The Hawk

The Hawk, Haslington, Cheshire CW1 5RG

An attractive old half-timbered pub on the main street of a large South Cheshire village just north of Crewe. The village has now – fortunately – been bypassed, but the road has a couple of sharp bends near the pub which mean care is needed when emerging from the car park. Over the years it has obviously been modernised to some extent, but retains a core of four very traditional-looking rooms around the bar. Best of all is the cosy room at the rear with wood-panelled walls, bench seating, a real fire and a stained-glass window. The main room has an impressive inglenook fireplace decked with horse brasses. It’s a Robinson’s tied house, offering on a recent visit Hatters and Unicorn plus a seasonal beer. A varied food menu is served, but is not allowed to dominate. The wording on the beams on the end of the pub says “A jug of ale, a whispered word, can be found within these old walls”.

The Davenport Arms

The Davenport Arms, Woodford, Cheshire SK7 1PS

An old redbrick pub dating from the early years of the 19th century that used to be part of a working farm. The licence has been held by the same family for over 80 years. The interior has seen a few changes over the years, but retains a multi-roomed feel, with a traditional tap-room on the left, cosy snug on the right and a more open-plan main bar area at the rear, all warmed by real fires in winter. There’s a paved outside drinking area at the front and a spacious enclosed garden to the rear. The exterior is enlivened by hanging baskets of flowers in Spring and Summer.

The pub’s situation close to the now defunct BAe Systems plant at Woodford, home of the Lancaster and Vulcan bombers, is reflected by numerous pieces of aviation memorabilia displayed on the walls. The tap-room is also home to old Farmer’s Weekly posters of breeds of livestock and British Working Dogs. A variety of mostly home-made food is served at lunchtimes, but there is no food in the evenings. It’s a Robinson’s tied house, offering 1892, Unicorn, Old Tom and a rotating guest or seasonal beer from the Robinson’s range.

Its location on the edge of prosperous “stockbroker belt” territory is reflected in some of the clientele – you might well see a vintage Rolls-Royce in the car park. However, there is a wide spread of customers and, especially in the tap-room, it can be surprisingly down-to-earth.

Edit: This pub was extensively refurbished in the Spring of 2014. While it retains its multi-roomed layout and plenty of character, it is now much smarter and cannot be said to be unspoilt in the way it was previously.

The Red Lion

The Red Lion, Dayhills, Staffordshire ST15 8RU

A truly unspoilt country pub, part of a working farm, in the depths of rural Staffordshire east of Stone. The building itself has no sign indicating that it is a pub; there’s just an inn sign at the roadside and the small sign on an outbuilding shown on the picture. The car park is the area of hard standing, without any marked bays, in front of the pub.

The interior is basically just one room with a quarry-tiled floor, bench seating and old settles, dominated by a huge inglenook fireplace. The beer range centres on Midlands classic Draught Bass together with a couple of guest beers - Bombardier and Doom Bar on my visit in August 2016. No food is served. There aren’t many like this left, more’s the pity.

The Golden Lion

The Golden Lion, Frodsham, Cheshire WA6 7AR

A Georgian street-corner pub on the attractive main street of this small, prosperous market town. It’s a Sam Smith’s pub with their usual low prices and characteristic down-to-earth clientele. The interior has been opened out over the years but still has a variety of areas around the central servery including a games room. I remember it from the 1970s when it had a tiny public bar right in the corner on the apex of the pub. Various shades of brown dominate in the decor. Basic food has intermittently been served over the years, but I’m not sure of the current situation. The Bear’s Paw opposite is an impressive sandstone building that claims to date from 1632, but sadly has been stripped of most of its internal character.

The Black Horse

The Black Horse, Clapton-in-Gordano, Somerset BS20 7RH

A very old pub, allegedly dating back to the 14th century, tucked away in a narrow village lane close to, but not directly approachable from, the M5. The L-shaped interior has been slightly opened out but retains a wholly traditional atmosphere, with brasses and old wooden settles and a stone-flagged floor. The main bar is dominated by a massive fireplace surmounted by a collection of vintage firearms.

It still has its Courage signing, but now offers a range of beers including Butcombe Bitter, Otter Bitter and Bath Ales Gem together with Courage Best on both gravity and handpump, together with a couple of traditional ciders. I saw old boys in here drinking bright orange cloudy cider on a Monday lunchtime, which must be a good sign. Food is mainly snacks together with a couple of daily specials – it hasn’t been allowed to become a dining pub.

I will be quite honest - this pub is nearly 200 miles away from me, and I have only been there a couple of times, but I don’t think I’ve been in any other that comes closer to my personal vision of the ideal pub.

(Amended 23 September 2016 to replace the original StreetView image with my own recent photo. The pub is thankfully just as good as ever.)

The Harrington Arms

The Harrington Arms, Gawsworth, Cheshire SK11 9RJ

An old farmhouse pub situated in a pretty village just down the road from the church and half-timbered Gawsworth Hall. The interior has been smartened up a little from the totally unspoilt original, but still retains a number of small rooms. The parlour on the left with its quarry-tiled floor and long tables and settles is especially characterful. Another room to the rear has a piano. It’s a Robinson’s tied house offering Hatters Mild, Unicorn and Dizzy Blonde. Food is served but doesn’t dominate to the exclusion of all else. The StreetView image shows it bathed in glorious winter sunshine.

The Commercial

The Commercial, Wheelock, Cheshire CW11 3RR

One of Cheshire’s dwindling handful of truly unspoilt pubs, this is a former Birkenhead Brewery tied house, now a free house, near the Trent & Mersey Canal in this large South Cheshire village. The interior comprises a congenial main bar with an impressive carved wood counter, a chintzy snug and a spacious billiard room with a full-size table that doubles as a concert room. The overall atmosphere seems little changed since the 1930s, and the gents’ toilets are well-kept survivors from that era. In the past, opening hours were very restricted, but seem to be more liberal now. On my recent visit, cask beers available were Weetwood Best Bitter and Marston’s EPA – the Weetwood, a classic English “brown bitter”, was in good nick and a bargain £2.20 a pint. No food appears to be served.

Addendum, February 2016: Sadly this pub is now CLOSED. Not sure of the actual date.

The Post Office Tavern

The Post Office Tavern, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol BS9 3AG

Bill Jones writes: This is my local. It's a proper wet-led pub, which does food but doesn’t let that get in the way. It has a mixed clientele with a few “gin & jag” types but plenty of ordinary working men as well. Everyone rubs along together quite nicely. It sponsors a football team so there is a younger group of customers to balance old codgers like me. In the good old days when you could smoke, there was a non-smoking bar and an elaborate ventilation system which took all the smoke from the main bar. Everyone was happy. Now you have to go out the back where there is a decent smoking shelter. Four real ales, usual lagers, ciders etc. Dogs welcome. Pub’s website here.

The Vine

The Vine, Dunham Woodhouses, Cheshire WA14 5RU

A Samuel Smith’s pub set back from the road in an attractive village close to the National Trust’s Dunham Massey estate. Despite the leafy setting, it’s surprisingly down to earth, with a strong core of regulars mingling with visitors eating meals. Possibly Sams’ famously low beer prices help keep its feet on the ground. The interior has a firmly traditional feel featuring much dark wood, with a variety of cosy areas rambling around the central bar. The pub is the building by the red car, not the one right behind the sign.

The Seven Stars

The Seven Stars, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 3QA

It’s twenty years since I visited here, but it’s well summed up by Adrian Tierney-Jones in last Saturday’s Daily Telegraph.

Apparently the roof board shown in the photo but absent on StreetView was blown off in high winds.

The Anchor

The Anchor, High Offley, Staffordshire ST20 0NG

A Victorian pub set by the Shropshire Union Canal in a very isolated rural location. It has two small rooms – a bar with old, high-backed settles on the right and a lounge on the left which is a tribute to 1950s formica. The only cask beer available is Wadworth’s 6X, served from a handpump but topped up from a jug. The pub is, not surprisingly, packed with canal memorabilia. It has a spacious beer garden with plenty of seating and comes into its own on sunny summer weekend lunchtimes. Opening hours in winter may be limited.

The Traveller's Rest

The Traveller’s Rest, Alpraham, Cheshire CW6 9JA

This is an incredible, unspoilt pub that is like taking a step back into the 1950s. It has a main bar area in the centre, two lounge-type rooms at the front, one accessed by stepping through a bead curtain, and an entirely separate parlour at the rear, with its own door to the exterior. The toilets, of course, are outside. Leatherette seats and formica-topped tables abound. The beers available on my most recent visit were Tetley Bitter – which was better than it has any right to be – and Weetwood Eastgate Ale, a classic English “brown beer”, not too malty, not too hoppy. The quality of both justified its entry in the Good Beer Guide. No food is served, but it seems to be popular with a good group of regulars.

(Amended 25 August 2013 to replace the StreetView image with my own recent photo. And, no, I don’t drive a blue Honda Jazz!)