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About This Guide

Star Inn, St Just, October 2006. From left, Time, Horse, the landlord, me, Bozza (sideways), Manna, Pete I think, Brucie, Jude and AJWelcome to my very own personal guide to what I feel are the finest pubs serving excellent real ale in the UK, plus of course the odd 'pub' beyond these shores thrown in for good measure. For those of you who know me, I'm always the one who's keen to go those extra few steps to see if there's something even better a little further down the road. The intention of this guide ever since the idea first started brewing in my alcohol-filled student mind towards the close of 1995 has never been to conquer the whole country and list every single great pub that there is, nor to provide reams and reams of detailed descriptions of pubs from top to toe of Britain. I'm far too lazy to go into such intimate details. There are many other published guides that do an excellent job of this already with great teams of people that collate the information. In a way they're pretty similar in their nature, tending to be rather factual and impersonal as I suppose they have to be, as they're published to appeal to a broad range of folk who are looking for somewhere to go for a nice meal, to celebrate a birthday, to meet up with some friends or to maybe merely to chill out in after a hard day at work or wandering up on the fells.

An absolute classic pub, the Barley Mow at Kirk Ireton, Derbyshire, August 2006Having amassed a number of shelves worth of these guide you soon discover that each is geared to a slightly different audience whether it be the real ale buff, the 'good food fan', the hillwalker, dog walker, driver or the sport fanatic.

In my opinion a visit to a pub is very much a shared experience, and the group that you are with, and how they interact with the atmosphere and general 'vibe' of the pub, will often have a very strong affect on your enjoyment and level of appreciation of that establishment. Clearly there are many other important factors. Did the landlord or were the bar staff friendly and make you feel at home?
Does the pub fit in well with the local surroundings? Is it unique, does the interior seem genuine or have one of those dreadful pub furniture firms shoved in a load of 'pub tat' to make it look nice? Sorry, I shouldn't be quite so critical as this is only the introduction to the guide!.......

Me with a flock of student friends at the Coach and Horses, Weatheroak, Worcestershire, in the early days of this guide in Summer 1998One of my key intentions with this guide, is without trying to turn it into too much of a blog, is to try to relay my personal experience of visiting a particular pub, why I ended up there, and of course what it was like and has to offer and why I would go back. I must admit that perusing through a new pub guide these days is like looking up old friends - Aaaahhh the 3 Stags Heads at Wardlow Mires, or the Star Inn at St Just. I can particularly recommend the annual CAMRA Good Beer Guide (published annually in September) which seems to uncover more gems than any other guide, probably due to the passion of its members to seek out 'pub perfection' though clearly they're biased towards 'wet lead' or 'beery' pubs. Although the reviews are often shorter than many other guides, careful wording will tell 'those in the know where to go.' People do tend to flock to pubs that have a good friendly atmosphere, and sell decent ale at reasonable prices.

Jim and I. Where would I be without Jim helping me find many of the pubs that have appeared in this guide. Us in the Brown Cow, Keighley, July 2006Just as a little background, I grew up in Kent in the 1980's, picking hops in my summer holidays until they were no longer deemed financially viable and the farmer eventually turned the farm over to a trout fishery! My years in Norfolk and my many friends who took me out to dozens of very fine rural gems and turned me from a keg cider drinker into a fully fledged ale man gave me the necessary education that I needed when I moved to Birmingham. At first glance, Birmingham is a big, smelly, unfriendly metropolis. The buses, trains and trams are like the blood though and the friendliness of the locals in some of the many excellent traditional Black Country boozers is second to none. We really do have a fantastic pub heritage and I urge you all to help preserve it. Although I now live in Devon I still manage to tour the country uncovering many more pub gems. Sadly some four of these gems have closed in the time between visiting and uploading the review to the web.

AJ and I helping out at the Tuckers Maltings Beer Festival, Newton Abbot, Devon, April 2006However, this guide proves that there are still pubs that offer a warm welcome, great real ale and often great food, excellent conversation and company. Every entry has been anonymously inspected and approved for inclusion by me and no charge is made for entry in this guide. Please E-mail me any suggestions for more pubs particularly in areas not currently covered. I also welcome corrections to current entries. I have received over 3000 suggestions for new entries, 2500 comments on this guide alongside 200 complaints that I haven't been to Liverpool, Newcastle, etc! Please note that this pub guide is being continuously updated and expanded and that I cannot take any responsibility for any inaccuracies whatsoever.

This guide has been carefully constructed with the following points borne in mind:

» easy to use menus
» simple, logical guide structure
» simple, clutter free pages
» all pages accessible in <= 3 mouse clicks
» optimized images minimise download times
» absence of pop-up ads

The first line of the menu that tops every page provides links to general background pages. The second line provides quick links to useful index pages that provide links to the individual entries.
  1. A 'clickable' map of all guide entries that links to individual county index pages
  2. A list of all of counties with guide entries that links to individual county index pages
  3. A master list of guide entries with links to individual pub or county index pages




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