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.

The Cresselly Arms

The Cresselly Arms, Cresswell Quay, Pembrokeshire SA68 0TE

In a beautiful situation at the head of a tidal creek, this is a greystone, ivy-clad pub dating back around 250 years. The heart of the pub is the unspoilt Victorian public bar, with a quarry-tiled floor, an old cast-iron fireplace and original wooden bar counter and bar back fittings. In recent years it has been slightly opened up and extended towards the rear.

The admittedly rather bland Worthington Best Bitter is still drawn directly from the cask and served by jug, while Doom Bar and maybe a couple of local guest ales are dispensed from handpumps. No food is served. The pub was Pembrokeshire CAMRA Pub of the Year for 2015.

There’s plenty of outdoor seating, making it an excellent spot to sit outside on a summer evening and watch the sunset. Note that a lot of the ivy has been removed between the 2011 StreetView image and my picture taken on 23 June 2015.

The Half Moon

The Half Moon, Durham DH1 3AQ

This pub is a traditional urban local just across the pedestrianised Elvet Bridge from the city centre. The interior comprises a front bar and lower rear lounge, connected by the semi-circular bar counter from which the pub reputedly takes its name. Both have plenty of dark wood and red leatherette bench seating. There is also a large beer garden at the rear overlooking the river.

There’s no food (although the website promises a new sandwich menu) and TV sport is shown, ensuring a lively atmosphere on match days. The regular beers are Draught Bass (very reasonably priced on my visit), Taylors Landlord and Durham White Gold, plus a couple of rotating guests. The pub has been in the Good Beer Guide for thirty consecutive years.

The Swan

The Swan, Brewood, Staffordshire ST19 9BS

Brewood is a large village in South-West Staffordshire that in the past has claimed the status of a town. It still boasts a central market place with the three-storey Lion Inn and the striking house with Gothick windows visible on the right-hand side of the picture. The Swan is an old former coaching inn on the west side of the market place, with an arch leading through into the car park.

Inside it is more down-to-earth than you would expect, with a central U-shaped bar, around which the drinkers cluster, and a couple of comfortable snugs on either side. Outside is an impressively large and comfortable smoking shelter. The dark wood, cream walls and red upholstery colour scheme suggest a former Bass pub. According to the Good Beer Guide no food is served beyond cobs on weekday lunchtimes. The regular beer range is Theakston Black Bull, Deuchars IPA, Wye Valley HPA and Courage Directors, plus two guests, on my visit including Taylors Landlord. It’s hard to fault the pub, but it would be good to see Draught Bass and other Staffordshire beers on the bar.