The Holly Bush

The Holly Bush, Makeney, Derbyshire DE56 0RX

A stone-built pub of considerable age situated on a narrow lane off the A6 south of Belper in the picturesque Derwent valley, with a superb unspoilt interior that earns it a place on CAMRA’s National Inventory. At its heart is a wonderful old snug formed from a quadrant of fixed bench seating with a glazed section filling the gap between the top and the ceiling. Next to this is the cosy main bar with dark beams and a quarry-tiled floor. There’s also a more a more conventional but still characterful lounge and a conservatory and beer garden at the rear. Children are not admitted to the main bar and snug.

The permanent beer range comprises Greene King Abbot Ale, Taylor’s Landlord and Fullers London Pride on handpump, plus Marston’s Pedigree drawn from the cellar and served from a jug. There are also three changing guest ales, and the pub stages regular beer festivals throughout the year. There’s an extensive menu of conventional pub food, plus a variety of snacks including pork pies and cheese platters. It’s a rare example of a pub occupying a stunning historic building that also excels in its customer offer.

The pub only has a small car park, and apart from this parking nearby can be difficult – at busy times, visitors may need to go down to the “main road” a couple of hundred yards away.

The Jolly Sailor

The Jolly Sailor, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK11 6HN

A street-corner pub in the lower part of the town on the busy Sunderland Street near to the railway station. In the 1980s, the interior was opened out somewhat, attracting criticism from a local CAMRA guide, but it has mellowed since then, and retains four distinct areas around the bar with a variety of comfortable seating. There’s an impressive collection of bric-a-brac and memorabilia including many photographs of old Macclesfield and the classic old Bass poster shown below.

It was once the only Bass tied house in the town, and Draught Bass remains at the core of the beer range alongside Castle Rock Harvest Pale and Everards Tiger. There are also a couple of changing guests which are typically the more familiar beers such as Bombardier and Landlord. Food is limited to simple weekday bar snacks, but the upstairs function room doubles as a steakhouse on Thursday to Saturday evenings. It attracts a wide cross-section of customers and provides a proper traditional pub atmosphere in an area of the town where modern bars predominate.

The Scotch Piper

The Scotch Piper, Lydiate, Lancashire L31 4HD

An ancient thatched and cruck-framed pub that claims to be “the oldest inn in Lancashire”, and features on CAMRA’s National Inventory. It must originally have been in a rural location, but has now been enveloped by nondescript suburbia on the northern fringes of Liverpool. The heavily beamed interior comprises three rooms – the cosy, wood-panelled area on the left by the bar, a central one with dartboard and old fixed seating, and a more modern but still comfortable lounge at the far right end, all warmed by real fires in winter. There’s also extensive outside seating, making it a good place to go out to for a drink on a sunny summer’s day or warm evening.

On my recent visit, there were three cask beers available – Holts Two Hoots, Pendle Blond Witch, and a house beer called Piper 1320, the origin of which the barman didn’t know. No food is currently available. For many years it was a Burtonwood tied house, but is now owend by Admiral Taverns. The pub was recently badly damaged by fire, but fortunately has been restored to its former glory.

The White Horse

The White Horse (Nellie’s), Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire HU17 8BN

Old pub in a wonky terrace at the north end of the town centre close to St Mary’s church. For many years, it was run as a free house by Nellie Collinson, from whom it takes its nickname, prior to its acquisition by Samuel Smith’s in 1976. At that time it was something of a timewarp pub; since then it has been somewhat improved and smartened up, but it retains an interior of great character, resulting in its inclusion as a main entry on CAMRA’s National Inventory.

It still has coal fires, stone-flagged floors, gas lighting and a warren of small rooms surrounding the main bar, which is at the rear left. There’s even an unexpected pool room at the back on the right. There’s the usual range of Sam’s beer, at their usual good value prices, and lunchtime food is available. The only signage is the rocking horse and a small nameboard above the front door.

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.