1. The Spaniards Inn, London
If you’re after a bit of history and / or literary legacy with your ale, The Spaniards on the edge of Hampstead Heath should be your first London port of call: Dickens has dropped in for a pint (and sent the characters in The Pickwick Papers for a couple more), and Byron was known to prop up the bar, as were Karl Marx and Dick Turpin. Opt for the snug, wood-panelled rooms inside or the huge garden out the back depending on the season. Find out more here.
2. The Cherub Inn, Dartmouth
As higgledy-piggledy as the town itself, The Cherub Inn is a snug pile of small drinking dens and dark corners stacked on top of each other. Dating back to 1380, it’s the oldest building in Dartmouth and retains a number of original features including ships’ timbers. Grab some local crab and wash it down with a Cherub Bitter or a Doom Bar from Cornwall. Find out more here.
3. The Fur and Feather Inn, Norfolk
Real ales and other drinks from the Woodforde’s brewery are the big draw here, from the golden Sundew to the lethal 7% Headcracker, but the pub (lauded by CAMRA and the Good Pub Guide) offers the full gamut of British food, from liver to steak and kidney pudding and of course lots of lovely, lovely pies. Find out more here.
4. The Nutshell, Bury St Edmunds
With a bar about the size of a Manhattan apartment (15ft by 7ft), the Nutshell claims to be the smallest pub in Britain. It packs in a bunch of lubricated locals, all manner of ephemera on the walls, and of course beers, from Greene King. Find out more here.
5. The Pelican, Tacolneston
This one has everything you expect from a rural English local: timber beams, flagstone floors, log fires, memorable locals, the wares from 20 local breweries (also available as take out from the real ale bottle shop), 32 single malts behind the bar, and bedrooms upstairs so you can sample as much as you want. Find out more here.
6. The Feathers Hotel, Ludlow
One of 11 pubs that might be the oldest in the UK, the Feathers entranced the New York Times so much they deemed it “the most handsome inn in the world”. It’s certainly a stunning coaching inn, in a beautiful town, and has some resident ghosts you might spot after a couple of pints. Find out more here.
7. The Skirrid Mountain Inn, Wales
A few miles north of Abergavenny, this place dates way back, over 900 years to the Norman conquest. Inside it offers all the standard pub joys – roaring fires, honest grub, pool tables, a massive ship’s bell for food orders, local ales – as well as a few four poster beds up the stairs for postprandial slumber. Find out more here.
8. The Jerusalem Tavern, London
The Jerusalem Tavern has existed in one form or another for hundreds of years, although this incarnation only dates back to the ‘90s. No matter, the main shop front for the excellent St Peter’s Brewery still feels historic and classic London. The tiny rooms are a scrum at peak times and drinkers spill out into the neighbouring alley and streets. Find out more here.
9. The Drunken Duck Inn, Ambleside
A 17th-century inn peering out over Lake Windermere, The Drunken Duck is a fantastically remote and cosy drinking hole. The bar feels like the living room of an affluent and eccentric friend, all hanging hops and taxidermied heads lit by the orange glow of a perpetual fire and flickering candles. Find out more here.
10. The Butcher’s Arms, Herne
“The beer is only as good as the banter”, insists the website of the country’s “first micropub”, and landlord Martyn Hillier keeps both flowing freely in a tiny 14ft by 12ft drinking den. This place is old school: pickled onions make up most of the menu and you pay at the end of the night. Find out more here.
11. The Britons Protection, Manchester
A classic local boozer that’s twice won the Pride of Manchester award, the BP is full of Victorian decorative touches and serves up 200+ whiskeys to punters throughout its sprawling rooms. Don’t miss the mural depicting the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, which happened nearby. Find out more here.
12. Bridge Inn, Topsham, Devon
This is where the Queen went when she visited her first ever pub in 2000, and there are innumerable reasons why she might drop by for a half. A stubbornly old-fashioned place that dates back almost to Domesday days, it’s a warren of small rooms that eschews piped music and lager taps for ales from the cask and a beery education from the singular owners. Find out more here.
13. Birch Hall Inn, Whitby
Another timewarp of a pub nestled in an impossibly beautiful hamlet, The Birch Hall Inn keeps it simple: beer through a hatch, exemplary pork pies, and beer cake for afters. There’s a sweet shop in the middle too. Find out more here.
14. Haunch of Venison, Salisbury
Churchill and Eisenhower reputedly planned the D-Day landings in the “horsebox” bar here, and not much has changed since then. Dating back to 1320, it’s steeped in history and awash with ales from local breweries. See if you can spot the severed, mummified hand when you’re in there. Find out more here.
15. The White Lion Inn, Barthomley, Cheshire
In a world of vomit- and WKD-splattered ‘Spoons and identikit brew holes, winning an award like Unspoilt Pub of the Year is quite an achievement. Barthomley and The White Lion are as attractive as each other and the pub is an embarrassment of Tudor touches, thatched rooves and latticed windows. Storybook stuff. Find out more here.
16. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham
Pre-dating Chaucer by over a century, this one is seriously old. Crouching at the foot of Nottingham Castle, Ye Olde Trip To Jesusalem was once home to a cockfighting pit, but is thankfully free of the aggro dicks that can crop up in city pubs from time to time. Find out more here.
18. The Eagle and Child, Oxford
JRR Tolkein and CS Lewis are among the literary line-up that have passed through the saloon doors of this 17th century spot, and the convivial atmosphere that drew them in hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. Find out more here.
19. The Grove, Kings Nympton
Offering everything you want from a bucolic boozer under one thatched roof, right down to the turkey and cranberry scotch eggs. If you can judge a pub by its scotch egg, their haggis one - renowned all over the surrounding dales – would put them into the pub premiership. Find out more here.
20. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, London
A delightfully cramped and gloomy network of labyrinth passageways and subterranean chambers frequented by Dickens among many others, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is probably London’s most evocative pub. The floor’s still full of sawdust, each room is jammed with Hogarthian characters, and the Samuel Smith beers are still lubricating chat and banter in the traditional British way. Find out more here.
21. Crown Posada, Newcastle
Cask ales nurtured with intensive care, a vintage record player turning classic LPs, sandwiches and crisps for £1.50 – Newcastle’s second oldest pub is everything you want from an inn wrapped up in a Grade 2-listed, stained glass joy of a building. Find out more here.
22. Groes Inn, Conwy
Blissfully plonked in the middle of nowhere, Groes Inn is an ivy-clad treat of a pit stop that’s been pulling pints since 1573. Wales’ first licensed house has kept up the standard since and its tables – and guest rooms – are always popular. Find out more here.
24. The Dove in Hammersmith
One of a number of riverside pubs hidden just off the Great West Road (the Blue Anchor is also worth a pint), The Dove is a local’s favourite. The obligatory famous writers who favoured this particular spot include Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway and ‘Rule Britannia’ was written upstairs. Find out more here.
25. The Shipwright’s Arms, Hollowshore
Set in a beautiful and remote spot best reached on foot or by boat, the Shipwright’s Arms is another quintessential British pub. While tourists and London day trippers fill up the Whitstable drinking establishments, this one is worth the trek. Find out more here.