Food & drink

Britain's Barmiest Boozers

Several Best Western hotels have their own lovely, unique pubs.
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Several Best Western hotels have their own lovely, unique pubs. BEST WESTERN PLUS Castle Green in Kendal has Alexander’s, which is stocked full of real ale from the local brewery, BEST WESTERN Rogerthorpe Manor in Pontefract, West Yorkshire has the Jacobean Pub with its seasonal menu and splendid themed dining nights and the BEST WESTERN Beamish Hall Hotel in County Durham even has its own microbrewery and you can try its wares at The Stables bar next door.

Although we have unique and characterful pubs we can’t stand up to a pub that runs an annual chicken racing championship or one where you have to give up a shoe to gain a pint. Luckily, Rob Crossan manfully took on our quest to find the most eccentric bars in the land. 

The Old Forge
Inverie, Scotland
01687 462267 – www.theoldforge.co.uk

A pub with no locals? Only in the wilds of the west coast of Scotland. This is officially the remotest pub in mainland Britain. The only way you can get here is by a seven-mile boat ride or after an 18-mile hike. Luckily, you can stay the night in the pub.

Former landlady Jackie Robertson, who retired recently, claims: ‘It’s a very difficult place to describe. It’s a very beautiful place and a very hard one to leave.’ She’s not joking – especially when there’s a storm...

The Nutshell
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
01284 764 867 – www.thenutshellpub.co.uk

There have long been passionate debates about which is the smallest pub in the country – but after a drink in the bijou boozer, you probably wouldn’t want to find anything more minuscule. Capacity is around 10 and if that weren’t cosy enough, punters also have to sup their pints in the company of a mummified cat, hanging from the ceiling, an aeroplane propeller hung on the wall and a disproportionate amount of dirt – tradition dictates that nothing is ever dusted.

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Did you know...

  • The Old Forge pub in Inverie is recognised as Britain's most remote pub. With no roads in or out it takes either a 7 mile sea crossing or a hike over a number of Munros to get to. 

The Crooked House
Gornal, West Midlands
01384 2385836 – www.thecrooked-house.co.uk

The boozy equivalent of the leaning tower of Pisa, this former farmhouse, built in 1765, slumps at a quite alarming angle that makes you feel more than a little tiddly the minute you step through the door.

Built on top of a mineshaft, subsidence has caused the pub to sit 15 degrees off kilter. It’s been buttressed and made safe but drinking is still a rather Salvador Dali-esque experience. Probably best not to order the soup...

The Widow’s Son
Bow, London
Devons Rd, London E3 3PJ

The bar snacks in this East London boozer are clearly on show – though you probably wouldn’t want to eat them. Hot cross buns galore hang from every inch of the ceiling and a new one is added each year in a bizarre ceremony.

The house that formerly stood on the site of the pub was home to a widow whose son was lost at sea. Each Good Friday she put out a hot cross bun in hope of his return, which sadly never happened.

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The Auld Shillelagh
Stoke Newington, London
020 7249 5951 – www.theauldshillelagh.com

With a frontage too narrow to display its full name, The Auld Shillelagh is often referred to as the Tardis. Partly due to its size but also because, once you’re in there, you can never be sure what year it will be when you emerge. There’s nothing Oirish about this bar, it’s a traditional Irish boozer with a touch of community centre. From bus drivers to Hollywood stars – Brendan Gleeson has been known to enjoy a few pints – the clientele is refreshingly diverse. Its regular Irish music session has a loyal following – forget diddly-dee and expect a raucous rendition of Groove is in the Heart – but be prepared to lose all concept of time.

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The Frog and Toad
Gillingham, Kent
01634 852 231 – www.thefrogandtoad.com

Be prepared to temporarily lose one of your shoes if you fancy a quick swill in this Medway pub. The beers are served in miniature versions of the glass ‘yards of ale’ tubes and can only be sipped when placed in their wooden holders. They cost more than a fiver each, so to stop customers making off with a souvenir, they’re asked to remove one of their shoes.

The shoe is then placed in a box and hoisted by rope up to the ceiling of the pub, where it stays until the boozy contraption is returned. When DND visited, one patron said: ‘You’d be amazed how many people take the glass anyway and hope off shoeless.’ You have been warned.

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The Barley Mow
Bonsall, Derbyshire
01692 825685 – www.barleymowbonsall.co.uk

Scientists believe that chickens have a memory of just three minutes. So hopefully they won’t feel humiliated if they come last in the Chicken Racing Championships held every August. Alan Webster, landlord of the pub, is convinced that these birds have got more between the ears than many believe: ‘People think chickens are stupid, but they have a strong competitive ethic.’

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The Pack O Cards
Combe Martin, Devon
01271 882300 – www.packocards.co.uk

With four floors (one for every suit) and 52 windows, you might think that this pub had an addiction to gaming. And you’d be right – this bizarre boozer was actually paid for from the proceeds of a win at cards.

Built in 1690 by George Ley as a family home to celebrate his bumper payday at the gaming table, the pub is still covered in card motifs today.

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The Pub With No Name
Priors Dean, Hampshire
01420 588387 – www.pubwithnoname.co.uk

Taking the JD Salinger approach to publicity is this pub, the highest in Hampshire, which hasn’t bothered with such frivolities as signage – or even a name. Locals tell you that some refer to it as the White House but we’re not fooled. An empty metal frame hangs outside.

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The beers are served in miniature versions of the glass ‘yards of ale’ tubes. To stop customers making off with a souvenir, they’re asked to remove one of their shoes.
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