There’s more to the pub that a packet of pork scratchings and everybody knowing your name. As a cornerstone of British life, stopping off for pint should be a matter of pride – a journey of discovery on your way to proclaiming, “Yes, I have visited the greatest boozers the land has to offer”.
To celebrate, we’ve rounded up this collection of must-visit pubs: those that are steeped in history, in some way unique or special, or embedded in the very fabric popular culture – pubs where any self-respecting pint-enthusiast should want to boast they’ve supped ale.
The Spaniards Inn - Hampstead, London
Have A Pint There Because: Legend says it’s where the highwayman Dick Turpin was born and he later used it as a hideaway.
The Story: Originally built as a toll in during the 1500s, it sits on the boundary of what is now Barnet and Camden. It has a great literary tradition too, featuring in both Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
What’s On Tap: A seasonal selection of cask ales and craft beers.
Top Boozer’s Boast: That you ordered your drinks by telling the barman, “STAND AND DELIVER… two pints please and a packet of dry roasted.”
Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem - Brewhouse Yard, Nottingham
Have A Pint There Because: Claims to be Britain’s oldest inn.
The Story: Apparently it dates back to 1189AD and is built against the same rocks that Nottingham Castle sits upon. It’s got a spooky model of a galleon upstairs that allegedly means death for anyway who dusts it (for real) and some caves underneath. What more do you want from an old boozer?
What’s On Tap: It would be rude not to have a pint of their special Olde Trip ale.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You are now part of Britain’s greatest and longest lineage of drinkers.
The Eagle - Benet Street, Cambridge
Have A Pint There Because: The discovery of DNA was announced there during a lunchtime session.
The Story: One of the city’s oldest pubs, it has a long association with the RAF and Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory, where scientists Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the double helix structure of DNA. Crick famously announced "We have found the secret of life" to lunchtime drinkers on 28 February 1953.
What’s On Tap: A pint of “Eagle’s DNA” please landlord.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You’ve been about as close to the meaning of life as any drinker is likely to get.
The Freemasons Arms - Covent Garden, London
Have A Pint There Because: It’s where the Football Association was founded.
The Story: It’s said that in 1863, a group of men sat down and laid out the rules of the beautiful game we now call football, separating it from rugby and making up the lyrics to “who ate all the pies?” (alright, maybe not that last bit).
What’s On Tap: Have a pint of 4-4-2, named after the footie formation.
Top Boozer’s Boast: That you’ve talked football where the game’s original officials drank, and talked more sense that most of the officials that have come since.
The Llandoger Trow - King Street, Bristol
Have A Pint There Because: It’s a proper pirate’s pub.
The Story: Built in 1664, it became a regular haunt from actual pirates and seafarers, and was the inspiration for the Admiral Benbow Inn from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Bristolians would have you believe he actually wrote the book in the pub.
What’s On Tap: Nothing exciting to be honest, but you can liven things up by paying with pieces of eight. Whatever they are.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You’re no lily-livered land lubber. Although your liver might be suffering in other ways by the end of your visit.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese - Fleet St, London
Have A Pint There Because: Of all the London pubs with historical literary connections, this one has the swottiest credentials – Dr Johnson, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and P.G. Wodehouse are amongst the writers said to have drank there.
The Story: Rebuilt in 1667 after the Great Fire of London, it continued to be favourite pub of literary-types – and inside it’s still a warren-like maze of authentic period rooms.
What’s On Tap: It’s a Sam Smith’s pub, so it’s cheap pints of Taddy Lager all the way.
Top Boozer’s Boast: Only the best brainboxes and clever-clogs are allowed in.
The Oxford Bar – New Town, Edinburgh
Have A Pint There Because: Another pub with strong literary connections, but this time Scottish. Also the local of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus.
The Story: Though proudly boasting to be a “real pub for real people”, The Ox’s tradition of attracting writers and artists dates back to the 1800s. Regulars include Scottish Rennaisance writer Sydney Goodsir Smith, and, of course, Ian Rankin (hence “Tartan Noir” detective Rebus drinking there too).
What’s On Tap: The authentic Scottish taste of Deuchars IPA and a selection of guest ales.
Top Boozer’s Boast: Like Rebus, you cracked the case. A case of beer mind you, but still.
The Ten Bells - Spitalfields, London
Have A Pint There Because: It was a drinking den of Jack the Ripper victims Mary Kelly and Annie Chapman.
The Story: Named for the chimes of the neighbouring Christ Church, this 19th Century boozer is one of the East End’s most infamous old school drinking spots. Chapman supposedly drank there the night she was murdered.
What’s On Tap: A nice selection of craft beers. A pint of Bloody Mary would be most fitting though.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You cracked the Ripper case, but like all great mysteries solved in the pub, had forgotten by morning.
The Crown - Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes
Have A Pint There Because: With the legendary Mother Black Cap (of “perfumed ponce” fame) demolished years ago, this is the last surviving pub from Withnail & I.
The Story: It’s stood in the market town of Stony Stratford since the 17th Century. Had a bit of a gastro makeover in recent years.
What’s On Tap: It doesn’t matter, because you’ll be ordering two large gins, two pints of cider, ice in the cider.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You can say you stumbled out utterly arseholed then caused havoc in the tea rooms.
The Star Tavern - Belgravia, London
Have A Pint There Because: It’s the pub where Bruce Reynolds, Buster Edwards, and the gang masterminded the 1963 Great Train Robbery.
The Story: Built in the early 19th Century it became a popular spot in the Fifties and Sixties for London’s glitziest celebs – not to mention its criminal underworld. Hence all the, well, train robbing banter.
What’s On Tap: It’s a Fuller’s pub these days, so there’s an ever-changing line-up of palatable beers and ciders.
Top Boozer’s Boast: That supping ale there makes you more gangster than Phil Collins ever was in Buster.
Peveril of the Peak – Great Bridgewater Street, Manchester
Have A Pint There Because: Its table football - said to be oldest in the land.
The Story: “The Pev” is a legitimate Manchester institution. Like a boozy time capsule, this Victorian establishment has kept its reputation as an “old man pub” while Manchester modernizes around it. The table football is a well-suited feature.
What’s On Tap: Reliable no-nonsense ales such as Pedigree and Bombardier.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You’ve played footie on hallowed ground. Or as close as you’re likely to get after three pints of porter.
The Blind Beggar – Whitechapel, London
Have A Pint There Because: Ronnie Kray murdered George Cornell in the bar.
The Story: A cornerstone of the East End since 1894, The Blind Beggar became part of gangland history on 9th March 1966. Ron Kray stormed in and shot rival gang member Cornell in the forehead, allegedly for mouthing off about him.
What’s On Tap: Your standard beers and ciders. But then they didn't have passion fruit-infused craft ale back in the heyday of Ronnie and Reggie.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You drank there and survived. Most probably because you wouldn’t have the guts to mouth off about Ron, even if he has been dead for 21 years.
Tan Hill Inn - Swaledale, North Yorkshire
Have A Pint There Because: At 1,732ft above sea level, it’s the UK’s highest pub.
The Story: It’s been sat atop Tan Hill since the 1600s and was once a regular for the local coal miners. It still boasts original features stone floors and wooden beams. And if you are planning a drinking trip to the English countryside soon, check out the website of Visit England (it's actually bloody useful).
What’s On Tap: Try a pint of its very own Tan Hill Ewe Juice, which is cask conditioned right there on the hill.
Top Boozer’s Boast: After huffing and puffing your way up their – the highest point of the Pennine Way – you’ve had the most well-deserved pint of your life.
The Admiral Wells - Holme, Peterborough
Have A Pint There Because: It’s the lowest pub in Britain.
The Story: The land on which the pub stands is actually a drained lake, and the lowest point in Britain – 9ft below sea level. It’s named after the pub founder (and lake drainer) William Wells’ grandfather, Vice Admiral Thomas Wells.
What’s On Tap: A range of real ale and guest lagers. Better than a pint of old leftover lake water, anyway.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You’ve finally answered the age old question of “how low can you go?”
The Mayflower - Rotherhithe, London
Have A Pint There Because: It’s where the Pilgrims set sail from in 1620.
The Story: Dating back to the early 17th Century and once called “The Shippe”, it claims to be the Thames’ oldest pub. Post-Reformation religious separatists sailed to North America on The Mayflower, which was moored outside before its historical voyage and would eventually inspire a change of name for the inn.
What’s On Tap: It’s very own bitter, the Mayflower Scurvy. Not as unpleasant as it sounds.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You stopped off on the way to a brave new world (alright, kebab shop).
The Old Forge - Inverie, Scotland
Have A Pint There Because: Accessible only by a seven mile boat journey or 18 mile mountainous hike, it’s Britain’s most remote public house.
The Story: Inverie has a population of roughly 100 adults, and the pub’s walls are famed for being covered in musical instruments for the odd impromptu jig. It sounds a bit Wicker Man, but is notoriously friendly.
What’s On Tap: It has its very own ale – RemoteNESS – brewed in the (relatively) nearby Fort Augustus.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You’ve drank at the only pub where you can actually arrive by helicopter and not look a complete prat.
The Nutshell - The Traverse, Bury St Edmunds
Have A Pint There Because: Watch your elbows – it’s only Britain’s smallest boozer.
The Story: Serving ale since 1867, it measures just 15ft by 7ft. Others also lay claim to the smallest pub mantle – most notably the The Signal Box Inn in Cleethorpes – but cheat by having a beer garden.
What’s On Tap: There’s a Greene King brewery nearby, so a pint of that if you’re buying.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You’ve drank somewhere too small to swing a cat in. And there is a mummified cat amongst the eccentric décor too, so you could actually try it after a few drinks.
The Reindeer Inn - Banbury, Oxfordhsire
Have A Pint There Because: It was a stronghold of Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads in the English Civil War.
The Story: Dating all the way back to the 1500s, The Reindeer is famous for its “Globe Room”, which dates back to the Civil War and was used as a courtroom to try Royalists. Cromwell is said to have planned the Battle of Edgehill there too.
What’s On Tap: Nice cask ales to accompany the pub’s authentic Civil War banquet menu.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You hummed “Oliver’s Army” under your breath the whole time.
The Dambusters Inn - Scrampton, Lincolnshire
Have A Pint There Because: It’s near RAF Scrampton, the site the real Dambusters flew from.
The Story: Though it wasn’t a pub at the time of the war (it was formerly a post office), it’s since been turned into a boozer-cum-mini museum, packed with memorabilia in tribute to the famous 617 Squadron.
What’s On Tap: As passionate about real ale as it is the RAF – it even won a CAMRA pub of the year award this year – it also has an on-premises microbrewery.
Top Boozer’s Boast: You were told 'No more Jaegerbombs'.
The Cavern Club – Matthew Street, Liverpool
Have A Pint There Because: OK, so it's a club not a pub, but it is where The Beatles were discovered.
The Story: It opened in the 1950s and has hosted acts such as The Rolling Stones, Queen, and The Who. The original site closed in 1973, but it’s survived in one form or another, and still rocks on today.
What’s On Tap: Your generic draught beer and lager range. Rock ‘n’ roll through and through.
Top Boozer’s Boast: With over 40 bands playing there a week, you could be the person to discover the next Beatles.
The Skirrid Mountain Inn - Abergavenny, Wales
Have A Pint There Because: It's one of Britain’s most haunted pubs – rumoured to have more ghosts than bar snacks.
The Story: Once a courtroom, up to 200 people are believed to have hanged inside. The condemned spirits now haunt the pub, and a ghostly noose can sometimes be seen hanging from an old oak beam. Could the booze talking, though.
What’s On Tap: A pint of Wye Valley Butty Bach. Which is Welsh for “little friend”.
Top Boozer’s Boast: That you drank in Britain’s most haunted boozer and didn’t scream like a wuss. Unless you did, of course.