses and plenty to keep you occupied for a day trip.


pop. 118,200

Known as being a nouveau-riche city, historic Chester has its fair share of young families and a seemingly infinite number of dog owners. There is wealth around as can be seen in the centre and the suburbs. The city itself is very distinctive and fascinating to explore. Historical layers from Roman and Medieval can be seen, while real Tudor and mock-Tudor blend to give Chester its distinctive look. The city centre is famous for its 'Rows', galleried shops set on different levels, a feature you won't find anywhere else. Add in its intact city walls, cathedral, castle, racecourse and canalside, this is an attractive place well worth a visit. On the pub front, you will find some distinctively different, high quality pubs and bars. Belgian cafés, World War collections, Tudor boozers and micropubs will keep you well-occupied, with enough to encourage you to return.


pop. 345,328

One of the more peculiar cities in the whole of England, the bombs of World War II and the city planners of the 50s and 60s have wreaked havoc on the city, making it a bizarre series of splinters. An intact ensemble of mid-20th century modernism, remaining Medieval remnants such as Spon St and the Guildhall, to proud high Victorian civic buildings. A modern cathedral sits directly next to its bombed-out predecessor. While there is much negative written about the place, this is easily worth an explore. The central pub scene is a little limited in great options, however the variety is present, from a classic Olde Worlde pub on Spon St, to a classic informal backstreet boozer, to modern craft ale houses and cocktail bars.


pop. 258,746

Derby is a city lacking in notable features, a sad fact given the size of the place.  Geographically in middle of the middle, there is a sense it hasn't really managed to navigate the change of the last 100 years well, nor is there a clear idea where it is going. The normal civic structures that tie together and justify a day trip really aren't anything to write home about.  Often such shortcomings can be compensated for with good nightlife. It is big enough to boast a few very good pubs, some of which are located close by to the train station, but the options in terms of modern or atypical venues aren't great.


pop. 26,000

With a stunning cathedral and castle, the town is set across the meandering river Wear, with many viewpoints to enjoy, and cobbled lanes to wander along. It is simply speaking a very pleasant place. Known internationally for its University, Durham is a bit of a goldfish bowl, or to extend the metaphor, a series of goldfish bowls if you account for the college system. There is an interesting interplay between the vibrancy students and locals each bring to the place. It is not an uneasy marriage, but one going back nearly 200 years. They are well-used to it. Toss in the ecclesiastical elements and the mining heritage and it really punches above its weight. It would only be appropriate for such a town to have some good pubs. The true answer is - it does - but not perhaps the volume or quality of somewhere directly comparable like Whitby. You'll find unspoilt cosy options, sure and a couple of beer specialists too. There is one pub genuinely qualifies as one of the best in England - The Victoria, that if visited at the right moment, you will simply never want to leave.


pop. 21,797

A quirky town from its steep hills, to the Cornish street names, sailing set, sub-tropical plants, incessant seagull noise and uni campus. A swirl of activity from an odd mixture of bohemians and detached locals which creates a few interesting, atypical drinking venues, none more so than The Chintz. A pain to traverse, you'll wish you had longer to explore, but from a bar point of view, a day and night will do the trick.


pop 90,000

A city undergoing somewhat of a resurgence, while remaining a clearly working class place. Halifax has a fine architectural inheritance from the Victorian era, none more dramatic than the Piece Hall which hosts independent shops and live gigs throughout the summer from international acts. The bar scene is excellent for a city of its size, with three venues which have a genuine claim to be among the best in the country, and plenty more besides that to justify a pub crawl. From true throwbacks and preserved Art Deco marvels to Scandi-aping craft cafés, you won't feel short-changed by Halifax.


pop. 76,000

A spa town known for its sulphurous springs, Harrogate attracted a wealthy clientele in the Victorian era and even today has a feel that is quite distinctly more affluent and well-to-do that most other Yorkshire towns and cities. Well-located with a national reputation, even some fast trains from London specifically stop there. In reality, it is pleasant, perhaps a little underwhelming. The bar scene is tilted towards modern options, with lots of craft cafés to choose from. Unfortunately many are bland places without much character to speak of, particularly those that are spinoffs or chains. The traditional pub scene falls short in terms of numbers, with hardly any genuinely informal social 'boozers' in the town centre that could be classed as good. Hales Bar is the 'heritage' exception to that rule, while the station tap, and music venues provide enough to keep things on an even keel - just.

Hebden Bridge

pop 5,223

This Calderdale town always feels much bigger than the statistics show, but that is on account of daytrippers who come to explore its quaint flagstone centre, the canalside walks and beautiful scenery in the hills and dales. A honeypot for good reason. Locals will be quick to tell you the town has gone to ruin and sold out to the tourist market. While there is a case for that, you'll find plenty of independent shops, a cinema and near legendary music venue, while the pub offerings, if largely middling do cater for different sections of society. With a great community pub, alehouse + bottle shop, brewery taproom and some cracking pubs in nearby villages, you'll be able to skip the largely template/bland options you'll see around, and head straight for the quality.


pop 53,212

Another town that defies the attempt to force every dwelling in England through the prism of Southernness, Northernness or Midlandsness, this is a distinctive area of England with clear Welsh influences and a culture of brewing cider rather than beer. However, you wouldn't know it from Hereford's pub scene. With only a single bar that offers a true selection of regional cider, and one other pub offering a non-standard cider option, the town that hosts an actual cider Museum does not in practise drink the damn stuff. A low key, but pleasant town centre with a genteel feel, most of the nightlife can be found in a couple of outstanding venues, which bolster any argument towards visiting significantly.


pop. 162,949

Huddersfield's compact centre could lull you into thinking you're in a small town, but far from it - the suburbs sprawl for miles encompassing multiple train stations, and the lived experience for most is of suburban Yorkshire life. The city centre is known for its multiple station pubs which have been involved in the revival of the beer scene and station pub scene in the north, on the 'Real Ale Trail'. There are several other beer specialists within the ring road well worth exploring, each bringing their own distinctive take on the pub/bar. Venturing further out, you can find some true unspoilt gems in the likes of Linthwaite and Lockwood, but you'll need to get your hiking boots on or get to know the bus network to make best use of them. One of the stronger scenes in the North.


pop. 261,149

The end of the line, Hull has been the butt of jokes for many a decade, but a successful City of Culture year provided a welcome and deserved reappraisal. The fact is the city centre is far too large to justify itself commercially, meaning many central streets have a somewhat forlorn, down-at-heel atmosphere. Partly self-inflicted due to the large shopping centre by the train station, this has subdued economic activity between the station and the old town. However, we should mention the positives. The marina area remains genuinely pleasant all-year round, while the Georgian and Victoria architecture of the old town is outstanding, often taking people by surprise. Hull also has clutches of nightlife in specific places. Scale Lane to the bottom of Silver street features some of the best pubs in the North. Due to the student population there are interesting places in the suburbs such as Newlands Avenue with some outstanding venues. Perhaps missing a couple of relevant and up to date craft venues, you can at least luxuriate in a wonderful spread of traditional pubs that make visiting Hull for beer and good atmosphere a joy.


pop. 15,040

Like Harrogate, Ilkley's nightlife is a fair reflection of its inhabitants, nouveau riche diaspora of ex-Leeds residents with a core, if ageing crowd of locals. As a result Ilkley is full of chain versions of Leeds businesses with a few working class chain pubs. Very little is to be found in-between, but you will still find a couple of passable pubs and some craft beer bottle shops.


pop. 48,758

Given the size of the town, its position in the country and the hosting of nationally famous Timothy Taylor's brewery you might expect pubs galore in Keighley. However, the offerings are largely modest, some chain-owned and predictably glum spots. You'll do fine at the de facto Timothy Taylor's spot The Boltmakers Arms, while the Brown Cow tends to clean up at each regional beer awards.


pop. 52,234

A solid choice for a day out with the castle, prison, hilltop folly and pleasant town centre to pass the time. A few decent, if not outstanding pubs kind of reflects a what is a decent, if not outstanding town.


pop. 789,194

A hotspot for modern brewing, Leeds first wave of craft breweries have earned international fame. Some of its bars were also early on the scene, such as North Bar, which has evolved from Belgian café to arch-craft cookie cutter bar gradually since its inception in the mid-00s. Leeds bar scene tends to move fast - bars down Merrion St and Call Lane come and go, with the survivors convinced of their legendary status (despite reviews suggesting otherwise). Leeds collection of traditional pubs is comparatively strong, but perhaps not reaching their full potential. The heart of Leeds, Whitelock's remains one of the country's finest. Out in the suburbs, Kirkstall Brewery's taproom and operations are generally excellent, with Kirkstall Road showing signs of developing into a new area for nightlife. Elsewhere, Chapel Allerton has become flabby, bland and middle class, while Meanwood has stepped into the void with 3 or 4 excellent bars to find in such a neighbourhood. The beer scene is predictably strong everywhere, with virtually every venue selling at least 1 cask line or craft option from an independent brewery, a marked improvement on the days of Tetleys dominance. There is even an alcoholic ginger beer brewery, claiming to be the first in the country. As far as cocktail bars go, from Greek Street's mainstream options to some basement/loft indy venues, there is a strong argument for it being among the best outside London.


pop. 357,354

A Midlands city with more to it than meets the eye. Most people you speak to deride the city - perhaps something to do with the initial appearance around the bus and train terminals, but it has its charms. The Guildhall and modern-build Richard III museum are up there with anything you'll find in the country, while castle ruins, gatehouses and ancient churches provide a modicum of distraction. It isn't spectacular overall but the centre is generally pleasant and diverting. The bar scene offers some very nice traditional pubs in amongst some middling, but fine options. Perhaps lacking a few more cutting edge beer options and a few cocktail or jazz bars, nevertheless you'll be able to locate some good venues. The West End is worth venturing to for both food and drink, with Desi food on offer alongside the typical pork pies and cobs, reflecting a few aspects of its genuinely multicultural makeup.


pop. 103,813

A cathedral city, somewhat detached from the main arteries connecting English cities, and its own feel as a result. There are two sides to the place. The touristic historic centre with its steep hill and ensemble of listed buildings, small but very pleasant, and a neglected south side of cheap back to back terraces, resolutely working class. The bar scene reflects this, with the more swish places on the North side and main thoroughfares. However, there are some local beer specialist ale houses worth checking out. Rough and ready, but certainly reflecting of the neighbourhood. As far as traditional pubs go, there is a good enough handful in the centre of town that remain unspoilt, but just as many that have fallen prey to the demographic led push to blandification.


pop. 496,784

A fascinating city with a rebellious nature, Liverpool's pub scene is a fair reflection of its working-class nature and Irish immigrants who settled in the city. While most cities have seen the death of a pub on every other street corner, Liverpool is still a city with lively - if not always superb - pubs out in its districts and neighbourhoods. The city centre is filled with possible activities and drinking venues, making it a great choice for a day out or even better, a weekend away. The drinking holes are distinctive, characterful and often filled with people who happily chat to strangers, which makes the atmosphere in them much different even to many other Northern cities.


pop. 8,982,000

The overwhelming number of tourists to the UK go to London and nowhere else. The emblems - the Union Jack, Big Ben, London buses, beefeaters, etc form part of the brand that people seek out and expect. It's important to acknowledge these include pubs, fish & chips and beer. Numerically, there are no shortage of pubs in central London supplying those things, but you have to be extremely careful to avoid ending up in one of the hundreds of chain-owned operations. Nicholson's, Sam Smiths and Greene King have successfully sewn up a giant share in the London pub market, also taking into their care some of London's most interesting heritage destinations. For example, a pub like The Black Friar - an architectural masterpiece, is spoilt by chain churn, microwaved food, dull beer selection and inflated prices. This is a template applied across many venues. Finding the few remaining that sit outside the corporate umbrella can be difficult. Be prepared that some experiences in London's most fascinating historic venues may be tinged with a bittersweet melancholy that they are not reaching anywhere near their full potential.

London offers nearly the full gamut of drinking venues, from world-beating high-end cocktail destinations, quasi museums, games pubs, craft beer brewery taps, dance halls - you only need to know where to look.

Another element to note is the closure of businesses around the Bank of England area on weekends, which more or less shuts down completely. There are certain pubs affected by this such as Ye Olde Mitre and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, which can be visited on weekdays only.

With in excess of 100 traditional pubs worth visiting in London, it is a city that you can visit dozens of times in your life before getting anywhere near to cracking just that one genre of bar.


pop. 57,539

While separated from Manchester, Macclesfield still feels firmly in its sphere of influence as opposed to, say, Cheshire or the Peak District to its east. A distinctly Northern feel pervades and its working class roots persist. There are two genuinely lovely pubs which are in themselves reason to take a trip out if you're based in Greater Manchester or West Yorkshire, and a couple of other serviceable options. 2 of Manchester's family brewers have pubs in their estate in Macclesfield. The short stretch from the railway station to the town hall gives the strongest flavour of its civic heritage.


pop. 553,250

A large city centre with vast urban area, reputation through football, music and the birthplace of the industrial revolution makes Manchester the next most cited English city after London. This is not a city that can be encapsulated in one visit, but a place that you will need to allow to soak into your skin gradually. The people may come across as abrasive but there is a prevailing dry sense of humour and banter people wear like a suit of armour that once you tune into it, will make you feel as welcome as anywhere. The rivalry with Leeds is famous, but the embarrassing truth is the people are remarkably similar, more so than Liverpudlians. Manchester's centre is always seeking the next opportunity, unafraid to welcome new ventures even at its own expense. This is not a city to visit if you are sentimental, or tire of the sight of cranes or demolitions. While there are many fine buildings, town planning appears to be slapdash, and even pubs are affected. To accommodate new buildings, Manchester's historic Shambles featuring The Old Wellington and Sinclair's Oyster Bar pubs was picked up and lifted brick by brick to another location, managing to simultaneously save and destroy its history, something epitomising the city's general approach and sensibility.

Manchester's bar scene is notable for breadth and depth, particularly when it comes to beer and brewing. The city centre offers everything from the most traditional to the most modern, with some of the best venues managing to blend the two without losing the quintessence of either. These are spread out over a vast centre, however, with a long walk between the amazing Deansgate pubs to Ancoats at the other end.

We should highlight the unusually concentrated core of small independent breweries with taprooms operating in the railway arches around the back of Piccadilly station that not even London, Leeds or Sheffield can quite match in terms of falling out of one bar into another.

As you leave the centre and venture out into the neighbourhoods you will notice the options pare back to pubs owned by the 4 family brewers - Holt's, Hyde's, JW Lees and Robinsons - to independent ale houses, all with their own approach but certainly of a similar oeuvre.


pop. 34,768

A seaside town that hasn't kept up with the micropub movement in the last 20 years in the South East, so offering a rather paltry selection of predictably dire chain pubs, with a couple of backstreet exceptions. Not a destination for great drinking venues.


pop. 326,995

One of England's most distinctive cities, the hilly riverside setting with famous Tyne Bridge is almost the nation's equivalent of Porto, right down to the working class people and colourful accent. Geordies love a night out and few places in the country hit the 'toon' as hard. Somewhere between the hard manual labour of its past to the dead end jobs and austerity of the present the thirst for drink and desire to forget it all at the weekend has persisted. The North East is an overlooked region for brewing, but any inspection will show Tyneside and Northumberland has a core real ale scene and healthy community of craft breweries, stocking plentiful independent ale houses along its Metro stops and in the city centre. The district of Ouseburn has been singled out for praise due to an uncommon collection of high quality boozers and must be sampled, but if you are to stick to the centre you will be satisfied by the traditional pubs, craft beer venues and decent cocktail options. Furthermore, it remains a city where you can happily strike up a conversation with a stranger.


pop. 144,000

Isolated cities often develop a peculiar flavour without having the balancing effect of conurbations or rivals as a counterpoint. Norwich is such a city, very clearly neither Southern, Midlandsy or Northern; instead something all of itself. Quintessentially English, the number of church spires and stone towers around seemingly every corner is something you will notice straight away. Unlike most English cities built on a river, the water course flirts with the centre rather than shooting directly through the middle, meaning you cross it as you exit the station, then do so again to visit the Northern quarter. There's a busy market town feel, sizeable enough to draw people in from the towns and villages nearby, and a genteel nature to the place. Low-rise, an absence of harshness. The pub scene in Norwich is terrific with a suite of unspoilt boozers and historic heritage pubs that each have a distinctive feel, proving that there is no specific template to such places and genius loci comes in different guises. Fans of modern beer will be satisfied with the craft beer offerings at small ale houses and brewery taps, as well as the general standard of cask ales to be found around the city. It isn't exclusively about beer either, with a few unusual cocktail bars and cafés adding variety.


pop. 331,297

Despite a riverside castle, sandstone caves, Medieval history and 3 sports venues within a stones throw of one another, there is an oddly unsatisfying and disjointed centre to Nottingham and a pervasive sense of poor town planning,  and a city that has partly shat on its own doorstep, reducing what should be a city on a par with York to being somewhat of a skippable B-lister. Enjoying the city's quirkier aspects requires a bit of bloody-minded perseverance, as does exploring the city pubs. Castle Rock Brewery's pubs are largely reliable and make sensible decisions without being spectacular. The spectacle comes in the shape of Canal House - a pub with a canal and barge in it, and nearby Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which is a pub with cave walls compromising parts of the pub. Sadly in the clutches of Greene King, so the drink selection does not match the quality of the surroundings. The centre is a little shy of great options for beer, although there are a few interesting quirky bars. Explore the suburbs such as West Bridgford, Beeston and Long Eaton to find further good pubs.


pop. 13,668

Otley may be a small town but worthy of a mention both for its traditional Yorkshire village centre and a quite eye-catching number of pubs for its size. Something like 20 to choose from, all of which can be reached within 5 minutes walk of one another, provides quite the contrast to any comparable town nearby. Arguably there is no one absolute standout but there are several superior options and plenty of reason to visit. The famous Victorian Christmas Market can be a good event to twin with a visit here.


pop. 147,900

Former stature and subsequent decline is a difficult thing for a city to have hanging over itself. An industrial powerhouse and the birthplace of association football remains a source of pride, as do the civic buildings inherited from the boom era. These days, it is reduced to being a large provincial city with the same vaguely depressing high street and sense of disquiet in its terraced neighbourhoods. On the pub front, there are some real standouts with a classic market town ale house near the guildhall, a rebooted backstreet boozer on the way out of the centre and one of the architectural classics of the North: The Black Horse. Calling it memorable seems to rather understate it. You simply must give it a try. There are a few typical ad hoc craft bars in amongst this set. Overall, you could justify an afternoon out for a change of scenery.


pop. 16,859

One of the smaller cathedral 'cities' in the country, the cathedral, river and market square give the place a sense of timelessness. It deserves pubs to match, but sadly doesn't have them. Several closures in recent years, and the predatory chains like Wetherspoon and Craft Union have swooped in, with the remainder simply gentrified to the extent of extinguishing all remaining character. The pubs on Allhallowgate are as good as it gets.


pop. 8,413

What could be said for Ripon also applies to Richmond. A handsome hilltop town with characterful castle, market square and swooping lanes, it has a particular atmosphere and character only found in North Yorkshire, although tragically no pubs that do justice to that to act as a pull factor to draw people into the town. Chains, down at heel pubs dot the square with bland hotel bars which may formerly have offered that dank stone and crackling hearth now offering something rather anodyne and inoculating. However, the award-winning George & Dragon in Hudswell is close nearby.


pop. 107,926

The view over the moors as you exit the train station at the top end of the town is beautiful, but gives the town itself an exposed, rather bleak look at the same time. As you dive down, you'll pass the parish church and town hall - both spectacular - and glimpse the River Roch which is forced under the city for a short period, in a rather odd decision. That is about as good as it gets, for a rough around the edges town with sense of threat on the high street and tumorous shopping centre, a hulking great thing seemingly consuming what is around it. Yet it is around the edges of this you must go in order to reach The Baum, by far Rochdale's best pubs and simply one of the finest in the region. A couple of the pub rooms manage to capture lightning in a bottle, while the food and drink is top notch, easily justifying a visit to the town. A couple of middling ale houses and the serviceable, if unexciting Flying Horse Hotel will pad things out. Unfortunately a potentially strong addition, The Roebuck, is Sam Smiths-owned and been vacant for a long time.


pop. 584,028

Something happened to Sheffield which ensured a far larger number of its pubs remained unspoilt and open well beyond the expiry dates seen in other cities. Word has spread in the last decade even to London - that vortex of self-absorption - that Sheffield is an uncommon city, a Pub City. If you ask an elderly local, they will tell you of all the pubs it has lost - and they aren't wrong, but they don't appreciate what it is like elsewhere. The fact is that you can be taken to a dozen very strong traditional pubs that excel at a similar thing - comfortable, cosy unpretentious social surroundings and the supreme conditioning of cask pale ales in their cellar. Most are based in characteristic red brick standalone buildings, usually uncomplicated exteriors with multi-room interiors. The student population and the pubs core audience provide the bulk of custom giving these pubs a vibrancy and completely knocking back the hoary, unnecessarily defeatist notion (often expounded by right-leaning CAMRA members) that young people don't like traditional pubs.

Sheffield is a city of hills and leafy neighbourhoods, but the core of its pubs remains Kelham Island into Neepsend, the ex-industrial heartland by the river, which has also received some distinctly more modern venues to add variety. The new area for activity is around Porter Brook, where a clutch of old pubs have been joined by new breweries and contemporary operations. It is a cultural neighbourhood with rehearsal space, art galleries and community ventures, and so deserves bars to match.

It is probably worth avoiding West St and Eccleshall Road which have a reputation for nightlife but not the bars to match. London Road, Highfield into Heeley also feature some distinctive venues and will burnish the idea that this is an expressive city.


pop. 15,042

A network of canals leading off the River Aire cut through Skipton, giving it a distinctive Industrial revolution era gritty, Northern feel, or at least does until you arrive to find the artisan bakeries and department stores. Nevertheless, there's an atmospheric core to the place which works on summer days or winter evenings. Skipton Castle is a well-preserved attraction too. The town's bar scene reflects that it cannot rely solely on tourists nor solely on residents but a blend of the two. You'll find a nice canalside pub, modern ale houses and a few micropubs which straddle that divide. The evening venue, Sound Bar, moved premises and almost entirely shed the allusions to being a record store, ruining what was formerly the town's surprise option.


pop. 256,127

Once you accept that Stoke as a city is a collection of suburbs, towns that just happened to grow and join onto each other, the normal expectations of what you'd expect to find can slip away, and you can focus on some of the more human aspects. What Stoke certainly lacks in respect of civic grandeur it makes up for in the warmth of its people and the utter lack of pretension. It is also a reasonably good value part of the country for a night out. The strongest central pub, The Glebe, is a wonderful combination of historic institution and bolthole without the ruinous additions a bigger city would have inevitably applied to it. Work your way out to Newcastle-under-Lyme and Hanley to find further such pubs.


pop. 174,286

Not high up on most people's ideas of a day out, the Sunderland Illuminations, Glass Museum and Roker park and beach provide at least a few reasons to give it a second glance, further still the presence of several very good pubs. Well-preserved and consciously bringing the drinks and food offer into the 21st century these may give you a welcome surprise and send you home with fonder memories than you may have expected.


pop. 9,214

A one-horse town with train station, castle and riverside joined by one long street. It is quite a nice horse, all the same with distinctive architecture and a few strong pub/bar options too. Known regionally for a certain middle-class revanchist and rebellious nature, protests have spanned the wholesome (right-to-roam) to conspiracism (anti-vax) in a tediously predictable fashion.


pop. 23,047

Home to the only cathedral in Cornwall, the gardens, market square, stone houses and access to the river provide a certain attraction. The feel is not unlike a detached Irish market town in all honesty, the Cornish flags and local building materials adding to a sense of regional otherness at least. Pubs and brewing were dominated by Skinners until closure (it didn't make it through peak Covid-era trading conditions) with the Old Ale House a standout. Don't visit expecting a vast array of choice though.


pop. 343,932

It is generally overlooked, perhaps due to the rugby league focus over football, just how big Wakefield is. A sizeable city in its own right, one substantially more populated than several European capitals. Is it a destination? Well, no. The centre is notoriously disappointing and rather downtrodden overall. The sense of it simply being a dormitory as part of a conurbation is all-encompassing. However, there are a few superior pubs dotted around which offer strong drinks selections and good atmosphere.


pop. 12,595

A very small town to accommodate so many tourists, the fight to cope is almost daily. Whitby's draw beyond the normal seaside attractions is the literary allure - Bram Stoker, a ruined Abbey, and Jet, black mineral found in the cliffs in and around the town. The demand for housing - often holiday homes only - pushes prices up for locals, making it impossible for them to live in their own town. Still, it isn't all bad. They enjoy shops which would undoubtedly not be there without the tourist pull and a collection of pubs that are by far and away superior to any town south of Sunderland and North of York. Not all have survived waves of modernisation, however to compensate, new bars/bottleshops have emerged, a station pub worth checking out, and various homely traditional boltholes too.


pop. 141,671

York is one of the pub-going highlights in England. Similar to Whitby above, tourism keeps demand high and pubs full. Centuries old boozers with ghost stories, nooks-and-crannies, folk clubs will naturally be enticing for newcomers, but tell only part of the story. Outside the popular thoroughfares there are pubs still largely visited by locals which are hugely characterful, often having their own story of survival against the odds. After a few trips to York it becomes apparent these by-and-large represent the city's strongest options. The sheer number of options is mind-boggling when you sit down to contemplate. Historically it was said there was one for every day of the year. Factually incorrect - there are, at the time of writing, 90 in central York (already absurd) and 234 in the wider York area. Neither of those numbers are exactly low. There are some cities we have visited in Europe five times the size that you could almost count the number of central bars on one hand.

Beer selection in York is almost uniformly strong, with even the drabbest pubs usually offering a couple of reliable cask ales from regional independent brewers, right up to the most cutting edge brewing happening in the country. While alternatives - wine/cocktails tend to be more from the corporate/chain end of things, there are no shortage of options there either. But it is a city predominantly about the pubs.