Last updated on December 17, 2020
As part of my eternal quest to find the best pubs in the UK – I’m talking Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England – I asked my fellow pub-loving travel blogger friends for their top tips.
So here you have it, my dear stout swillers, barflies, boozehounds and Guinness guzzlers, a cherry-picked selection of the finest pubs in Great Britain and Ireland!
The great British pub is, in my humble opinion, the pinnacle of British culture and unquestionably what makes Great Britain great.
A proper local boozer is so much more than just a place to eat and drink. No, a proper public house is exactly that: an open house, an epicentre of culture, a source of joy, a playground for adults. For one and all and al for one.
A good pub is an elixir in its own right. A tonic for the toils of today. A haven in which to tend your troubles and fall in love with life all over again, with each and every trip to the bar.
There’s nowhere I’d rather meet with friends or relax with a loved one. I can’t think of anywhere better to be alone, with a book and zero-percent phone battery. To think, to muse, to dream and schmooze.
You see, to stumble upon a new pub is to gain direct and unrestricted access to an entirely new universe, to become part of a new community.
So let’s get to it: the finest pubs in Great Britain and Ireland! Some even have rooms, so you can really hang one out!
1. The Star – Bristol, England
I’ll kick things off with one of my own personal favourite watering holes in the UK…
Nuzzled away in the low-key residential nook of Fishponds in Bristol, The Star is a paragon of community spirit and what all other pubs aspire to be.
On the surface, this creaky, wood-panelled, beer-matt-decorated haven is every bit your typical Irish affair. Indeed, it is often hailed as one of the best and most authentic Irish pubs in the UK. But The Star’s stratospheric reach and scope transcends far beyond the realms of “best Guinness in town”.
In fact, visit on one of the regular live music nights and you’ll just as likely hear the sweet sounds of Senegal as you will traditional Irish fiddle bands. It’s a pub for all the people, by all the people. A community centre with guts – and kegs of that good stuff.
And The Star has plenty of stars of its own too, with many a local legend who’ll be more than happy to introduce you to the regulars and regale you with tasty tales as tall as Cabot Tower.
There’s landlord Eimear, the chief community leader who makes it his personal mission to make everyone feel at home – mixing with one and all at the bar as well as behind the bar.
There are raconteurs galore, like Mary and Frank and “Wild Welsh Clare” (aka my sister), who’ll chew your ear off and talk you out of a lighter, rollie and/or pint.
There’s DJ Manfred and the talented troubadours, crooners like “Smart John” who sings old wartime numbers on open mic nights in suitably resplendent attire.
Then there’s the late and great Tim Stracey, the spiritual star of The Star and Bristol’s favourite magician – whom I dedicate this boozy guide to and am sad to have lost.
It’s the sort of pub where, whatever you need or desire – a new car, someone to do up your kitchen, help with getting home – there’s always someone that’ll be happy and willing to help.
And lest I forget the motley ensemble that patrols the bar and guards the galleys, bar staff who are always happy to entertain solo sippers – or offer them a friendly arm-wrestling match (in my experience, anyway).
So pull up a stool, order a pint or three and let The Star guide you to a place you’ll wish you could call home.
Address: 539 Fishponds Rd, Bristol BS16 3AF
By Ben Holbrook from Driftwood Journals (this blog)
2. The Tŷ Coch – Porth Dinllaen Beach, North Wales
The Ty Coch Inn must have one of the best locations of any pub in the UK. It’s right on the sandy beach of Porth Dinllaen, a tiny hamlet on the Llyn Peninsula coast in North Wales.
Porth Dinllaen was once in the running to be North Wales’ main port for traffic to Ireland. Fortunately for it (and us) it lost out to Holyhead.
There are only about ten houses in Porth Dinllaen, and the only way visitors can get there is by a 20-minute walk from nearby Morfa Nefyn, including a stretch across the dramatic Nefyn & District golf course.
The Ty Coch opens daily during the season, from late March until October, and is usually open on weekends during the winter.
Its main selling point is its beachside location, a great spot for a pint or two on a summer evening, but it’s very cosy and atmospheric inside too. There’s a lot of RNLI memorabilia on the walls – the lifeboat station is a couple of minutes’ walk away.
They have a fairly simple pub menu, with a selection of sandwiches, ploughman’s and meals including chilli and leek and potato bake.
They also have several lagers on tap (big brownie point from me for having Red Stripe) and at least three guest ales at any one time.
By David from Delve into Europe
3. The Falkland Arms – Cotswolds, England
The Falkland Arms is a proper English pub and hotel in the Cotswolds whose ambiance is accentuated by the warm banter resonating from friendly locals, and their dogs snoozing by the fire. There are 8 ales on tap and comforting pub classics on the menu. For those acquainted with British traditions, there’s even a wide selection of snuff available.
Under an impressive selection of old beer jugs hanging from oak beams, the relaxed rustic mood at the Falkland Arms is warmed by a cosy open fire. Worn wooden tables with mismatched chairs feel like they’ve been part of the furniture since the 16th century when the building that today houses this traditional local inn was built.
Located in the beautiful village of Great Tew, it’s the perfect base to don some hiking boots and explore the bucolic English countryside. The village church is an essential detour. Packed with atmosphere and dating back to the Norman conquest, it contains the effigy of a 14th century knight, tucked away in the vestry. A little further away, explore the childhood home of Winston Churchill at the stunning Blenheim Palace.
After a stroll in the countryside, stay in one of the beautifully decorated rooms at the Falkland Arms and wake up to a full English breakfast and the gentle sounds of the countryside.
Address: 19-21 The Green, Great Tew, Chipping Norton OX7 4DB
By Paul from Anywhere We Roam
4. Rutherfords Micropub – Kelso, in the Scottish Borders
Run by husband and wife team, Debbie and Steve, Rutherfords is localted in Kelso in the Scottish Borders and has the unique credential of being the first micropub in Scotland.
But what exactly is a a micropub? It is a tiny freehouse that is a haven for its customers, more like a large sitting room than a traditional pub.
No loud recorded music (though the occasional band does play) or TV to distract you from the art of conversation while you sup on locally brewed craft ales, or Debbie’s own Deliquescent artisan whisky and Scottish craft gin.
With seating outside for the smokers or summer drinkers, it is the perfect wee spot for a bit of people watching right in the main square of Kelso.
No surprise to hear Rutherfords is often cited as one of the top 5 pubs in Scotland
Address: 38, The Square, Kelso TD5 7HL
By Larch from The Silver Nomad
5. The Trembling Madness Medieval Pub – York, England
House of the Trembling Madness is a unique medieval pub nestled within the narrow streets of York, England. This quirky pub’s fitting name describes the shakes one feels when after being without alcohol for too long.
The charm doesn’t end with the name, though. This old York standby is loaded with character down to its studs. The pub itself actually dates way back to the year 1180 and has a few awesome touches, such as thick beams that were once the frame of an 800-year-old Viking ship. Hung among these handsome beams are a collection of taxidermy heads, which look on as you sip your brews.
House of the Trembling Madness is the perfect spot for craft beer lovers. The pub routinely rotates its taps to feature unique beers from all over the world. Quality is very important here, which is also evident on the food menu, featuring bars snacks and heavier fare made with locally-sourced ingredients.
The best part is that the House of the Trembling Madness is extremely well-located, being within a five-minute walk to major sights like York Minster and The Shambles.
The Trembling Madness is the perfect place to settle in for a drink after a fun-filled day of sight-seeing in York.
Address: 48 Stonegate, York YO1 8AS
By Theresa from Fueled By Wanderlust
6. The Copper Dog at Craigellachie Hotel – Speyside, Scotland
A trip to Speyside should be on a Scotland itinerary for any traveler who loves scotch whisky and the great outdoors.
Located in the heart of the Speyside whisky region, the Copper Dog Pub is housed within the Craigellachie Hotel, which started welcoming travellers and whisky lovers in 1893. Perfectly located for exploring the region’s whisky trail, historic castles, and natural beauty, the Craigellachie is more of a home than a hotel.
After a long day of sightseeing, guests of the Craigellachie can pop into their Copper Dog Pub for a pint of locally brewed craft beer or a wee dram of whisky. Afterwards, enjoy a mouthwatering meal made from locally sourced meats, seafood and veggies.
The Copper Dog Pub prides itself on being strictly farm to fork, using ingredients from no farther than 50 miles away – their signature Copper Dog sausage with turnips and mash potatoes is to die for.
A quaint and rustic setting, the Copper Dog is divided into a bar area and main dining space. Open for lunch and dinner seven days per week, guests can enjoy live music Friday and Saturday nights.
Most importantly, make sure to sample the Copper Dog Pub’s very own, private label whisky.
By Amber from Food and Drink Destinations
7. The Fox House Pub – Peak District, England
The rustic pub with a view dates back to 1773 and is located within the glorious Peak District. This makes it an obvious choice for walkers and families looking for traditional British pub grub.
If you’ve come here especially to go walking, you can do the popular Fox House to Longshaw trail. The Longshaw Estate opens all year round and is dog-friendly for those who like to visit with their four-legged companions.
The car park has ample space for those thinking of doing the walk, but if headed there on a Sunday or Bank Holiday weekend, it’s wise to book a table if you’d like to get a table at the pub.
Address: Hathersage Rd, Sheffield S11 7TY
By Daniel from Layer Culture
8. The Adam and Eve – Norwich, England
As the oldest pub in the city of Norwich, the Adam and Eve has been serving local ales for over 750 years.
As you duck your head through the main door (people were shorter back then!), you’ll be greeted with a proudly traditional bar, stone walls and oak ceiling beams. Cosy is the order of the day here – that and vast amounts of chips that accompany many of its British pub grub meals.
You’ll be right at home here with a pint of Adnams Southwold Bitter. The Adam and Eve is also one of the most haunted pubs in Norwich. But don’t worry – the ghost is friendly!
The Adam and Eve sits next to the River Wensum in Norwich’s city centre, just a stone’s throw from the equally historic Norwich Cathedral and its beautiful grounds. Norwich city is relatively small, so once you’ve finished your drink you’ll already be within walking distance of everything the city centre has to offer, from the thriving covered market, to the charming and delightful local shops of Norwich’s lanes, through to Norwich Castle – the squarest castle in England!
Address: 17 Bishopgate, Norwich NR3 1RZ
By Jeremy from Cultura Obscura
9. The Churchill Arms – London, England
The Churchill Arms is one of London’s most famous pubs, primarily due to the exterior being festooned with flowers during the summer – and hundreds of Christmas trees in winter!
It is a historic Fullers pub, located on Kensington Church Street, equidistant between High Street Kensington and Notting Hill Gate tube stations respectively.
History aside (the pub was built in 1750), what also draws tourists and Londoners alike here is the cosy, snug-like interior with open fires, vintage signs and retro knick-knacks. Another huge draw is the awesome dining nook located at the back of the pub, which is decorated with hanging baskets of flowers and ferns and serves really delicious Thai food. Although common place in West London, this was the first ever pub in London to serve Thai cuisine.
Entering the Churchill Arms in London feels like stepping back into a time-warp, and the eclectic mix of traditional ales (brewed at the Fullers brewery in neighbouring Chiswick) combined with a taste of sublime South East Asia delights make this a lush and authentic vintage London pub visit.
By Caroline from CK Travel
10. Brewhemia – Edinburgh, Scotland
Tucked behind Edinburgh’s Waverley train station you will find the dual-level, multi-room pub, Brewhemia.
There are two entrances to this large public drinking den. The biggest, you can’t miss as it wears a flower crown to appease the Instagram audience and the second you might just walk past as you try to catch your breath and swerve the piss, walking up the Fleshmarket Close steps.
Fleshmarket Close is a tourist attraction in itself made famous by the crime author Ian Rankin. Regardless of what entrance you use, you’ll be impressed when you first step foot inside Brewhemia.
Modern chandeliers hang from the exposed wooden roof but this place isn’t pretentious, head to George Street if you want that kind of vibe. By day, during the week pints are sipped slowly and people type away on their laptops. Come the weekend, the main bar (the Beer Palance) is rammed and a band is literally put on a pedestal with their elevated centre stage positioned up high.
If you prefer to talk to your pals, head to the back room where meals are served. Craft Beer? Whisky flights? Rum runners? Flavoured Gin? Vodka? Wine? Tea? Coffee? The drink list is extensive.
There’s an event on every night of the week from pub quizzes to unplugged sessions.
Address: 1A Market St, Edinburgh EH1 1DE
By Gemma from Everything Edinburgh
11. The Lady Luck – Canterbury, England
Located in downtown Canterbury, the Lady Luck bills itself as a “rock ‘n’ roll pub“.
It’s certainly an accurate description, as the walls are covered in vinyl records and band logos, and a jukebox plays hits from rock ‘n’ roll, heavy metal and punk bands from the 1950s right up to 2020. Despite the hardcore décor, staff are very friendly and welcoming to people of all walks of life.
Check the online events calendar to find out about live shows, music quizzes and other events. Their permanent real ale is Sharp’s Doom Bar, and they also stock two changing guest ales, often from local breweries.
The food menu features homemade pub classics that come in traditional as well as vegan versions. For example, in addition to their British steak and ale pie, they also serve a chestnut mushroom and ale pie.
The inclusive menu makes Lady Luck a great option for vegan visitors in Canterbury as well as mixed groups.
Address: 18 St Peter’s St, Canterbury CT1 2BQ
By Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
12. The Mermaid Inn – Rye, East Sussex
Tucked away in the countryside of East Sussex is the picturesque little village of Rye. The town is a maze of winding cobbled streets, lined with half-timbered buildings and charming old pubs. Rye’s Mermaid Street has become known for its wonky, uneven buildings and story-book charm.
There is one reason in particular that people are drawn to the famous Mermaid Street in Rye, a 900+ year old pub (and hotel) called The Mermaid Inn. Stepping into the Mermaid Inn is like an immediate passage through time with its low hanging doorways, creaking floorboards, oak beamed ceilings and a big old fireplace that adds to its character.
Although the pub’s history extends back to the 12th century, it was rebuilt in the year 1420 with its original cellars left intact. The Mermaid Inn’s history has been famously tied to a gang of smugglers who reportedly used its many secret passages in the 18th century.
If you opt to spend the night in one of the inn’s beautiful historic rooms, beware of the hauntings that are said to take place. The Mermaid Inn has been named one of the most haunted inns in the UK after many of its guests reported ghostly sightings.
Nowadays, you can expect to be served traditional ales and award-winning pub food in the restaurant. If you love old pubs with a ton of character and the odd ghost to liven things up, then I suggest you add the Mermaid Inn to your bucket list of awesome pubs to visit in the UK!
Address: Mermaid St, Rye TN31 7EY
By Ann from The Road Is Life
13. The Harbour Bar – Bray, Co.Wicklow, Ireland
The charming Harbour Bar in Bray, Co.Wicklow is tucked away at the end of the towns promenade opposite a small harbour. And this family owned pub is a favourite with locals and was voted Best Pub In The World by the Lonely Planet in 2010.
The stone floored Harbour Bar is packed with historic artefacts from the pubs 200 year history. Enjoy a perfectly poured pint of Guinness in one of the pubs quirky nooks or snugs such as Granny’s Lounge where you can relax on a sofa or armchair in front of an open fire. Or head upstairs to a large function room which regularly hosts live music (including traditional folk sessions) and entertainment.
After enjoying the old world ambiance of the Harbour Bar, walk the pretty, kilometre long seafront promenade. At the end of Bray promenade you can join the path for a short climb to the tip of Bray Head which offers fantastic 360 degree views of Bray, the Wicklow coast and the Wicklow mountains.
By Sinead from Map Made Memories
14. The Firkin Alley – Barnard Castle, England
The Firkin is only open a few days a week, but its reputation as one of the best pubs in the UK is so good that you’ll be hard pushed to find a seat for those few days.
It’s a relatively new micropub, providing local hand-pumped ales, beers and ciders from breweries local to the market town of Barnard Castle. They also cater for other tastes with a few wines and a LOT of Gins too!
It is in a fabulous location in a converted old building, down a side alley in Barnard Castle’s Horsemarket, backing onto the walls of the 11th-century castle that the town gets its name from. The local landlords will let you taste the beers before you buy and it’s a popular place for locals and tourists alike.
While in Barney (as the locals call the town), you’ll want to visit the famous Bowes Museum, and take a trip up to the stunning waterfalls of High and Low Force, perhaps while walking part of the Pennine Way here.
Barnard Castle is my hometown and the upstairs of the Firkin Alley used to be my childhood bedroom, so to me, it’s one of the BEST pubs in the UK for this reason alone!
By Sarah from ASocialNomad
15. Crown Liquor Saloon – Belfast, Ireland
Dating back to the 1880s this gorgeous pub is a must-visit when in Belfast (especially if you’re on a road trip from Belfast to Derry). It was originally a Victorian Gin Palace and though it’s been refurbished a couple of times since, many of the original features, including gas lamps, still remain. Step through the lovely wood and etched glass doors and into a warm and inviting interior that will absolutely wow you.
The Italian carved wood panelling and columns, moulded ceiling, ornate coloured tiles, and spectacular bar all come together to create one of the most beautiful pubs you’re likely to see anywhere. Get there early and try to snag a “snug” for a more intimate setting. Snugs are small enclosed seating areas made for privacy during the somewhat conservative Victorian period. Here at the Liquor Saloon, they are truly works of art created by dividers of intricate wood carvings with etched and stained glass.
The Crown Liquor Saloon is located on Great Victoria Street in the heart of Belfast close to top sights like St George’s Market, Grand Opera House and Crumlin Road Gaol making it a perfect stop on any Belfast sightseeing tour.
By Sarah from Live Dream Discover
16. The Old Eyre Arms – Hassop, Peak District, England
Nestled between the cities of Manchester and Sheffield, the Peak District is well known for its charming pubs. Indeed a hearty dinner washed down with a pint of Thornbridge Ale is the perfect reward after a long hike amongst the surrounding rolling hills.
While many visitors to the area head to Bakewell or Castleton, if you really want to experience a true local Peak District pub oozing with character and history, then head to The Old Eyre Arms in Hassop.
Its history dates back to the days of William the Conqueror. Kids are very welcome (we visit with our 4 and 6 year old boys all the time), and your four legged pals will also have a drink and treat waiting for them.
There are three cosy rooms to choose from, including the Lounge Bar (where you will find pictures of the infamous Cavalier ghost), The Snug, and The Old Tap Room, which all retain a traditional atmosphere with an array of interesting old maps, antiques, and open log fires. There’s also a small beer garden out back.
Just down the road is Bakewell (known for its famous tarts) or head up to Curbar Egde for stunning views on a clear day.
Address: Hassop, Bakewell DE45 1NS
By Jenny from Peak District Kids
17. Café René – Gloucester, England
Reached through an unassuming alley underneath a 15-century church and schoolroom, Café René is ‘Gloucester’s best-known secret’ with its beamed wood panelling, ceilings constructed from empty wine bottles and an authentic Roman Well in the bar.
Besides its ever-changing selection of beers, ales and ciders, locals flock to the medieval pub for relaxing dining and a thriving live music scene, the most notable of which is the completely free Rhythm and Blues Festival. The week-long summer festival is a high point in the calendar featuring a variety of musical talents.
Located on Southgate Street, the pub is a short walk to the historic Gloucester docks and Gloucester Quays development.
Drop a penny in the well and who knows where the night might take you?
Address: 31 Southgate St, Gloucester GL1 1TP
By Charlotte from The Millennial Runaway
18. O’Sullivans Courthouse Pub – Dingle, Ireland
We first met pub owner Tommy O’Sullivan and his Texan wife Saundra stateside when we attended their beautiful house concert at a friend’s home on Valentine’s Day. Since we were headed to Dingle, Ireland just a few months later, we headed directly for their pub on arrival. Little did we know that we’d be treated to the very best Irish trad music we’d enjoy anywhere during our Ireland road trip!
If the Dingle Peninsula in western Ireland is the epicentre of Irish traditional music, then O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub in Dingle is at the very centre of the music scene here. You’ll find live music nightly here featuring fiddlers, guitarists, ballad singers, and Ireland’s famous Uileann pipe players. It’s every busker’s dream to get a coveted slot playing this pub.
It’s also the perfect way to cap off your days exploring this stunning corner of Ireland. Be sure to take a half day to drive the gorgeous Slea Head Loop, visiting the 12th century Gallarus Oratory. Explore the ancient cone-shaped beehive huts while you’re here, too. There are more than 400 hundred of them—all assembled with rocks and no mortar—to house hermit monks and pagans way back in the 8th century. The Dingle Peninsula is a delight.
Address: The Mall, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
By Chris from Explore Now or Never
Know of any other great pubs in the UK and/or Ireland?
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