The Yew Tree

The Yew Tree, Cauldon, Staffordshire ST10 3EJ

An old brick and stone pub in the shadow of the eponymous yew tree, and incongruously situated just up the road from a giant stone-crushing plant. The unassuming exterior conceals a quite incredible collection of assorted paraphernalia assembled over the years by veteran licensee Alan East, making it as much a museum as a pub. Pride of place goes to the several working pianolas, but it also includes radios, typewriters, antique bicycles, guns and a huge variety of other items.

Behind the low, cottage-style frontage the interior is surprisingly spacious. The front left-hand room is entirely given over to part of the collection, but further back there is another room featuring fixed seating resembling old choir stalls. The heart of the pub is the main room facing the quadrant bar, with old settles, table skittles and dartboard, and further to the right is a lounge-type extension with plenty more bench seating. Dark wood and low light predominate throughout.

The beer range is sensibly limited to BUrton Bridge Bridge Bitter and Rudgate Ruby Mild as regulars, with one rotating guest, generally from local micro-breweries. There’s always a case of pork pies on the bar, and sandwiches are also available. I spotted a cooked meal being served on a Sunday lunchtime, but I’m not sure whether that’s a regular public offering.

The Yew Tree is one of Britain’s true classics and one that every lover of pubs should visit at least once during their lifetime. While obviously something of a tourist attraction, it clearly has a strong core of regulars and you’re likely to hear some good old-school pub conversation around the bar.

The Boar's Head

The Boar’s Head, Stockport, Cheshire SK1 1TY

A handsome brick-and-stone pub overlooking one corner of Stockport’s historic Market Place. It’s a Sam Smith’s pub, and a few years ago was given a refurbishment which actually involved reinstating some internal walls. There’s a central bar with adjoining drinking space and three separate areas radiating off, plus a large lounge on the left-hand side which can double as a function room.

It has served food in the past, but currently is just an archetypal drink and chat pub. Despite this, it’s rarely less than busy, with a good crowd in from lunchtime opening, even on weekdays when there is no market being held and other nearby pubs are deserted or closed. On Saturday afternoons it can be standing room only. It appeals to a mainly more mature clientele and, while welcoming to all, undoubtedly has a down-to-earth traditional pub atmosphere.

As well as well-kept Old Brewery Bitter, there’s an unusually wide range of Sam Smith’s keg beers, including both the light and dark keg milds, which are sold at an exceptionally low price. The cellars are particularly impressive and connect with mysterious tunnels leading under the old town of Stockport.

Its quality as a classic old-school town-centre boozer was recognised when it was, perhaps surprisingly, but entirely deservedly, voted by Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA as their Pub of the Year for 2016.

The Navigation

The Navigation, Buxworth, Derbyshire SK23 7NE

Stone-built pub on the fringes of the Peak District, attractively situated opposite the restored canal basin, down a lane from the main road. It has been a free house for many years but still bears some evidence of Wilsons’ livery. The characterful, rambling interior comprises comfortable areas of bench seating on either side of the main bar, a separate snug and vault at a higher level, and a section more oriented towards dining on the other side of the central corridor.

Wainwright and Taylor’s Landlord are on the bar as permanent beers, with four rotating guests, often from local micros. There’s an extensive food menu covering both snacks and full meals. The Navigation continues to thrive as an excellent all-round pub in an area where several nearby have closed in recent years.

Buxworth was originally called Bugsworth, but was renamed in 1930 to give a more genteel impression.

The Vaults

The Vaults, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire ST14 8HP

An unassuming, shop-like frontage on Uttoxeter’s Market Place conceals a pub interior of great character running deep down the original burgage plot. The heart of the pub is the front bar with lino floor, bench seating and pictures on the walls of excursions by regulars to many other classic pubs. Behind this is a middle room featuring a devil among the tailors game, and a comfortable carpeted rear lounge with upholstered benches. The toilets are yet further back along the side passageway running the full length of the pub. It is included as a regional entry on CAMRA’s National Inventory.

It’s very much a classic drink and chat pub with no food served. For many years it was a stronghold of Draught Bass, with a famous photo showing all five handpumps bearing Bass pumpclips, but on my recent visit I was pleased to see they had added Stockport-brewed Robinson’s Wizard as a guest beer.

The Vine

The Vine, Brierley Hill, Staffordshire DY5 2TN

Often known as the “Bull & Bladder”, the Vine, with its striking exterior, is perhaps the acme of “real pubs”. It’s the brewery tap for Batham’s, with their small brewery abutting on to the left-hand side of the pub. It’s located in a characteristically rather amorphous part of the Black Country about half a mile south of Brierley Hill town centre. The spacious car park opposite undoubtedly increases its appeal to visitors travelling from further afield.

It retains many original features and is a regional entry on CAMRA’s National Inventory. There are four rooms – the classic, unspoilt public bar on the right, a comfortable lounge on the left, with plenty of bench seating, a cosy snug at the rear left and a long room behind the bar at the rear right with a dartboard at the end.

Batham’s highly-regarded Mild and Bitter are served at very reasonable prices, together with their Old Ale in the winter. Traditional Black Country meals are served on Monday to Friday lunchtimes, but it’s essentially a classic drink and chat pub where you’re likely to hear plenty of distinctive Black Country accents and banter.

(Photo courtesy of Batham’s Brewery)

The Colpitts Hotel

The Colpitts Hotel, Durham DH1 4EL

A stone-built pub situated at the sharp angle of two roads in a residential area to the west of the city centre, up a steep climb from the river. It features as a regional entry on CAMRA’s National Inventory. The interior consists of three rooms – the congenial main bar in the apex of the building, divided by a central fireplace, and a cosy snug and pool room on the opposite side of the dividing corridor.

It’s a Samuel Smith’s pub, with Old Brewery Bitter and their keg range at their usual keen prices. No food is served, but it’s popular with a wide variety of drinkers from the surrounding area including a substantial student contingent. On my visit I was amused by a group of students wrestling with a pub quiz that majored on 1970s and 80s popular culture.

The Oak Inn

The Oak Inn, Oswestry, Shropshire SY11 2SZ

Situated opposite the parish church at the south end of the town centre, this pub was once the coach house for the next-door Wynnstay Hotel. The narrow frontage conceals a surprisingly deep interior running back down the original burgage plot, including small front public bar, central servery, more spacious lounge and beer garden at the rear. The predominantly red colour scheme is indicative of former ownership by Bass Mitchells & Butlers. There are quarry-tiled floors and an abundance of dark wood. A few TV screens are dotted about, but they’re unlikely to be intrusive except when major football matches are on.

The beer range includes Draught Bass, Station Bitter and Cambrian Gold from the local Stonehouse Brewery, plus two or three guests from North Wales and the Marches. No food is served, but menus for local takeaways are kept behind the bar. On my visit there was an amiable, laid-back pub dog. It features as a regional entry on CAMRA’s National Inventory, and is a classic example of a traditional, unassuming, characterful market town pub.

The Queen’s Head

The Queen’s Head, Newton, Cambridgeshire CB22 7PG

An outwardly unassuming brick-built pub in a village a few miles south-west of Cambridge, that is one of the dwindling number to have featured in every edition of the Good Beer Guide. It also appears as a regional entry on CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors.

There is a cosy lounge on the left, a main bar area with settles and a quarry-tiled floor, and a further room to the right featuring table skittles. The general atmosphere is comfortable and lived-in. Beers are stillaged on gravity behind the bar, with cooling jackets. Although a free house, Adnams’ beers feature heavily. On my visit there were Southwold Bitter, Ghost Ship and Broadside, together with Taylors’ Landlord as a guest. Southwould Bitter was a very reasonable £3.10.

There’s a simple food menu including soup, sandwiches and meat and cheese platters, but it’s no destination dining pub. It has a somewhat genteel feel to it, but is genuinely welcoming to all. It’s odd how the South of England manages to draw middle-class customers to non-dining village and rural pubs in a way that is hard to imagine in Cheshire – see also the Crown at Churchill in Somerset.

The White Horse

The White Horse, Clun, Shropshire SY7 8JA

An attractive white-painted pub in the tiny square of this small South Shropshire town, once described by the poet A. E. Housman as “one of the sleepiest places under the sun”. The striking ruins of the mediaeval Clun Castle are not far away.

Internally it has been opened out somewhat over the years, to provide a rambling main bar with comfortable settles, a plainer public bar area to the rear, and a dining room on the right. There’s an extensive, reasonably-priced food menu including both full meals and snacks.

On the bar are seven or eight real ales, mostly locally sourced, with the local Clun Brewery taking pride of place. Their 4.1% Clun Pale Ale in the characteristic West Midlands/Marches style appeared to be the best seller. There are also local ciders in both real and keg form.

Perhaps not a totally unspoilt classic, but a welcoming, characterful pub serving both tourists and its local community well. The Buffalo Inn opposite retains its signage, but has been closed for many years, and I believe is now used as a youth hostel. The nearby Sun Inn is also worth a visit, and internally retains more historic character.

The pub’s own website is here.

The Armoury

The Armoury, Stockport, Cheshire SK3 8BD

A classic street-corner pub overlooking a busy roundabout close to the station, about half a mile from the town centre. Originally dating back to the Victorian era, it was remodelled in the 1920s, when it received an attractive blue-tiled frontage. Unfortunately this had to be replaced in the 1990s following water damage.

Sensitively refurbished in the 2000s, it retains a traditional multi-roomed interior with plenty of light wood and bench seating. To the right of the entrance is the bright, comfortable lounge, while on the left is a plainer vault and a snug-type room at the rear which is often used for darts matches. At the rear is a spacious, secluded beer garden with plenty of undercover seating, making it one of the most accommodating pubs in Stockport for smokers. It also has an upstairs function room.

There’s no food, although it has briefly experimented with serving lunches. Televised football is shown, but it’s not obtrusive except when United or City are playing, and it remains very much an archetypal community local with a mostly more mature clientele. Note that lunchtime opening is not until 1 pm on most weekdays.

It serves Robinson’s Unicorn and Dizzy Blonde as regular beers, plus a couple of others from their range, often including Trooper. It has been a regular entry in the Good Beer Guide and is often recommended as the best place in Stockport to sample the local brew. It was runner-up as local CAMRA Pub of the Year in 2015.

Situated within a short walk of Edgeley Park, it is a popular venue on match days. There’s a large public car park on the other side of the roundabout, which is free in the evenings. The two black-and-white buildings to the right on the StreetView image are a former branch of the NatWest Bank and a former pub, the Swan.