The Boat

The Boat, Penallt, Monmouthshire NP25 4AJ

An old sandstone pub beside the River Wye, which is actually located in Wales, but is best reached by crossing the river via a disused railway bridge from the Gloucestershire side at Redbrook. The car park is not well marked and has a probably unenforceable £1 pay and display charge before 6 pm. The pub has a main L-shaped bar with a stone-flagged floor and a small snug off, plus outside seating by the river. On my visit there was a fair amount of banter and reminiscence from a group of locals. Beer is dispensed by gravity from barrels behind the bar, with Wye Valley Butty Bach and Banker’s Draft available when I called. There is also a wide range of traditional ciders. The menu includes a choice of baguettes plus a limited range of hot food.

The Dolphin

The Dolphin, Plymouth, Devon PL1 2LS

An old-fashioned harbourside pub in Plymouth’s historic Barbican area. The interior is one basic Z-shaped bar with fixed seating plus rustic benches and tables arranged rather haphazardly. At some point in the past the two front doors must have given access to separate areas, maybe a front bar and a passageway through to the rear. The clientele is an incongruous mix of down-to-earth locals, business people and tourists, some of whom must be a little baffled by what they find.

Around eight different real ales are served on gravity including Bass, St Austell Tribute and Proper Job, Doom Bar and Otter Ale, although perhaps the selection could be a little more adventurous. In my experience temperature control was fine. Bass is the defining beer in here. No food is served, but you are allowed to bring in meals from local takeaways. The frontage features in a couple of paintings by well-known local artist Beryl Cook, reproductions of which are displayed on the wall.

The Crown

The Crown, Churchill, Somerset BS25 5PP

An old stone-built pub hidden away down a narrow lane in the apex of the junction between the A38 and A368. There are no direction signs at either end, so you would not know it was there unless someone had told you, and the pub itself is identified just by a fading sign on the gable-end.

Inside it has separate lounge and public sides, but all characterised by bare stone walls and flagged floors, contributing to a down-to-earth, rustic atmosphere. There is also a large beer garden at the rear. Up to eight real ales are served by gravity, including Draught Bass, local favourite Butcombe Bitter and their own house beer Batch Bitter brewed by Cotleigh.

Cold food is available at lunchtimes only, including sandwiches, salads and ploughman’s. A highly characterful, distinctive pub that seems to attract a number of middle-class customers from the surrounding area in a way that just would not happen in the North-West.

The Harp

The Harp, Little Neston, Cheshire CH64 0TB

A small white-painted pub in an isolated spot overlooking the Dee salt marshes at the end of a cul-de-sac. The interior comprises a lively public bar on the left and a cosy lounge on the right, both with quarry-tiled floors and real fires in winter. Maybe surprisingly, this area was once a centre of coal-mining and there’s a collection of miners’ lanterns in the bar. A range of cask beers is available including Holt’s Bitter, Taylor’s Landlord and one from the local Peerless Brewery. I have eaten here in the past, but no food seemed to be on offer on my most recent visit. Creditably for a pub in such an off-the-beaten-track location, it opens all day, every day.

The Brushmakers’ Arms

The Brushmakers’ Arms, Oulton, Staffordshire ST15 8UW

Redbrick corner pub with a slightly urban feel, although in a quiet, off-the-beaten-track village near Stone. The heart of the pub is the bar, with quarry-tiled floor, dartboard and extensive bench seating. There’s also a small, cosy lounge right in the corner. Serves a couple of Thwaites beers plus one guest, but no food. A true classic of old-school pubs. Note the scarecrow with plastic barrel propped up against the wall. The Wheatsheaf a couple of doors down the road is now closed.

The Albion

The Albion, Conwy, Caernarfonshire LL32 8RF

Externally unassuming town pub that must once have been dismissed as being nothing exceptional, but now appears on CAMRA’s National Inventory of historic pub interiors. Still bears Ansells livery. The interior, remodelled in the early 1920s, has a main bar to the right of the door, snug at the rear, and smoke room to the left with an astonishing inglenook fireplace with built-in seating. This features on the cover of CAMRA’s book of Britain’s Real Heritage Pubs. Now taken over by a consortium of local brewers so you might expect so see the likes of Purple Moose and Great Orme.

The Loggerheads

The Loggerheads, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 1UG

Originally called the Shrewsbury Arms, this is a remarkable survivor of the old-school, unassuming town pubs of a bygone age, tucked away just off the town centre on a narrow cobbled street running between two churches. Inside there are four small rooms – a lounge on the right with a parquet floor, a small front bar, a rear snug rather lacking in natural lighting, and best of all the room on the left separated from the corridor by wooden screens and featuring ancient scrubbed-top tables. This was men-only until the mid-1970s.

A Bass pub in the 1970s, it was later taken over by Banks’s who then metamorphosed into Marston’s. For a long time Draught Bass continued to be sold, which always seemed particularly appropriate for this pub, but the beer range is now limited to five or six from the Marston’s stable. The current licensees offer a speciality sausage menu, but it’s basically a drink and chat pub rather than an eaterie. The pub’s website can be seen here.

The Great Western

The Great Western, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire WV10 0DJ

Tucked away in an unpromising location behind the station, this pub was taken over a couple of decades ago by Holden’s Brewery and has since thrived under their ownership. It offers the full range of their beers plus the superb Batham’s Best Bitter and three guests.

The interior comprises a classic, bustling front bar, a snug to the right, a long lounge area to the left with bench seating along one wall, a conservatory dining area at the rear with separate tables and a south-facing beer garden which can be a surprising sun-trap. Unusually for a pub in such an urban location, it has its own sizeable car park. A range of straightforward meals is served at lunchtimes. The entire pub is, not surprisingly, packed with railway memorabilia.

It seems busy throughout the day with a wide variety of customers, although with something of a bias towards an older male clientele. Once stranded amongst post-industrial dereliction, the surrounding area has more recently seen extensive housing development which hopefully will provide a supply of future customers.

The Bird in Hand

The Bird in Hand, Mobberley, Cheshire WA16 7BW

Another classic Cheshire Sam Smith’s pub, in this case in prosperous Mobberley. Despite this, it still offers Sams’ usual bargain beer prices. It’s a long, low, attractive, whitewashed building, with four distinct rooms along the front, featuring extensive wood-backed fixed seating and real fires. The room furthest along from the door has a dartboard and in effect functions as a vault. The gents’ are still in their original tiled finery. The usual Sams’ menu of plain food is on offer, but is not allowed to dominate.

The Blue Bell

The Blue Bell, York YO1 9TF

A tiny terraced pub on Fossgate just off the heart of the city. The exterior is plain and unassuming with just a single window facing the street. The interior was remodelled in 1903 and is untouched since then. It’s a classic two-roomer, with front bar, rear snug, central servery and corridor along the left-hand-side. It has been described as “a symphony in brown”. Both bar and snug have extensive fixed seating. About six cask beers are served, but it’s more a pub for regulars and pub connoisseurs than beer tickers. Food is limited to lunchtime sandwiches. The declared capacity is a mere 60 people, so admission may be refused to large parties on weekend evenings, something to which the local CAMRA branch seems to have taken exception.