Pub Reviews

A guide to some of the licensed premises that contribute enormously to Britain’s renowned pub culture, written and researched (the best bit) by Alastair Gilmour

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MEAN-EYED CAT, NEWCASTLE

Five Betty Boop-style faces dispense beer and Johnny Cash is following me around the pub. The single-roomed Mean-Eyed Cat in Newcastle is an insurgence of fun, musical ephemera, imagery and astonishing beer.

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TAXIDERMY FOR WANDERING WILLIE

Dogs have a way of looking at you. It’s possibly more about you than them, as trying to distinguish human characteristics in an animal’s expression is a pretty difficult task. We are breeds apart.

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ATHLETIC ARMS (DIGGERS), EDINBURGH

An involuntary intake of breath coincides with my arrival at the Athletic Arms. The gasp isn’t for the punchline of a joke that’s just been delivered in the far corner, but in response to the out-and-out sparkle of an immaculate and impressive pub.

The story’s denouement is “so would you mind keeping the dog”, but it’s sunlight streaming through stained glass enchanting me as it illuminates beautiful tiled flooring... [READ MORE]

DIPTON MILL INN, HEXHAM

*Written before landlord Geoff Brooker passed away 

Draw the definitive English country pub and it would look like the Dipton Mill Inn, near Hexham in Northumberland. Describe a coaching inn interior and it would be low-ceilinged and solid-beamed with five ales on the bar and a tinkling log fire – much like the Dipton Mill Inn.

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HEMELVAART BIER CAFÉ, AYTON, BERWICKSHIRE

I’m sitting on a canary-yellow Ikea settee, sipping a Belgian Tripel. I’m not in Brussels or Bruges nor an out-of-town furniture store, but in Ayton, Berwickshire, a solid, attractive village eight miles north of the Scotland/England border.

Hemelvaart Bier-Café is a sweetshop for beer lovers... [READ MORE]

THE HEST BANK INN, HEST BANK, LANCASTER

The Hest Bank Inn is the pub you’d want at the end of your street. It’s the sort of place where elderly locals can reel off the names of every landlord going back to their childhoods – and beyond – and who readily welcome visitors into their “family”.

From the pub’s origins in 1554 it has hosted cockfights and... [READ MORE]

THE SUN INN, BEAMISH MUSEUM, COUNTY DURHAM

According to the newspaper I’m reading as a pint chaser, there is “alarming news from Salonica”. The Pope’s health is improving, and Worth’s corsets – “unsurpassed for elegance” – are 12/6 a pair. It is quite an old newspaper. 

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